Libyan dissident's lawyer hits out at Tony Blair's 'non-apology'

Tony Blair's "non-apology" to Abdul Hakim Belhaj over his rendition to Libya has been attacked by the dissident's lawyer.

The former prime minister stopped short of offering a personal apology to Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar as Mr Blair rejected claims that he had an "ambivalent" attitude to torture while in power.

In a landmark move, Prime Minister Theresa May apologised to the couple after they said MI6 was involved in their rendition to Libya in 2004.

Mrs May said the pair had suffered "appalling treatment", and Ms Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time, accepted a £500,000 payout.

Libyan politician Abdel Hakim Belhaj (Cori Crider/Reprieve/PA)
Libyan politician Abdel Hakim Belhaj (Cori Crider/Reprieve/PA)

Mr Belhaj says he was tortured during his six-year imprisonment in Libya.

Ms Boudchar was also detained, but was released shortly before giving birth.

Lawyer for the pair, Cori Crider, said Mr Blair's stance raised more questions over the controversy.

Mr Belhaj said: "I think the people of Britain have the good sense not to get distracted by spin in my case.

"To me, this just shows how sensible the current Prime Minister and Attorney General were to do the honourable thing and apologise."

Mr Blair, who stood down as PM in 2007, said he had not been aware of the controversy while in power, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I have gone along with what the Government's done, which is issue the apology, I didn't actually know myself about this case until after I left office."

Fatima Boudchar outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
Fatima Boudchar outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

Pressed on whether he would give a personal apology to the couple, Mr Blair said: "Of course I'm sorry for any mistreatment that's been given to people. How on earth would you ever justify that?"

The former PM said: "And, by the way, let me make one thing clear because sometimes people say, you know, I was sort of ambivalent on the use of torture - I have always been wholly and 100% in all circumstances opposed to the use of torture."

Mr Blair added: "This case wasn't brought to my attention, but... there's a lot of things in this case, some of which have been out in the media, some of which have not."

Ms Crider called for a public inquiry, stating that the ex-PM needed to answer questions about his dealings with then Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.

"Mr Blair's non-apology to Mr Belhaj and his wife raised more questions than it answered," she said.

"His hug with Gaddafi happened just two weeks after Belhaj and his wife were delivered to Tripoli, and two days before MI6 helped abduct another entire family for the Libyan dictator.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is "content" to go along with the government's apology to Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, who were victims of a rendition operation mounted with the help of MI6

-- BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) May 22, 2018

"Perhaps Mr Blair would like to publish the 'five requests' Gaddafi made to him directly in a letter in October 2003 as they sought to strike a deal.

"Are we meant to believe the dictator never mentioned the 'stray dogs' he hated so much?

"Both Reprieve and Scotland Yard amassed a mountain of evidence about this case. If the British public want the whole truth and nothing but the truth, let's have a full public inquiry and be done with it."

Tory former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has led calls for a parliamentary inquiry into what involvement Mr Blair, and senior ministers at the time, had in the incident.

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