LONDON (AFP) – A British court on Thursday ruled that a Libyan politician can sue the government over his claim that Britain con-spired with the CIA in his “rendition” to Libya for torture in a case that could pave the way for similar legal action.
The Court of Appeal ruling overturns a previous court decision in December that said that while Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife had a “well-founded claim” the case was beyond the jurisdiction of British courts.
But Thursday’s judgement said that “unless the English courts are able to exercise jurisdic-tion in this case, these very grave allegations against the executive will never be subjected to judicial investigation”.
“There is a compelling public interest in the investigation by the English courts of these very grave allegations,” it said.
The government can still appeal the case, meaning that a final ruling on whether Belhaj and his wife can pursue their legal action is not expected until 2015.
“It’s a very significant step forward to see these cases finally being heard in the British courts,” Sapna Malik of the law firm Leigh Day, which has been representing Belhaj, told the BBC outside the court.
Belhaj, who became Tripoli’s military com-mander after Libyan dictator Moammer Gaddafi was ousted in the 2011 revolution, claims British involvement in his illegal rendition.
He and his wife said they were detained by US intelligence officers at Bangkok airport in Thailand in 2004 when Belhaj was leader of the anti- Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
His wife was several months pregnant at the time.
The couple were then taken to Tripoli, where Belhaj was jailed for six years. Files unearthed from Gaddafi’s archives after his fall suggest he was captured due to a British tip-off after he initially made an attempt to seek asylum in Britain.