A Libyan Islamist leader who claims British intelligence handed him over to Muammar Gaddafi's government to be tortured said he has met with British officials in the past two months, but the talks failed to resolve the row.
Sitting for a Reuters interview late on Monday night, Abdel Hakim Belhadj said he has evidence proving the involvement of British intelligence.
All my meetings with British officials were attempts to find an exit or a result for this case, but practically there has been no result, said Belhadj, who in November demanded a public apology for what he said were six years of torture.
I have evidence which proves the involvement of British intelligence, he said. What happened to me was inconsistent with the law and I am confident that justice will prevail.
The emergence of Belhadj as a leader of the resistance to Gaddafi and a major figure in Libya after the former leader's downfall has embarrassed London, which Belhadj accuses of handing him over to Gaddafi's government to be abused.
On January 12, British police announced they would be launching an investigation into Belhadj's claims.
Belhadj says he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists, routinely beaten and forced to take drugs during his time at the infamous Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.
Asked about the accusations, the British Foreign Office said in an e-mail that British diplomats had met Belhadj in his capacity as a military commander and he had raised allegations about his mistreatment.
We take all allegations of mistreatment seriously, but these matters are the subject of legal correspondence between Mr. Belhadj's lawyers and our own so we can offer no further comment at this stage, the e-mail said.
The influential leader, who says he controls more than 25,000 former rebels still under arms, welcomed the British police investigation into his case.
He said the game was now up for members of the domestic intelligence agency MI5 and its foreign equivalent MI6, who had for years faced accusations they had colluded in the ill treatment of detainees.
Justice will be served, said Belhadj.
Documents found in Tripoli after Gaddafi was toppled implicated MI6 in illegally sending Belhadj and other terrorism suspects back to Libya, and prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an independent investigation.
The issue was so serious Foreign Secretary William Hague said in November that Britain's international standing had been damaged by the allegations.
Belhadj acknowledges fighting alongside Afghan militants - although he says he did not work with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He said he and his pregnant wife were arrested in Kuala Lumpur airport in 2004.
He was then delivered to Libya, where he was wanted for being a founding member of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which had been seeking to overthrow Gaddafi since 1994.
I demand an apology to rectify this fault and avoid any repetition, he said.
The torture that I received was due to (MI6). British people should recognise what members of their government did against me, he added.
Belhadj says British security officials visited him in jail during Gaddafi's rule and acknowledged his discreet hand gestures to signal that he was being tortured, but the beatings continued.
His wife was released shortly before giving birth, but Belhadj remained imprisoned until March 2010.
He went on to command rebel forces in Tripoli when they seized the capital in August 2011. He grabbed global television attention in October when he announced the death of Gaddafi.
In December, Belhadj sought representation from legal action charity Reprieve, saying his demand for an apology had been ignored.
He said at the time that his legal team had launched a lawsuit. The British government confirmed it had received a letter preceding legal action.
The most important thing for me is to reveal the truth and to reveal to the British people what their government did, Belhadj said of the investigation.
In November 2010 Britain agreed to make payments to 16 former detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in out-of-court settlements over allegations they were mistreated abroad with the knowledge and in some cases complicity of British security services. Britain said the payments were not an admission of culpability.
(Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)