Mr Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organisation that sought to assassinate Gadhafi. Its links with al-Qaeda remain unknown.
Mr Belhaj said he holds no grudge. Nato airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.
CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”
Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.
The documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.
“We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans.
The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq (actually Belhaj) will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”
The other part of the story was revealed in 2004, at the time of his detention.
Back then, Mr Balhaj called himself Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq when Malaysian authorities apprehended him trying to enter the country through the Kuala Lumpur airport. He later claimed this was his nom de guerre (war name).
His arrest was not publicised in 2004, but was well known in the region. He was detained as part of an extensive and coordinated clampdown on terrorists and sympathisers in Singapore, Malaysia and especially Indonesia after the Bali nightclub bombings in October, 2002.
At the time, it was reported that Mr Balhaj was deported across the border by Malaysia, and immediately arrested by Thai authorities.
Neither his fate nor departure from Thailand was publicly revealed, but anti-terrorist sources said that he had been sent out of Thailand after a short time.
Mr Belhaj claims he was taken to a so-called CIA prison and interrogated. He , but has given no details.
In Washington, the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Mr. Belhaj or his new role. A State Department official said the Obama administration was aware of Islamist backgrounds among the rebel fighters in Libya and had expressed concern to the Transitional National Council, the new rebel government, and that it had received assurances.
Today, Belhadj is a top military commander in the provisional Libyan government and Kadafi is on the run, his government toppled, in part, by U.S. and allied airstrikes.