Many people around the world, not just the relatives of the victims of the 270 people killed when Abdel Baset al-Megrahi blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over a Scottish town, are still furious about his release from a Scottish prison and the warm greetings extended to him when he arrived in Libya.
The TV cameras showed the gala reception, Qaddafi hugging Megrahi, and Megrahi kissing the Libyan despot. Libya’s leader then praised his “friend” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the British government on Thursday for what he called their “courage” in allowing Megrahi’s release.
“To my friends in Scotland … I praise their courage for having proved their independence in decision-making despite the unacceptable and unreasonable measures that they faced,” Qaddafi told crowds waving Scottish flags and throwing flower petals. “Nevertheless, they took this courageously right and humanitarian decision.”
Earlier this week many of the documents associated with the negotiations to free the terrorists were released to the public and they seemed to indicate that he was released to help close a BP oil deal.
Is it a smoking gun? It records that the Libyan Europe Minister quoted Foreign Office Minsiter Bill Rammell as saying that neither Gordon Brown nor David Miliband would want al-Megrahi to die in prison. That is the first time either Mr Brown’s or Mr Miliband’s apparent views on a possible transfer to Libya of the Lockerbie bomber have been made public. And it could explain why Mr Brown has refused all invitations to say whether he agrees with the Scottish decision. It does not prove interference from London, but it shows the mindset.
Today Jack Straw has reignited the row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber by admitting for the first time that trade and oil were an essential part of the Government’s decision to include him in a prisoner transfer deal with Libya:
Jack Straw admits Lockerbie bomber’s release was linked to oil
By Mary Riddell, Simon Johnson and Andrew Porter
The Justice Secretary said he was unapologetic about including Abdelbaset al Megrahi in the agreement, citing a multi-million-pound oil deal signed by BP and Libya six weeks later.
The admission directly contradicts Gordon Brown’s insistence only days ago that oil deals were not a factor in the prisoner’s release.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Straw also suggested that Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice minister, released the terminally-ill bomber on compassionate grounds earlier than the British Government would have done.
Mr Brown has been accused of putting Britain’s trade interests before justice for the Lockerbie victims.
Earlier this week, the outcry forced him to say: “There was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances.”
Megrahi, who is suffering from prostate cancer, was freed last month by the Scottish Executive on compassionate grounds after it was said he was only months from death. Last night it emerged he has been moved out of intensive care.
In his interview today, Mr Straw admits that when he was considering in 2007 whether the bomber should be included in a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya, Britain’s trade interests were a crucial factor.
Documents published this week showed Mr Straw originally promised that a PTA would only be reached with Libya if Megrahi was excluded. But he later caved in to Libyan demands to include Megrahi. It followed a warning from BP that a failure to include the bomber could hurt the oil giant’s business interests.
When asked in the interview if trade and BP were factors, Mr Straw admits: “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that… Libya was a rogue state.
“We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal.”
Mr Straw also claims today that Mr Brown had nothing to do with his change of heart over the PTA, adding: “I certainly didn’t talk to the PM. There is no paper trail to suggest he was involved at all.”
A spokesman for BP said the company had raised concerns with the Government about the slow progress in concluding the PTA, but denied mentioning Megrahi.
“Like many others, we were aware that a delay might have negative consequences for UK commercial interests, including ratification of BP’s exploration agreement,” he added.
In January 2008, Libya ratified a $900 million (£551 million) oil deal with BP.