Revealed today was another kick in the teeth for the friends and families of the Lockerbie Bombing. A newspaper in Great Britain is reporting that the doctors who judged Lockerbie terrorist al-Megrahi had only three months to live where paid by Libya. In contrast other doctors suggested the terrorists had 10 or more months to live, not much better, but to get the compassionate release you had to be judged within three months of death.
The release itself was disgusting, but what has happened since is like rubbing salt on the still raw wounds of those whose lives were shattered by al-Megrahi, the celebratory homecoming, the reports that Gordon Brown encouraged the release, the conformation that the release was a quid quo pro for an oil deal and now the word that the doctor’s diagnoses may have been influenced by Libyan Petrodollars. How far we sunk into appeasing terrorists:
Revealed: Libya paid for medical advice that helped Lockerbie bomber’s release
The British, Scottish and Libyan governments connived to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter, Robert Mendick and Damien McElroy in Tripoli
Medical evidence that helped Megrahi, 57, to be released was paid for by the Libyan government, which encouraged three doctors to say he had only three months to live.
The life expectancy of Megrahi was crucial because, under Scottish rules, prisoners can be freed on compassionate grounds only if they are considered to have this amount of time, or less, to live.
Megrahi is suffering from terminal prostate cancer. Two of the three doctors commissioned by the Libyans provided the required three-month estimates, while the third also indicated that the prisoner had a short time to live.
This contrasted with findings of doctors in June and July who had concluded that Megrahi had up to 10 months to live, which would have prevented his release.
Professor Karol Sikora, one of the examining doctors and the medical director of CancerPartnersUK in London, told The Sunday Telegraph: “The figure of three months was suggested as being helpful [by the Libyans].
“To start with I said it was impossible to do that [give a three-month life expectancy estimate] but, when I looked at it, it looked as though it could be done – you could actually say that.” He said that he and a second doctor, a Libyan, had legitimately then estimated Megrahi’s life expectancy as “about three months”. A third doctor would say only that he had a short time to live.
This weekend it was reported that Megrahi was moved out of an emergency care unit in Tripoli.
The prognosis from the three doctors – two from Britain – was used as part of the evidence by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, last month when he concluded that Megrahi should be released on compassionate grounds. Our investigation also reveals that:
Mousa Kousa, a senior Libyan politician who was expelled from Britain in 1980 for boasting of a plot to kill Libyan dissidents in London, played a key role in the talks to free Megrahi, and threatened serious consequences if the prisoner died in jail. Mr Kousa, now the Libyan foreign minister, was once implicated in planning the Lockerbie bombing – a claim he vehemently denies. According to the minutes of a meeting on Jan 22 between Libyan and Scottish officials: “Mr Kousa stated that Mr al-Megrahi’s death in Scotland would not be viewed well by the Muslims or Arabs. Nor would it be good for relations.”
The Scottish and British governments actively assisted Megrahi and his legal team to seek a release on compassionate grounds even though the thrust of talks before July this year had been over his release as part of a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between Britain and Libya.
Senior business sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that Britain was desperate that Megrahi should not die in jail after warnings by Libya in May that if this happened trade deals between the two countries – worth billions of pounds – would be cancelled. British businessmen were also told that plans to open a London office of the Libyan Investment Authority, a sovereign fund with $136billion (£83billion) to invest, would be jeopardised if Megrahi died in jail.
Britain provided aid for Libya, believed to be the first since the Lockerbie bombing, when the release of Megrahi was being discussed. The £146,000 grant – which senior Tories suspect was a “sweetener” to Libya – was provided by the British Embassy in 2007-08 at the behest of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The revelations come after Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, broke ranks and admitted publicly for the first time that trade and oil agreements were an essential part of the British Government’s decision to include Megrahi in the PTA with Libya. Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing of December 1988 which killed 270 people, was freed on Aug 20. His release and the jubilant scenes in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, when he returned prompted an international outcry.
Saif Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s son, told Megrahi: “You were on the table in all commercial, oil and gas agreements that we supervised in that period. You were on the table in all British interests when it came to Libya, and I personally supervised this matter.”
After two weeks of controversy, Gordon Brown was forced to address the issue on Wednesday when he said: “There was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers.”
However, the investigation by this newspaper – coupled with Mr Straw’s comments to The Daily Telegraph – cast doubts on the Prime Minister’s claims.
Mr Straw also said of Britain’s dealings over Megrahi’s release: “What we have done with the Libyans is seek to explain the circumstances in which compassionate release could take place.”
There were strong suggestions from Libya yesterday that it felt Britain had played a significant role in pressing for Megrahi’s release.
Abdul Majeed al-Dursi, the regime’s chief spokesman, said: “This is a brave and courageous decision by the British, which shows its understanding of Libyan culture by allowing a sick man to be at home when he dies.
“It showed the relations between Britain and Libya are strong and deep. We in Libya appreciate this and Britain will find it is rewarded.”
Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP, said the latest disclosures were “outrageous” and left the British and Scottish governments facing tough new questions.
“This is further evidence that our Government has done a grubby deal with a nasty regime,” he said. “It is an oil-for-terrorist deal. The Government has always presented the medical advice as being totally objective, but it now turns out it was being paid for by Libya. It shows the Government in a poor light.”
Susan Cohen, 71, whose daughter Theodora, 20, died on the flight, said from her home in New Jersey: “It is highly distasteful that these doctors were paid for by the Libyans. Why didn’t the Scottish pay for the doctors?”
Mrs Cohen was also angered that Mr Kousa, the former Libyan terror chief, was involved in talks. “That anybody would deal with him shows how horrible this is,” she said.
Minutes of a meeting between Libyan and Scottish officials on July 6 disclose moves by the Scottish to encourage Megrahi’s legal team to apply for release on compassionate grounds.
Senior British and Scottish officials appear to have thought it was easier to justify Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds to the Americans, who were promised that the only man convicted of the Libyan bombing would be exempt from the PTA.
The US government had wanted Megrahi to die in jail.
It has emerged in the US that the jubilant scenes that accompanied Megrahi’s return to Tripoli last month have severely jeopardised a meeting that Col Muammar Gaddafi was trying to engineer with President Barack Obama in New York later this month.
The Libyan leader had hoped for a warm embrace from the president, proving that he was no longer an international pariah. The best he can now hope for is a fleeting exchange on the edge of a UN Security Council meeting.