Sunday, 30 August 2009

No ‘Hero’s Welcome’ in Libya

[What follows is the text of an opinion piece in The New York Times by Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi, the Colonel's son and, so some speculate, his likely successor.]

Contrary to reports in the Western press, there was no “hero’s welcome” for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi when he returned to Libya earlier this month.

There was not in fact any official reception for the return of Mr Megrahi, who had been convicted and imprisoned in Scotland for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The strong reactions to these misperceptions must not be allowed to impair the improvements in a mutually beneficial relationship between Libya and the West.

When I arrived at the airport with Mr Megrahi, there was not a single government official present. State and foreign news media were also barred from the event. If you were watching Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, at the time the plane landed, you would have heard its correspondent complain that he was not allowed by Libyan authorities to go to the airport to cover Mr Megrahi’s arrival.

It is true that there were a few hundred people present. But most of them were members of Mr Megrahi’s large tribe, extended families being an important element in Libyan society. They had no official invitation, but it was hardly possible to prevent them from coming.

Coincidentally, the day Mr Megrahi landed was also the very day of the annual Libyan Youth Day, and many participants came to the airport after seeing coverage of Mr Megrahi’s release on British television. But this was not planned. Indeed, we sat in the plane on the tarmac until the police brought the crowd to order.

So, from the Libyan point of view, the reception given to Mr Megrahi was low-key. Had it been an official welcome, there would have been tens if not hundreds of thousands of people at the airport. And the event would have been carried live on state television.

At the same time, I was extremely happy for Mr Megrahi’s return. Convinced of his innocence, I have worked for years on his behalf, raising the issue at every meeting with British officials.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently confirmed my statement that Libya put Mr Megrahi’s release on the table at every meeting. He also made it clear that there was never any agreement by the British government to release Mr Megrahi as part of some quid pro quo on trade — a statement I can confirm.

Mr Megrahi was released for the right reasons. The Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, freed Mr Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, on compassionate grounds. Mr MacAskill’s courageous decision demonstrates to the world that both justice and compassion can be achieved by people of good will. Despite the uproar over the release, others agree. A recent survey of Scottish lawyers showed that a majority of those surveyed agreed with the secretary’s decision.

It’s worth pointing out that we Libyans are far from the only ones who believe that Mr Megrahi is innocent of this terrible crime. In June 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission determined that a “miscarriage of justice” may have occurred and referred the case to the High Court. A retired Scottish police officer who worked on the case has signed a statement saying that evidence was fabricated. The credibility of a key witness, a shopkeeper in Malta, has subsequently been disputed by the Scottish judge who presided in the review. Even the spokesman of a family group of Lockerbie victims has said that the group was not satisfied that the verdict in the Megrahi case was correct.

What’s more, although we Libyans believe that Mr Megrahi is innocent, we agreed in a civil action to pay the families of the victims, and we have done so. In fact, we could have withheld the final tranche of payments last year, because the United States had not kept its part of the deal, to fully normalize relations within the formally agreed-upon time frame. Still, we made the final payment as an act of good will.

The truth about Lockerbie will come out one day. Had Mr Megrahi been able to appeal his case through the court, we believe that his conviction would have been overturned. Mr Megrahi made the difficult decision to give up his promising appeal in order to spend his last days with his family.

Libya has worked with Britain, the United States and other Western countries for more than five years now to defuse the tensions of earlier times, and to promote trade, security and improved relations. I believe that clarifying the facts in the Lockerbie case can only further assist this process.

I once again offer my deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Lockerbie tragedy. They deserve justice. The best way to get it is through a public inquiry. We need to know the truth.



    In an August 2008 BBC TV interview: the son of Leader Muammar Gaddafi, Mr. Saif el-Islam said that Libya had admitted responsibility (but not admitted "guilt") for the Lockerbie bombing simply to get trade sanctions removed.

    He further admitted that Libya was being "hypocritical" and was "playing on words", but Libya had no other choice on the matter. According to Saif, a letter admitting "responsibility" was the only way to end the economic sanctions imposed on Libya.

    When asked about the compensation that Libya was paying to the victims' families (US$ 2.7 billions) he again repeated that Libya was doing so, because it had no other choice. He went on to describe the families of the Lockerbie victims as "trading with the blood of their sons and daughters" and being very "greedy": "They were asking for more money and more money and more money".

    NB: "The payment has not come from the government. It has been made by a nummber of Libyan businessmen who want an end to sanctions imposed by the United Nation and the United States."

    Visible Success for Libya

    1.) Mr.Saif el Islam Gaddafi führte, mit seiner 'Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations', nach dem UN Embargo, Libya wieder in das Internationale politische "World Orchestra" zurück ...

    2.) Mr. Saif el Islam Gaddafi ist zuverdanken, dass der zu 27 Jahren
    Gefängnis verurteilte, unschuldige Offizielle, Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi, seine Freiheit frühzeitig zurück erhalten hatte....

    3.) Mr Saif el Islam Gadaffi wird durch seine Beziehungen und Kontakten zu verlässlichen Informanten fähig sein, die Wahrheit über die Lockerbie-Verschwörung gegen Libyen aufzudecken um Libya's verdientes Prestige und die Ehre zurückzubringen!

    FACT: Some of the Scottish Officials are the true criminals in the Lockerbie Affair: Ex forensic scientist Dr Thomas Hayes (RARDE) UK, Ex forensic expert Allen Feraday (RARDE) UK and three known persons of the Scottish police are responsible for manipulating evidence in the Lockerbie Affair and are still protected by the Scottish Justice ! (They are not involved in the PanAm103 bombing, but responsible for the conspiracy against Libya).

    More information about the Lockerbie affair on:

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland


    Um die Glaubwürdigigkeit wieder herzustellen, dass es in der "Lockerbie-Tragödie" um die Wahrheisfindung und nicht um "Business" geht, bleibt dem "British Government" eine Möglichkeit offen; das Erfolg versprechende neue Beweismaterial des zurückgezogenen Appeals von Megrahi's Verteidigung, von den bereits involvierten 'Scottish Lord Advocates', in einem kurzfristig einberufenen Gerichtsverfahren zu werten?

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland