[This is the headline over an article by Eddie Barnes in today's edition of Scotland on Sunday. It reads in part:]
Bob Monetti laughs sarcastically. "This is the story that never goes away, huh?" Just before Christmas in 1988, Monetti was preparing to welcome his son Richard back home. (...) But Richard never made it home.
Thirty-eight minutes after taking off from Heathrow Airport, he was murdered when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up in the skies above Lockerbie.
Bob Monetti and the rest of the family drew some solace after his death from the links they formed here. "The only people who were heroes in this were the Scottish people. The people of Lockerbie were wonderful," he says. Then, just under year ago, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi - the man he is convinced killed his son - was released by Scottish ministers. His voice takes on a different tone. He sounds resigned to cynicism. "The Scots caved into the English so that these BP oil contracts could go ahead," he says. "BP does what BP does. They will make money any way they can. The thing that really has hurt is the Scottish reputation. They (the Scottish Government] have been fighting for independence and the first thing they do is cave in." (...)
The outrage felt in America last August when Al Megrahi was freed by Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, on compassionate grounds has re-emerged with a vengeance. Scottish and UK ministers are once again facing accusations of having let him go for all the wrong reasons. This week, David Cameron heads to Washington for his first talks in the White House with Barack Obama, with Lockerbie one of the issues being raised. The outcry over the case suggests that the relationship between the UK and the US is no longer quite so special. (...)
The latest burst of senatorial anger over Lockerbie does not have its roots in Scotland but in the oil-filled waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, BP finally plugged the leak in its broken well off the coast of Louisiana, a full 87 days after it first exploded. (...)
Halfway around the world, it emerged that Libya had given approval for BP to start a well in the Gulf of Sirt off the African coast. With awful timing, the oil firm's 2007 deal with Libya to begin exploiting the rich reserves held by the country, was finally being realised.
This was the deal, the Americans remembered, that had been linked to an agreement between the UK and Libyan government to allow prisoners including Al Megrahi to be transferred from one country to the other. BP's oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico was not the only thing about to blow. Their sense of injustice already high as a result of the BP oil spill, senators Robert Menendez, Kirsten Gillibrand and Frank Lautenberg decided to open a new front. "The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profit?" (...)
Of more interest to the senators are the stories which have emerged in the UK following Al Megrahi's release about the oil firm's alleged involvement. The company reached its agreement with Libya in late 2007, in the wake of Tony Blair's historic meeting with Colonel Muammar Gadaffi - the so-called "deal in the desert". It was here that the pair first discussed, among other things, a prisoner transfer agreement. Quite what the pair actually agreed upon is still a matter of conjecture. For the Libyans, however, the terms of the deal were clear - Al Megrahi was involved. Speaking on Libyan TV last year, Gadaffi's son, Saif al-Islam Gadaffi told Al Megrahi: "In all the trade, oil and gas deals which I have supervised, you were there on the table. When British interests came to Libya, I used to put you on the table."
BP now makes no bones that it raised the question of the prisoner transfer agreement which Libya wanted signed before the oil exploration deal was agreed. Sir Mark Allan, a former MI5 spy and a consultant for BP, lobbied former Justice Secretary Jack Straw to get the matter dealt with. A spokesman for BP said last week the firm was "concerned about the slow progress that was being made" to resolve the deal. Sir Mark contacted Straw to try to push things along. As it emerged last year, Straw was persuaded; agreeing to include Al Megrahi as part of the PTA deal. Hence the conspiracy has grown legs.
But this view of the saga has several weak points. First, as Straw himself pointed out, he never had the power to actually release Al Megrahi in the first place. So, while intelligence sources insist that Al Megrahi almost certainly came up in the Libya-UK talks, talk of a deal to release him remains fanciful, relying as it does on the improbable scenario of the UK Labour government strong-arming the SNP-led Scottish Government into doing what it wanted.
The UK ambassador to the USA, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, took the unusual step of writing to Kerry on the Senate Committee last week, urging him to effectively tone it down. "The British Government worked with British business to promote legitimate commercial interests with Libya," he wrote. "But there was no link between those legitimate commercial activities and the Scottish Executive's decision to release Megrahi."
As for that decision, no-one yet has come up with any explanation beyond the obvious one stated at the time. Despite a huge amount of correspondence being published since, there is no evidence that Kenny MacAskill was influenced by any commercial interests. He actually refused to release Al Megrahi under the terms of the prisoner transfer agreement negotiated by the British, with Alex Salmond having already made plain his opposition to it. Instead, with Al Megrahi's plea for clemency ringing in his ears, the Justice Secretary decided to show him compassion. Within St Andrew's House MacAskill's aides understand that American relatives disagree with the decision to release Al Megrahi for compassionate reasons - particularly as he remains alive. But there is frustration they are being dragged into a conspiracy in which they played no part. One senior source says: "Where were these senators in 2007 when Blair did his deal in the desert and what did they think the PTA was all about? Instead, they gave him standing ovations in the Capitol." (...)
Many come from Frank Duggan, another relative, who represents the Victims of Flight 103 group. "So the Brits are now saying it was a mistake to release Megrahi, but we didn't do it the Scots did, and that BP did lobby us but didn't mention Megrahi by name," he wrote on Friday. "Meanwhile, Gaddafi's son says we always spoke of Megrahi during the negotiations with BP. The Scots, on the other hand, say we never talked to BP, it was the Brits. And we let him go because he was clearly terminally ill. And this had nothing to do with the prisoner transfer agreement. Don't you think there are some questions to answer?"
The questions now look set to be put, with both MacAskill and Straw among those who may be called for testimony in Washington next week. But whether families such as the Monettis (...) will get the answers they have long awaited, is another matter entirely.
[The same newspaper's editorial on the subject can be read here and an article in The Independent on Sunday here.]