Monday, 26 July 2010

Lockerbie probe may prove uncomfortable for Obama administration

[This is the headline over a report published today on the CNS News website. The following are excerpts:]

The four Democratic US senators probing the early release of the Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie bombing believe there were links to a BP oil deal, but their inquiry may have the unintended consequence of raising questions about just how strongly the Obama administration opposed the Libyan’s release. (...)

Scottish government ministers, stung by accusations that they released Megrahi to ease a massive oil exploration contract in Libya, are pointing out that it is the US government that is blocking the release of two documents relating to the decision.

One of the documents is a demarche and letter to Scottish First Minister Salmond from deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in London, Richard LeBaron, dated August 12, 2009, eight days before Megrahi was released.

Leaked to London’s Sunday Times this week, the letter reportedly argues that Megrahi should remain in custody – but goes on to say that if Scotland concludes he must be released, then doing so on compassionate grounds would be “far preferable” to his repatriation under a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) which Britain negotiated with Libya in 2007. (...)

The second document which Scotland says the US is withholding permission to make public is a note of a telephone conversation between Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill and Attorney General Eric Holder, apparently on June 26, 2009. The contents of that note remain secret.

Edinburgh says the two documents – the LeBaron letter and the MacAskill-Holder note – were both “part of the package of advice” MacAskill had before him when he made the decision to send Megrahi home last August.

At the height of last August’s controversy, Scotland made public its correspondence relating to the matter. On August 26, it asked the US government for permission to include the two documents in those it was releasing – offering to do so in redacted form if necessary.

But in a written reply on Sept 1, LeBaron declined. (...) also asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee whether it would request that the administration make the two documents available for its hearing into the matter, scheduled for Thursday. In response, spokesman Frederick Jones merely said the committee did not have the documents in its possession.

Edinburgh law professor Robert Black, an expert on the Lockerbie case, opined on his blog that if the LeBaron letter effectively accepted Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds as preferable to transfer under the prisoner transfer agreement, “it is unlikely – in a mid-term election year – that the US government would consent to its release or that Democrat senators would seriously try to persuade it to do so.” (...)

Potential witnesses not known to have been called by the committee include:

-- Tony Blair, the former British prime minister whose 2007 visit to Libya included an agreement on a PTA and the signing of “the single largest exploration commitment in BP’s 100-year history.”

-- British Ambassador to the US Nigel Sheinwald, who as a foreign policy advisor to Blair accompanied him on two key visits to Libya.

-- Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, who played a key role in Tripoli’s political and trade negotiations with Britain. (He has traveled to the US before, and met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department in late 2008.)

-- Graham Forbes, chairman of the independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which after a four-year investigation concluded in 2007 that there “may have been a miscarriage of justice” and recommended that Megrahi be allowed to an appeal.

-- Prof Robert Black, the law expert who designed the unusual format under which the Lockerbie trial was held in the Netherlands under Scottish law. Black in 2005 called Megrahi’s conviction “the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years.”

-- Prof Hans Koechler, an Austrian academic nominated by the UN to observe the 84-day trial, who also believes justice was not done.

-- Robert Baer, a retired Middle East CIA operative, who has claimed that Iran was behind the bombing.

[The following are two paragraphs from a report on the CNN website:]

A pair of US senators and the families of Lockerbie bombing victims will hold a news conference Monday in Times Square ahead of this week's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the matter.

Sen Robert Menendez of New Jersey will chair Thursday's hearing on last year's release by Scotland of a Libyan man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also is a member of the committee.


  1. I wonder. If invited, would Prof. Black decide to go? :)

  2. Who could resist an expenses-paid trip (they do pay your expenses, don't they?) to Washington DC in July?


    Solange Mr al-Megrahi und Libyen als Verantwortliche für die Lockebie-Tragödie angesehen werden und Mr al-Megrahi rechtsgültig verurteilt bleibt, kann kein anderer Staat oder andere Organisation beschuldigt werden...

    computer Babylon translation german/english:

    As long as Mr Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Libya are regarded as a responsible person for the Lockebie tragedy and Mr Al-Megrahi remains legally condemned, no other state or other organization can be accused of...

    Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland

  4. My, my. Look at Thursday when it all kicks off.

  5. I'm sure he would need a sort of PA type too, maybe a couple Rolfe. Please email application forms! : )

  6. What's the betting that Senators Gillibrand and Menendez are going to announce to the multitude in Times Square.....Thursday's hearing is cancelled?

  7. Well Patrick, Just a Punter above has given them an out. They can blame it on bad weather.