Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sheinwald: mistake to free Lockerbie bomber

[What follows is an Agence France Presse news agency report:]

The government believes that the decision by Scotland to free the Lockerbie bomber was a mistake, London's envoy to the United States said Thursday.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a US Pan Am jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which left 270 people dead.

"The new British government is clear that Megrahi's release was a mistake," ambassador Nigel Sheinwald said, stressing that under the country's laws power over justice issues have been devolved to Scotland.

Megrahi was released from jail in Scottish prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was said to be suffering from terminal cancer and had only three months to live. Reports have now emerged that he could live at least another 10 years.

On Tuesday, four US senators also called for an inquiry into allegations that energy giant BP lobbied the British government to free Megrahi in order to protect a lucrative oil deal with Libya.

[The ambassador to Washington DC, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, was Foreign Policy and Defence Adviser to the prime minister, Tony Blair, from 2003 to 2007. It is a matter for mild cynical amusement that Sheinwald was present at, and intimately involved in, the negotiation of the deal in the desert which was intended to pave the way for Abdelbaset Megrahi's early repatriation under a prisoner transfer agreement. The UK negotiators did not realise that the power to allow transfer would rest, not with the UK but with the Scottish, Government. Or if the negotiators did realise this, they signally failed to inform their Libyan counterparts, to the disgust of the latter when they discovered what the true position was.

There is a related long report on the Channel 4 News website and another one on The Guardian website. This also contains a clarification of Professor Karol Sikora's views on Megrahi's survival prospects:]

New York Democrat senators Frank Lautenberg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Senator Robert Menendez called for an inquiry, after reports that a cancer expert, who backed the three-month prognosis, now believed Megrahi could live for 10 or 20 years.

But yesterday, Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartners UK, said his words were taken out of context, and that the chances of Megrahi surviving for a decade were "less than 1%".

He said: "There was a greater than 50% chance, in my opinion, that he would die within the first three months then gradually as you go along the chances get less and less.

"So the chances of living 10 years is less than 1%, something like that."

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