Wednesday, 21 July 2010

SNP under pressure as Obama demands answers on Megrahi

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

Barack Obama has called for all the facts to be made public about the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing as he piled more pressure on the Scottish Government by describing its decision to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi as heartbreaking for the victims’ families.

The US President told a White House press conference: “All of us here in the US were surprised, disappointed and angry about the release of the Lockerbie bomber … We welcome any additional information that will give us insights and better understanding of why the decision was made.”

With David Cameron, on his first prime ministerial trip to Washington, standing beside him, Obama added: “The key thing here is we have got a British Prime Minister who shares our anger over the decision and also objects to how it played out … The bottom line is that we all disagreed with it. It was a bad decision.”

Earlier, Cameron, having rejected calls for a UK public inquiry into the release of Megrahi, announced he had asked Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, to launch a full review to see if any more documents could be published to give clarification and said that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would be consulted. (...)

Last night, the SNP Government, under intense fire, stood its ground and launched a thinly veiled counterattack against Washington and London.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has already published all relevant information where we had the necessary permission to do so.

“The US authorities did not give us permission to publish their communications with the Scottish Government and the UK Government also requested non-publication of some correspondence.”

He stressed there was a difference between the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) negotiated by the British and Libyan Governments and compassionate release, a “totally different process based on entirely different criteria”. (...)

With BP still dominating headlines in America because of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, Cameron sought to allay US suspicions that the oil giant had a role in Megrahi’s release, saying: “That was not a decision taken by BP, it was a decision taken by the Scottish Government.” (...)

However, among the documents Sir Gus might look at are details of telephone conversations in late 2007 between Jack Straw, the then justice secretary, and Sir Mark Allen, a BP lobbyist who argued for a swift PTA between London and Tripoli.

At the time this could have led to Megrahi’s release from his Scottish jail – and helped the firm’s commercial interests.

The oil company has subsequently admitted its lobbying was aimed at Libya sealing a deal on drilling rights but has stressed that Sir Mark, a former MI6 agent, did not specifically lobby for Megrahi’s release.

At the beginning of this year, Straw turned down a Freedom of Information request to release details of his calls with BP. Last night, one Whitehall source told The Herald: “These documents could be the smoking gun.”

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou for posting this information. It shocks and horrifies me how serious the repercussions of the BP oil spill are going to be.