[This is the heading over a letter from Brian Barder in today's edition of The Guardian. It reads as follows:]
In all the renewed controversy over the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing ... a vital point seems to have been missed. Under the terms of the US-UK "initiative" under which Megrahi was convicted, he was required to serve his sentence in the UK. The initiative was accepted by Libya and approved by UN security council resolution 1192. For that reason Megrahi could never have been transferred to serve the rest of his sentence in Libya under the prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) negotiated by the Blair government with Libya, regardless of whether Megrahi was included in or excluded from its scope.
It's difficult to understand how the PTA came to be signed when it could never have been used to transfer Megrahi, the only Libyan then in UK custody. If BP was pressing for Megrahi to be transferred under the PTA, why was it not told that this was ruled out by the terms of the original agreement? Why didn't Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill point this out to Tony Blair and Jack Straw when they were arguing about the pros and cons of the PTA? Above all, when Blair and Straw made their "concession" to the Libyans under which Megrahi was not after all to be excluded from the PTA, did they remind the Libyans that Megrahi couldn't be transferred to Libya? If not, why not?
In an article published on Comment is Free on 1 September 2009, Oliver Miles pointed out that Megrahi's transfer to Libya under the PTA would have been contrary to the original agreement. It's strange that even then no one seems to have seen the implications of this.
[The implications had, of course, already been seen on this blog: Britain accused of breaking promise to US over Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Foreign Office told Scotland it made no promises to US over how long Megrahi would stay in prison.
The reason why the "promise" was not taken seriously by the UK Foreign Office was that the only country that might have an interest in complaining if it was broken was the United States of America. And both the United Kingdom government and the Libyan government knew (because they had checked) that Washington was relaxed about Abdelbaset Megrahi's repatriation, though it would have to huff and puff for US public consumption when it happened.]