[This is the headline over an article by Libyan political analyst Mustafa Fetouri published today on the website of The National, a newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. It reads in part:]
It has been nearly a year since the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, declared his decision to release Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the only person convicted for the downing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988. He was released on compassionate grounds, as Mr al Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
August 20 also happened to be the day of the Libyan Youth Festival, an annual occasion celebrated by large crowds of young people in the capital Tripoli, where Mr al Megrahi’s plane landed. The crowds received news of his landing and they rushed to the airport to greet the man most of them believed to be innocent.
The tarmac was already filled with his extended family and members of his tribe, some of whom had been waiting since dawn to see their beloved son and to once again prove to themselves that he was innocent. The United States was angry at the “huge” welcome Mr al Megrahi received.
Flashback to 2007, the height of the effort to normalise relations between Libya and the UK: Tony Blair, the UK’s former prime minister, and Muammar Qaddafi oversaw a deal between British Petroleum and Libya’s NOC worth $US900 million. The deal effectively conceded oil exploration rights to BP just off the Gulf of Sirte, Mr Qaddafi’s hometown.
Now flash forward to May 2010: the Obama administration is shaken to the bone by the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. It finds itself in the very difficult position of having to balance the needs of consumers who want cheap oil at the pump with the potential environmental risks that come with drilling. US senators, worried about being re-elected, ride the wave of public anger and try to discredit BP.
In doing so, they concoct a bizarre conspiracy theory, linking the dead fish in the Gulf of Mexico to Mr al Megrahi’s release, to the Scottish justice system, to the doctors who diagnosed the cancer patient, and all the way back to 2007’s BP Libya deal. They bundle the whole thing together and throw it at Mr Obama, as well as the British prime minister David Cameron on his way to Washington.
Now, Mr al Megrahi is still alive one year after he was released from prison as a terminally ill patient with three months to live. He might not be in good shape, but he is still alive (or, at least, the Libyans have been good about keeping his health under wraps, since few have managed to see him since January).
Mr al Megrahi still insists on his innocence. If only anyone would listen – not only to him, but to an increasingly growing public opinion that includes the head of the family association for Lockerbie families, Dr Jim Swire (whose daughter was also on the flight). A number of lawyers and legal experts are also not quite convinced that Mr al Megrahi blew up Pan Am flight 103 en route from Heathrow to New York 22 years ago.
I would not be surprised if Mr al Megrahi appears in public on the first anniversary of his release; the stage is ready to receive him. The same crowds of young Libyans are celebrating this year as well on the very same date he was released a year ago. If this happens, I would guess that agitated US politicians would probably call on the United Nations to intervene and stop those mad Libyans and punish Mr MacAskill.
Mr al Megrahi is still alive: who can they blame?
It’s amazing how the conspiracy theorists managed to connect all the dots and devise a perfect theory that revolves around the quest for oil rather than the quest for human dignity and respect. (...)
Why is it so important to prove that BP may have lobbied the British government to pressure Scotland for Mr al Megrahi’s release? Mr MacAskill acted on the order of compassion, after all, fulfilling an ailing man’s last wish to die next to his ageing mother.