[What follows is an excerpt from a long interview in the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times with the recently appointed Libyan ambassador, Dr Saadun Suayeh:]
The single biggest issue, apart from immigration, that has seen the fate of Malta and Libya intertwine is Lockerbie.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killed 270 people. It was a brutal terrorist attack that shocked the world and one that saw Malta implicated as the point of departure of the bomb, which eventually destroyed the aircraft.
The blame was pinned down to two Libyan secret service agents, who at the time worked in Malta. Only one of them, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was found guilty at a high-profile trial conducted under Scottish laws in Camp Zeist, the Netherlands.
Mr Al-Megrahi was condemned to life imprisonment. However, he was released on compassionate grounds last year amid serious doubts that he may have been wrongly convicted.
Malta has long denied any involvement in the Lockerbie case, insisting that the luggage containing the bomb could have never left the island unaccompanied.
Only last week campaigners, who believe that Mr Al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted, presented a petition to the Scottish Parliament (...) asking for an independent inquiry into the Camp Zeist conclusions.
The search for the truth continues 22 years after the attack but how does Libya feel today about the affair?
Dr Suayeh talks little about the Lockerbie saga. He considers it “a closed chapter” and an issue Libya wants to put behind it.
“We have dealt with Lockerbie very responsibly and transparently and we left it up to the Scottish authorities to decide on Mr Al-Megrahi’s release. We would like to leave it at that,” he says.
As for the campaigners who still seek the truth about what happened on that fateful December night, Dr Suayeh says they are entitled to take what action they deem fit.
In 2003, two years after Mr Al-Megrahi’s conviction, Libya formally accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials and agreed to pay billions in compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims. It was perceived as an admission of guilt but many felt the underlying motive was Mr Gaddafi’s pragmatic attempt to normalise international relations. Libya has since maintained its innocence.
“We always felt that Libya was wronged by the Lockerbie affair. We always wanted to be law abiding, and all that we hope for now, with this chapter behind us, is to foster better relations with everybody, hoping that truth prevails,” Dr Suayeh says.