Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Trade interests ‘played part’ in Lockerbie release

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Times, coming one day after the report in The Scotsman and three days after the story appeared on this blog. The Times's report can be accessed -- but only by subscribers -- here. It reads in part:]

A senior British diplomat said that Britain’s business interests in Libya played a vital role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber, the latest WikiLeaks files reveal.

Sir Vincent Fean, the British Ambassador to Libya at the time, is quoted in diplomatic cables expressing his relief at the decision by Scottish ministers to free Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi two years ago on compassionate grounds. (...)

The latest cable released on Wiki-Leaks says: “The British ambassador expressed relief that Megrahi likely would be returned to Libya under the compassionate release programme. He noted that a refusal of Megrahi’s request could have had disastrous implications for British interests in Libya.” (...)

At the time, ministers, including the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, refused to comment on the decision and insisted that the UK Government had played “no role” in the release.

The dispatch was sent from the US Embassy in Tripoli before the release of al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, in August 2009.

[The headline over The Times's story, and the first sentence quoted above, are disgracefully inaccurate. The British ambassador's reported comment does not, on any interpretation, state or imply that business interests played a part in Abdelbaset Megrahi's compassionate release. It states that, if he had not been released, this could have had disastrous implications for the UK's commercial relations with Libya -- which is a very different thing.]

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