[Immediately following the publication in The Daily Telegraph of the WikiLeaks cables about the UK Government's attitude towards Abdelbaset Megrahi's repatriation, letters to the newspaper's editor were written by Benedict Birnberg and by Dr Jim Swire. The Telegraph website does not reveal whether these letters were published. But they read as follows:]
Of course, as you urge, David Cameron should honour his pledge to publish all the official papers relating to Megrahi's release. But realpolitik first came into the case not with his release but with his arraignment for trial and conviction in the first place. It was a scandalous miscarriage of justice involving both the British and the US Governments, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has suggested. What should be published are not only the official papers relating to Megrahi's release but those, UK and American, relating to the trial and conviction. Only then will the "disturbingly murky" affair, as you so aptly describe it, be exposed for all to see, not least for the families of the 270 victims who have waited 22 years for the truth to begin to emerge.
[Mr Birnberg's letter has been published. It can be read here.]
From the time when Tony Blair's 'deal in the desert' with Gaddafi became known it has seemed clear that it was in fact a swap: Guaranteed work in the Libyan oilfields for BP against the return of Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi in time to be the cherry on the icing of the Colonel's 40th anniversary in power in September 2009.
Reneging would have meant losing not only BP's advantage but loss of much of the rest of the hard won commercial and diplomatic advances made since the dark days of 1980s terrorism. This extensive threat confirmed in Wikileaks explains the extraordinary behaviour of Jack Straw in overriding the request of the HoC joint committee on human rights in order to get the Prisoner Transfer Agreement(PTA) with Libya up and running before the Libyan deadline.
Those with knowledge of Libya's record on human rights will see at once why that committee had legitimate interest in an agreement which allows the UK government to repatriate a Libyan prisoner even against his wishes.
What Prime Minister Blair seemed not to have taken into account (apart from the small matter of the wishes of the relatives) was that the PTA might not be applied to prisoners in Scotland, and was barred to those with ongoing legal processes.
Hurried reference to Scottish 'compassionate release' must have seemed to offer a politically defensible escape route, which did not even require Megrahi to withdraw his then current appeal.
To this sick man in an alien prison came a delegation from the Libyan Government, then the Scottish justice minister. Days later Megrahi withdrew his appeal and was repatriated. Presumably he was told by the Colonel's men to withdraw his appeal, thus hoping to open the PTA as a second route home, in addition to that of compassionate release (for which the appeal was irrelevant).
The ensuing howls from the US may have surprised UK and Scottish politicians but illustrated the remarkable political clout still wielded by the US Lockerbie relatives and their senators.
No matter how the commercial advantages of this solution for the UK/BP may be balanced against the political fallout for the Anglo/US special relationship, there is no doubt that withdrawing the appeal was a grievous blow for those who still seek the truth over Lockerbie.
Many believe that the atrocity was not caused by a bomb from Malta, nor by the hand of Megrahi, but more likely through an initially uninvestigated break-in to the relevant area of Heathrow airport the night before the disaster, the existence of which was concealed from Megrahi's trial court. The failure to identify who had broken in or why, at a time of heightened terrorist risk and specific threats against Pan Am seems prima facie to be astonishingly irresponsible. Yet there has been no objective inquiry.
Alex Salmond's Scottish government is currently still refusing any inquiry into the verdict against Megrahi. Yet they know that Scotland's Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) after three years study believed that his trial might be a miscarriage of justice. Salmond's government has produced no justification for its deviation from the SCCRC's findings. The SCCRC is a uniquely independent body, the only vehicle in Scotland designed to question criminal verdicts. David Cameron has also claimed to be confident that the verdict is correct, routinely referring to Megrahi as 'the Lockerbie bomber'.
What if that is not true: what if he is innocent? Would it not be of greater importance to review that verdict, rather than try to distribute blame among those who decided to free him?
It looks increasingly likely that those who do not accept that the verdict should remain unchallenged may have to take a legal route to gain access to their human rights: requests to every single Prime Minister by UK relatives since 1988 up to and including David Cameron for an independent inquiry have been rejected.
In the winter of 1990/91 a Scottish Lockerbie Fatal Accident Inquiry(FAI) in Dumfries found that the disaster had been preventable, and that the aircraft had been under the Host State protection of the UK at all relevant times. The FAI court was told to assume that the bomb had been flown to Heathrow from Frankfurt, the background to this belief being 'out of bounds' as it was the territory of the then active ongoing Scottish criminal investigation.
Of course the FAI court knew nothing of the Heathrow break-in any more than Megrahi's trial court did 10 years later.
We, relatives of the dead, have a right under human-rights legislation, extant in our country, to know why our loved ones were not protected by the responsible UK authorities of the day, and to know as much of the truth as can be found about who killed them. It also appears that the UK's Supreme Court acknowledges that it has a responsibility to ensure that the UK Government operates within its obligation to uphold the human rights of its subjects at all times.
Dr Jim Swire