[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Daily Telegraph. It reads in part:]
Ministers secretly advised Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime how to secure the successful early release of the Lockerbie bomber, documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph have disclosed.
A Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
The Duke of York is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.
The Libyans closely followed the advice which led to the controversial release of Megrahi – who was convicted of the murder of 270 passengers on Pan Am Flight 103 – within months of the Foreign Office’s secret intervention.
The disclosure seriously undermines British Government claims that is was not complicit in the release of al-Megrahi, and that the decision to free the convicted terrorist was taken by the Scottish Executive alone.
It will also lead to renewed pressure from senior American politicians on David Cameron to release all internal documents detailing Britain’s role in the scandal. Last summer, the Prime Minister pledged to release the relevant information – but the publication has yet to occur sparking fears that a cover-up may have been ordered. (...)
The documents disclose in detail how British ministers and officials were desperate not to allow Libyan anger over the ongoing imprisonment of Megrahi to derail the growing commercial relationship between the two countries. (...)
In October 2008 – as negotiations on the prisoner transfer agreement were ongoing –Megrahi was diagnosed as suffering from cancer.
It can now be disclosed that within a week of the diagnosis, Bill Rammell, a junior Foreign Office minister, had written to his Libyan counterpart advising him on how this could be used as the grounds of securing al-Megrahi’s compassionate release from prison.
Rob Dixon, a senior Foreign Office official, met with the American Ambassador to brief him on the letter. An official American memo on the meeting states: “FCO Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell sent Libyan Deputy FM Abdulati al-Obeidi a letter, which was cleared both by HMG and by the Scottish Executive, on October 17 outlining the procedure for obtaining compassionate release.
“It cites Section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act of 1993 as the basis for release of prisoners, on license, on compassionate grounds. Although the Scottish Crown informed the families of the Pan Am 103 victims in an email October 21 that the time frame for compassionate release is normally three months from time of death, Dixon stressed to us that the three month time frame is not codified in the law.” (...)
When al-Megrahi was finally released, it also emerged that Gordon Brown instructed the British ambassador to hand deliver a note to Gaddafi. The letter was ostensibly to ask the Libyan leader not to lionise the released terrorist but the delivery of the letter also presented British officials with the opportunity for a rare private meeting with Gaddafi. The leader usually only sees very senior foreign politicians and dignitaries.
The disclosure of the secret Foreign Office advice to the Libyans is set to spark renewed calls for the British government to appear before the US Senate to justify its role in the bomber’s release.
In September 2009, it emerged that Mr Rammell had told the Libyans that neither the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister wanted to see al-Megrahi die in prison. However, government ministers strenuously denied that they had become involved in the release.
David Miliband, the then Foreign Secretary, said that there had been “no double dealing”.
[That the United Kingdom Government was being economical with the truth in its public statements on the repatriation of Abdelbaset Megrahi is well known to those who have followed the saga -- and was made very clear to me by senior Libyan Government officials personally involved in seeking to achieve that objective. But this is all entirely peripheral to the real issue: was Abdelbaset Megrahi properly convicted or is there substance in the findings of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission? Until that issue is properly addressed and resolved, the Scottish criminal justice system will remain an object of scorn both domestically and internationally.
The 480 just-released WikiLeaks cables relating to Libya can be accessed here.]