[This is the headline over a report by Carolyn Churchill in today's edition of The Herald, whose coverage of the Mouusa Koussa story seems to me to be the best to be found in the Scottish dailies. It reads as follows:]
Former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa’s defection has provoked a further split in opinion among relatives of the 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing.
Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died when Pan Am flight 103 blew up in December 1988, said it should be seen as a moment for rejoicing as it offered a chance to shed light on the truth behind the atrocity.
But on the other side of the Atlantic, family members in America said they were horrified that Koussa had not been charged with mass murder as soon as he stepped on to British soil.
Despite assurances from Prime Minister David Cameron that the Libyan is not being granted immunity from prosecution, several relatives in the US expressed doubts that this would be guaranteed in the long-term.
Others voiced concern that there was no defection and he may, in fact, have travelled to England under a diplomatic mission.
Their concerns were fuelled by Professor Robert Black, QC, one of the architects of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist, who said there was a “strong indication” that Koussa’s arrival was a diplomatic manoeuvre.
Speaking from her home on the east coast of America, Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband Michael died in the atrocity, told The Herald: “I’m very nervous about what this deal contains – there clearly is a deal or he would not have come.
“This man was the main architect for the Lockerbie bombing. He has a tremendous amount of blood on his hands and it is absolutely critical that Scottish and US law enforcement are able to question him.”
Rosemary Wolfe, whose step-daughter Miriam was also on the flight, said she did not believe Mr Cameron’s statement that Koussa was not being given immunity. She said: “That doesn’t mean that he won’t be [given immunity].
“I’m absolutely nauseated and disgusted. He should have been put in handcuffs as soon as he got off the plane.
“I am sure he wouldn’t have arrived on British soil without some sort of pre-arrangement or discussion. That he should be exchanging his own freedom for any information that he could provide is absolutely horrendous.”
Some of the UK relatives have expressed doubts about the conviction of the Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who was found guilty of the murder of 270 people, and they said Koussa’s defection could lead to the truth being uncovered.
Dr Swire, who has met Koussa previously, said the Libyan was “extremely frightening, more frightening than Gaddafi himself”.
He said: “He was clearly running things. If Libya was involved in Lockerbie, he can tell us how they carried out the atrocity and why.”
Reverend John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter died in the bombing, said he was “95% convinced” that Libya was not responsible for the atrocity.
But he said that since Megrahi had been found guilty in a court of law, Koussa should also have been taken into custody when he arrived on British soil.
He said: “[Megrahi] is the only one found guilty by a Scottish court, therefore Megrahi is guilty of mass murder. If he is guilty this man was his boss so if Megrahi is guilty this man is surely guilty.
“He ought to be in custody being closely questioned or at some point or other brought to court or trial. That would be the just thing if Megrahi is guilty. Even if Libya were not guilty I would think if anybody knows, Mr Koussa will know who did it.”
Professor Black, meanwhile, said: “If he were defecting he would not defect to a country that was going to put him on trial for murder. He would seek immunity from prosecution. The fact that he hasn’t would lead me to believe that he has not defected.
“If he has defected then he could be a source of informa-tion about any involvement Libya may have had in Lockerbie. My position is that the Libyan who was convicted ought not to have been because the evidence simply did not warrant it.
“It is perfectly possible that Libya was involved in someway, whether supplying personnel or materials or logistic support.
“If anybody would know about that it would be Mr Koussa, because if he was involved his fingerprints would be all over it.
“Given his position and the positions he held at the time there is no way that if Libya was involved it could have happened without his participation.”
[Michael Settle, the paper's UK political editor, contributes a report headlined Tell us the secrets of Lockerbie. It reads in part:]
Scottish detectives and prosecutors are to interview Libyan defector Moussa Koussa about his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. (...)
“This could be all the evidence that we wanted given to us on a silver platter,” declared Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am 103 group in the US.
“Koussa was at the centre of Gaddafi’s inner circle. This is a guy who knows everything,” said Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the atrocity. He added: “This is a fantastic day for those who seek the truth about Lockerbie. He could tell us everything the Gaddafi regime knows.”
Last night, there were reports that other senior figures were preparing to follow Koussa’s lead.
Al Jazeera broadcast that “a number of figures” close to Gaddafi were leaving the country for neighbouring Tunisia.
Earlier reports claimed the Foreign Office was in secret talks with six more of the dictator’s aides about defecting, but this was played down by Downing Street. (...)
A Whitehall source explained British officials “need to tread carefully” and take their time talking to [Koussa]. “It’s a delicate situation and we need to take a measured approach. It’s early days,” he told The Herald.
However, apart from any historical evidence the defector might have on Lockerbie, MI6 will be hoping for as much intelligence as possible on Gaddafi’s current strategy.
It is believed he may also know the identity of the killer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.
And as head of the Libyan intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, he is likely to be able to provide details of Libya’s support for the IRA.
It is thought the debriefing could take some time, so any questioning by the Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway Police might not take place for several days, if not weeks [RB: if at all]. (...)
Gaddafi’s spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Koussa had been given permission to go to Tunisia for health treatment. He added: “His heart and body cannot take the pressures. If someone wants to step down, that’s his decision,” he added.
Tory backencher Robert Halfon compared the defection to that of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s disillusioned lieutenant, who crash-landed near Eaglesham in East Renfrewshire in 1941.
He said Koussa “should be put in front of a British or international court for war crimes, if it is true that he was behind the Lockerbie bombing”.
Last night, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said America should not pursue nation building or seek to direct the future of a post-Gaddafi Libya. It follows claims President Barack Obama had signed secret orders allowing intelligence operatives to provide support for rebels.
“I think that the last thing this country needs is another enterprise in nation building,” Gates told a Senate hearing.
[A further report by Carolyn Churchill in The Herald reads as follows:]
One of five Libyan diplomats expelled from the UK is understood to be the country’s former consul-general in Scotland.
Abdulrahman Swessi was based in Glasgow while the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was behind bars in Barlinnie and then Greenock prisons.
Mr Swessi is thought to have been working in the Libyan embassy in London since Megrahi returned to Tripoli and is believed to be among five people given until April 6 to leave the country.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office would not confirm the identity of the diplomats yesterday, but reiterated William Hague’s comments to Parliament on Wednesday when he said they were asked to leave because of concerns they could pose a risk to national security.
Professor Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, questioned the reasoning behind Mr Swessi’s expulsion from the UK and said it was more likely to be because his name is forever linked with the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
He said: “He was never a high policymaker in any way. He was appointed simply to safeguard Megrahi’s interests while Megrahi’s family had their house in Glasgow. He was a social worker, if anything.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “They are five members of the Libyan embassy, including the military attache, who we believe are the strongest Gaddafi supporters. We believe they have been putting pressure on opposition and student groups in the UK.”
[Reports in today's edition of The Times (accessible only by subscribers) contain the following:]
Scottish police and prosecutors are seeking to interview Moussa Koussa, the defecting Libyan Foreign Minister, raising the prospect of resolving once and for all the truth about the Lockerbie bombing.
Officials at the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecuting authority, last night contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying they wished to speak to Mr Koussa in connection with the attack on PanAm Flight 103 in December 1988, which led to the death of 270 people.
Meanwhile Patrick Shearer, the chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway Police, the force which is still investigating the atrocity, said it would be unusual if they did not seek the opportunity to speak to “a senior member of the Government in Libya”.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in response to the Scottish authorities, gave a strong indication that Scottish detectives would be allowed to question him. He told a news conference: “The investigation is still open. They should follow their investigation wherever it leads and we will respond to any request they make.”
However, in an unusual intervention, Whitehall officials insisted that Mr Koussa was not the “prime suspect” over Lockerbie. The Government also failed to rule out the possibility that he might leave the country before lengthy investigations by the International Criminal Court are complete. [RB: surprise, surprise!] (...)
Moussa Koussa visited Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi in Greenock Prison where he was serving his life sentence, it emerged yesterday.
Official documents reveal that, at a meeting with Scottish officials in Glasgow in January 2009, he warned that al-Megrahi had only a few months to live, and said that if he were to die in a Scottish prison it “would not be viewed well by the Muslims or the Arabs”. The minute indicates that Mr Koussa also made it clear that it would “not be good for relations” between the UK and Libya. That such a senior figure in the Libyan administration should have had access to al-Megrahi, and have exerted pressure on Scottish officials, will further convince those who opposed the Libyan’s return, that there was more to his release than compassion.
Mr Koussa, it has emerged, met Scottish Government officials twice — in late 2008 and again in early 2009 — after al-Megrahi had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Curiously, in the minutes of the first meeting on October 27, 2008, which included Foreign Office and Scottish Government officials as well as three Libyans, Mr Koussa is referred to as an “interpreter”. At a meeting in Glasgow on January 22, 2009, attended by six Libyans and four Scottish government officials, Mr Koussa is referred to as “Minister for Security” and the minutes shows that he intervened to draw attending to al-Megrahi’s illness. The minute goes on: “He (Koussa) spoke of al-Megrahi’s medical condition and that he feels that he only has a few months left.”
It was made clear by the Scottish Government last night that although officials had met him, Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Minister who in August 2009 released al-Megrahi, had had no direct contact with Mr Koussa.
Scottish campaigners who met Mr Koussa during their decades spent fighting for the truth about the Lockerbie bombing have told The Times that they found him more frightening than Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. And they said that they gleaned from encounters with the former Libyan foreign minister that, if the country were responsible for the explosion of Pan Am flight 103, then “his fingerprints will be all over it”.
Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, was one of the 270 people killed, said he met Mr Koussa in 1991. “I realised straight away that he was a central figure who had everything at his fingertips and was a chief executive in deciding what would happen in the country.”
Two years later, Robert Black, the Scottish QC who was the architect of the trial at Camp Zeist, went to meet Mr Koussa — the first of about nine encounters over 16 years. “The Libyans were very frightened of him. That was transparently obvious. Moussa would come into the hotel where I was staying and I could see everyone else, all the Libyans ... it was as if a shiver was going down their spines.”
“Certainly if Libya was involved in Lockerbie in any capacity then I have no doubt at all that Moussa Koussa knows about it,” said the lawyer. “If Libya was involved then it will have Moussa Koussa’s fingerprints all over it.”
[The Daily Telegraph runs a breathless story headlined Libya: dilemma over defector's 'electrifying' Lockerbie information. The text in no way supports the headline.
Dr Jim Swire and Steven Raeburn, editor of The Firm, appeared last night on the BBC's Newsnight Scotland. The programme can be viewed here.]