Monday, 15 August 2011

Gaddafi’s Megrahi ‘victory’

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

The release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing gave Muammar Gaddafi a “political and diplomatic victory”, according to the London ambassador of the newly recognised Libyan Government.

This Saturday is the second anniversary of the decision by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi on compassionate grounds as he was suffering from prostate cancer. Experts said he had three months to live.

The anniversary has prompted a rash of stories about Megrahi. One had him riddled with tumours and close to death, another suggested the US might assassinate him, while a poll suggested public opinion has hardened against the decision to release him.

Guma el-Gamaty, UK co-ordinator for the Libyan National Transitional Council, which took over the Libyan Embassy in London and is recognised as the legitimate Government of Libya by Britain, also spoke out.

He said of Megrahi’s return to Libya: “I think it has helped Gaddafi and not the Libyan people. Unfortunately it gave Gaddafi a political and diplomatic victory. By releasing Megrahi it was the wrong signal. Megrahi was pursuing an appeal for so long and he should have been allowed to conclude the appeal.”

Mr el-Gamaty was also critical of the Blair Government’s relations with Gaddafi, saying London was involved in “murky” deals with the dictator. (...)

As the anniversary of Megrahi’s release approaches, Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the 270 victims of the 1988 atrocity, has said he is to step back from campaigning on behalf the UK victims’ families.

A long-term critic of the safety of the Camp Zeist conviction, he said of Megrahi: “I am worried for him. I can just see the unit they sent to kill Osama bin Laden being sent to extract Megrahi. Presumably, they wouldn’t extract him but kill him.”

A Gaddafi Government spokesman said of Megrahi at the weekend: “Doctors discovered a growth on his neck. For the cancer to reach a part of the body so far away from the prostate confirms that Brother Megrahi’s body is now ravaged by the disease.”

A survey for a Sunday newspaper [The Sunday Times] showed strong support among Scots for Megrahi to be returned to prison either in Scotland (35%) or in Libya (31%), with 24% saying he should stay free. Belief that he was innocent was far higher in Scotland (21%) than the UK (6%).

Stephanie Bernstein from Washington State, who lost her husband Michael in the Pan-Am atrocity, described any possible return of Megrahi to prison as “a fairytale” adding that his release had simply propped up the Gaddafi regime while causing deep distress for the families of the victims.

Ms Bernstein said: “It is a fairytale to think that he would ever be returned to prison now. The time to have done the right thing was two years ago.

“In releasing him, the Scottish Government and the British Government helped to prop up the regime.”

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: “This poll and comments from Libya’s newly-recognised government show how wrong this decision was and why it is time for Alex Salmond, on the second anniversary of al-Megrahi’s release, to apologise finally to the relatives of the victims.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Regardless of people’s views they can have complete confidence that the decision was taken on the basis of Scots Law, and without any consideration of the economic, political and diplomatic factors that the UK Labour Government based their hypocritical position on.”

[A similar article can be found here behind the paywall on The Times website.

Further media coverage of Dr Swire's comments can be found here on The Scotsman website; here on The Telegraph website; and here on the Daily Mail website.]

1 comment:

  1. Guma el-Gamaty will have to do some explaining to those he claims to represent in Libya. It seems they don't like for their leaders to misrepresent them.

    I'm betting he'll live out his years in London (if he's ever stepped a foot in Libya at all)