[What follows is an excerpt from a report in today's edition of The Herald:]
Meanwhile, it has emerged in a leaked Scottish Government document that Moussa Koussa, the former Libyan foreign minister warned the UK Government that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s incarceration in Scotland would cause “severe difficulties” for bilateral relations.
The Libyan politician’s threat was made during a conversation with the UK’s then Foreign Secretary David Miliband in March 2009, five months before the Libyan man jailed for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing was freed.
[It was already well known that Libya had let it be known to the UK government that failure to repatriate Megrahi would have consequences for UK-Libyan relations. It is interesting that this pressure was directed towards the UK government, in spite of the Libyan authorities having been informed, by me amongst others, that responsibility for deciding on prisoner transfer or compassionate release rested with the Scottish, not the UK, government. It would seem that the Libyans were still operating under the misapprehensions engendered by Tony Blair and his team during the "deal in the desert". Here is what I wrote in a blog post dated 14 September 2009:
"The memorandum of understanding regarding prisoner transfer that Tony Blair entered into in the course of the "deal in the desert" in May 2007, and which paved the way for the formal prisoner transfer agreement, was intended by both sides to lead to the rapid return of Mr Megrahi to his homeland. This was the clear understanding of Libyan officials involved in the negotiations and to whom I have spoken.
"It was only after the memorandum of understanding was concluded that [it belatedly sunk in] that the decision on repatriation of this particular prisoner was a matter not for Westminster and Whitehall but for the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh, and that government had just come into the hands of the Scottish National Party and so could no longer be expected supinely to follow the UK Labour Government's wishes. That was when the understanding between the UK Government and the Libyan Government started to unravel, to the considerable annoyance and distress of the Libyans, who had been led to believe that repatriation under the PTA was only months away."
Some -- entirely predictable -- US press comments on the recent appearance of Megrahi at a rally in Tripoli can be read here and here and here.
A letter in today's edition of The Scotsman supporting the Justice Secretary's compassionate release decision can be read here.
My great trek from South Africa back to Edinburgh begins later today. It is unlikely that there will be further blog posts until Wednesday, 3 August at the earliest.]