Monday, 5 September 2011

Revealed: Gaddafi threat to Britain over Megrahi

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

The Gaddafi regime threatened Britain there would be “dire consequences” for UK-Libya relations if the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing died in his Scottish jail cell.

The extent of lobbying by the Libyan Government in the lead-up to Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds in August 2009 was revealed yesterday after reporters found confidential documents in the abandoned British Embassy building in Tripoli.

According to one, senior Foreign Office official Robert Dixon wrote to then Foreign Secretary David Miliband in January 2009, stating Muammar Gaddafi wanted Megrahi back home in Libya “at all costs”.

“Libyan officials and ministers have warned of dire consequences for the UK-Libya relationship and UK commercial operations in Libya in the event of Megrahi’s death in custody,” he wrote.

Mr Dixon added: “We believe Libya might seek to exact vengeance.” (...)

After a review of the paperwork in the case, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell said in February ministers in the last Labour Government believed Megrahi’s release would be the “best outcome” as they feared that UK interests in Libya would be damaged if he was allowed to die in a Scottish jail. (...)

A spokesman for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who took the decision to release him, said: “The Scottish Government were the only ones playing with a straight bat – in stark contrast to the astonishing hypocrisy of the last UK Labour Government.”

[A very similar report appears in today's edition of The Scotsman. It concludes, however, with an account of the opinion poll published in yesterday's Scottish Sunday Express.]

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