In 1995 I met with Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fahima in Tripoli, the two suspects accused of bombing a US passenger jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. In 1991, allegations were made against the Muammar Gaddafi regime, charging it with masterminding, funding and carrying out the bombing.
As I entered Libya over land from Djerba, Tunisia - as a result of the no-fly zone imposed on Libyan territories because the regime had refused to hand over al-Megrahi and Fahima - I kept asking myself the same question: Was Gaddafi really crazy enough to bomb a US airplane? Or was the accusation part of an international campaign to demonize the former Libyan leader?
I had been granted the opportunity to conduct a televised interview with Gaddafi, which lasted for six hours over the space of two days. During the penultimate commercial break on the second day of filming, I whispered in Gaddafi's ear "I have a special request for you, brother Muammar". He stared at me, obviously thinking that I had a personal request or agenda to fulfill. Then he said "What can I do for you?", to which I replied "I want to conduct a live interview tomorrow with al-Megrahi and Fahima."
He remained silent for a moment and then realized that the only honorable gift a ruler can give to a journalist is to secure him a major "scoop". He answered "very well", and gave the order to his aides.
This was my first interview with Fahima and al-Megrahi, and I remember that it was a Monday because both of them were fasting, and they broke their fast by eating dates and drinking a glass of milk. I asked to be alone with both of them, without the presence of any Libyan police or intelligence officers, and we talked for two hours before we began filming.
I swear by God that both Fahima and al-Megrahi left a number of positive impressions upon me, which I can summarize as follows:
1- There was a Libyan role in the bombing; this may have centered on the funding, but not the implementation.
2- Both individuals were certainly members of a security apparatus affiliated to Gaddafi, but they were not directly involved in the Lockerbie bombing.
3- They felt extremely guilty because Libyan citizens had lived for years under sanctions, boycotts and an international embargo, a result of the regime's refusal to hand them over for prosecution.
Fahima and al-Megrahi, two figures from Gaddafi’s inner circle, were examples of individuals who had been forced to serve the regime, but not to the extent of bombing a passenger airplane.
This was what I saw, heard and felt during the interview, and this was what came to my mind when I read the news of al-Megrahi's death.