The new Libyan regime has challenged Colonel Gaddafi’s decision to compensate the families of the Lockerbie bombing, claiming the £1.7billion was paid illegally.
Two officials who worked under the former leader have appeared in court accused of squandering public money and treason for their part in the deal.
The Libyans agreed to pay the reparations and accept responsibility for the 1988 attack in exchange for the lifting of United Nation sanctions. [RB: The full text of the Libyan regime’s “acceptance of responsibility” can be read in this letter.]
However, it is now alleged that former Secretary General Mohammed al-Zwai and one time Foreign Minister Abdulati al-Obeidi should not have approved the compensation as the new administration insists Libya was not responsible.
Prosecutors also claim the two men should not have negotiated the deal in return for the lifting of the “unjust” sanctions and insist they should have been demanding compensation instead.
Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, was killed in the bombing, said Mr al-Zwai and Mr al-Obeidi were “two of the good people” under the then Libyan regime.
“I know both men and they would have inevitably been required to do what their boss told them, so they wouldn’t have had any choice,” he added. “I liked them both, they were two people we found it easy to talk to. Gaddafi wanted to get rid of the sanctions by paying the compensation.
“The accusers are still pursuing the intent of pinning as much blame as possible on the late Gaddafi’s regime. Any supposedly objective process of justice in Libya at the moment is very suspect.”
Frank Duggan, the President of the Victims of Pan Am 103 support group, added: “I don’t know why they want to resurrect the whole thing. And I don’t understand why they are saying the money shouldn’t have been paid out. The money was – as we say in the US – ‘chump change’, nothing to Gaddafi’s family.”
Gaddafi agreed to pay £6.25million to the families of each victim after Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was found guilty of the attack, which saw Pan Am Flight 103 blow up over the town of Lockerbie killing 270 people.
Robert Black, Professor of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh, who has taken a keen interest in the case, described the recent revelations as “very odd”.
He said: “If this is what the current regime are charging these men with, it seems to indicate that they don’t believe that this money was in fact due.
“The view of the early new Libyan regime was that Gaddafi was responsible for everything, but now they seem to be saying, ‘Oh well, maybe not’.” (...)
Mr al-Zwai and Mr al-Obeidi pleaded not guilty but were denied bail. Speaking after the hearing, their defence lawyer said: “We hope that the trial will be a fair one.”
Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing case, legal experts on both sides of the Atlantic say even if the payments were deemed illegal in Libyan law the cash could not be reclaimed.
American lawyer James Kreidles [RB: presumably this should read “James Kreindler”] dismissed the court proceedings as having “absolutely no effect whatsoever” on the victims’ families.
He added: “It was an appropriate settlement. It was good for the families, good for the US and good for Libya.” [RB: it was also good for Kreindler & Kreindler whose contingency fees for representing the families amounted to many, many millions of dollars.]