Friday, 5 September 2014

Blair, Gaddafi, Megrahi

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:

Tony Blair and Colonel Gadaffi discussed al-Megrahi

Tony Blair discussed with Colonel Gadaffi how best to “find a way through" for the jailed Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi after BP formally signed an exploration deal in 2007, according to Libya’s Europe minister.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in Tripoli yesterday, Abdulati al-Obeidi, the minister, said that al-Megrahi had been on the agenda during Blair’s visit that year.

“They (Blair and Gadaffi) discussed possible ways on how legally to bring al-Megrahi to Libya, whether through British or international laws or the Scottish system,” the minister said.

“At that time they were merely exchanging ideas. The idea was discussed as a title. Everyone was looking for a relationship to continue and prosper into the future and to find a way out for Abdul Baset, but nothing was agreed." (...)

The minister, Libya’s longest-serving politican, going back since 1968, said he had been asked by his government to become involved in the negotiations over al-Megrahi’s release following the prisoner’s cancer diagnosis.

It was he who first conveyed Libya’s concerns to Bill Rammell, a Foreign Office minister at the time, about the possible consequences should al-Megrahi die in prison.

“I told Rammell and then (Ivan) Lewis, his successor, that al-Megrahi was very sick with cancer and that if he died in prison it would be disastrous in general, not just with regards to trade issues, but more importantly with public opinion, as people here and in the Middle East believed he was innocent, a hero.

“If he had died in prison they would also have believed that his illness was brought about intentionally and this would have been bad.”

He said he had conveyed the same message to Scottish officials.

It was then that Rammell had told him that neither Gordon Brown, the prime minister, nor David Miliband, the foreign secretary, wanted al-Megrahi to die in prison.

Legal experts were hired to explore ways in which to seek his freedom and they were made aware of possible release on compassionate grounds as well as under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.

The minister said al-Megrahi had insisted on dropping his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing in order to give both options a better chance.

“He was a sick man, a dying man who wanted to return home, reunite with his family and see them before he died,” he said. Al-Megrahi had declared when he made his decision: “I want to die among my family.”

[The above are excerpts from an article in The Sunday Times.]

Further information about Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, a highly significant figure in the Lockerbie saga, is to be found in blogposts here. My take on the “deal in the desert” can be read here.

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