Saturday, 6 June 2015

Mandela plans visit to Megrahi

[On this date in 2002, The Herald published a report headlined Mandela wants to visit Lockerbie bomber. (Not long afterwards The Herald wisely adopted the practice of referring to “the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing” rather than “the Lockerbie bomber”.) The report reads as follows:]

Nelson Mandela wants to visit Barlinnie next week to see the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

Zelda la Grange, spokeswoman for the former South African president, said that Mr Mandela was speaking to government officials to arrange details of a visit to see Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. She said: ''We are in the process of planning to go there early next week.''

Mr Mandela played a crucial role in persuading Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to hand over two men suspected of involvement in the 1988 bombing. A total of 270 people were killed when PanAm flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie.

Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 20 years. The second Libyan was acquitted.

Libyan television said that Mr Mandela had telephoned Colonel Gaddafi to tell him of his plans to visit al-Megrahi and check his health and detention conditions. Ms la Grange said: ''He's had a personal involvement in this case throughout, so it would only be expected of him to go there and see the prisoner and see the conditions in the prison.''

The Scottish Prison Service said it had not received any confirmation of Mr Mandela's visit.

Government officials from Britain, the US, and Libya are to meet in London tomorrow to discuss the £1.86 billion compensation offer to relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims. It is part of tripartite discussions which have taken place since the Libyan intelligence agent was convicted.

Kriendler and Kriendler, the New York law firm which has been negotiating on behalf of some of the families last week said Libya was prepared to pay compensation. It said Libya had offered to pay £1.86 billion - or almost £7m per family - as compensation for the 270 people killed in the bombing, with payments linked to the lifting of sanctions.

The Foreign Office yesterday confirmed a meeting with US and Libyan officials would take place tomorrow. A spokesman said: ''It is about Libya's response to the requirements of the UN resolutions, which cover not just compensation.''

Later, Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP, said:''Nelson Mandela and I, separately, were as responsible as anybody for persuading the two Libyans to have a trial in a third country and to persuade them as well to submit themselves to trial. ''I feel an obligation to make sure, in any way I can, that justice has been done. I believe there has been a catastrophic miscarriage of justice.''

Mr Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, went on: ''I went a fortnight ago to see Mr Megrahi for more than two hours in Barlinnie. ''He explained to me in detail that he was for 10 years a sanctions buster for Libyan-Arab Airlines. This is very different from being a mass murderer.''

[RB: Nelson Mandela’s visit took place a few days later, on 10 June 2002.]
Mandela photo 5

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