Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Moussa Koussa allowed to leave UK

[What follows is excerpted from a report in The Guardian on this date in 2011:]

Families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing have accused the British government of "betrayal" after it allowed Moussa Koussa, the former Libyan foreign minister, to leave the UK to attend an international conference.

Koussa, who defected to Britain at the end of last month, was en route to Doha in Qatar on Tuesday, where an international conference on the future of Libya is to be held with representatives from the Benghazi-based opposition.

He is expected to return to the UK after the conference, but is free to travel as he pleases.

Brian Flynn, the brother of JP Flynn, who died in the 1988 attack and now organises the Victims of Pan Am 103 Incorporated campaign group in New York, said the UK authorities had "crossed a line" by allowing Koussa to attend the conference and thereby suggest he is a peace negotiator rather than, as they believe, a key instigator of the bombing.

"I think the British are being played by him … he has convinced them he can be valuable in this process, but he is not the suave diplomat in the suit sitting on the sidelines, he is one of the key guys who mastermined [the bombing of] Pan Am flight 103," Flynn said.

"He is a stated enemy of the British government. Our feeling is that the British government gave a nod to Lockerbie by questioning him two days before this conference, but that feels disingenuous. The Scottish and American prosecutors on Lockerbie are being betrayed by the politicians and the diplomats. Cameron has been good on Libya, but this sounds an awful lot like Tony Blair is back in charge." (...)

It is understood Koussa spent a week being debriefed by MI6 at a safehouse before being allowed to go free. He was questioned by Dumfries and Galloway police about the 1988 bombing, in which 270 people died, though was he was not a suspect.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, had insisted that Koussa would not be given immunity from prosecution.

He was helped to defect by MI6 after leaving Tripoli for Tunisia on what was initially described as a private visit.

Jean Berkley, co-ordinator of the UK Families Flight 103 group, who lost her 29-year old son Alistair when the Pan Am flight was blown up in mid-air, said she was mystified by the decision to let Koussa travel.

"It is very unexpected," she said. "Is he the basis of a new Libyan opposition, or what? He doesn't seem a very suitable person. Our aim is always to get more of the truth and we want a full public inquiry. Koussa must have some interesting knowledge. It is hard to know what to make of it. We will wait and see and watch with interest." (...)

Koussa's links to the UK go back to the period when he was deputy foreign minister in the mid-1990s and was involved in talks that revealed the Gaddafi regime's past support for the IRA. He was head of Libya's foreign intelligence service in the 1990s – after the Lockerbie bombing. He was also involved in still inconclusive talks about the 1984 murder of Constable Fletcher.

In 2003 he played a pivotal role in talks about surrendering Libya's programme for weapons of mass destruction – the decision which paved the way for Gaddafi's temporary rehabilitation with the west. In 2009 he took part in negotiations over the controversial return home of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

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