Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Lockerbie investigations shelved

[What follows is the text of a report published on the website of The Scotsman on this date in 2004:]

Further investigations into the Lockerbie bombing have been quietly shelved despite the breakthrough in diplomatic relations with Libya, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Foreign Office officials have dashed the hopes of bereaved families that Tony Blair’s historic meeting with Colonel Gaddafi would enable them to seek more information about the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103.

Sources confirmed that the bombing of the airliner in 1988, for which Libya has now accepted responsibility, had been "the most difficult issue" during the exhaustive negotiations that led to the meeting in Tripoli last week. But it did not feature in the face-to-face talks between Blair and Gaddafi.

Despite ongoing investigations into the case of police constable Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, it was clear last night that ministers have decided to let the Lockerbie issue drop.

It is believed that with one man already convicted of the bombing, there are no grounds to reopen the inquiries.

"I’m not aware that Lockerbie did introduce itself really," one senior FCO official said last night. "There is no doubt at all about the heinous nature of the crime, and it is always there in the background. But compensation has been agreed."

Blair’s decision to travel to meet Gaddafi in person was seen as a hugely risky move, particularly as the Libyan leader is still regarded as a sponsor of terrorism by some of the families who lost relatives in the disaster.

The government has striven to maintain contacts with the families during the long-term process of easing Libya back into the international community. It imposed conditions including the acceptance of responsibility for the bombing as well as the agreement to pay compensation to the families of those that died on Flight 103.

Blair sent ministers to consult with the families before his visit in order to win their blessing for the trip, and for the plans to do more business with the Libyans in the future.

But the venture sparked criticism from some quarters, including Tory leader Michael Howard, and a number of Americans who lost family members in the disaster.

Daniel Cohen, whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora was killed in the crash, called Blair’s initiative "obscene". He said: "Tony Blair came from a ceremony in Madrid - a memorial service to the victims of the second largest terrorist attack in Europe, and then hopped on a plane and went to Tripoli to embrace the architect of the largest terrorist attack in Europe."

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