Friday 10 September 2010

US ambassador hits back at cardinal over Megrahi release

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

One of America's most senior diplomats last night issued hard-hitting criticisms of the Scottish Government and a senior Catholic cardinal when he spoke in Glasgow last night.

Louis Susman, US ambassador to the UK, strongly condemned justice secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, and made the pointed remark that America was "not a vengeful nation" in reference to recent comments made by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics.

Speaking at a CBI dinner in Glasgow, Mr Susman said: "We have said repeatedly we respect the right of the Scottish Government to make the decision, but we felt that the heinous nature of the crime did not justify the release under any circumstances.

"We agree with Prime Minister Cameron who said that Megrahi should not have been shown compassion when he did not show any himself.

"The fact that Megrahi lives on as a free man, 13 months after his release, in Libya, in luxurious surroundings, only reinforces our conviction that he should have served his sentence in Scotland. America is not a vengeful nation as some have said."

His last remark was seen as a pointed response to statements from Cardinal O'Brien. Last month the cardinal criticised America's "culture of vengeance" and told US Senators they had no right to question the standards of Scotland's justice system over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. (...)

In his remarks, Cardinal O'Brien condemned the American justice system and spoke of a "conveyor belt of killing" in its use of the death penalty. (...)

He said the US senators seeking to question Scottish and British government ministers should instead "direct their gaze inwards".

The Cardinal also backed Mr Salmond's decision not to send his ministers to the US for a Senate hearing, saying that Scottish ministers are answerable to Scots and not to the US. He described the decision as "thoughtful and considered". (...)

MacAskill rejected Megrahi's application to be released under a Prisoner Transfer Agreement negotiated by the UK government and Libya.

It emerged subsequently that the Libyans had delayed signing an oil deal with BP in order to pressure Megrahi to be included in the agreement, which the then UK justice secretary Jack Straw subsequently agreed to.

The revelations prompted the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee to launch a hearing into the release.

Both MacAskill and Straw were asked to attend, but both declined on the grounds they did not answer to a foreign legislature. The senators have now declared they may visit Scotland later this year to speak to MacAskill and Straw here.

[The Herald's report of the ambassador's speech can be read here.

A letter from Ruth Marr in The Herald of Saturday, 11 September contains the following:]

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi must feel that he is encircled by vultures. The latest to complain that he has not met his three-month deadline is the American ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman., speaking at the CBI Scotland’s annual dinner.



    For United Kingdom VITAL !
    BP had not influenced the release of Mr Abdelbaset Al Megrahi !

    They have the truth in your hand...
    First Minister Alex Salmond and Secretary of Justice Kenneth Wright MacAskill it is high time to be opened the *SCCRC- and different other crucial documents in the case of PanAm 103 to favour for British Petroleum company (BP) Libya, Mr. Al Megrahi, Air Malta and MEBO Ltd.
    The *Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found six areas
    of the original trial that could have constituted a miscarriage of justice !

    **Some US politicians entertain the suspicion that British government members only advocated the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi last year in order to pave the way back to Libya for BP. BP had been absent from the Libyan oil market for thirty years. (**election propoganda)

    Mr. Al-Megrahi was released from imprisonment in Scotland on grounds that he was terminally ill, after serving eight years innocent in Scottish prisons for the 1988 airplane bombing.

    Again: Mr. Megrahi and Libya do not have to do anything with the Lockerbie-Tragedy. Megrahi was a political hostage and he is innocent and its release was fair, but it needs now likewise a UN inquiry into the full circumstances surrounding the bombing.

    The Scottish trial at Kamp van Zeist was far from fair and proper. Mr Abdelbaset Al Megrahi who was sentenced to life imprisonment is proven innocent. (at present still legally condemns).
    The evidence used at the court was of the flimsiest kind and some of the witnesses were clearly working for Intelligence Agencys, CIA, MI-6 and CH-Nachrichtendienst.

    At the first hearing on the 19th of October 2007 the Appeal court in Edinburgh suddenly confirmed after more than 3 months the existence of a document "under national security"; but keeps ist content closed.
    Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini QC agreed on the 20th of February 2008 to open the secret document but the UK Government by Advocate General Lord Davidson, QC, - Westminster's representative in Scottish matters - refused so and argued that it was not in the public interest to release the secret document. He claimed higher national interests: "The national security was at stake"!!! Which is to mean that ?

    Which state secret service has a motive and is interested in it, for not open the 'PII' until today; thereby Libya for the PanAm 103 Tragedy can not dismiss from the responsibility?

    Opens the document under National Security (PII) and begins with the investigations in the real case of Lockerbie in another direction…

    Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland
    more information on our URL:

  2. But who will believe Mr Susman's claim that the US is not a vengeful nation. As a representative of the world's leading terrorist state, he's not exactly an independent observer. Keep banging the drum.

  3. He will have noticed whilst talking to Alex Salmon (First Minister of Scotland), that Alex was wearing the new papal tartan (as most of the Scottish Parliament did yesterday) out of respect for next week’s visit by the pope. A demonstration, if one was needed, that there is a degree of unanimity in this country between politicians and holy men (e.g. Cardinal O’Brien) to make Scotland and inclusive place - even if it is becoming increasingly secular and diverse.
    “His comments, made at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow…” – yes, he was in Glasgow because simultaneously at 3 Regent Terrace in Edinburgh, his Consulate was under siege by aggrieved Muslims because back in his country, one of his religious holy men is threatening to burn a pile of Korans (Literally, an inflammatory act?) because of the “disrespectful, intolerant and divisive” feelings stirred up by the Ground Zero mosque affair. “Disrespectful, intolerant and divisive” feelings supported by many US politicians on this issue. His country HAS a vengeful tendency, and is NOT inclusive – despite their hype.

  4. Oops! My spell checker auto-changed 'salmond' to 'salmon' - it can be too helpful sometimes :)

  5. The devolution of power from the UK to Scotland had no notable religious dimension. There is a large community of Catholics in Western Scotland, largely derived from C19 Irish immigration, but this block is not notably pro- or anti- devolution, but usually Labour voting.

    The rivalries manifested in marches, especially on the Orange protestant side and similar Catholic emanations have largely dies away, but remain as rivalries mainly on the football field.

    Scotland today is much like many other north European countries with religious divisions going back to the Reformation - the Netherlands and Germany especially.

    But the crude cartoon-like statements of religious innovators, who are in effect businessmen trying to place belief in an overcrowded market are not really part of the Scottish scene.

    Thank the God, who does not exit.

  6. Just another ill-mannered, downright rude American who doesn't know how to behave when asked to dinner.

  7. #2 Carlo, Inverclyde 10 Sep 2010 12.23
    Why is it not crystal clear to everyone that the Yanks blew the plane up, just like they shot down the IranAir one. It gave them an opportunity (like they needed one) to have yet another go at Libya.

    [comment at the end of today's Herald article cited by RB]
    It's like déjà vu all over again.

  8. No Carlo, that's a non-sequitur. For the truth, as far as I can discern it read:

  9. At least the Herald story gave a reasonably balanced account, not only reporting on what the Ambassador said in his speech, but also mentioning that Megrahi maintains he is innocent, that high-profile commentators have called for a full inquiry into the full circumstances of the Lockerbie bombing, that there was a new appeal after SCCRC findings, etc.

    North American newspapers reporting what government officials have to say on the release of Megrahi are not so balanced - usually there is no mention whatsoever of the SCCRC, that an appeal was dropped, or the like.

    Check a similar but far less balanced story: "Faulty medical reports led to Lockerbie bomber's release" by Brian Lilley. available at the following url:

    There seems to be some awareness in Scotland, but be assured that the vast majority of the public in North America is totally unaware that there is any question or doubt at all about the conviction of Megrahi. North Americans are highly unlikely to ever look for a news story originated by a Scottish newspaper. Rather they just print whatever is available from the Associated Press or the news wire.

    I've written letters to the editor many times in attempts to balance such one-sided stories but the newspapers have never printed any such letters.

  10. Anyone care for a Gilbert libretto?

    The Megrahi (Mikado by G.& S.)
    Taken from the Greenock jail
    By a set of curious chances;
    Liberated not on bail,
    ‘cause of Gauci’s recognisances;
    Wafted by a favouring gale
    Ebol’s timer had them in trances
    To a site that few can fail,
    to see evidence, the polis enhanced..
    Surely, never had a trail
    Under such like circumstances
    So adventurous a tale,
    Which was linked with Maltese perchances.

    CHORUS. Defer, defer,
    To the Lord High Executioner (aka Lord Sutherland)

  11. I prefer not to look on this as an instinctive bias, and indeed I have had relatively little complaint that I take an unAmerican stance. Most Americans are in truth aware that their government is no less corrupt and deficient than other "democratic" ones. But getting alternatives to "Megrahi is guilty" onto the news agenda is very difficult indeed.

    Both Blair and Thatcher, America's favourite Brits since Churchill have shown themselves to be moral pygmies, and what's worse over Lockerbie.

  12. Political froth and bluster.

    Mr Susman might want to look up the definition of "vengeful" when one is stating to the press out of the other side of your mouth "Megrahi should not have been shown compassion" if he does not want to appear as though he is a hypocrite.

    I don't think Megrahi should have been released on compassionate grounds, he should have been granted bail and had the appeal over his conviction heard in full (of course he never should have been convicted at all) then returned to Libya free and clear.

    One wonders what Louis Susman might have had to say at dinner if both US and UK law enforcement had been shown to be a bunch of liars by now...