[I am grateful to a reader of this blog for sending me the text of an article in today's edition of The Sunday Times. The following are excerpts:]
The Lockerbie bomber blackmailed Colonel Gadaffi into securing his release from a Scottish prison by threatening to expose the dictator's role in Britain's worst terrorist atrocity, a former senior Libyan official has claimed.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi vowed to exact' "revenge" unless he was returned home, said Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Libya's former justice minister. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Abdel-Jalil says Megrahi's ploy led to a €50,000-a-month slush fund being set up to spend on legal fees and lobbying to bring him back to Tripoli.
His comments are highly embarrassing for Labour, after declassified documents revealed that Gordon Brown's govemment secretly worked to deliver the bomber's freedom in exchange for trade deals. They are also likely to further strain relations between Britain and the United States, which had opposed Megrahi's release. (...)
Abdel-Jalil, who quit his job last week over the regime's brutal crackdown and is now setting up an interim government in Benghazi, said Megrahi was involved in the attack ordered by Gadaffi as one of the Leader’s former spies.
He was not the man who carried out the planning and execution of the bombing, but he was "nevertheless involved in facilitating things for those who did".
Abdel-Jalil said he knew from two Libyan senior justice officials assigned to liaise with Megrahi in Scotland that he had threatened to "spill the beans" on several occasions. Megrahi had warned Gadaffi: "lf you do not rescue me, I will reveal everything. If you don't ensure my return home, I will reveal everything."
The threat paid off, ensuring the Libyan leader became heavily involved. "Abdelbaset received very special treatment as a Libyan prisoner abroad that was never shown to anyone else," said Abdel-Jalil.
"Gadaffi and his officials were dedicated to ensuring that Megrahi should return to Libya even if it cost them every penny they had. It was costing Libya £50,000 a month being paid to him, his legal team and family members for visitations and living expenses.” He claimed that up to £1.3 billion was spent on the case. (...)
Jim Swire, a retired British doctor whose 24-year-ald, daughter Flora was killed, said: “I’ve never known who ordered the bombing.
"I would love to see Gadaffi and his henchmen brought out of Libya alive and put in front of an international court in Holland to answer the questions we have about why and how this was carried out.
“Some may say if it can be proved Gadaffi ordered the Lockerbie bombings, does it matter how he did it? Well, it certainly matters to us, the relatives of the victims. We want to know the truth about how it was carried out and who was behind it."
Ben Wallace, the Conservative MP for Lancaster and Wyre, said the comments proved the conspiracy theorists who maintained Megrahi's innocence were wrong and intelligence services under Labour.
"Why were British intelligence and Scottish ministers not aware at the time of the threat being made by Megrahi, or had he already indicated to the authorities that he was prepared to talk?" Wallace said.
"If he was a foreign spy, why weren't we bugging those conversations? ... From start to finish Megrahi made fools of the Scottish government and the Labour government, with the Lockerbie victims and taxpayers paying the price."
[A somewhat shorter report in today's New York Daily News can be read here.
What has any of this got to do with whether Abdelbaset Megrahi was wrongly convicted on the evidence led at Camp Zeist? Is this no longer an issue of any concern? Is the question of the probity and integrity of the Scottish criminal justice system of no importance once a few Libyans who once, with no apparent qualms, supported Colonel Gaddafi decide that telling the US and the UK what they want to hear may be in their own best long-term interests?]