Sunday 15 May 2016

Trade deal link to Lockerbie bomber release

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

The politician who freed the Lockerbie bomber today reveals the full story of how the Westminster government made him eligible for return to Libya, including the role of trade deals potentially worth £13bn to British companies.

In a dramatic new book, serialised exclusively in The Sunday Times, former justice minister Kenny MacAskill also admits his decision to free one of the world’s most notorious terrorists was partly motivated by a fear of violent reprisals against Scots if the killer died in Scottish custody.

His account divulges:
•Ministers refused to travel with MacAskill amid threats to his life;
•The SNP sought concessions from Westminster in exchange for Megrahi’s possible return;
•His view on who was really responsible for Britain’s worst terrorist attack.

MacAskill claims the UK government made Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi eligible for return to his Libyan home under a “trade for terrorist plan” to try to secure a massive oil and gas deal for BP which was in doubt. He says Jack Straw, then UK justice secretary, shared the details in a “highly confidential” telephone call which casts new light on a controversy that has dogged Tony Blair since his 2007 “deal in the desert” with the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.

That deal was to give British industry access to Libyan oil reserves worth up to £13bn and £350m of defence contracts as the former rogue state was rehabilitated, and involved a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) allowing offenders to be moved between the countries.

Six months after that desert summit, MacAskill claims Straw warned him Gadaffi was threatening to cancel the energy contact and award it to a US firm unless Megrahi was covered by the PTA, after learning the new SNP regime was trying to exempt him.

Sensing that the British government, which had previously been prepared to exempt Megrahi from the PTA, was going to give in to Libya’s demands, MacAskill reveals that he and Salmond then tried to extract concessions in exchange for the agreement.

Although the Scottish government denied this five years ago, MacAskill says the concessions sought were changes to the law to give Holyrood power to regulate firearms and to curb lawsuits from former prisoners in Scottish jails who had been forced to use slop-out buckets in their cells instead of toilets.

Straw rejected MacAskill’s claims as a “highly embroidered version of what happened” while Salmond said his administration “played the whole thing with a straight bat from start to finish”. (...)

Within weeks of the UK government agreeing not to exempt Megrahi from the PTA, Gadaffi ratified the BP deal with Libya’s national oil corporation.

Negotiations for Megrahi’s return were interrupted after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and the Scottish government opted to free him on compassionate grounds in 2009. He died in Libya three years later.

A spokesman for BP said the company had no comment on the UK government’s actions or discussions.

In The Lockerbie Bombing, to be published on May 26, MacAskill reveals he feared the potential for a violent backlash in the Arab or wider Muslim world if Megrahi had been allowed to die while in Scottish custody.

Just a few weeks before MacAskill’s announcement to free him, UK hostages taken prisoner in Iraq had been murdered, which followed the execution of other Western nationals captured in the area.

He writes: “There was hostility to the West and ordinary citizens were becoming targets. Most in North Africa or the wider Arab world neither knew of Scotland nor cared about it. I was aware of the deaths of prison officers that had occurred in Northern Ireland where some had died through terrorist attack.

“The last thing I wanted was to have Scotland become a place that was demonised and its citizens targeted. I would not allow Scottish oil workers or others, wherever they might be, to face retribution as a consequence of my decision.”

In an interview with The Sunday Times, MacAskill, whose own safety was thought to be at risk as he considered whether to free Megrahi, added: “I think, looking at events in Brussels and Paris, I stand by that. We would have kept him in if we had decided that was necessary but he would never have been allowed to die here.”

In a book extract in this newspaper today, the former minister argues that a coalition involving Libya, Syria, Iran and Palestinian terrorists were behind the Lockerbie bombing, in revenge for the downing of an Iran Air flight by a US naval ship in July 1988.

[RB: In the extract published in The Sunday Times today, Mr MacAskill cites three reasons for his belief in Libyan (and Abdelbaset Megrahi’s) involvement in the atrocity. They are (1) an alleged interview given by Colonel Gaddafi to The Washington Times in 2003; (2) Mustafa Abdel-Jalil’s statement reported in the Swedish newspaper Expressen; and (3) Scottish investigators’ and prosecutors’ belief in the accuracy of the information disclosed in Ken Dornstein’s recent films. It is interesting, however, that Mr MacAskill explicitly states "Clothes in the suitcase that carried the bomb were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi. But if Megrahi didn’t buy the clothes, he was certainly involved." If the Zeist court had not made the finding-in-fact that Megrahi purchased the clothes, it would not, and could not, have convicted him.

As regards (1): There was no such 2003 interview. What MacAskill is referring to, as is clear from the “quote” from Col Gaddafi that he provides, is the claim by the editor-in-chief of The Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave, that in an off-the-record conversation in 1993 Gaddafi admitted that Libya played a part in a scheme to destroy an American aircraft which had been instigated by Iran. De Borchgrave’s account of this conversation can be read on this blog here. My comment at the time was as follows:

“On the assumption that this account of an off-the-record conversation in 1993 is accurate, it in no way affects the wrongfulness of the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. As I have tried (without success) to explain to US zealots in the past, the fact -- if it be the fact -- that Libya was in some way involved in Lockerbie does not entail as a consequence that any particular Libyan citizen was implicated. The evidence led at the Zeist trial did not justify the guilty verdict against Megrahi. On that basis alone his conviction should have been quashed had the recently-abandoned appeal gone the full distance. That conclusion is reinforced (a) by the material uncovered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and (b) by the material released on Mr Megrahi's website.”

As regards (2): An account of the statement by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil can be read here. Evidence that he promised to supply never materialised. The best he could come up with was the assertion that the Gaddafi regime paid Megrahi’s legal expenses -- something that had never been hidden or denied. A response to Abdel-Jalil by John Ashton can be read here. Blistering commentaries by the late Ian Bell can be read here and here.

As regards (3): A lengthy response by John Ashton to the disclosures in the Dornstein films can be read here. Another long and detailed commentary by Dr Kevin Bannon can be read here. Dr Neil Berry makes critical comments on the films here.

Nowhere in The Sunday Times coverage is there mention of (a) the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s findings that, on six grounds, the Megrahi conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of Justice; (b) the evidence disclosed in John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury and, in particular, the metallurgical discrepancy between the dodgy circuit board fragment PT35b and circuit boards used in the MST-13 timers supplied to Libya; and (c) the evidence supplied in Dr Morag Kerr’s Adequately Explained by Stupidity? Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies which establishes beyond reasonable doubt that the suitcase containing the bomb did not arrive at Heathrow as unaccompanied baggage from Malta via Frankfurt but was already in the relevant luggage container before the feeder flight arrived. Perhaps these issues are dealt with elsewhere in Mr MacAskill’s book. But I won’t be holding my breath.


  1. The first part of this, about the deal in the desert, rings true. It's likely that neither Blair nor Straw realised that release of a prisoner would require the decision of a Holyrood minister, or alternatively it didn't occur to them that such a minister would not be from New Labour.
    The story seems to go downhill from there and it looks as if there may be confusion between what was seriously advanced by the Scottish Government and thoughts and fears that may have passed through MacAskill's mind.
    The two issues referred to are an odd choice, too. Was firearm (or, maybe, airgun?) control sufficiently important? Surely the slopping-out issue was a Convention matter?
    Unsurprisingly I don't think this book is going to add much that can be relied on.

    1. I think it's a certainty that Blair and Straw never imagined for a moment that they needed to take any account of Holyrood. At the time they were planning all this the Scottish government was the Labour party, backed up by the ever-comlpliant LibDems. All they had to say to Jack McConnell the then First Minister was "jump" and he'd say "How high?" I don't think it even crossed their minds that in the future it might be otherwise.

      Then on 3rd May 2007, right in the middle of the negotiations, the SNP became the largest party by one seat and thanks to the LibDem's refusal to go into coalition they became the Scottish government. Alex Salmond became First Minister. And the rest, as they say, is history.

  2. Lockerbie Dossier, 2016, only in German language:

    Es zeigt einmal mehr, und ist empörend, dass der vorherige schottische Justiz Minister MacAskill, bis heute glaubt und publik macht, dass der libysche Offizielle, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, als Täter des PanAm 103, Attentat's über Lockerbie, angesehen werden muss !

    MacAskill, stützt seine "Sachkenntnis" in dieser Angelegenheit auf skurrile verbreitete Geschichten ab, u.a. auf das perfide, fatal auswirkende Interview von Mustafa Abdel-Jalil - publiziert in der schwedischen Zeitung "Expressen", Ende 2011.
    Das Interview wurde zielführend, weltweit von den Mainstream-Medien verbreitet und löste nochmals ein gewolltes Entsetzen gegen das Gaddafi Regime aus.

    Im Interview behauptete Jalil, er hätte Beweise, dass Gaddafi, das PanAm 103 Attentat "orchesteriert" habe ! Beweise konnte Jalil, nie erbringen; er beteuerte später die Presse habe ihn mit seinem Interview falsch zitiert. Nach Gaddafi's Tod, war Jalil für kurze Zeit, Chairman "of Libya's rebel" Transitional National Council (TNC).
    Es ist offensichtlich, dass das "infernalische Interview" über die "Lockerbie Tragödie", zu diesem Zeitpunkt, nochmals dazu benutzt wurde um den Zorn auf Gaddafi, weltweit zu fördern und den Umsturz zu legitimieren !
    Daraus kann spekuliert werden, dass MacAskill über die entlastenden Beweise für al Megrahi und Libyen, keine Ahnung hat, oder dass er die wahren Fakten nicht aktuell machen wollte; verächtlich...verächtlich...!

    Sobald ein fälliges Gerichtsurteil über Rechtsverschleppung und über die Ablehnung - eine Strafuntersuchung in der Sache (MST-13 Timer, PT-35) in der Schweiz, nicht an die Hand zunehmen vom Bundesstrafgericht Bellinzona vorliegt, wird Edwin Bollier/MEBO AG, dem Chief Inspector, Stuart Johnstone, für die in Scotland, laufende Polizei Untersuchung "Operation Sandwood", eine aktuelle Zusammenfassung (Dossier) über die delinquente Vorgeschichte des entscheidenden Beweisbetrugs, mit einem MST-13 Timerfragment, markiert als (PT-35), einreichen.

    Das "Dossier Lockerbie" von MEBO, öffnet die "Pandora Box" im "Lockerbie Beweisbetrug" über das manipulierte, entscheidende MST-13 Timerfragment Prod. (PT-35) zum Schaden des damaligen Gaddafi Regime und der Firma MEBO AG.
    Dazu wird dokumentiert was alles unternommen wurde, als das US- Pentagon 1977, die "Libyen Jamahiria", auf die Liste der Feinde der USA setzte und was sich alles für einen Umsturz des Gaddafi Regime - bis zum Attentat auf PanAm 103, 1988, und den anschliessenden "Machenschaften" - entwickelte...

    § Hinweis zur Kenntnisnahme: Alle Vorhalte gegen Personen, welche in der Bestandsaufnahme (DOSSIER LOCKERBIE) gemacht wurden, haben mit dem realen Bomben Attentat auf Flug PanAm 103, nichts zu tun; sondern nur mit dem entscheidenden Beweisbetrug mittels eines MST-13 Timer (PT-35) zum Schaden von Libyen und MEBO AG. (CH).
    Die wahre Täterschaft für das Attentat auf Flug, PanAm 103, konnte bis heute, nach 27 Jahren nicht eruiert werden !

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage: