Saturday, 2 April 2022

"Gaddafi and Megrahi both told me he was innocent"

[What follows is excerpted from a long article by Peter Oborne published today on the Middle East Eye website:]

In a wide-ranging interview with Middle East Eye following publication of her memoir, The Colonel and I: My Life with Gaddafi, [Daad] Sharab talked about how the Libyan leader sent her on secret missions around the globe, during which she dealt directly with US President George HW Bush and visited alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in jail. (...)

Talking to MEE at her London home, Sharab excoriates former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who she says spoke highly of Gaddafi when the pair met privately over an intimate dinner in New York - only to publicly gloat later when the dictator was killed. (...)

She dismisses another western leader who embraced Gaddafi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as “a vulture hovering over Libya”.

When asked by MEE to explain, she said that Blair “made a deal with Libya to make money for his country, and not to be fair” - an apparent reference to the so-called “deal in the desert”, agreed with a handshake between the leaders in a tent outside Tripoli in 2004.

The deal cemented security and intelligence ties between the countries, including the British-orchestrated rendition of Libyan dissidents by the CIA to Tripoli - and also secured trade and oil deals for British firms.

Sharab says she “never fully trusted” Blair’s motives, even though she says he had a warm relationship with Gaddafi. (...)

Blair’s relationship with Gaddafi had been made possible by Libya’s admission of responsibility in 1999 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York in 1988, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew, along with 11 people on the ground.

With Libya identified as a possible culprit in the weeks after the bombing, Gaddafi sent Sharab as his envoy to then-US President George HW Bush, who told her to deal not with the United States but with the British.

Eventually a deal was struck, with Libya accepting responsibility and paying $10m to each of the families of the dead in return for the removal of sanctions.

Megrahi, an alleged former Libyan intelligence officer who had been made a suspect in the case since 1991, was handed over to stand trial at a special Scottish court convened in the Netherlands and jailed for life in 2001.

Sharab insists that the deal was “all about money, not justice,” adding that the West needed a “victim to blame”, while Gaddafi wanted “a way out of the mess of sanctions”.

She told MEE that Gaddafi told her “they framed Libya and he had done nothing. He said if he had done it, he would admit it, but he didn’t do it.”

Speculation over who was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing has continued in the decades since Libya admitted responsibility.

In 2014, an Al Jazeera investigation alleged that an Iranian-funded Syria-based Palestinian organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), had carried out the attack to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in the Gulf in 1988.

Sharab is deeply sympathetic to Megrahi, who she visited in prison in Scotland prior to his release on compassionate grounds in 2009 after a terminal cancer diagnosis. He died at home in Tripoli in 2012.

Today she says that the West framed an “innocent man” who resembled a “mild-mannered accountant”.

She attacks Gaddafi’s son Saif for publicly taking credit for Megrahi’s return to Libya. She says he was barely involved in his release and “never once bothered” to visit Megrahi in jail.

MEE put to Sharab the claim, made by Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil in 2011, that Gaddafi personally ordered the bombing.

She replied: “He knows nothing. He was minister when Gaddafi was president. Why would you work with the guy if you were sure he did that?”

“In my eyes,” states Sharab, “Al-Megrahi was the 271st Lockerbie victim.”

She accuses British intelligence of knowing the truth about Megrahi - but covering it up. Asked by MEE for evidence to support this assertion, she said it was “based on what Gaddafi told me and what Megrahi told me in prison. Both said he was innocent. And if Megrahi was guilty Britain would not have released him.”

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