Saturday, December 11, 2010
Now we know why British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to order a new investigation into the release of the bomber of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988: The government in London was in up to its eyeballs in the decision to send Abdel Baset al-Megrahi back to Libya.
According to US embassy cables published by The Guardian newspaper, the British were afraid Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if al-Megrahi, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, died in a Scottish prison.
According to the newspaper, Gaddafi made explicit and “thuggish” threats to halt all trade deals with Britain and harass embassy staff if the bomber remained incarcerated.
The Libyans also promised the Scottish government “a parade of treats” if the release went through. The cables showed that the Scots turned down the offer.
Prime Minister Cameron has insisted that he strongly objected when the Scottish government decided last year to send al-Megrahi back to Libya.
“I don’t need an inquiry to tell me what was a bad decision,” the prime minister said. However, he did attempt to pacify Democratic senators in Washington who pushed for a congressional hearing by saying he would review documents and provide more information about the release.
The US embassy cables, part of the release of a major batch of diplomatic memos made public by WikiLeaks, answer many questions that were triggered last year after the Scottish government sent the mass murderer home.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 claimed the lives 259 people on the plane, many of them Americans coming home for Christmas, and 11 on the ground as debris rained down on Lockerbie.
The Libyan intelligence officer was convicted in February 2001 by a special jury of Scottish judges sitting in the Netherlands after a trial of 85 days and 230 witnesses. He received a life sentence, with no parole eligibility for 20 years.
But in August 2009, a Scottish judge ordered his release from custody, after he had served only eight years. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said that as the prisoner was given less than three months to live by doctors, al-Megrahi was eligible for compassionate release.
He received a hero’s welcome when he arrived in Libya.
But there is insult to the injury that has been done to the families of the victims: al-Megrahi is still alive and the doctor who provided the initial diagnosis now says that he could live for 10 years with the prostate cancer.
Why was the British government so worried about what Gaddafi would do? Because the two countries have strong economic ties.
There have been news reports suggesting that BP, the oil giant responsible for millions of gallons of oil being spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, played a major role in securing the Libyan spy’s release.
Major oil deal
The company was negotiating a major oil drilling lease with Libya. BP recently signed the $800 million agreement.
There have been reports that the governments of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair, also put pressure on the Scottish government to send the Lockerbie bomber home.
The families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103 have every reason to be angry and to view the British government with disdain. Placing economic interests before the interest of justice is a despicable display of national greed.