THE DECISION of the Scottish Government to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi on compassionate grounds has been denounced by US President Barack Obama and his FBI boss Robert Mueller who called it “a mockery of justice”. Scottish Labour former First Minister Henry McLeish says Mueller’s intervention was “totally out of order” and “none of his business” but Gordon Brown’s silence has fired speculation that the release of the dying Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was part of a secret deal to secure lucrative new oil deals in Libya.
The Scottish National Party administration has quite rightly said that the release of al Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, was fully justified under Scottish law. Alex Salmond’s government was equally totally justified in pointing out that while Scotland had a strong relationship with the United State it did not always depend on the two countries coming to agreement.
But this was no random act of mercy. Al Megrahi’s decision to drop his appeal was clearly prompted by promises of freedom. His release a week later was clearly timed for the run-up to the 1st September celebrations in his country to mark the 1969 Libyan Revolution. It is inconceivable to believe that the devolved Scottish government, which is ultimately answerable to the Westminster Parliament and the Crown, could have made this decision without prior consultation with the Prime Minister.
The Libyan Arab Airlines manager who sat in the dock with al Megrahi was acquitted by the special Scottish court that sentenced al Megrahi to life imprisonment in 2001. Al Megrahi always denied the charges at the trial and still protests his innocence. He is seen as a martyr in Libya and his incarceration was always seen as a barrier to improving relations with oil-rich Libya.
This was recognised by former premier Tony Blair, who met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 to conclude a $900 million oil and gas deal and sign up to a law, extradition and prisoner transfer agreement that clearly was focused on the only significant Libyan in British custody. British Petroleum and Shell have got their eye on the vast and still untapped oil and gas reserves that lie under the Libyan desert and many other British companies are eager to get a slice of the action in the new multi-million dollar Libyan construction programme that includes new ports, airports, holiday resorts, water nano-filtration plants and 27 new universities.
We may never know if the British Government was behind his release. Only Gordon Brown can say whether it was an act of altruism by the Scottish Government or part of deal to boost Anglo-Libyan trade and the Prime Minister is saying nothing. The New Communist Party has actively backed the campaign for justice for Megrahi and for Libya from the very beginning and we will continue to do so. We will continue to demand that the record be set straight and the machinations of the CIA be fully exposed.
By abandoning his appeal al Megrahi has given up any chance of clearing his name and resolving the mystery of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. To this day no one has claimed responsibility for the destruction of the plane that cost the lives of 259 passengers and crew along with eleven Scots killed when parts of the aircraft hit the ground.
The trial was seriously flawed and the “evidence” produced by the CIA suspect. Many believed al Megrahi would have been able to clear his name at the appeal. In Libya and throughout the Arab world many believe he was innocent. This view is shared by many campaigners in Britain who had grave doubts about his trial. Clemency or natural justice - whatever the motive the release of the Libyan was right and long overdue.