Labour helped free Lockerbie bomber, says report

 

FORMER BRITISH prime minister Gordon Brown’s Labour government did all it could to help Libya win the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail, but did not pressurise the Scottish authorities into making the decision, an official review published yesterday said.

The inquiry was carried out by cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, who published 150 official letters, memorandums and minutes produced during the long-running campaign by Libyan leader Col Muammar Gadafy to win the release of Megrahi, who was freed in August 2009 because Scottish ministers believed he would die soon from cancer.

In his conclusions, Sir Gus, Britain’s most senior civil servant, said the government’s policy had been to do everything – while respecting freedoms enjoyed by the Scottish executive under devolution – to “facilitate” the Libyans’ efforts to persuade Edinburgh to free him on compassionate grounds.

Prime minister David Cameron said the findings did not justify any further investigation, and added that they did not back up the persistent belief in Washington that BP had pressurised the Scottish executive on the issue as it was afraid it would lose Libyan oil and gas contracts.

Libya had repeatedly warned London it would regard Megrahi’s death in a Scottish jail as “a death sentence” and “by actual and implicit threats” made it clear there would be “severe ramifications for UK interests” if that happened, said the report. The Libyans had been angered by justice secretary Jack Straw’s decision to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement.

Megrahi, now 58, is still alive 17 months after release but has advanced prostate cancer. He is the only person to have been convicted of the attack on Pan Am 103, which crashed on Lockerbie when a bomb in luggage in the hold exploded, killing 271 people on board and in the village.

He was jailed for life in January 2001 after an 84-day trial.