Saturday, August 22, 2009

Libya News Update: Trade Link to Megrahi's Release; Former Political Prisoner to Prove Innocence

Trade 'link' to Megrahi's release

The release of the Lockerbie bomber was tied to trade deals between Libya and the UK, reports quote the son of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi saying.

Seif al-Islam told Libyan TV the case was raised during talks over oil and gas, AFP news reported. The UK Foreign Office has strongly denied the claims.

Scotland's government freed terminally ill Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, on compassionate grounds on Thursday.

Megrahi was later welcomed in the Libyan capital Tripoli by Col Gaddafi.

In an interview with the Times, Megrahi said he intended to present new evidence proving his innocence.

The man convicted of killing 270 people aboard a transatlantic airliner in 1988 said he would present the evidence through lawyers in Scotland and ask the British and Scottish communities to "be the jury".

He said he was "very, very happy" to be free.

"This was my hope and wish - to be back with my family before I pass away. I always believed I would come back if justice prevailed."

Colonel Gaddafi's son had labelled Megrahi's release a "victory".

In an interview with a Libyan station, Mr Islam reportedly claimed that the Megrahi issue had been raised repeatedly by Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair.

"In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table," Mr Islam said to Libya's Al Mutawassit channel.

Mr Blair visited Libya in May 2007, during which UK energy giant BP signed a $900m (£540m) exploration deal.

However, the Foreign Office insisted Megrahi's release had been a matter solely for the Scottish authorities.

A spokesman said: "No deal has been made between the UK government and the Libyan government in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country."

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband earlier rejected suggestions the UK pushed for Megrahi's release to improve relations as "a slur on both myself and the government".

Prince Andrew

Separately, the Foreign Office was unable to confirm whether a planned trip to Libya by the Duke of York in September would be cancelled.

A spokeswoman said an official invitation to the British government from Libya had not yet been received.

However, it is believed any visit by a member of the Royal Family is unlikely to go ahead in light of the furore surrounding Megrahi's return.

This won't have any long term affect on relations with the US, but the decision shows a lack of empathy for the families of the murdered, and it will affect them.

The bomber's release - and the hero's welcome he was given on return to Libya - provoked anger from many relatives of those who died aboard Pan-Am flight 103, particularly in the US.

President Barack Obama condemned the jubilant scenes at Tripoli airport as "highly objectionable".

The UK foreign secretary described TV footage of people greeting Megrahi by cheering and waving flags as "deeply distressing".

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also said the reception was "inappropriate".

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has so far made no comment, although it has emerged he wrote to Col Gaddafi to ask that Libya "act with sensitivity" in its welcome.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/08/22 04:47:52 GMT

Saturday, August 22, 2009
13:56 Mecca time, 10:56 GMT

Al-Megrahi 'to prove his innocence'

Al-Megrahi was cheered by hundreds of Libyans upon his arrival in Tripoli on Thursday

The man convicted of the 1988 bombing of an aircraft over the Scottish town of Lockerbie has said he would present new evidence to prove his innocence before he dies, UK's The Times newspaper has reported.

In an article out Saturday, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, interviewed in his family home in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, said he had suffered a "miscarriage of justice".

"If there is justice in the UK I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice," al-Megrahi was quoted as saying.

The Times said 57-year-old al-Megrahi, released on compassionate grounds, promised that before he died, he would present new evidence through his Scottish lawyers that would exonerate him.

"My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence and ask them to be the jury," he said, refusing to elaborate.

Asked who carried out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people, he replied: "It is a very good question but I am not the right person to ask."

Meets Gaddafi

The former intelligence agent, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, was released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds.

He returned to his native country on Thursday, greeted by hundreds of cheering Libyans.

He also met with Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, who praised the Scottish authorities for their "courage" to release him from prison

"At this moment I would like to send a message to our friends in Scotland, the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Scottish prime minister ... and I congratulate them on their courage and for having proved their independence despite the unacceptable and unreasonable pressures they faced," Libya's official news agency Jana quoted Gaddafi as as saying.

Britain described celebrations in Libya upon al-Megrahi's return as being "deeply distressing" and Barack Obama, the US president, called the warm welcome "highly objectionable".

Senior US officials said that al-Megrahi's early release could disrupt diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli.

Many families of the victims in the bombing have expressed anger that he was released after serving only eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence.

Four years after al-Megrahi's conviction in 2001, Libya admitted responsibility and paid about $2.7bn in compensation to the families of those killed.

The move prompted the lifting of international sanctions against Libya and led to a restoration in diplomatic ties between Tripoli and the West.

Source: Agencies

No comments: