Thank you for the interesting Dec. 17 article on “WikiLeaks and Lockerbie.”
WikiLeaks seems so far merely to have confirmed what we already thought we knew about the release of Baset Al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
For the Westminster government, the “Deal in the Desert” between Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi, like any deal, consisted of an agreed exchange, and here meant that the UK (and – shock and horror – BP) got privileges in the Libyan economic field in return for Gaddafi getting his man back in time for the 40th anniversary of his assumption of power.
When Megrahi seemed set to remain in a Scottish prison as the Libyan anniversary approached, WikiLeaks now confirms that the Westminster government was on the receiving end of threats to destroy UK trade links if the UK did not honor its part of the deal. But Scotland, not Westminster, had control over this prisoner imprisoned in Scotland and found guilty by Scotland’s independent legal system. If the U.S. senators previously pursuing this issue did not already know of these cables, WikiLeaks will have rekindled their lust for revenge against UK/BP, to the detriment of the UK/U.S. “special relationship,” no doubt.
As a result of the “Deal in the Desert,” Jack Straw, as UK justice minister, was reduced in 2009 to riding roughshod over the House of Commons Joint Committee on human rights, which was concerned that the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA), which was required to enable the UK’s side of the deal, would give the UK the right to repatriate prisoners to Libya with or without their consent. When one considers the human rights posture of the Libyan regime, one can understand the committee’s concerns. But the PTA had to be activated, Westminster thought, before Gaddafi’s anniversary.
The Scottish (Scottish National Party) government, however, according to WikiLeaks, was at the same time being positively wooed by the Libyans with what its first minister Alex Salmond is said to have described as “a string of treats,” all of which were said to have been rejected.
In the event, for whatever reason the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, turned his back on Westminster’s PTA. Instead Megrahi was released under Scotland’s existing “compassionate release” provisions, which by the way do not demand that death of a released prisoner occur within three months, though that was expected on this occasion. Compassionate release, unlike use of the PTA, did not require Megrahi to relinquish his second appeal.
I had the privilege of talking to Kenny MacAskill shortly before his decision. I pleaded for Megrahi’s immediate compassionate release for two reasons: First, I’m a doctor and I knew he was in pain and dying, separated from his family and country, and second, I had become convinced because of the evidence in the Zeist court, aided by subsequent revelations, that Megrahi had not been shown to be guilty as charged.
Just before his release, however, both Kenny MacAskill and, separately, a delegation from the Libyan government, visited him in prison. What either of them may have told the prisoner is not known at this time. Even WikiLeaks is silent so far. We had hoped that his second appeal would reveal any weaknesses in the verdict: Why did MacAskill withdraw it when compassionate release did not require him to do so?
Surely the issue of whether Megrahi really was guilty should far outweigh in significance the question of why he was released to die among his people.
The accolade of “snatching a convicted man back from the jaws of the ‘wicked West'” led to the deeply resented celebrations starting on the steps of Gaddafi’s aircraft in Tripoli in August 2009.
Resented, of course, because this man had been found guilty of playing a key role in the destruction of 270 lives at Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, had he not?
There is, however, a growing cohort of relatives (to which I belong), lawyers, and the public, both in the UK and abroad, who doubt the security of the verdict against Megrahi and are determined that it be reviewed.
If the Libyan did not do it, then who did? Who is luxuriating in the knowledge that he has nothing to fear from Western “justice” if exposure of his involvement in terrorism is not “convenient” for the West? It is easy to point to suspects.
If Scotland’s previously highly respected and independent criminal justice system was indeed subverted for political reasons and has concealed that for so many years in an effort to preserve the reputations of the individuals knowingly or unknowingly involved in the deception, how can the people of Scotland rely upon it to adjudicate in disputes with their own politicians should they feel unfairly treated? Deep flow the waters of skepticism and discontent in that country.
Meanwhile, would the politicians of the world please tell us doubting relatives all that you know as to whose was the real responsibility for the brutal murder of our families back in 1988, and whose was the responsibility for the failure to protect all those innocent lives? Failure to protect them and guilt at concealing the facts should long since have shamed you into revealing the truth; that WikiLeaks cannot hope to do.
On Tuesday, it was 22 years since the slaughter. We will not fall silent until our doubts and indeed our right to know the whole truth are honored. For some of us this secrecy dishonors the memory of our family members who died. In what way does their sad passing excuse the torture of their surviving relatives?