The British government has not dropped the case of a British police officer who was shot dead outside the Libyan embassy in London 25 years ago, the Foreign Office insisted Sunday.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised the killing of Yvonne Fletcher with Libya’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, as recently as July, when he visited Tripoli, a Foreign Office spokesman said. “It is vital that the investigation is allowed to resume by the Libyans. The Fletcher family deserves answers. We continue to make every effort to press the Libyan Government to allow Metropolitan Police Service to visit,” said the spokesman, who declined to be named in line with government policy. Fletcher was shot in the back outside the Libyan People’s Bureau, as the diplomatic offices were officially known, during a peaceful demonstration in 1984. London’s Metropolitan Police say the shots that killed her came from the embassy. Libya refused to let British police officers into the building to investigate that April 17, 1984 shooting, leading to what Scotland Yard calls “an 11-day siege” of the embassy. It ended with the occupants of the building being flown to Libya. Britain broke off diplomatic relations with Libya over Tripoli’s refusal to cooperate with the Fletcher investigation. The two restored ties more than 15 years later, when Libya agreed to hand over for trial two Libyan suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, and to accept “general responsibility” for Fletcher’s killing.
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Libya “accepted general responsibility for the actions of those within the (Libyan embassy) and they agreed to participate in and cooperate with the continuing British Police investigation and to accept its outcome,” the two countries said in a joint statement in 1999. “They expressed deep regret to the family of WPC Fletcher for what had occurred and offered to make an appropriate payment to them in compensation now, through the social fund of the Libyan Police Association, even if the killing were unintentional. “On this basis, the British government and the (Libyan government) agreed that the case of WPC Fletcher should no longer be considered a political issue between them, or an obstacle to future good relations,” the statement said, referring to the slain officer by her official title, “woman police constable,” or WPC. London’s Sunday Times newspaper alleged this week that the UK and Libya had made a “secret deal” three years ago to “abandon any attempt to try the murderer” of Fletcher in the United Kingdom. “Anthony Layden, Britain’s former ambassador to Libya, said this weekend he had signed the agreement with the Libyan government three years ago… At the time Britain was negotiating trade deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds with Libya,” the Sunday Times said. The Foreign Office said the newspaper was mischaracterizing the agreement. “It is entirely misleading and simply wrong to suggest that there was a ‘secret deal’ over the treatment of any suspect in relation to the murder of Yvonne Fletcher,” the spokesman said.
“The two ambassadors exchanged letters which underlined the position as it stood at the time — prior to 2008, Libyan law did not allow for extradition for trial in other countries. So a trial in Libya was the only outcome that would reflect our determination to see justice done,” he said. He declined to provide the letters to CNN. The Sunday Times did not publish them.