There was no "double-dealing," no oil deal and no private assurances to Libya in an effort to secure the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday.
Brown took time out from an event in Birmingham, England, to address the issue a day after the British and Scottish governments released more than 100 pages of previously secret documents regarding the release of Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. The Scottish Parliament also held a heated debate Wednesday about the Scottish justice minister’s decision to release al Megrahi. A vote was expected later in the afternoon on whether parliament members approved of the move, with the option of distancing themselves from the decision. The Scottish justice minister made the decision to release al Megrahi last month, but there has been speculation that Britain pushed for him to be eligible for release as part of a deal allowing energy company BP to drill for oil in Libya. “Our interest throughout has been to strengthen the coalition against international terrorism,” Brown said. “I made it clear that for us there was never a linkage between any other issue and the Scottish government’s own decision about Megrahi’s future.” Brown added, “On our part there was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi.” Watch Brown explain why al Megrahi’s release was a Scottish matter » British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also defended the government Wednesday, telling the BBC in a radio interview that Britain never made any deal with Libya in connection with the case.
Letter reveals bomber’s release plea
Libya threatened U.K. on Lockerbie bomber, notes show
“What I think comes through very, very strongly from all of the papers that were published yesterday is that Megrahi’s release was not in the gift of the British government, (and) that at every stage we said this is a matter for the Scottish government and for the Scottish justice minister,” Miliband said. Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McAskill made the decision last month to release al Megrahi, saying the Libyan has terminal cancer and less than three months to live.
Document: Foreign Office
Document: Ministry of Justice
Document: Scottish Executive
Al Megrahi was serving a life sentence for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people, including 11 people on the ground. The plane exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it was flying from London to New York. The documents show Libya warned the United Kingdom that if al Megrahi died in prison in Scotland, it would have “catastrophic effects for the relationship between Libya and the UK” Watch more about the documents » The statement was made by Abdulati Alobidi, the Libyan minister for Europe, to both British and Scottish officials. Alobidi said Wednesday he mentioned the concerns to then-Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell. “I told him … if he dies in prison, it will have a very bad impression in Libya, on Libyan public opinion, Islamic and Arab public opinion, and we hope that we can find a legal way … to help him to die among his family,” Alobidi told Sky News from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Alobidi said Rammell promised him that Britain did not want to see al Megrahi die in prison, but couldn’t make him any promises. And Alobidi reiterated that al Megrahi’s release was not linked to an oil deal. “In my negotiations with the British and the Scottish, I didn’t mention anything about trade relations, but I said dying in prison will draw shadows in our (relationship) and it will deteriorate for sure,” he told Sky.