Libya pressured the British government to include convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbeset al Megrahi in a 2007 prisoner release agreement tied to trade deals between the two countries, a son of Libya’s leader told CNN on Friday.
Britain refused to include al Megrahi in any deal, however, angering the Libyans, who initially told the British that all deals were off, said Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the second-eldest son of Libya’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The agreement was eventually signed late in the year. Gadhafi, who was involved in the negotiations for the prisoner release deal, accompanied al Megrahi back to Libya last month after he was freed from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds. Al Megrahi was released because he suffers from terminal prostate cancer, and Gadhafi said his release was not part of the trade deals. In an interview with Libyan channel Al Mutawassit on board the plane that carried al Megrahi from Scotland to Tripoli, Libya, on August 21, Gadhafi said that al Megrahi “was always on the negotiating table” during the talks, prompting British officials to flatly deny that his release was predicated on any deal. “It’s not only completely wrong to make any such suggestion, it’s also quite offensive,” Peter Mandelson, Britain’s secretary of state for business, said in an interview.
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“The idea that the British government and the Libyans would sit down and somehow barter about the freedom of this Libyan prisoner to form some sort of business deal … it’s not only wrong, it’s completely implausible,” he said. Earlier this week, a senior Libyan government official who has direct contact with al Megrahi said that his health had “weakened” significantly since he was freed from the Scottish prison last month. He was not in the emergency unit or intensive care, said the official, who did not want to be named, but he was “in bad shape.” Al Megrahi was convicted of killing 270 people by bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. He was sentenced to life in prison.