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01 Sep 2009 11:24
The British and Scottish governments will publish documents relating to the release of the Lockerbie bomber on Tuesday after reports said he was freed early to help secure lucrative business deals with Libya.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi’s release from a Scottish jail last month angered the United States government and many relatives of the 270 people killed in the bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.
The documents will support Britain’s argument that no deals were done with Libya over al-Megrahi, the BBC reported, citing unnamed British government sources.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had talked to Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi about the case at the G8 summit in Italy in July, where he told him that any decision on al-Megrahi’s early release would be taken in Edinburgh.
“I made it absolutely clear to him then that this was not a decision ... that we as the United Kingdom could take.
It was a matter for the Scottish Executive, and it was their decision, and their decision alone that would decide it,” Brown said in an interview in Tuesday’s Financial Times.
Downing Street had no comment on the release of the Lockerbie papers.
Scotland’s devolved government, which has had control over many areas of Scottish policy for the past decade, said al-Megrahi was freed early because he has terminal cancer which could kill him within three months.
However, newspapers reported that Britain put pressure on Scotland to free the former Libyan agent to improve business ties with Libya, home to Africa’s biggest oil reserves.
The Sunday Times published a leaked letter saying it was in Britain’s “overwhelming interests” for al-Megrahi not to be left out of a prisoner transfer deal signed by London and Tripoli.
If proved, those allegations would further damage Britain’s relations with the United States and represent a “betrayal of everything Britain stands for”, Conservative leader David Cameron wrote in the Times on Tuesday.
Cameron said the affair was a fiasco and it was “becoming harder to believe” that London played no role in al-Megrahi’s release.
Scots are evenly divided over the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber on humanitarian grounds, a poll by Ipsos MORI Scotland for Thomson Reuters showed.—Reuters
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