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British Government in a bind over release of al Megrahi

How many of you would have heard of the name of ‘Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’. This is the person who is behind a scandal that is shaking Britain, and is causing a huge amount of negative publicity to Gordon Brown. Al Megrahi was convicted for involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, that killed 270 people. The incident happened primarily over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, and hence Al Megrahi is also known as the Lockerbie bomber. In a complex deal when he was prosecuted, he was prosecuted in a city in the Netherlands under Scottish law and sentenced to life imprisonment in a Scottish prison in 2001, a good 13 years after the crime (and this after a lot of pressure on Libya, since he was a Libyan intelligence agent). As a part of the prosecution, any role of Gaddafi’s Government was glossed over, although Libya spent around $2.7 billion in compensation to the family of the victims (259 people on the plane, including 189 Americans; and 11 people on the ground).
And now suddenly, a huge amount of controversy. The Scottish Government, that is semi-independent, release Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds since he was suffering from prostrate cancer, and his condition was supposed to be terminal, with only months left to live. The decision was supposedly taken by the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, since under Scottish judicial customs, a person with only months to live can be released on compassionate grounds. However, it would be naive to assume that such a decision could not be taken without due counsel by the British Government because of the raw emotions involved. The United States has protested vehemently over this decision, since it sees a person who had committed mass murder being released legally, and getting a hero’s welcome when he arrived back in Libya (apparently against an understanding that the Libyans would make this a low key event). Link to article:

The government was responding to reports that the British government wanted al Megrahi to be eligible for release in order to smooth the way for the British oil giant BP to win exploration rights in Libya. But Justice Minister Jack Straw acknowledged Sunday that a key element of the story was correct — that Libya had demanded al Megrahi be included in a prisoner transfer agreement, and that, after initial resistance, the UK agreed to the demand.
The Sunday Times claimed that Libya had insisted that al Megrahi be freed before it would approve an enormous contract with BP. BP announced the deal in May 2007, promising an initial investment of $900 million to explore two Libyan areas — one the size of Belgium and the other as large as Kuwait. But Libya did not approve the deal until after London dropped its objection to releasing al Megrahi, the Sunday Times alleged. Libya’s parliament approved the BP exploration deal four days after the alleged Straw letter was dated.

This controversy about whether the British Government made the deal to win a commercial agreement can be damaging, and is something that a large number of people would be willing to believe (actually, I consider that this might actually be true, even though there is no actual confirmation). Political opponents to Prime Minister Gordon Brown must be smelling blood, seeing a way to tar him with the feather of ‘terrorits-for-trade’, and given the recent political problems of Gordon Brown, it could place him in an uncomfortable position if further media research reveals more such secrets in this area.

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