British politicians smell blood over Lockerbie bomber
Opposition parliamentarians want an inquiry into reports that access to Libyan oil affected the British government's decision to allow convicted Lockerbie bomber to be eligible for release.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office today denied that his government agreed to make the convicted Lockerbie bomber eligible for release in exchange for an oil contract with Libya, as reported yesterday by the center-right British newspaper, The Times.Skip to next paragraph
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"The central assertion in this story is completely untrue and deeply misleading," Mr. Brown's office said in response to the story.
British justice secretary Jack Straw – who admitted yesterday that Brown's government backed down from its insistence that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi be excluded from any prisoner trade agreement hashed out during the now-famous 2007 'deal in the desert' between Libya and Britain – has called the issue "academic."
Why? Because Scotland has repeatedly insisted that it made the decision to release Mr. Megrahi on compassionate grounds, or as Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calls them, "justice grounds."
"What I do know, and what I can state categorically ... is that these deals — if such deals existed — played no part whatsoever in the decision that [Scottish Justice Minister] Kenny MacAskill took to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds," Ms. Sturgeon said on Monday. "That was a decision taken entirely on justice grounds, and there were no influences relating to political or economic interests that played any part in that."
But this doesn't seem to have quelled public interest in the story, especially from families of the victims.
Pamela Dix, secretary of the victims' group UK Families Flight 103, whose brother was killed on Pam Am Flight 103, told the British TV news channel ITN: "I think it would be naive to feel that international trade had nothing to do with relations between Libya and the United Kingdom and discussions around Megrahi. For Jack Straw to indicate that it is academic to discuss the prisoner transfer agreement because Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds is an insult."
Nor has it stopped opposition politicians in both England and Scotland from seizing the moment to stick it to their respective governments.
They smell blood in the water.