UK denies oil deal link with Lockerbie bombing
August 31, 2009
According to the Associated Foreign Press, the U.K. government denied on any link between trade with Libya and the Lockerbie bomber''s release after a report suggested London was swayed by an oil deal into making him eligible for a prison transfer home. The Sunday Times said the government decided two years ago that it was "in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" to ensure Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi could at some point be sent back to Libya. According to letters obtained by the newspaper, Justice Secretary Jack Straw dropped an attempt in 2007 to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya because of "wider negotiations" with Tripoli. His decision came after discussions between Libya and BP over a massive oil exploration deal became bogged down, the paper said. The deal was ratified by Libya soon afterwards. In response to the report, Straw acknowledged that the prisoner transfer agreement was part of efforts to bring Libya back into the international fold after it abandoned its nuclear weapons program. Under the agreement, the Scottish government had a veto over any prisoner transfer. Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison after serving just eight years for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people. The decision and the jubilant homecoming for Megrahi, who has terminal prostrate cancer, sparked anger from the US administration as well as many US relatives of the victims. London insists the decision to release Megrahi was made solely by the semi-autonomous Scottish authorities. Scotland''s First Minister Alex Salmond also denied the decision was based on commercial deals, saying it was purely on compassionate grounds. Speculation, however, continues about Britain''s stance, particularly as the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Seif al-Islam, has said Megrahi "was always on the negotiating table" in oil and gas deals with Britain. The Sunday Times says Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to get Megrahi included. BP denied political factors played a role in the oil deal''s ratification.