Did the UK trade Lockerbie bomber for oil contracts?

posted at 8:00 am on August 22, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The outrage over the release of the  bomber and mass murderer responsible for killing 270 innocent people grew overnight as a key Libyan political figure claimed that the release came as part of a commercial deal.  Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, met Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi at the airport and proclaimed him a hero in a display that embarrassed the UK when video of it hit British televisions.  Gaddafi’s son then told interviewers that British commercial interests had required Megrahi’s release:

The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was linked to trade deals with Britain, Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, said in a interview. …

“In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table,” said Islam, interviewed late Thursday as he accompanied Megrahi on the flight back from Scotland to Libya.

“All British interests were linked to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi,” Islam said in an interview broadcast by Libyan TV channel Al Mutawassit on Friday.

The Brown government in London quickly denied any commercial deal for Megrahi:

The claims were vehemently denied by the UK government.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “There is no deal. All decisions relating to Megrahi’s case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland and the Scottish judicial authorities.

“No deal has been made between the UK government and Libya in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country.”

This has turned into a massive embarrassment for Brown and his advisers.  They have been reduced to admitting that they urgently requested Libya not to stage a hero’s welcome for Megrahi in order to keep from angering British voters.  That effort failed miserably, as even before al-Islam’s remarks hit the televisions, Brits had reacted with shock and anger to Megrahi’s release.

And what will the British do now?  They say they’re reconsidering plans to have Prince Andrew attend Moammar Gaddafi’s 40th anniversary of his dictatorship.  Andrew, not coincidentally, represents British trade interests in Libya, including oil and gas contracts.  Hmmmm.

The abject nature of Britain’s response to the celebrations, as well as al-Islam’s revelations, won’t ease that anger one bit.  The British have utterly fumbled this situation from top to bottom.

Update: My friend Scott Johnson at Power Line hears from one of their regular correspondents, whose personal experience indicates that this decision was driven by commercial interests and Gordon Brown.  However, the British may not have been the only ones to fumble this:

I’ve been quite perplexed at the characterization of this as a Scottish decision, as my friend spoke of it in terms of something that had already been cleared conditionally by the courts and had been signed off on by the Prime Minister. In fact, he pointed me toward this February 2009 AFP article, mentioning that it was a trial balloon from the British government to test the reaction in the US and UK.

Note the date. They had not detected much anger of the article, so they British government had already decided that they would acquiesce to the Libyan request. He was also very explicit that they had informed the US of their plans to release him.

Sounds like either the White House, the State Department, or both were asleep at the switch.  Either that, or Hillary Clinton was too busy making a reset button to care.

Update II: It doesn’t get any better for Britain, as Gaddafi himself hints that commercial interests drove Megrahi’s release:

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi hugged the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised more cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, while London and Washington condemned his “hero’s welcome” home.

Meeting Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for “encouraging” Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, Libyan news agency JANA reported. …

“This step is in the interest of relations between the two countries … and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries,” the Libyan leader said.

Gaddafi’s comments drew a flat denial from Britain that Megrahi’s release was in any way linked to business deals with Libya, which has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves. Britain said all responsibility for his release rested with Scotland, which runs its own judicial affairs.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Time for Mr. Obama to apologize for our arrogance and give Gaddafi a big hug.

mobydutch on August 24, 2009 at 12:18 AM

part of the new “Bombers For Oil” program….

utbw42 on August 24, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Not according to the IRA victims who (yes) still hold Kaddafi responsible for the IRA’s bloody atrocities.
–As opposed to non-bloody atrocities?

Presumably some of the victims who aren’t included in this tort may hold other people (Loyalist paramilitaries, IRA splinter groups) responsible as well. But I trust you know exactly what all the aggrieved think and who they blame.

And your moronic insinuation that ILLICIT arms shipments are (somehow) morally equivalent to Kaddafi’s LICIT Libyan state-sponsorship shows very weak reasoning skills.
–I didn’t insinuate that – I was pointing out that Ghadaffi didn’t direct IRA policy and only provided a portion of the “tools” used to further their politics. Re: legality, Ghadaffi’s “donations” weren’t licit, either; that’s why they were typically smuggled on liners and container ships (e.g. the Claudia affair).

One major moral difference, if you like, is that the arms shipments from the US didn’t have the stamp of a US President, whereas Libyan equipment probably couldn’t have left that state without official state assistance. Another is that arming rather unpleasant “revolutionary” groups was a disproportionately focal part of Libyan foreign policy.

None of this changes the fact that the IRA were (and maybe are) dependent on arm supplies from North America and places outside Libya – including old British Army hardware.

No. I wondered how creepy you are for maintaining “improved relations” (secured by releasing this thug) are worth the price of inflicting this awful agony– on victims’ widows, orphans and aging parents– if only “accompanied by little fanfare.”
–Since oil is at the heart of the accusation in this thread, I’ll take that as a “yes, I am shocked that you could conspire to violate the survivors’ dignity for petroleum, among other things.” I think it was Reagan who said something about politics resembling the world’s oldest profession.

Because clearly, their suffering doesn’t concern you.
–Outside of killing this man (mentioned earlier, not the worst alternative as these things go), I’m not sure how their suffering could be eased. Doubtless this little escapade didn’t help. Their story is moving but I don’t pretend to share their grief or speak for them; some, surprisingly, supported Megrahi’s release.

I regret my support of his release given the consequences, even despite the possible benefits it might have accrued. But in this instance like a lot of things, words carry little weight after the fact.

Grade: F
–Would that be “fantastic” or “flattering?”

Grunchy Cranola on August 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM

No. I wondered how creepy you are for maintaining “improved relations” (secured by releasing this thug) are worth the price of inflicting this awful agony– on victims’ widows, orphans and aging parents– if only “accompanied by little fanfare.”

Idiotarian sneered: “I am shocked that you could conspire to violate the survivors’ dignity for petroleum, among other things.” I think it was Reagan who said something about politics resembling the world’s oldest profession.

And now it equates victims’ compensation funds with prostitution– that Kaddafi was right to describe widows, orphans and aging parents as a bunch of “greedy” whores.

So, that’s how creepy it is, folks. Now we know. Pray we never meet in person.

Terp Mole on August 25, 2009 at 10:39 AM

What’s this then?

BBC: Call for Libya to pay IRA victims

Relatives of IRA terrorist victims have renewed their calls for compensation from Libya following the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

During the Troubles, Libya supplied guns and explosives to the IRA, and the families want the country to face up to its responsibilities.

They are calling on the Libyan leader to demonstrate the same compassion shown to Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi.

/nemo me impune lacessit

Terp Mole on August 25, 2009 at 10:44 AM

And now it equates victims’ compensation funds with prostitution that Kaddafi was right to describe widows, orphans and aging parents as a bunch of “greedy” whores.
–It does? Wow. This news to it. Obviously it needs to work on its blogside manner.

Though it must disagree with this assertion: it thinks that’s an incorrect extrapolation. The statement was in reference to the main point of this thread; that the return of Megrahi pivoted (mostly/partly?) on burgeoning petrol contracts between Libya and the UK, which spanks smacks of politics, and therefore prostitution. What Ghadaffi the Younger thinks doesn’t really concern it.

What’s this then?
–Fair action by the sound of things. Good on them.

Speaking of turnabout, a (believe it or not) friendly suggestion: if you want to claim the moral high ground, drop the Gollum-gone-Thelma Harper routine.

Grunchy Cranola on August 25, 2009 at 1:04 PM

Hey Ed…

I’ve really come to respect…
You’re always on the cusp of the defining certitude…
I luv it…!

Geezer on August 25, 2009 at 7:21 PM

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