[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/08/21/scotland.lockerbie.bomber/art.megrahi.gi.jpg caption="Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi (second from left) arrives in Tripoli, Libya."]
CNN State Department Producer
Britain on Friday rejected claims made by the son of Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi that the release of the Lockerbie bomber was linked to trade deals between Libya and Britain.
Sief al-Islam made the comments in an interview with Libyan channel Al Mutawassit, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. The interview was conducted while al-Islam was flying from Scotland to Libya on Thursday with Abdelbaset al Megrahi on board, according to AFP.
Al Megrahi had been serving a life sentence for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people, including 189 Americans, were killed. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill freed him after doctors concluded he has terminal prostate cancer and estimated he has three months to live.
"All British interests were linked to the release of Abdelbaset al Megrahi," AFP reported, citing the Al Mutawassit broadcast.
"In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (al Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table," al-Islam said, according to AFP, adding that then Prime Minister Tony Blair raised al Megrahi's case each time he visited Libya.
The British Foreign Office in London promptly denied the claims, saying in a statement issued late Thursday that "there is no deal."
"No deal has been made between the UK Government and Libya in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in Libya," said the statement, obtained by CNN. "All decisions relating to Megrahi's case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland and the Scottish judicial authorities."
Al-Islam also called al Megrahi's release "a victory that we offer to all Libyans," according to AFP.
The State Department blasted al-Islam's comments. Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley told CNN that "al Megrahi is a terrorist and mass murderer, and any triumphalism is disgusting."
"We have told the Libyans that he should not be considered a hero - not today, not ever. The Libyans are aware that their treatment of Megrahi will have a profound impact on our bilateral relationship," Crowley said.
President Barack Obama on Friday said the joyous welcome al Megrahi received after arriving in Libya was "highly objectionable." British officials also offered criticism.
Al Megrahi always maintained his innocence, complaining that he had to spend years in prison for something he did not do.
"The remaining days of my life will have to be spent under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction," he said in a statement issued Thursday through his attorney. He also offered sympathy to the families of the victims.
The Libyan government had accepted responsibility for the bombing and compensated victims' families in a $2.7 billion deal which paved the way for sanctions against LIbya to be dropped and for Tripoli to improve ties with the West.
But on Thursday after al Megrahi's return, the Libyan official news agency JANA issued a statement from the government saying that al Megrahi was "a political hostage," as evidenced by his release.
Statement by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, on the release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi
The efforts of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation to secure the release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi from prison have succeeded, and he is now home in Libya.
On the occasion of this historic event, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Government of Scotland for taking this courageous decision and for its understanding of the special humanitarian circumstances of the case. This decision reaffirms the Libyan people’s confidence in the Scottish people and their government. This confidence was felt as well when the Leader decided to accept the trial before the Scottish judge. As the Leader announced on 2 March 1999, the extradition of Abdul Basset al-Megrahi to the Government of Scotland occurred because of our confidence in the Scottish people.
I would also like to personally thank our friends in the British government who played an important role in reaching this day, and I can assure them that the Libyan people will never forget the courageous stand of the British and Scottish governments. I can also assure them that the friendship between our people will continue to be strengthened and that this past chapter is now firmly behind us.
I also turn to the families of the victims with sympathy and ask them to consider that even though Abdel Basset al-Megrahi has declined to pursue his appeal, it does not change the reality that there is a great deal of data, evidence and new facts that attest to his innocence. It is my hope that this will be proven one day.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi Chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation
Filed under: Terrorism
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