August 21st, 2009
10:57 PM ET

Britain rejects claim that bomber release tied to UK trade deals

[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."]

Elise Labott
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
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Angel

    May God bless the Scottish authorities for trying to teach their people and the world a higher meaning of compassion.

    Also, I pray that the family members of lost ones be blessed with peace in their hearts.

    August 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Hal Dace

    I am completely disgusted at the reaction of a supposedly Christian nation. Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds. Compassion is, after all, taught by Jesus. All criminals have human rights. The Scottish definition of a prisoner's human rights is different (and more Christian) than America's. Americans have no choice but to respect the cultural traditions and due process of the Scottish nation.

    I am completely disgusted with CNN's reporting. No one has been interviewed on 360, apart from the Scottish Justice Secretary himself, supporting this action. There are those interviewed on 360 who accused the minister of making a "political" decision. This is patent nonsense. What possible advantage would the Scottish politicians gain from this action. They are following their laws and it is disgusting that Anderson Cooper does not even attempt to understand the British system or interview people who can explain it properly, or interview Americans (like me) who agree with the decision.

    August 24, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  3. Joe Fattal

    I doubt it there was a deal involved. The man has a terminal cancer that probably was discovered recently. Tough choice to make, to treat him for his cancer and that probably would have been costly, or in his case to send him back to Lybia where his chances of survival is much less if Scotland took care of his illness. My opinion is they send him home for medical reasons. For instance lets assume a prisoner at Gitmo has cancer, and lets assume that same prisonner was waterboarded for questioning. Do you think that he would be treated for his cancer?. That I doubt it, they will probably send him to where he came from.

    August 23, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Art

    This story is quite amazing. If this guy is a "terrorist" why are they letting him out, ill or not? He's still alive so maybe make a few calls and see if we can kill some more people. Someone should keep an eye on this guy. If there was a "deal" made I wouldn't be surprised, motovation for money can be cruel and evil.

    August 23, 2009 at 9:27 am |
  5. Remby

    I don't believe any deal was made, or I sure have to hope our governments have gotten over stooping that low like we use to in the 60's & 70's. However when a mass-murderer like this is granted compassion, and allowed to go home to a hero's welcome, something this despicable is SURE to raise questions as to why anyone could have thought this was a good idea.

    This is either the most mis-guided decision in judicial history, or there was some type of "back-room-deal". But nobody would have been stupid enough to leave ANY solid paperwork evidence of who gave the ultimate OK.

    August 22, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  6. alia Jacksonville, FL

    we chose the smart bomb. They chose the human bomb.
    What's the difference? you will find it in the lethal injection or hanging or firing squad, or lynching dilegma: The same question. what's more moral?

    However, the result is the same: we kill theirs. They kill ours.

    Unless we decide to stop the war, and be the leaders in peace, we have no moral lesson to give. We chose our methods or arms. We can't chose theirs.!!

    August 22, 2009 at 11:48 pm |
  7. Linda B., Ga.

    From what I know, ALL the European Countries are "easy" on those that are convicted of murder and/or serious crimes of such. Canada also. I someone who was on a jury for a murder trial, in Canada and the guy was found guilty and got 25 years.

    So ummmmmmmmmm what happens now, if they CREEP doesn't die soon? Another case of OH WELL?!?!?!?

    August 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  8. Alan Silverstein

    Anderson – the sad reality is that we as a species are just natural born killers; and we celebrate and worship the finest of our killers – irrespective of their colors or flags we drape on them. Shame on us all.

    August 22, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  9. Scottish in USA

    I watched the the statement from MSP Kenny McKaskill, and i can tell you that as a proud Scotsman I was embarrassed and outraged at the decision of the Scottish Government. In his statement he commented more than once how compassionate the Scottish people are, and while this is true, be assured he did NOT speak for the Scottish people who are also outraged at the release of this mass-murderer Al-Megra. This will not go away soon and McKaskill and his party will suffer the backlash of Scotland when it's time to go back to the voting booths again.

    August 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  10. Bill

    Here is a stretch; or is it? Scotland has a government based health care system. Perhaps an underline motivation to there decision was based on the possibility that Scotland does not want to be burdened with the cost of care associated with Al Megrahi condition.

    August 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  11. Endo Chan

    ...Where, in the pictures, this s.o.b. is looking frail or is walking assisted with a kane?!... This is a shamefull act to the Victims and to the People of United States to the ten power! the UK should now be apologizing to the Victims Families for this all out 'rape' to Justice... Is the 'thirst' for oil a 'good' excuse to allow terrorist to 'thrive'?

    August 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  12. Shahidul Islam

    Its a happy news for the islamic world. This man was fighting against evil west. Finaly the man got his rewads by hero's welcome. Islam must win in the long run.

    August 22, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  13. Renee Boulanger, Shrewsbury, MA

    In the aftermath of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, a large group of families of the victums formed a group, Families of the Victims Of Pan Am Flight 103. We gathered every month, and I always looked forward to those weekends, because I was not alone, and we all had a common bond, our loved one were murdered by a terrorist. We waited a very long time for justice, but in the meantime, because it was the first terrorist attack of its kind, killing 270 people, my younger sister, Nicole Boulanger, was one of the Syracuse students on that flight, our group helped push legislation for safer air travel. The bomb was located in a radio in a piece of luggage that did not belong to any of the passengers on board the flight.
    From this lifechanging tragedy we have exprienced for the last 21 Years, we were able to make a difference, so that no other family should have to go through what my family did. For alll those people who complain about airport security, please be greatful for it, because without it, god forbid, your families may not have the opportunity to pick you up at your destination. When I arrived at my parents home, waiting for them to return with my only sibiling, I turned on the TV and watched my mother on the floor of JFK airport screaming "NOT MY BABY" as my father was holding her.

    Whoever made the ultimate decision to release this monster, should try to live in my shoes for a day. Not a day goes by that i don't remember. When 9/11 happened, I had to leave work, it was happening all over again. What kind of message are we sending to these terrorist??? Our loved ones don't matter, and don't deserve justice.

    August 22, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  14. Sara Ray

    This story reeks of underhanded dealings, otherwise it just doesnt make much sense. A terrorist bomber was released on the grounds of terminal cancer? Its just odd to me.

    August 22, 2009 at 3:02 am |
  15. J.V.Hodgson

    Diplomatic relations with Libya have been inproving for years with the US and GB. The scottish courts which are now independent from so called Great Britain thru the devolution process ( somewhat like US state powers) have
    a) Questioned the evidence ( at least, some say disproved his guilt) and his imprisonment.
    b) He has apparently terminal cancer.. 3 months to live.
    Either way, this is simple compassion in my mind. Extending it to anything else like trade deals etc or a victory for Islam, ( justice maybe OK) is Politics and commercial either sweet or sour grapes. ( GB or US respectively).
    For me its either pure compassion or the issue of whether he was unjustly convicted, that might be news, the rest is unnecessary media scandal!!

    August 22, 2009 at 2:33 am |
  16. Virgil E. Matthews

    It is a disgrace that Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was released by the Scottish authorities. After all, he was convicted of the plane bombing and there was no evidence that he was innocent. His release from prison is a gross miscarraige of justice. I believe that the British government did cut a deal with Libya for his release, despite their denials!

    August 22, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  17. Robin

    The release of that terrorist is totally disrespectfull to those that lost loved ones, and while some may think it shows compassion for terminally ill, in this case, shame is the word that comes to mind. When you are dealing with the mentality of those that carry out missions such as the Pan Am tragedy, there is no room for compassion, and only shows signs of weakness. That is how it will be seen by those that give a heroes welcome to that terrorist, whose name is not worth mentioning. How can they say "GOD willing" or in the name of GOD, because our GOD does not tell us to kill.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  18. Bruce

    Anderson: Not sure why you're NOT referring to Lybia as AFRICA while your report on Ghana was AFRICA a couple of month ago,

    August 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  19. Eugene

    We should not even acknowledge this man in the American Media, do we not have feelings for the victims families?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  20. jack smithson

    brian flynn. the accusation that the obama administration is guilty of gross negligence is abhorrent. blame prime minister brown. WE have NO jurisdiction over in scotland. it was not up to the united states. i pray for your brother and hope YOU will with the consequences for being ignorant.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  21. Casey Goeller

    It is not clear to me why you are complaining about the hero's welcome issue while devoting a great deal of your airtime and continuously running footage of the event. If none of you ran this story, it would be a non-starter. Put the bellows down and stop fanning this kind of sensationalism......

    August 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm |