Libyan minister piles new Lockerbie pressure on Brown

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was facing fresh pressure over the Lockerbie row tonight amid claims he backed releasing the bomber.





A Libyan minister insisted he had been told Mr Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband did not believe Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi should die in prison.



The revelation came in notes taken by a Scottish Government delegation of a meeting with Libya's minister for Europe, Abdulati Alobidi, in March this year.



Mr Brown and UK ministers have consistently refused to say whether they supported freeing Megrahi on compassionate grounds, or transferring him to serve the rest of his sentence in his home country - stressing it was a decision for the Scottish Justice Secretary.



But Mr Alobidi apparently told Scottish officials that he had been given an indication of the view in Downing Street during a meeting with Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell in Tripoli in February.



The notes, published by the Scottish Government this evening, stated: "Mr Alobidi confirmed that he had reiterated to Mr Rammell that the death of Mr Megrahi in a Scottish prison would have catastrophic effects for the relationship between Libya and the UK.



"Mr Alobidi went on to say that Mr Rammell had stated that neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison but the decision on transfer lies in the hands of the Scottish ministers."

















A wealth of documentation was released by the UK and Scottish administrations today in a bid to dampen speculation that Megrahi's case had been linked to trade and political deals with Libya. Downing Street said it had issued all correspondence "relevant" to the current controversy over Megrahi's release.

Letters show that Justice Secretary Jack Straw initially agreed to a Scottish request for Megrahi to be excluded from a prisoner transfer agreement being negotiated with Libya.



Mr Straw assured his counterpart in Edinburgh, Kenny MacAskill, in September 2007 that UK diplomats would make clear no agreement was possible without this condition.



But in December 2007, the Justice Secretary admitted he had not been able to secure an exemption for Megrahi and had decided to go ahead with the agreement "in view of the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom".



He also wrote to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in February 2008, assuring him: "No prisoner can be transferred under the PTA without the consent of both countries and any decision concerning the transfer of a prisoner from Scottish jail would be a matter for Scottish ministers.



"Given these safeguards, I do not believe that it is necessary or sensible to risk damaging our wide-ranging and beneficial relationship with Libya by inserting a specific inclusion into the PTA."



Mr Straw wrote to Mr Salmond in November last year pointing out Libyan "concerns for health and possible return to Libya" of Megrahi but stressed it was a matter for the Scottish administration to decide.



In a letter of August 3 this year, Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis wrote to Mr MacAskill to say he hoped he would feel able to consider Megrahi's application for a return to Libya under the terms of the agreement.



But in the event, the man found guilty of downing PanAm flight 103 in 1988, killing 270, was allowed to return home on compassionate grounds because of his terminal cancer. The prisoner transfer arrangements were not used in his release on August 20, which caused controversy in Britain and the US, where most of the victims lived.



Some details relating to the US Government's views on the bomber's application for release have been cut from the documents, as have the identities of civil service officials.



Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said the documents "raise more questions than they answer".



"The Prime Minister must come clean on whether his Government told the Libyans he did not want to see Megrahi die in prison," he said. "It would be disgraceful if he felt able to share his feelings on this case with a dictator but not with the British public.



"Jack Straw must explain his u-turn over Megrahi's inclusion in the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. His about-turn on this issue can only add to suspicions that there was an important commercial component to this deal."











David Cameron told Sky News: "One of the key questions has been what is the attitude of the British Government and the British Prime Minister? What is the Prime Minister doing in our name? Publicly he has refused to say what he thinks about the release of Megrahi.

"I'm very clear, this man should not have been released. He was found guilty of murdering 270 people, he should die in prison. That is my view. What is the Prime Minister's view? He has refused to tell us and yet today we know that privately, we're told, the British Government was saying to the Libyans they wanted him released while they were saying to the American Government he should stay in prison.



"This means the questions have not been answered, we've got to get to the bottom of this, we have a right to know what the Government has done in our name, and that means we need that independent inquiry."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links