New Lockerbie details anticipated

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Indy Politics

Scottish authorities are standing ready to investigate any new lines of inquiry surrounding the Lockerbie bombing that may emerge following the death of "a brutal dictator".

Libya's prime minister Mahmoud Jibril announced today that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his home town Sirte.

Initial reports from fighters said Gaddafi, who ruled Libya with a dictatorial grip for 42 years until the regime fell two months ago, had been holed up with the last of his fighters in the bloody civil war, with revolutionary fighters assaulting the last few buildings they held.

Al-Jazeera TV showed footage of a man resembling 69-year-old Gaddafi lying dead or severely wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as fighters rolled him over on the pavement. Witnesses said his body was put on display in the nearby city of Misrata.

Last month officials from Libya's National Transitional Council told the UK Government they would co-operate with Scottish prosecutors and police investigating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity which killed 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie four days before Christmas, was freed from Greenock prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds because he had terminal prostate cancer. Doctors said he had around three months to live.

It has always been accepted that Megrahi did not act alone. He told Reuters news agency earlier this month, from his home in Tripoli, that "new facts" about the bombing would be announced in the coming months.

Megrahi was an intelligence agent during Gaddafi's rule.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said today: "Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who exploited his country and brutalised the Libyan people for over four decades. He lived by the sword and has met his just-desserts.

"We now look forward to the end of conflict in Libya and the emergence of a free and democratic country.

"Regarding the ongoing Lockerbie investigation, the Crown Office have always said that the Lockerbie atrocity remains an open case. The only person convicted, Al Megrahi, acted in his capacity as a Libyan intelligence agent. He was found guilty of an act of state-sponsored terrorism and did not act alone.

"Therefore our police and prosecution authorities stand ready to investigate and follow any new lines of inquiry that may be emerging in Libya at the present moment, just as Scotland's justice system has dealt with all aspects of the Lockerbie atrocity over the last 23 years according to the precepts of Scots law and no other factor."

But a family member of one of the victims of the atrocity said "standing ready" was not enough.

Pamela Dix, who lost her 35-year-old brother Peter in the Lockerbie bombing, said: "It must be a very chaotic time in Libya at the moment and of course this (the Lockerbie bombing) is not going to be a high priority for the authorities there just now.

"But when it has settled down I do not want the Scottish Government just to stand ready. I want them to be pro-active and not just wait to see what emerges."

She added: "I think it is too soon to tell what difference this will make with the Lockerbie situation. It might be the case that Gaddafi knew a great deal about what happened. I don't know yet if it changes anything for the families who have lost loved ones.

"However, what I would say is that if he did know something, he is unlikely to be the only one who did.

"We are still advocating full disclosure of the facts."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, said an "opportunity has been lost" to find out the truth about the atrocity.

Speaking from Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, Dr Swire told Sky News: "There is much still to be resolved about that issue. And Gaddafi, whether he was involved or not, might have been able to clear up a few points about that, and now that he is dead we may have lost an opportunity for getting nearer to the truth.

"Although we have not a scrap of evidence that Gaddafi himself was involved in causing the Lockerbie atrocity, my take on that was that he would have at least known who was.

"I would have loved to have seen Gaddafi appear in front of the International Criminal Court both to answer charges against his gross treatment of his own people and of citizens murdered abroad by his thugs. But I would also have loved to have heard about what Gaddafi knew about the Lockerbie atrocity.

"In 1988 he was plugged into the terrorist networks of the world and I'm sure he would have known it was going to happen, and I feel sure he would have approved of it if he did know.

"But everybody looking at this situation should be glad that it probably hails an end to the gross violence in that country."

Dr Swire, who has always maintained that Megrahi is innocent, is a member of the group Justice For Megrahi.

Mahmud Nacua, charge d'affaires at the Libyan embassy in London, said: "I think our country... When we are stable all the files of the crimes that have been committed by Gaddafi will open. Everything will be known to the world what happened in the time of Gaddafi."

Under the conditions of his release, Megrahi must keep regular contact with East Renfrewshire Council.

In light of Gaddafi's death, a spokeswoman for the local authority said: "Our position with regards to the monitoring of Megrahi remains the same."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Our point of view is that we have ongoing police investigations on Lockerbie and on the police officer Yvonne Fletcher. We have been having discussions with the National Transitional Council in recent months and they are ongoing."

WPC Yvonne Fletcher was gunned down outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984. Matouk Mohammed Matouk is the only one of three main suspects in the killing believed to be still alive.