UK 'advised Libya how to free Lockerbie bomber'


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A Foreign Office minister sent Libya legal advice on how Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's cancer diagnosis could be used to help his release on compassionate grounds, it emerged last night.

American cables – obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph – suggest that within a week of the diagnosis, Bill Rammell, a Foreign Office minister, had written to his Libyan counterpart, advising him on how this could be used as the grounds of securing al-Megrahi's compassionate release from prison.

Previous WikiLeaks disclosures have been passed to The Guardian. But after the paper fell out with the site's founder Julian Assange over coverage of the rape allegations against him – Wikileaks shared its information with The Telegraph.

Today, the paper says that Rob Dixon, a senior Foreign Office official, met with the American ambassador to brief him on the letter from Mr Rammell. An official memo on the meeting states: "FCO Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell sent Libyan Deputy FM Abdul Ati al-Obeidi a letter, which was cleared both by HMG and by the Scottish Executive, on 17 October outlining the procedure for obtaining compassionate release.

"It cites Section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act of 1993 as the basis for release of prisoners, on license, on compassionate grounds. Although the Scottish Crown informed the families of the Pan Am 103 victims in an email 21 October that the time-frame for compassionate release is normally three months from time of death, Dixon stressed to us that the three-month time-frame is not codified in the law."

Mr Dixon went on to disclose that Jack Straw, the then Justice Secretary, had also spoken to Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister, about the case which had led Government officials to believe that the terrorist would be released.

Despite a diagnosis that he had less than three months to live al-Megrahi is still alive more than a year after he was released from prison in Scotland and arrived back in Libya.