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article imageDid BP lobby to free Lockerbie bomber to save oil deal?

By Michael Cosgrove     Jul 17, 2010 in Politics
British Petroleum executives are to go before the US Senate Foreign Affairs Commission on July 29 amid rumours that BP lobbied the British government in 2007 to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Megrahi.
The circumstances leading to Megrahi’s release from prison in Scotland are to be brought up by the Committee, according to French daily Le Figaro.
Meghrabi was found guilty in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 of December 21 1988 which resulted in the plane disintegrating and falling onto the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 243 passengers and crew as well as 11 people on the ground.
He was jailed for life but was freed in August 2009 on compassionate grounds as his life expectancy was said to be no more than three months due to terminal prostate cancer. He returned to Libya where he received a hero’s welcome. His release and the circumstances of his return to Libya incensed the United States and popular opinion as most of the victims of the attack were Americans. Diplomatic relations between London and Washington were strained as a result and Megrahi, an alleged former Libyan intelligence officer, is still alive today, almost a year later.
Rumours claim BP put pressure on the British government of Tony Blair in 2007 to free him in order to facilitate then-ongoing negotiations concerning an offshore oil contract worth several million dollars with Libya. A prisoner transfer deal was quickly struck between London and Tripoli for several prisoners.
The British ambassador in Washington recognised this week that Megrahi’s liberation was “a mistake” and current Prime Minister David Cameron had already criticized ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his alleged role in the affair. He refused however to accept the responsibility of the British government in any wrongdoing, as had Brown, insisting that the decision to release Megrahi was taken by the Scottish Assembly, which is autonomous in terms of administering justice. Cameron also denied any idea that the decision was taken to further the BP negotiations with Libya.
BP also denies having pressured the government on the specific issue of Megrahi, although the company does acknowledge its insistence on a prisoner transfer of other Libyans. The decision to conclude that deal was followed just several weeks afterwards by another decision by Justice Minister Jack Straw to go back on his initial refusal to exclude Megrahi from it. It was that decision which led to Megrahi’s release two years later.
More about Lockerbie, Terrorism, Abdelbaset megrahi
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