Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

PM urged to order Megrahi inquiry

David Cameron described the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi as profoundly wrong
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, in which 270 people were killed

Prime Minister David Cameron is facing renewed pressure from US senators for an independent inquiry into the decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

The calls came after a review concluded that the former Labour administration did "all it could" to help Libya secure the release of the only man convicted of the bombing.

Democratic New Jersey senator Robert Menendez said it "really stretches the imagination" to accept the review's finding that there was no direct pressure from London on the Scottish government to free Megrahi.

"We renew our call again for an independent inquiry," said Mr Menendez. "It is important to get to the totality of the truth here."

Megrahi was released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds, after the Scottish government was told he had only three months to live. American fury at the decision was compounded by the hero's welcome he received in Tripoli, as well as the fact that he remains alive 18 months later.

The review of paperwork in the case by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell was ordered by Mr Cameron following his visit last year to the United States, where he faced claims that oil giant BP had lobbied for Megrahi's release because of the prospect of lucrative contracts with Libya.

Sir Gus said on Monday that he had found no evidence that BP tried to put pressure on the Scottish government, or that UK ministers pressed Edinburgh to clear the way for the release. However, he found that British ministers believed Megrahi's release would be the "best outcome" as they feared that UK interests in Libya would be damaged if he was allowed to die in a Scottish jail.

Newly-declassified documents show that officials advised that they should "work actively but discreetly" for Megrahi's release and that promoting contacts between the Libyans and the Scottish executive should be "part of our game plan".

The Prime Minister described the decision to release Megrahi as "profoundly wrong" and said Labour ministers had "badly underestimated" the impact in both Britain and the US, where most of the 270 victims came from.

Mr Cameron's spokesman told reporters: "I don't think we have any intention to conduct another inquiry in this area. The Prime Minister set out his position (on Monday). He has said in the past that he doesn't need a public inquiry to tell him that the decision was wrong."

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