UK 'feared Megrahi death in prison'
The British government feared that Libya would take "harsh and immediate action" against its interests if the Lockerbie bomber died in prison, according to secret US diplomatic cables revealed by the WikiLeaks website.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made "thuggish" threats to halt all trade deals with the UK and harass embassy staff if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was not freed.
Tripoli also offered a "parade of treats" to the Scottish devolved administration if it let the convicted mass killer go - although the incentives were refused.
Details of the fraught contacts between Libya and Britain over al-Megrahi are revealed in documents obtained by WikiLeaks and seen by the Guardian.
The American charge d'affaires in London, Richard LeBaron, wrote in a cable to his bosses in October 2008: "The Libyans have told HMG [Her Majesty's Government] flat out that there will be 'enormous repercussions' for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi's early release is not handled properly."
The cable said the US embassy had been given this information by two British officials - Downing Street's North Africa adviser Ben Lyons, and Rob Dixon, his counterpart at the Foreign Office.
The Scottish Government eventually released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in August last year because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer. However, the move caused fury in the US amid suggestions that it was linked to lucrative British oil deals with Libya. Al-Megrahi is still alive more than a year later.
The justice secretary at the time of al-Megrahi's release, Jack Straw, said today he did not feel the cables "really add anything to what was already known".
Mr Straw told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he had "nothing to do with the release" and only heard about it while he was on holiday in Italy.
"This was a decision that was made by the Scottish Government and nobody else, they did it on the basis of their law and their practice so far as the release of people with serious medical conditions on compassionate grounds," he added.