Robert Fisk: Megrahi’s release means the truth will never be told
Forget all the nonsense spouted by our beloved Foreign Secretary. He's all too happy to express his outrage.
The welcome given to Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in Tripoli was a perfect deviation from what the British Government is trying to avoid. It's called the truth, not that Mr Miliband would know much about it.
It was Megrahi's decision – not that of his lawyers – to abandon the appeal that might have told us the truth about Lockerbie. The British would far rather he return to the land of the man who wrote The Green Book on the future of the world (the author, a certain Col Muammar Gaddafi, also wrote Escape to Hell and Other Stories) than withstand the typhoon of information that an appeal would have revealed.
Brown and Gaddafi. Maybe they should set up as a legal company once their time is up. Brown and Gaddafi, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths. Not that the oaths would be truthful.
Megrahi's lawyers had delved deeply into his case – which rested on the word of a Maltese tailor who had already seen a picture of Megrahi (unrevealed to us at the time) so he could identify him in court – and uncovered some remarkable evidence from the German police.
Given the viciousness of their Third Reich predecessors, I've never had a lot of time for German cops, but on this occasion they went a long way towards establishing that a Lebanese who had been killed in the Lockerbie bombing was steered to Frankfurt airport by known Lebanese militants and the bag that contained the bomb was actually put on to the baggage carousel for checking in by this passenger's Lebanese handler, who had taken him to the airport, and had looked after him in Germany before the flight.
I have read all the interviews which the German police conducted with their suspects. They are devastating. There clearly was a Lebanese connection. And there probably was a Palestinian connection. How can I forget a press conference in Beirut held by the head of the pro-Syrian “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” (they were known, then, as the “Lockerbie boys”) in which their leader, Ahmed Jibril, suddenly blurted out: “I'm not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They are trying to get me with a kangaroo court.”
Yet there was no court at the time. Only journalists – with MI6 and the CIA contacts – had pointed the finger at Jibril's rogues. It was Iran's revenge, they said, for the shooting down of a perfectly innocent Iranian passenger jet by the captain of the American warship Vincennes a few months earlier. I still happen to believe this is close to the truth.
But the moment Syria sent its tanks to defend Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, all the MI6 truth-telling turned into a claptrap of nonsense about Col Gaddafi. And Gaddafi, let's face it, was in deep trouble. Libya almost certainly was responsible for the earlier bombing of French UTA flight 772 over Chad in 1989. Why not frame him with Lockerbie too?
Of course, we must now forget the repulsive 2004 meeting that Blair arranged with Gaddafi after the latter had supposedly abandoned plans for nuclear weapons (not that his Tripoli engineers could repair a blocked lavatory in the Kebir Hotel), an act which the former foreign secretary Jack Straw called “statesmanlike”.
This was the same “statesman” who hosted a group of gunmen that attacked a Greek cruise ship; whose navy had hijacked a yacht called the Silco and held its crew for eight years; and whose secret service kept the Provisional IRA supplied with weapons. Indeed, it was the same “statesman” who murdered the regime's opponents abroad and shot dead a young British policewoman in London.
Thank God for Jack Straw. He cleaned up Gaddafi's face and left it to Miliband to froth on about his outrage at Megrahi's reception back in Tripoli. Meanwhile the relatives of those who died – and here I am thinking of a deeply sad but immensely eloquent letter that one of those relatives sent to me – will not know the truth.