Government faces questions over Lockerbie bomber

The Government are under fresh pressure this morning over an alleged trade deal behind the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Opposition MPs say claims made by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son raise ‘serious questions’ over the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said negotiations over al-Megrahi’s release had always been tied up with the oil and gas business and Col Gaddafi himself also appeared on TV hugging Megrahi, who was this was this week released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds, and thanking ‘my friend’ Gordon Brown.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has described any suggestion of a trade deal as a ‘slur’and insisted the Scottish government acted independently. However the opposition are now calling for a Downing Street to answer the allegations directly.

Tory leader David Cameron has already written to Gordon Brown asking whether British ministers had intervened in the release of Megrahi, who is terminally ill with cancer.

Speaking on BBC’s Today programme this morning Shadow foreign minister David Lidington said: “I think there are some serious questions to be asked.”

“I am sure that the Libyans were pressing for Megrahi to be released and I think that what both Col Gaddafi and his son have said in the last 24 hours makes it even more important that Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister, answers the questions that David Cameron has put to him.

“It is very important, I think, for the reputation of our institutions of justice that it is made clear beyond any doubt that this was not connected with some political trade.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey suggested that the UK and Scottish government may have been ‘willing partners’ in an unwritten diplomatic deal with Libya.

“They are dancing around each other, not criticising each other. I don’t think any pressure was actually put from Westminster on Holyrood. I think they are willing partners in this,”

“The new-found compassion is welcome on one level, but one does remember that there are billions of pounds of oil, gas, and bank contracts behind it.

“There is some evidence to suggest that, while there may not have been a written deal, we all know that diplomacy and trade operate in rather more subtle ways.”

Al-Megrahi, was released this week after serving less than eight-years in a Scottish prison for killing 270 people aboard a transatlantic airliner in 1988.

Despite calls from Gordon Brown and US president Barack Obama, he has been given a 'hero’s welcome' since arriving back in Libya.

Col Gaddafi embraced al-Megrahi at his home on Friday and thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for“encouraging” Scotland to release him.

He said: “This step is in the interest of relations between the two countries and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries.”


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