David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

The Curious Case of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi


The case of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi raises several extremely disquieting questions. He is the Libyan imprisoned for blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 270 people, a majority of them American. He has been acknowledged as a Libyan secret agent. The Libyan dictator, Mu’ammar Gaddhafi, in power since 1969, handed al-Megrahi over to the Scottish courts and paid over a billion dollars in compensation to the families of victims, while also refusing to accept responsibility for the mass murder. When asked about this, he gives a derisive laugh by way of an answer.

Genuine doubt has always existed about the perpetrators. Some, especially in the United States, are convinced that this was indeed a Libyan operation. Others, equally firm in their opinion, hold that Iran and Syria together paid the Palestinian terrorist group led by Ahmed Jibril to blow up the jet — the spokesman for this line of thinking is Dr. Jim Swire, an Englishman whose daughter was killed that day. Dr. Swire has devoted time and energy to investigating this act of terrorism, and he believes that the imprisonment of al-Megrahi is a miscarriage of justice. Jibril was a particularly foul criminal who murdered a lot of people including many of his own men, and was himself finally murdered, seemingly at the orders of Saddam Hussein. That’s how they do things over there. The corpses pile up but the trail to establish culpability somehow always peters out, and you never know exactly whom to blame.

Al-Megrahi lost a first appeal for another hearing. In 2007 his lawyers put in a second appeal on the basis that more evidence was available and it would show the miscarriage of justice. The appeal was granted. The families of the victims were encouraged to believe that they might get closer to the truth. And now, suddenly, Al-Megrahi is said to be dying from prostate cancer, and therefore it would be only humanitarian to release him to Libya. Simultaneously, his lawyers happen to have withdrawn his second appeal.

The connection between these two events is murky. Pretty well everyone, however, concludes that the British authorities were well aware that Al-Megrahi would win his appeal, and they would be exposed as having framed him. So they offered to set him free in exchange for the dropping of the appeal. A former British ambassador to Libya has said that a deal of this kind was surely done — but this man is a typical Foreign Office specimen and from his record we ought to be grateful that he doesn’t think Ariel Sharon actually crashed Pan Am 103 in person. Magnus Linklater is a columnist in the London Times. A serious man who routinely beats a drum for his native Scotland, he wrote with incandescence about “what looks suspiciously like a cover-up.” Tony Blair forced through devolution, and this has made the Scottish legal system responsible for the Al-Megrahi case.  In Linklater’s opinion, this whole legal system has been compromised, as either ham-fisted, or duped by Libya, or worst of all, complicit. He throws about words like “farce” and “stitch-up” and “shameful.”

Other newspapers have published photographs of Blair or Gordon Brown shaking hands with Gaddhafi, evidently willing to rehabilitate this ruthless dictator whose record of terror goes back for forty years. The further suggestion is that B.P. has a concession for new oil and gas deposits in Libya, but this is conditional on the freeing of Al-Megrahi. The British government is certainly cynical and underhand enough to go along with an understanding of that kind. After all, Saudi Arabia threatened to cancel valuable arms contracts if the supplier, British Aerospace, was investigated for paying bribes to Saudi princes, whereupon Blair was quick to ensure that the Saudis got the immunity and anonymity they were wanting.

What events like these really prove is the way that the demands and practices of absolute Muslim states are encroaching on Europe, however dangerous this may be to democracy, justice, good governance, and in the final analysis, independence.

And if Al-Megrahi is indeed freed in the next few days, as widely forecast, you can safely bet that quite soon he will be giving an interview in some expensive villa on the beautiful Libyan coast, happily informing the world that his cancer has been miraculously cured.


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