Libya was given advice by a British Government minister on how to secure convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release, it has been reported.
A secret US diplomatic cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and shown to the Daily Telegraph cites details of a letter sent by then Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell to his Tripoli counterpart.
Sent within weeks of Megrahi being diagnosed with cancer, it outlines “the procedure for obtaining compassionate release”, the newspaper said. The memo, composed after a Foreign Office official briefed the US ambassador, will raise fresh questions about the role played by London in the controversial release.
Then prime minister Gordon Brown strenuously denied any attempt by the Government to influence the decision, agreed by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in August 2009.
It will also increase the pressure on David Cameron to meet a promise to examine the release of official documents surrounding the case – amid claims by some US politicians of a cover-up.
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people in the air and on the ground. Megrahi, the only person convicted over the atrocity, remains alive in Tripoli 16 months after being released from jail with an estimated three months to live due to prostate cancer.
The memo was written by a US official after a meeting between its ambassador in London and senior Foreign Office official Rob Dixon. “FCO Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell sent Libyan Deputy FM Abdulati al-Obeidi a letter, which was cleared both by HMG and by the Scottish Executive, on October 17 outlining the procedure for obtaining compassionate release,” it was reported to say.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “This leaves the former UK Labour government with all the questions to answer about its conduct. This diplomatic correspondence, much of which has already been made public, totally vindicates the Scottish Government’s position. We were clearly the only ones playing with a straight bat and interested in applying the precepts of Scottish justice, which we continue to do and continue to uphold.
“The cables confirm what we always said – that our only interest was taking a justice decision based on Scots law without fear or favour, which was exactly what was done, and that our public position was identical to our private one. The decisions to reject the PTA application and grant compassionate release were taken by the justice secretary, according to the precepts of Scots law.
“The cables also show that the former UK government were playing false on the issue, with a different public position from their private one – which must be deeply embarrassing for the Labour Party in Scotland – and that the US government was fully aware of the pressure being applied to the UK government.”