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David Cameron: Gordon Brown Involved In Deal To Release Lockerbie Bomber

After nearly two years of rumors, British Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that his Labour predecessor was party to a deal to release the only man convicted in the bombin of Pan Am Flight 103:

David Cameron today accused the Labour government of ”insufficient consideration” over Libyan efforts to secure the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell has found that Labour did ”all it could” to facilitate Libya in its appeal to the Scottish government to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

In a statement to MPs, Mr Cameron said: ”Insufficient consideration was given to the most basic question of all – was it really right for the British government to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government in the case of an individual who was convicted of murdering 270 people, including 43 British citizens and 190 Americans and 19 other nationalities?

”That for me is the biggest lesson of this entire affair. For my part I repeat, I believe it was profoundly wrong.”

Video:

Much of what Cameron has revealed was covered two weeks ago in Vanity Fair:

Less than two weeks ago, Vanity Fair’s investigation of a secret deal between the government of Scotland and Britain’s Labour government—in order to spring the Lockerbie bomber from jail and return him to Libya—was denounced by Scottish officials as utterly false. Today, under mounting pressure instigated by the V.F. report, the British government released a cache of documents that confirm the story—and Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the previous British government’s actions in Parliament.

The Lockerbie Deal” described how the British government and the Scottish Executive arranged the release of Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence agent responsible for killing 270 people by blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Among the article’s new information was the allegation that Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, suggested in 2007 to the U.K. justice secretary, Jack Straw, that Scotland could agree to make it easier to send Megrahi home in return for a quid pro quo—a change to British law in order to stem the flood of expensive legal actions which Scotland was then facing from former prisoners who had been forced to use “slop-out” buckets instead of toilets in their cells. Salmond vehemently denied V.F.’s assertion, telling reporters that it was “balderdash.” Megrahi, it was said, had been released purely on grounds of compassion. (He was said to be dying of cancer, with only a few months to live.) Today, however, the British prime minister, David Cameron, got to his feet in the House of Commons and released a report by Britain’s most senior civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus McDonnell. The report not only confirmed the “slop-out” claim—it included the text of formerly secret documents which described the discussion of a deal—but also came to the same conclusion that V.F. did—that overall, in Sir Gus’s words, the previous U.K. Labour government “did all it could” to secure Megrahi’s release, and that this was a “policy” derived from a strong “underlying desire.” That underlying desire, not mentioned by Cameron, was to appease Libya and thereby ease the path for British commercial interests.

So far, the story seems to have gotten little coverage in the American media but the Telegraph reports that U.S. officials have been pressuring Cameron for an investigation:

David Cameron came under intense pressure from America last night to call an inquiry into Gordon Brown’s role in the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Senior US politicians accused the former prime minister of “cutting deals to release terrorists” after an official report detailed how ministers pushed for the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

The criticism was made after Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, admitted that Mr Brown’s administration did “all it could” to help Libya amid fears that British companies would lose multi-million-pound contracts if Megrahi died in prison.

Mr Brown had previously said the release of the terrorist was a decision made solely by the Scottish Executive. The report backed this assertion but also detailed how the Labour government advised Libya about how best to secure the release.

The official admission came less than a week after The Daily Telegraph disclosed that a Foreign Office minister had privately advised Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan regime on how they could secure Megrahi’s compassionate release from prison.

Within weeks after al-Megrahi was released, there were allegations that the medical evidence supporting his petition for compassionate release was questionable at best, as well as allegations of a quid pro quo deal between Libya and the U.K. involving oil and/or a trade deal. Also, given the hero’s welcome he received on his return to Libya, it’s not all surprising to hear that the Libyan Government may have been involved in cooking the books to create the facts necessary to allow the Scottish Justice Minister to approve his release. Last July, we learned that al Megrahi’s health may not have been nearly as bad as it was claimed to be at the time of his release. and there were also allegations that British Petroleum may have lobbied the Brits and Scots for al-Meghri’s release to gain access to Libyan oil deposits. Now, it would seem we know the truth.

Gordon Brown and the Scots should be ashamed of themselves

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jack says:

    Seems like BP is lobbying to be the company run by the villain in the next James Bond movie.

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  2. Raoul says:

    As deplorable as the conduct was one may not overlook the weakness of the original case against the defendant- I would like this point covered better but from what I have seen, the case is remarkably weak and contradictory.

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  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Is it really a surprise the party which lied Britain into war lied about this?

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  4. tom p says:

    “Senior US politicians accused the former prime minister of “cutting deals to release terrorists” after an official report detailed how ministers pushed for the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.”

    The irony of the above is not lost on me…

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  5. anjin-san says:

    A more disgraceful episode is hard to imagine…

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  6. steve says:

    Appease Libya? Don’t we mean appease BP?

    Steve

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  7. PJ says:

    So Cameron did what Obama refused to, investigating his predecessor? Good for him. I can only hope that Cameron will dig deeper, so that if there were any who pressured Brown to do this also gets outed.

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  8. ponce says:

    Things must be going poorly for the new British PM if he’s throwing his predecessor under the bus already.

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