The real thing, this time: leaked British diplomatic correspondence published in the London Times appears to make it clear that Great Britain let Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi go in order to finalize an oil deal with Libya:
The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.
Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards. …
The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.
Two letters dated five months apart show that Straw initially intended to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement with Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, under which British and Libyan prisoners could serve out their sentences in their home country.
In a letter dated July 26, 2007, [Justice Secretary Jack] Straw said he favoured an option to leave out Megrahi by stipulating that any prisoners convicted before a specified date would not be considered for transfer.
Downing Street had also said Megrahi would not be included under the agreement.
Straw then switched his position as Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to insist the Lockerbie bomber was included.
The exploration deal for oil and gas, potentially worth up to £15 billion, was announced in May 2007. Six months later the agreement was still waiting to be ratified.
On December 19, 2007, Straw wrote to MacAskill announcing that the UK government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement, citing the national interest.
In a letter leaked by a Whitehall source, he wrote: “I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion.
“The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the [prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual.”
Within six weeks of the government climbdown, Libya had ratified the BP deal.
It’s a sad story, but not surprising in the context of contemporary European politics. Apart from anything else, it is an argument for the death penalty. We simply can’t trust any Western government to be immune from bribery.