Lockerbie bomber: I will prove I am innocent
The Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, has claimed he will provide evidence that he was not responsible for the terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 270 people.
(TELEGRAPH) Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on Thursday and returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya, would not say who he thought was responsible for blowing up the Pan Am flight in 1988.
Megrahi promised that before he died he would present new evidence through his Scottish lawyers that would exonerate him.
He told The Times at his home in Tripoli: “My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence and ask them to be the jury,” he said. He would not elaborate.
“If there is justice in the UK I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice.”
He said he understood the anger of victims’ families, saying: “They believe I’m guilty which in reality I’m not. One day the truth won’t be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: ‘The truth never dies’.”
When the paper asked who he believed brought down the plane he said: “It’s a very good question but I’m not the right person to ask.” The Times reported that Megrahi insisted that it was not Libya and would not be drawn on suggestions that it was Syria, Iran or the Palestinians.
Megrahi, 57, was released by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice minister, on compassionate grounds as he is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.
Megrahi said he was “very, very happy” to be freed. “This was my hope and wish — to be back with my family before I pass away . . . I always believed I would come back if justice prevailed,” he said.
President Obama has condemned the welcome Megrahi received in Libya as ‘highly objectionable’.
Mr Obama’s chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, earlier denounced the scenes in the Libyan capital Tripoli when returned home as “outrageous and disgusting”.
Speaking before he left the White House to spend the weekend at Camp David, Mr Obama led US condemnation of the bomber’s return.
“It was highly objectionable,” he said in reference to the release and arrival at Tripoli’s airport of Megrahi, where he was greeted by hundreds of people on Thursday night.
Mr Gibbs said: “The images that we saw in Libya yesterday were outrageous and disgusting.
“We communicated with the Libyan government, we continue to watch what they do in the days going forward about this individual, and understand that the video that you saw yesterday was tremendously offensive to the survivors that lost a loved one in 1988.”
Relatives of the Americans killed in the 1998 atrocity, when a Pan Am jet was blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland, said they planned to converge on New York to mount a protest at the presence of the Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi when he attends the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 23.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that the reception Libya gave Megrahi was “deeply distressing”.
The Foreign Office is now understood to be reviewing a plan for Prince Andrew to represent Britain at celebrations marking 40 years of Col Gaddafi’s rule.
The prince, a British trade envoy, has made several previous trips to Libya, where several large British energy firms hold oil and gas contracts.
A Foreign Office source said that the level of Britain’s representation at the event is now being reconsidered.
The Scottish decision has triggered a backlash. The Foreign Secretary’s comments came amid furious reactions to the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to free on compassionate grounds the biggest mass murderer in British legal history.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Miliband condemned the scenes of celebration and flag-waving in Libya as Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 atrocity, flew home to Tripoli.
“Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero’s welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing,” he said.
“Above all for the 270 families who grieve every day for the loss of their loved ones 21 years ago and also for anyone who has an ounce of humanity in them. I think that that is the overriding emotion that people will be feeling today.”
Megrahi, 57, a former intelligence agent who has terminal prostate cancer, was greeted in Tripoli by a crowd of thousands along with relatives and the Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al Islam Gaddafi.
Saif al-Islam, who travelled to Scotland to accompany Megrahi back to Libya, said that Megrahi’s release was linked to trade deals between Britain and the oil rich African state.
“In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table,” Saif al-Islam said in interview to Libyan TV channel Al Mutawassit taped on the flight back to Tripoli.
“All British interests were linked to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.”
The Foreign Office, however, strongly denied claims that the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi was linked to trade agreements, insisting the decision to release him was made solely on compassionate grounds and was purely a matter for the Scottish authorities.
“There is no deal. All decisions relating to the Megrahi case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland, and the Scottish judicial authorities,” a spokesman said.
“No deal has been made between the UK government and the Libyan government in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country.”
After he left Scottish soil, Megrahi, who has served eight years of a 27-year sentence, released a statement protesting his innocence and expressing his “sympathy” for the families of the 270 people he was convicted of killing.