A done deal?
Lockerbie bomber ‘to return to Libya’ after just seven years in prison
The Lockerbie bomber is at the centre of the first major row between the Government and the minority SNP administration in Scotland.
First Minister Alex Salmond said he had protested to Tony Blair over a deal that could lead to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who is serving a life term in a Scottish jail, being transferred back to Libya.
Mr Salmond told the Scottish Parliament a deal on “judicial co-operation” struck between Libya and Britain on May 29 – when Tony Blair was in Tripoli – could involve Megrahi as it covered areas like “law, extradition and prisoner transfer”.
But neither the Scottish Parliament nor the Scottish government were consulted beforehand, said Mr Salmond.
“I have today written to the Prime Minister expressing my concern that it was felt appropriate for the UK Government to sign such a memorandum on matters clearly devolved to Scotland without any opportunity for this government and this Parliament to contribute,” he said.
Many MSPs from other parties gave varying degrees of support to Mr Salmond, including former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, who said it was “regrettable” if the Executive had not been consulted.
But Mr Salmond came under fire from Labour peer Lord Foulkes, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament.
“I have spoken to Number 10 Downing Street because I did not believe the statement made in the Parliament chamber,” Lord Foulkes told the Scottish Press Association.
“I have been told that al Megrahi is specifically excluded from the agreement.
“It covers terror suspects – the kind of people I am concerned about as a member of the intelligence and security committee appointed by the Prime Minister.”
Senior SNP sources said the memorandum neither excluded nor included any individual by name.
Lockerbie Families Protest Funds for LibyaÂ
Relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, are demanding that Congress withhold State Department funding that would help normalize relations with Libya until Tripoli fully compensates the families of the 270 killed.
“I have seen a lot of people who have suffered through this,” said Siobhan Mulroy, an East Northport woman who lost her father, a brother, a sister-in-law, an aunt, an uncle and a cousin. “We want them to be held to the promises they made.”
Relatives of the lost – at least 10 victims lived on Long Island, scores more lived elsewhere in the New York area and 35 were Syracuse University students – say the U.S. government should halt plans to normalize relations with Libya until that country makes the last installment of a promised $10 million to the families of each of the bombing victims.
The Bush administration has requested $115.9 million to build an embassy in Tripoli and an additional $1.15 million in aid it says will help normalize relations with a Libyan nation that had been implicated in terrorist activity for decades before 2003, when it accepted responsibility for Lockerbie and renounced its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
But by a unanimous vote last week, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to block the funds until President George W. Bush certifies Tripoli is complying with its agreement to compensate the families.
The spending package is expected to come for a vote before the full House later this month.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), a member of the committee whose Long Island district includes two relatives of bombing victims, said he pressed for the amendment because it appears Libya is shirking its responsibility.
He said the Libyans “have gotten what they wanted out of the deal, but these families have not gotten what they were promised.”
The bombing claimed the lives of 11 people on the ground and 259 passengers and crew, including 189 Americans. A Libyan intelligence officer was convicted in 2001 of murder in connection with the bombing.
In 2002, Libya agreed to settle claims from families by paying a total of $2.7 billion in three installments, as benchmarks were met in normalizing its relations with the rest of the world.
Forty percent of the money was to be released when UN sanctions against Libya ended, 40 percent when the United States ended trade sanctions, and the remaining 20 percent when the U.S. removed Libya from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.
The first two installments were paid when sanctions were lifted in 2003 and 2004. But in February 2005, Libya withdrew $536 million from an escrow account that was to have been used to pay a final $2 million installment to each family, saying the United States had not removed Libya from its terror list.
The United States removed Libya from the list in May 2006. But Libya has yet to pay.
This year, the State Department sought $1.15 million from Congress to encourage Libya to eschew terrorism.
The State Department said the aid would help Libya retrain weapons scientists to work on civilian projects. The package also includes $200,000 to help U.S. companies capitalize on an economy long closed to Western investment, and $300,000 to promote democratic reforms.
But Kara Weipz, a spokeswoman for Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said that to fail to require Libya to make full restitution would be an injustice.
“That’s not the punishment I would accept for the murder of my brother and 269 other victims,” she said.