Yet again Lockerbie has hit the headlines. The latest twist is the role BP might have had in the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, leading, ironically, to a call for an inquiry into the circumstances of his release. This while the families’ calls for an inquiry into the atrocity itself are denied.
The families have faced years of denials and obfuscation, as we have painstakingly sought answers to the many unanswered questions about Lockerbie. The BP issue is just another element in the shameful way in which the truth behind Britain’s biggest mass murder has been hidden.
Gordon Brown said that there was “no deal on oil” for Megrahi’s release. Yet the then foreign secretary, David Miliband, said in the House of Commons in October 2009: “British interests, including those of UK nationals, British business and possibly security co-operation would be damaged, perhaps badly, if Megrahi were to die in a Scottish prison rather than in Libya.”
In its statement, BP was careful to say that it had made no mention of Megrahi while discussing the need to conclude the agreement on prisoner transfer between Libya and the UK. BP must think we were born yesterday: what other Libyan was supposedly holding back progress on oil drilling deals with Libya?
Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill assures the world that representations made to him, for and against Megrahi’s release, played no part in his decision, which he apparently made on the basis of medical and legal evidence. Would they really have released a mass murderer on compassionate grounds if they truly believed he was guilty?
Our new prime minister, David Cameron, takes the view that Megrahi “should have died in jail“. Perhaps he thinks in agreeing with the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton that it shouldn’t have happened, that it was just a bad decision by the Scottish government, it will make the problem go away. He is yet to get to grips with the complexity of Lockerbie – that it is not a simple case of a guilty man, a few US senators causing trouble, and business as usual for the oil industry.
Cameron’s statement takes no account of the fact that although he was convicted, Megrahi continues to protest his innocence. With the abandonment of his appeal last year went all our hopes and expectations that finally we would get to the bottom of the case against him. Dismay does not begin to convey the feelings I had then and now as speculation and a drip feed of “information” about Lockerbie fill the vacuum that a full inquiry should fill.
Where does the public interest truly lie: in getting to the bottom of the worst terrorist crime this country has ever known, or in securing the national economic interest? Are these two things incompatible?
Cameron should indeed explain the UK government position to President Barack Obama and others in the United States. Over 180 Americans died in the bombing. It is equally right that he should stand by his own recent statement to the House of Commons on the Bloody Sunday inquiry – “It is right to pursue the truth with vigour and thoroughness.” With this in mind, I can only hope that he will respect the maxim of UK Families Flight 103, that “the truth must be known”.
UK Families Flight 103 will soon find out whether the letter we sent today to Cameron, reiterating our call for a full independent inquiry, will be heeded.
Perhaps some readers will think I am like a stuck record – still calling for answers, for justice, for the truth. However slim the prospects may be, that maxim is at the forefront of my mind today, along with our second, “their spirit lives on”.
Pamela Mix, a founder member and executive director of Disaster Action