Leaked letters from British Justice Secretary Jack Straw shed light on the 2007 'deal in the desert' with Libya. Did trade deals really have anything to do with the convicted bomber's eventual release?
Amid the lingering furor over the Scottish government's recent decision to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, it's the question that just won't go away: Did the British government agree to make Mr. Megrahi eligible for return to Libya in exchange for that country giving up its nuclear ambitions – and oil deals worth billions of dollars?
For a week and a half, reports raising the question have been trickling in as British politicians have been scurrying to deny that oil had anything to do with Megrahi's Aug. 20 release on compassionate grounds.
Then, today, the center-right London newspaper The Times dropped a bombshell.
"Lockerbie bomber 'set free for oil,' " screams the headline.
The Times reports that leaked letters sent two years ago by British Justice Secretary Jack Straw to his Scottish counterpart, Kenny MacAskill, "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."
The last Straw?
According to the report, the letters reveal that Mr. Straw backed down from demands to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, under which British and Libyan prisoners could serve out their sentences in their home country.
In the second of two leaked letters to Mr. MacAskill, Straw reportedly cited "overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom" in his decision to back down.