Will Megrahi scoop soften US attitude to Assange?
Nigel Horne: Vilified as a traitor and a spy in the US, Assange now looks like a valiant searcher after the truth
The latest WikiLeaks revelation - detailing a memo which suggests that the British government advised Libya on how to secure the release from jail on compassionate grounds of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing - opens a can of worms on both sides of thee Atlantic.
First, it puts David Cameron under renewed pressure. He has consistently adopted the line taken by the last Labour government that the devolved Scottish government took the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in August 2009 independently and without pressure from London.
Today's leak appears to blows a hole in that story.
Second, it surely forces American politicians to rethink their view of Julian Assange.
US politicians - led by four senators from New York and New Jersey, where many of the families of the Lockerbie victims live - have been pushing for an inquiry into their deeply-held suspicions that the Labour government encouraged the release of Megrahi in order to open up trade with Libya.
If, as seems likely, today's leak pushes Cameron closer to such an inquiry, will Capitol Hill begin to realise that WikiLeaks can be a force for good?
Suddenly, the man labeled a traitor and a spy and accused of having "blood on his hands" looks like a valiant searcher after the truth.
The cable relating to London's legal advice to Tripoli is just one of 480 documents relating to the Libya/Megrahi saga published by the Telegraph today in a newly formed partnership with WikiLeaks, following an apparent falling-out between Assange and the editors at the Guardian.
The documents show in detail - in the Telegraph's words - "how British ministers and officials were desperate not to allow Libyan anger over the ongoing imprisonment of Megrahi to derail the growing commercial relationship between the two countries".
The advice on how to get Megrahi released on compassionate grounds was sent by Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell. He wrote a letter offering detailed legal advice on how the Libyans might use the diagnosis of Megrahi's cancer to seek his release from Greenock jail.
What makes the revelation doubly damning is the apparent enthusiasm with which this advice was sent to Tripoli: Rammell sent the letter within a week of Megrahi being diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2008.
The Libyans closely followed Rammell's advice and, in August 2009, achieved what they had been hoping for. Amid huge controversy, with President Obama calling it "a mistake", Megrahi was sent home.
The fact that he got a hero's welcome and remains alive to this day - 15 months beyond the three-months he was given to live - has only made his release more controversial with time.
Two questions remain:
Will Cameron now meet the promise he made last summer to release all internal documents regarding Megrahi's release? The fact that their publication has yet to occur has led to suspicions in the US that a cover-up has been ordered.
Second, why did WikiLeaks leave this cable until now? If ever there was a leak that was likely to counter the vilification of Assange in the US, this was it. ·
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