‘Gaddafi behind Lockerbie’ - how very convenient
Libyan justice minister’sclaim that Gaddafi orderedPanAm bomb is not the endof the matter
A senior member of Col Gaddafi's administration has claimed that Gaddafi himself ordered the the bombing of the PanAm jetliner which exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing a total of 270 people, the majority of them Americans.
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya's justice minister until he resigned in protest at Gaddafi's orders to murder unarmed protesters, has told the Swedish tabloid Expressen that he possesses proof that Gaddafi gave the order.
Conspicuously, neither Abdel-Jalil nor the paper's correspondent, Kassem Hamade, can reveal what the 'proof' is.
But the former justice minister claims that it was in order to hide his role in the bombing that Gaddafi "did everything in his power" to get the only man ever convicted of the outrage, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, back to Tripoli from Scotland.
There will be pressure on Abdel-Jalil to tell more - if and when he leaves Libya, especially from those American families whose relatives died in the bombing and the senators representing them.
Already angered by Megrahi's early release in August 2009 following the diagnosis of terminal cancer, their fury was stoked recently by the WikiLeaks disclosure that the British government actively helped Libya exploit the Scottish rules on compassionate release to get Megrahi home.
"The information that's coming out ... is the smoking gun that we've been waiting for for 23 years," said Bert Ammerman, the brother of an American passenger killed in the bombing, on hearing of Abdel-Jalil's claim.
"It's now out in the open. A justice minister has clearly stated that Gaddafi ordered the bombing of PanAm 103. That is an act of war. Finally an American administration can't hide behind the rhetoric any longer. They must respond, they must react. President Obama, what are you going to do?"
But is Abdel-Jasit telling the truth - or is this a convenient lie, told in the hope that Gaddafi will go to his grave with the secret intact?
The fact is, many politicians and journalists - not nutcase conspiracy theorists, but serious investigative reporters - who have observed and reported into the Lockerbie bombing from the outset have never been persuaded that Libya masterminded the attack. They remain convinced that Libya only ever acted as an agent for another Middle Eastern power and/or - as Alexander Cockburn reported here last year - that Libya and Megrahi were framed.
Iran, Syria, Hezbollah - all have been held up over the past two decades as likely candidates for ordering the bombing.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, still alive in Tripoli, will likely die without giving up his story: recent reports suggest the prostate cancer that was supposed to kill him in 2009 has spread through his body and he has little time left.
But if Gaddafi should die in some final conflagration as the Libyan endgame approaches, there is a real danger that the Lockerbie relatives seeking 'closure' will have been fooled if they accept Abdel-Jasit's claim.
Their best hope of learning the truth is that Gaddafi gets out of Libya alive and in handcuffs, to appear before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and that he is persuaded to tell the whole truth about the worst terrorist atrocity ever perpetrated on British soil.
Such is the nature of what he could tell the court, however, that there are some western governments who might prefer that he meets his end before that can happen. ·
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