In Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the British reporter Andrew Alderson claims that Libya paid three doctors to give the Scottish government medical evidence that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 57, the convicted Lockerbie killer, had only two or three months to live.
In fact, other doctors, according to Alderson's report, said in June that Megrahi, who suffers from prostate cancer, could have nine months -- or more -- to live. But the three doctors whom Libya allegedly paid had their diagnoses included in the sealed files that Scotland refuses to open to the public, citing "privacy concerns.'
"Professor Karol Sikora, one of the examining doctors and the medical director of CancerPartnersUK in London, told The Sunday Telegraph: "The figure of three months was suggested as being helpful [by the Libyans].
[Sikora said] "To start with I said it was impossible to do that [give a three-month life expectancy estimate] but, when I looked at it, it looked as though it could be done -- you could actually say that."
He said that he and a second doctor, a Libyan, had legitimately then estimated Megrahi's life expectancy as "about three months". A third doctor would say only that he had a short time to live."
The piece goes on to acknowledge what we already know -- that though Britain's government refuses to accept responsibility for Megrahi's release -- that Jack Straw, Britain's Justice Minister has now stated on the record that the British were keenly aware that if Megrahi was not released trade deals worth billions, including a massive one with BP, would be canceled.
Alderson writes: "British businessmen were also told that plans to open a London office of the Libyan Investment Authority, a sovereign fund with $136 billion (£83billion) to invest, would be jeopardized if Megrahi died in jail.
Britain provided aid for Libya, believed to be the first since the Lockerbie bombing, when the release of Megrahi was being discussed. The £146,000 grant -- which senior Tories suspect was a "sweetener" to Libya -- was provided by the British Embassy in 2007-08 at the behest of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The piece continues:
"There were strong suggestions from Libya yesterday that it felt Britain had played a significant role in pressing for Megrahi's release."
Abdul Majeed al-Dursi, the regime's chief spokesman, said: "This is a brave and courageous decision by the British, which shows its understanding of Libyan culture by allowing a sick man to be at home when he dies.
"It showed the relations between Britain and Libya are strong and deep. We in Libya appreciate this and Britain will find it is rewarded."
All this makes Gordon Brown's denials of his government's involvement in Megrahi's release look deeply troubling. David Cameron, the young British Tory leader who looks likely to sweep Brown out of office by next May has called for an immediate inquiry. Understandably, Cameron wants to get to the bottom of this stinking business as fast as possible.
Meanwhile the US is still reeling from what it sees as outright betrayal from its oldest ally. When I spoke to the Justice Department last week I could almost hear the fury down the phone line. Was it true, I asked, that though the American government knew the Scots were making some sort of decision about moving Megrahi -- against strong protests from FBI director Mueller, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder -- they were only actually apprised of MacAskill's final decision ten minutes before he stood up to make the announcement on August 20th? The response I got was terse. "We won't deny that."
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D) of Maryland, from where eight people died in the bombing, has written to the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Nigel Sheinwald. She does not mince her words: "How dare any one official in the Scottish government substitute their judgment to award freedom to a murderer for the careful deliberation of their courts...?"
Of course, given the Sunday Telegraph's reports, and all the other leaks coming out of Whitehall about Britain's ties to Libyan oil, increasingly it doesn't look like "one official in the Scottish government" made this decision in isolation. Far from it. "We are going v. hard on this," someone wrote me from Cameron's office.
Frankly, David Cameron "can't go hard" enough in retrieving all the facts. Meanwhile the air hanging over Britain and Scotland stinks of something rotten.
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