by Adam Khan Yusufzai (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 7, Ramadan, 1430)
Beyond the moralizing statements by British and Scottish officials about the release of a sick and dying Libyan, AbdelBasit Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison is the more earthly question of naked British commercial interests. Even the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II and her son, Prince Andrew, are not above such commercial wheeling and dealing. It became evident when the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi thanked both as well as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for facilitating the release of al-Megrahi who was accorded a hero’s welcome in Tripoli on August 21. Al-Megrahi was ‘convicted’ of planting a bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 flying from London to New York on December 21, 1988 that crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board.
From the outset, grave doubts were expressed about al-Megrahi’s conviction. There was contradictory testimony by witnesses; one family member of the victims even going so far as to say that the wrong man had been convicted. Al-Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years in prison by a panel of three Scottish judges on January 31, 2001 but his fellow Libyan, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah was pronounced not guilty. Al-Megrahi was head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines. Almost immediately after the sentencing, his lawyers launched an appeal against his conviction, first in Scotland and later to the European Human Rights Commission. Both were turned down but on September 23, 2003, he appealed to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). On June 28, 2007, the SCCRC announced its decision to refer the case to theCourt of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh after it found he “may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.”