Libyans hit out at release of Megrahi

SCOTLAND'S release of the Lockerbie bomber sent out the "wrong signal," handing Colonel Gaddafi "a political and diplomatic victory", the UK head of the newly-recognised Libyan government has said.

Guma el-Gamaty, the UK co-ordinator for the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), officially recognised by Britain as the country's new legitimate government, said Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi should have remained in Scotland to allow his appeal to be heard.

He also said Libya's newly recogised government would want "to get to the bottom" of the crimes committed during the Gaddafi era, if and when the dictator is ousted from power in Tripoli.

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"No decent Libyan would disagree that the Lockerbie bombing in 1989 was a barbaric, heinous and shameful international crime," he added.

El-Gamaty's comments come ahead of the second anniversary of Megrahi's release next Saturday.

The convicted terrorist, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, was allowed to return to Libya by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds two years ago this week after doctors declared it was "reasonable" to conclude he had around three months to live. However, he is still living under licence in Tripoli, leading to growing questions over how the prognosis was reached, and claims that he could now live for many years to come.

Two weeks ago he was seen on Libyan TV at a rally supporting the ailing dictator's attempts to remain in power.

El-Gamaty told Scotland on Sunday that Megrahi's return to Libya was a boost to Gaddafi. "I think it has helped Gaddafi and not the Libyan people. Unfortunately it gave Gaddafi a political and diplomatic victory," he said.

"Everyone admits that it was the wrong signal. By releasing Megrahi it was the wrong signal. Megrahi was pursuing an appeal for so long and he should have been allowed to conclude the appeal."

Last night, the SNP's political opponents said that it was time for the SNP administration to publish all the medical evidence on which Megrahi's three-month prognosis was based.

El-Gamaty was speaking a week after the NTC took over the Libyan Embassy. He said any commitment on co-operating with the Lockerbie case would have to wait for a new democratically-elected government in Tripoli.

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But he added: "Having said that, I think there are so many issues that need to be revisited in terms of what are the roles and involvements in the Gaddafi regime in these international horrendous crimes which have given Libya and Libyans a very bad name."

He added that it was "possible" that further details of Megrahi's involvement in the bombing might be found in hundreds of files which have been discovered in the Libyan Embassy in London. He also criticised the fact that the UK Government had allowed Gaddafi's former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, to leave the country following his defection from Libya earlier this spring."I am sure he knows the inside story of Lockerbie," he said. "I think if these two guys (Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, his co-accused who was found not guilty) are implicated they are a very, very small fish in the chain. The people higher up are the real culprits. The Moussa Koussas of this world and Gaddafi himself."

However, he also hit out at the Blair government's relations with the Gaddafi regime, saying he thought it was London, not Edinburgh, which was involved in "murky" deals with the dictator.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray last night called on Scottish Ministers to release all the reports made by Megrahi's doctors prior to his release.