Through WikiLeaks, UK Paper Says Brits Instructed Libya on How to Secure Terrorist's Release on 'Compassionate Grounds'

While it is quite clear that the officials of WikiLeaks are leftists, there are more conservative media outlets picking through its scraps. The Telegraph in the U.K. has found a scandal: that the British government  manipulated the Libyans into releasing a mass-murdering terrorist on his cancer diagnosis:

A Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.

The Duke of York [Prince Andrew]  is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.

The Libyans closely followed the advice which led to the controversial release of Megrahi – who was convicted of the murder of 270 passengers on Pan Am Flight 103 – within months of the Foreign Office’s secret intervention.

The disclosure seriously undermines British Government claims that is was not complicit in the release of al-Megrahi, and that the decision to free the convicted terrorist was taken by the Scottish Executive alone.

It will also lead to renewed pressure from senior American politicians on David Cameron to release all internal documents detailing Britain’s role in the scandal. Last summer, the Prime Minister pledged to release the relevant information – but the publication has yet to occur sparking fears that a cover-up may have been ordered.  

Will American media outlets that have defended WikiLeaks -- like The New York Times, most prominently -- cover this story, or ignore it?  Or are they only interested in leaked documents that support their own ideological views? The commercial benefits of Britain trading with Libya apparently played a major role in the Megrahi plotting, and they seemed to have no fear of domestic outrage of closely working with Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi:

After Megrahi was released in August 2009, another American document records Gaddafi’s comments – which suggest that Prince Andrew, the UK’s trade envoy, may have played a role.

The document records: “He [Gaddafi] went on to thank his 'friend Brown’, the British Prime Minister, his government, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Andrew, who 'against all odds encouraged this brave decision’. [Gaddafi] noted that the UK efforts would positively affect 'exchange’ between the two countries.

When al-Megrahi was finally released, it also emerged that Gordon Brown instructed the British ambassador to hand deliver a note to Gaddafi. The letter was ostensibly to ask the Libyan leader not to lionise the released terrorist but the delivery of the letter also presented British officials with the opportunity for a rare private meeting with Gaddafi. The leader usually only sees very senior foreign politicians and dignitaries.

The disclosure of the secret Foreign Office advice to the Libyans is set to spark renewed calls for the British government to appear before the US Senate to justify its role in the bomber’s release.  

The Telegraph also raised the speculation that Megrahi was to receive chemotherapy in Scotland instead of being released as a dead man walking, which the Scottish government denies. Megrahi was released with "three months to live" about 16 months ago.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis