White House backed release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi

Jason Allardyce and Tony Allen-Mills
The Australian
7/26/2010

THE US government secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be “far preferable” to free the Lockerbie bomber than jail him in Libya.

Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison.

The intervention, which has angered US relatives of those who died in the attack, was made by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, a week before Megrahi was freed in August last year on grounds that he had terminal cancer.

The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were “surprised, disappointed and angry” to learn of Megrahi’s release.

Scottish ministers viewed the level of US resistance to compassionate release as “half-hearted” and a sign it would be accepted.

The US has tried to keep the letter secret, refusing to give permission to the Scottish authorities to publish it on the grounds it would prevent future “frank and open communications” with other governments.

The article continues at The Australian.

Read also from The Guardian, Barack Obama faces rising pressure to publish Lockerbie bomber release letter:

Barack Obama is under growing pressure to release a letter that reveals the US grudgingly supported freeing the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds.

The letter was sent to Scottish ministers by a senior diplomat at the US embassy in London last August, eight days before Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released from prison because he was dying from inoperable prostate cancer.

Obama’s administration has refused to allow publication of the letter, in which the US says allowing Megrahi to live at home in Scotland would be “far preferable” to sending him back to Libya under the prisoner transfer deal brokered by former prime minister Tony Blair in 2007.

Although Megrahi was allowed to go home to die in Tripoli, Scottish officials believe this undermines Obama’s vigorous criticisms of the decision to free Megrahi earlier this month, when he said he was left “surprised, disappointed and angry” by the Libyan’s release. David Cameron said he and Obama were in “violent agreement” that freeing Megrahi was a bad decision…

Update: From the Telegraph, US ‘preferred’ compassionate release of Lockerbie bomber, says Alex Salmond

And at BBC News, Alex Salmond calls for release of Lockerbie files

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