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Lockerbie ordered by Qaddafi: Swedish paper

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Lockerbie ordered by Qaddafi: Swedish paper
Photo: Scanpix (file)
16:07 CET+01:00
Colonel Muammar Qaddafi ordered the 1988 terror attack that downed a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland, the Libyan leader's former justice minister told a Swedish reporter on Wednesday.

"I have evidence that Qaddafi gave the orders for Lockerbie," Mustafa Abdel-Jalil told a reporter for Swedish tabloid Expressen who is currently stationed in Libya.

Until Monday, Abdel-Jalil served as minister of justice to Qaddafi, but resigned in protest "over the excessive use of violence against government protesters" he is quoted as telling the privately-owned Quryna newspaper.

According to Abdel-Jalil, his former boss gave the orders to carry out the Lockerbie bombing, which claimed the lives of 259 people on board Pan Am Flight 103 as well 11 people in the Scottish village below.

Among those killed in the bombing was Swedish diplomat Bernt Carlsson, who was serving in the United Nations at the time.

Following a lengthy probe involving Scotland Yard and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as other agencies, investigators concluded that the bomb had been placed on the plane by two Libyan nationals working for the country's intelligence services.

In 1991, charges were filed against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), as well as Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, a Malta-based LAA station manager.

Following lengthy negotiations, Qaddafi agreed to hand over the two suspects to Scottish police in 1999 so they could stand trial in the Netherlands.

Although neither man chose to testify, al-Megrahi was convicted of murder in January 2001 by a panel of Scottish judges, while Fhimah was acquitted.

In 2003, Megrahi appealed his conviction and in 2009 he was released from prison on humanitarian grounds because he was said to be suffering from cancer.

According to Abdel-Jalil, Qaddafi worked hard to ensure that al-Megrahi was released.

"In order to hide it, he did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland," the former Libyan minister told Expressen.

"He (Qaddafi) gave the order to al-Megrahi to do it."

While admitting it was difficult to verify Abdel-Jalil's account, Aron Lund, an editorial writer with the Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) newspaper who has also written reports on the Middle East for Swedish Institute of International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutet -- UI), said there is reason to believe what the former justice minister has to say about Qaddafi's role in the Lockerbie bombing.

"When you have a dictatorhship with an extremely centralised power structure like Qaddafi's, it's safe to assume that any such decision was taken at the highest level," he told The Local.

"At the same, considering Al Jeleil just left the regime, there may be a credibility issue. It could be that these sorts of leaks from former members of the regimes are more about distancing themselves from Gadaffi as than revealing the truth."

The full interview with Abdel-Jalil, which was conducted on Wednesday and reportedly lasted 40 minutes, is to be published on Thursday in Expressen's print edition.

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