El 'caso Lockerbie'

Cable sobre las reacciones tras la liberación de Megrahi

El primer ministro escocés acusa al Gobierno británico de no "jugar limpio" en el caso del libio que voló un avión sobre Lockerbie

Date:2009-08-24 14:05:00
Source:Embassy London
Dunno:09LONDON1925 09STATE80743
Destination:INFO LOG-00 AF-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 INL-00 DODE-00 PERC-00
PDI-00 DS-00 DHSE-00 FBIE-00 VCI-00 H-00 TEDE-00
INR-00 IO-00 L-00 MOFM-00 MOF-00 VCIE-00 NEA-00
DCP-00 NSAE-00 NIMA-00 PM-00 SCT-00 DOHS-00 FMPC-00
SP-00 IRM-00 SSO-00 SS-00 NCTC-00 SCRS-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 PRM-00 SAS-00 FA-00 PESU-00 /000W

O 241405Z AUG 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 001946



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2019

B. STATE 80743

Classified By: Ambassador Louis B. Susman, reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1. (C/NF) Summary. The Scottish Government severely
underestimated the both USG and UK public reaction to its
decision to grant compassionate release to convicted Pan Am
103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi on August 20. Scottish
First Minister Alex Salmond has privately indicated that he
was "shocked" by FBI Director Mueller's public letter. The
media continue to report U.S. anger over the decision, and
concern Scotland will be targeted economically, through
reduced U.S. tourism and whiskey boycotts. The media
speculate that the UK Government had a hand in the deal to
maintain good diplomatic relations with Libya and secure oil
and gas deals, which the UK Government has denied as
"completely wrong" and "offensive." Today (August 24), the
Scottish Parliament meets to hear Scottish Justice Minister
Kenny MacAskill's explanation of his decision. The media
speculates that Scottish opposition parties, all of which are
on record condemning the decision, may move against the
Scottish National Party's (SNP) minority government in a vote
of no confidence, though the two-thirds majority required to
secure such a move would be very difficult to obtain. Prime
Minister Gordon Brown has not yet made a statement on
Megrahi's release, with other Cabinet members maintaining
that it was a decision for the devolved Scottish Government.
Given growing discontent and speculation about a UK
Government hand in the deal, Brown may have to make a
statement soon. Meanwhile, local Scottish opposition
politicians are using the issue to call into question the SNP
government's credibility and competence. End summary.

Reaction to USG Statements

2. (C/NF) The UK media have widely reported on FBI Director
Mueller's letter to MacAskill and Chairman of the Joint Chief
of Staff Admiral Mullen's comments on the Scottish
Government's decision to grant compassionate release to
convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.
Washington-based Scottish Government Representative Robin
Naysmith told CG Edinburgh Sunday, August 24 that Scottish
First Minister Salmond was "shocked" by Mueller's comments,
which were "over the top" given that President Obama had
already commented on the decision. Naysmith underscored that
Scotland received "nothing" for releasing Megrahi (as has
been widely suggested in the UK and U.S. media), while the UK
Government has gotten everything - a chance to stick it to
Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP) and good relations
with Libya. (NOTE: We expect Naysmith to be engaging heavily
in Washington on these issues. END NOTE.)

3. (C/NF) The media have also reported growing concerns that
American anger over the decision will translate into a
boycott of Scottish whiskey and reduced American tourism in
Scotland, an approximately USD 416 million business annually.
In a previous meeting with CG Edinburgh on Friday, August
21, Salmond reiterated that he and his government "had played
straight" with both the USG and UK Government, but implied
that the UK Government had not. During the meeting, which
occurred before the Mueller and Mullen statements, he said he
wanted to move beyond the Megrahi issue and deepen Scotland's
relationship with the USG. He said the Libyan Government had
offered the Scottish Government "a parade of treats," all of
which were turned down. (NOTE: Roughly fifty percent of
Scottish exports go to the U.S., and over 450 U.S. businesses
employ over 100,000 Scots in Scotland. END NOTE.)

4. (SBU) Scottish Government statements, including those from
Salmond, have acknowledged the "strongly-held views of the
American families," but underscored that those views are not
shared by all of the victims' families (referring primarily
to the British families). Salmond defended the decision,
saying it was "right in terms of (the Scottish) legal system"
and "what (they) are duty-bound to do." Salmond is also
reported in the media to have said that the USG had made
clear that, while it opposed Megrahi's release, it regarded
freeing him on compassionate grounds "far preferable" to a
transfer under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA). (NOTE:
While indicating the USG's preference for compassionate
release over a PTA transfer, as described in reftel B,
Salmond's statement does not mention the USG's strong
opposition to any release, particularly one that would allow
Megrahi to travel outside of Scotland. END NOTE.)

Scottish Parliament Holds Emergency Session

5. (SBU) The Scottish Parliament holds an emergency session
Monday at 1430 local time (August 24), calling on Scottish
Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to explain his decision.
All three opposition parties in Scotland (Labour,
Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats) have condemned the
minority Scottish National Party (SNP) government's decision
to release Megrahi. The media openly speculate that a vote
of no confidence will occur if MacAskill does not resign, but
it would be difficult for opposition parties to garner the
two-thirds majority required (87 of the 129 seats), if the
SNP is able to maintain control of its 47 Members of Scottish
Parliament (MSPs).

6. (SBU) Scottish opposition political figures, like Scottish
Labour leader Iain Gray and former Scottish First Minister
Jack McConnell, have condemned the decision to release
Megrahi, calling it a "grave error of judgment." Scottish
Liberal Democrat leader Tavis Scott said, "The SNP's
credibility at home and abroad is in tatters. Scotland's
must not be allowed to follow with it."

Compassionate Release for Oil and Gas?

7. (SBU) The UK media widely speculates that the UK
Government had a hand in the decision to release Megrahi in
order to maintain good diplomatic relations with the Libyans
and to secure oil and gas deals, citing the now infamous 2004
"deal in the desert" between former PM Blair and Libyan
leader Qaddafi, recent meetings and correspondence between PM
Brown and "Muammar," a recent meeting between Business
Secretary Lord Mandelson and Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, and
other high-level trade delegations. Qaddafi's personal
thanks to Brown, the Queen, and the British Government after
embracing Megrahi in a televised statement have fanned the
flames and increased calls for Brown to explain the UK's
involvement in the decision-making process. Mandelson
insisted to the media that it is "completely wrong" and
"offensive" to suggest that Megrahi's release was linked to
trade deals. A Foreign Office contact reiterated to Poloff
August 24 that such speculation is "completely absurd." He
acknowledged that the Libyans had raised Megrahi at every
turn in their burgeoning diplomatic relationship, but said
that Megrahi's release was "never directly or implicitly"
linked to any deal.

UK Government Reaction

8. (C/NF) Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is currently on
holiday in Scotland, has refrained from comment. Acting PM
Chancellor Alistair Darling has said, "you either devolve the
responsibility for criminal justice or you don't," a position
that Foreign Secretary Miliband supported in interviews on
Friday, August 21. Miliband affirmed that "the sight of a a
mass-murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply
upsetting, deeply distressing." Conservative leader David
Cameron has sent Brown a public message condemning the
decision and calling on Brown to "make clear his own views"
on the decision.


9. (C/NF) Foreign Office North Africa team leader Rob Dixon
told Poloff August 24 that the UK has been telling the Libyan
Government, through Saif al-Islam and the Foreign Ministry,
that the Libyan Government's handling of its September 1
national day festivities will determine the future of the
UK-Libya bilateral relationship. Dixon explained that the UK
has explicitly told the Libyans that Megrahi should not be
featured in any high-profile way. He said that the UK has
also told the Libyans that Qaddafi's personal thanks to PM
Brown and the Queen were "unhelpful" and the UK Government's
"unhappiness" had been communicated "in clear terms." Dixon
said the Foreign Office will take stock after the September 1


10. (C/NF) Dixon termed "absurd" MacAskill's comment (in his
original August 20 statement about Megrahi's release) that
the UK Government's refusal to make representations was
"highly regrettable." Referring to MacAskill's welcoming of a
public inquiry into the case, Dixon said such an undertaking
would be "nearly impossible" given the way devolution works.
Dixon implied that the comments were designed to blame the UK
Government for putting the Scots in a position to have to
make a decision. Dixon told Poloff on August 24 that the
Foreign Office had had no contact with the Scottish
Government since the decision was announced.


11. (C/NF) It is clear that the Scottish Government
underestimated the blow-back it would receive in response to
Megrahi's release and is now trying to paint itself as the
victim. It seems likely, especially given the increasing
speculation that the UK Government had a hand in the
decision, that Prime Minister Brown will have to address the
issue publicly. Meanwhile, local Scottish opposition
politicians are trying to undercut the SNP minority
government's credibility as much as possible.

12. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

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