British foreign secretary David Milliband has said his government ‘makes no apology’ for the progress made in Libya’s entry back into the community of nations. He also rejected ‘repeated charges’ that pressure was put on the Scottish authorities by the British government to release the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.
In a statement delivered to parliament Monday 12th October, Milliband said ‘the ongoing pain of the Lockerbie atrocity remains a testament to Libya’s past association with international terrorism. Her re-entry into the community of nations does not and cannot absolve her of this responsibility. It does, however, represent a major step forward. The Government makes no apology for its part in securing this progress. And we reject the charges repeatedly made but not justified’.
Milliband said, ‘Lockerbie was a terrorist act of the gravest brutality. It was the largest peacetime loss of life on British territory. It was a major tragedy with the killing of 43 Britons in the sky and in Lockerbie, 190 Americans and people of 19 other nations. It was the act of people, and a state, which breached all norms of humanity. That is why the reception for Megrahi on his return in August at Tripoli airport was so unacceptable’.
In his statement Milliband narrated the events leading up to the Scottish justice minister’s decision to release Megrahi. He also set out the changes in Libya’s relations with the international community since 1988, and address the three central issues raised in respect of the UK government at the time of his release: first, the decision by the British Government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya which did not exclude Megrahi; second the relationship between the British Government and Scottish Executive in the decision-making process; and third the separate questions of the investigation into the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and the compensation for victims of Libyan-supported IRA terrorism.
The release of Megrahi the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and the subsequent party and jubilation as seen on television screens round the world angered families of the victims.
The Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he was not pressurised to release Megrahi.