There should not be any confusion about the evidence that indicated Libyan responsibility, but al-Megrahi may be one player in a larger game.
The release of the Lockerbie mass murderer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has raised a political storm, and rightly so. The 1998 investigation was the largest operation ever conducted by the Security Service, and the forensic and intelligence evidence, of which only a proportion was presented in court in The Hague, was utterly compelling.
However the terrorist, who was a professional Libyan intelligence officer, criss-crossing the world on false passports buying bomb components, has been flown to Tripoli on his leader’s private jet, having been set free on compassionate grounds because he is dying of prostate cancer.
Of course, compassion played little role in the planning of the deaths of 270 people in December 1998, but there should not be any confusion about the overwhelming evidence that indicated Libyan responsibility for the crime. It may be that al-Megrahi was but one player in a much larger game, but in 2003 Muammar Qadaffi was persuaded in a joint Anglo-British operation, following the interdiction of the BBC China, a freighter packed with embargoed atomic research materiel, to abandon his chemical and nuclear weapons programme.
Since then, valuable oil exploration licenses have been granted to western companies and there is widespread suspicion that there is a strong link between commercial interests, diplomatic initiatives, and the bomber’s release. Indeed, the SIS officer responsible for having persuaded Qadaffi to rejoin the international community is now employed by BP.
In the intelligence business, this is called a clue.