PM ‘repulsed’ by Megrahi celebrations

By Alex Stevenson

Gordon Brown has evaded revealing his view on whether Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi should have been freed by the Scottish government.

The prime minister was confronted with the issue at a joint press conference with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after studiously avoiding commenting over the weekend.

He focused his comments on the scenes of celebration which greeted the terminally ill Libyan on his arrival in Tripoli.

“My first thoughts have been with the families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing,” he said.

“I was both angry and repulsed by the reception that a convicted bomber, guilty of a huge terrorist crime, received on his return to Libya.”

London’s anger at the way its wish for a low-key arrival had been ignored by Tripoli is nothing new – foreign secretary David Miliband called Megrahi’s arrival “deeply disturbing” last Friday.

The prime minister has been criticised for not making clear whether he believes Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill made the right call in deciding to free Megrahi on compassionate grounds. The Libyan has around three months to live.

Brushing aside these concerns by referring to the Scottish decision as “quasi-judicial”, Mr Brown was keen to focus on Britain’s determination to tackle terrorism and that this remained undimmed despite Megrahi’s release.

“Our determination to fight terrorism is clear,” he added.

“It is shown in all the action we have taken since September 11th, it is shown in the support we have given in Iraq and Afghanistan. and it is shown in every action we are taking to protect the British people and people beyond Britain from the threat of terrorism.”

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague was unimpressed by the prime minister’s comments.

He still hasn’t said whether or not he was happy with the decision, of huge public concern in this country [and] of immense international importance,” he told the BBC.

“And so I think it’s part of a continuing failure of leadership. He’s unable to say whether he would defend the decision or whether he would say he is happy with it.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey described the prime minister’s comments as a “masterclass in evasion”.

“When a decision is made by another politician, and has such grave international consequences, the prime minister’s refusal to say whether or not he supports it almost amounts to negligence.

“It is hard to see why he can’t tell us what he thinks of the decision to release a man who has been convicted of the worst terrorist attack in British history.

“As long as Gordon Brown remains silent on this issue, people will suspect he has something to hide.”