Libyan wel­come ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’

Cheers greet bomber’s home­com­ing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Bri­tish politi­cians yes­ter­day con­demned cel­e­bra­tions in Tripoli on the re­turn of the Locker­bie bomber, scram­bling to de­flect any in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal fall­out from a de­ci­sion to free him on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds.

“The sight of a mass mur­derer get­ting a hero’s wel­come in Tripoli is deeply up­set­ting, deeply dis­tress­ing, above all for the 270 fam­i­lies who grieve ev­ery day for the loss of their loved ones 21 years ago,” Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary David Miliband told BBC Ra­dio.

“How the Libyan gov­ern­ment han­dles it­self in the next few days will be very sig­nif­i­cant in the way the world views Libya’s re-en­try into the civilised com­mu­nity of na­tions,” he added.

For­mer Libyan agent Ab­del Bas­set al-Me­grahi was serv­ing a life sen­tence as the only per­son con­victed of bomb­ing flight Pan Am 103 over the Scot­tish town of Locker­bie. The bomb­ing killed 270 peo­ple, many of them Amer­i­can.

Wash­ing­ton de­scribed the release as a mis­take.

Frank Dug­gan, pres­i­dent of Vic­tims of Pan Am 103, a group rep­re­sent­ing fam­i­lies of US vic­tims, said he un­der­stood that Libya had promised that Me­grahi would not “go back to a hero’s wel­come”.

More than 1 000 young Libyans gath­ered at an air­port in Tripoli to wel­come Me­grahi, and cheered and waved na­tional flags as his car sped away. Large pub­lic gath­er­ings are rare in Libya.

State me­dia had made no men­tion of Me­grahi’s pos­si­ble re­turn, but a news­pa­per close to leader Muam­mar Gaddafi’s re­formist son, Saif al-Is­lam, was fol­low­ing his progress.

Is­lam, who ac­com­pa­nied Me­grahi back to Libya, had promised last year to work for Me­grahi’s release.

The crowd that greeted them at Tripoli’s Mit­iga air­port, a for­mer US air base, were mostly mem­bers of Libya’s Na­tional Youth As­so­ci­a­tion, which is close to Is­lam.

Some had spec­u­lated that Me­grahi would ad­dress thou­sands at a night-time rally in Tripoli’s land­mark Green Square to mark Libyan Youth Day, but he made no pub­lic ap­pear­ance af­ter leav­ing the air­port.

Alex Sal­mond, head of the de­volved Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, con­demned the cel­e­bra­tions.

“I don’t think the re­cep­tion for Mr al-Me­grahi was ap­pro­pri­ate in Libya,” he said.

Miliband dis­missed claims that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment had wanted Me­grahi to be freed to bol­ster diplo­matic and com­mer­cial ties with Libya, and was con­tent to let the Scot­tish au­thor­i­ties take the blame for an un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sion. Scot­land has its own le­gal sys­tem. Its gov­ern­ment has broad au­ton­omy on jus­tice is­sues.

Bri­tish oil com­pany BP ended a 30-year ab­sence from Libya in 2007. Royal Dutch Shell also wants to tap Libya’s re­serves, the big­gest in Africa. – Reuters

HERO’S RE­TURN: Ab­del Bas­set al-Me­grahi is hugged by Saif al-Is­lam el-Gaddafi, son of Muam­mar Gaddafi.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.