Bloomberg News

Libya Invites U.K. Police to Probe Lockerbie, Fletcher Killing

December 10, 2011

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Libya agreed to invite British police officers to Tripoli to investigate the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and the killing of London police officer Yvonne Fletcher in 1984, said a U.K. Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt.

Burt, the minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said in an interview yesterday that Interior Minister Fawzy Abdul Aal told him Libya agreed “to the early return of the Dumfries and Galloway police in relation to Lockerbie,” referring to the local force supervising the investigation of the attack on a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town.

Officials in the government that replaced the regime of the late Muammar Qaddafi had stalled over U.K. requests to send officers to continue the Lockerbie inquiry, over which doubts lingered about the conviction of Libyan Abdel Basset al-Megrahi for the killing of 270 passengers and townspeople. Abdul Aal said last month that Libya’s new government may conduct its own investigation into “the truth” about the bombing if any previously unseen documents on the case are found.

No one has been convicted for the fatal attack on Fletcher, who was among those fired on from the Libyan Embassy during an anti-Qaddafi protest. Invitations to travel to Libya and interview diplomats stationed at the embassy during the shooting will also be extended to officers from London’s Metropolitan Police, said Burt. A Libyan who was among three potential suspects in the case was found dead in August after Qaddafi’s fall, the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph reported.

Preparing for Elections

Abdul Aal was sworn in as part of the 24-strong Libyan cabinet, picked by the ruling National Transitional Council, on Dec. 4. The cabinet is tasked with centralizing political and military authority in the country as it prepares for elections, due to be held in June. Clashes in Tripoli this week between militias highlight the difficulties it is facing.

“This is a new government, I think they have a lot on their plate,” Burt said. “People are realistic. They know this will take time. But the omens are good.”

Fletcher’s killing and the failure of Libya to cooperate in the investigation led to Libyan diplomats being expelled by the U.K. government.

No date has been given for when the invitations to police will be issued, though the British government expects this to happen soon, according to Burt.

“We are very keen that the Metropolitan Police should return to continue their investigation,” Burt said. “They will be allowed to return, I have no doubt about this.”

Scottish investigators want to interview al-Megrahi, who was jailed for life by a Scottish court in 2001. A co-defendant, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was found not guilty.

Al-Megrahi was returned to Libya on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government in August 2009 after doctors determined he was dying of prostate cancer. He returned home to Libya that month to a hero’s welcome from Qaddafi and is living in Tripoli.

Burt said the invitations to Libya are seen by Libyan officials as a confidence-building measure to increase trust with the international community.

--With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Heather Langan, Digby Lidstone

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Stephen in Tripoli at cstephen9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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