UK is 'transit lounge for war criminals'
THE UK government has been accused of betraying Scottish prosecutors and allowing Britain to be used as "a transit lounge for alleged war criminals", after it revealed that Libyan defector Moussa Koussa has left the country for Qatar.
The Foreign Office confirmed that Col Muammar al-Gaddafi's former right-hand man was travelling to the Gulf state ahead of international talks there today.
A spokeswoman said that Mr Koussa – a former intelligence chief who has been linked to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing – was "free to come and go" from the UK as he wished.
But his departure prompted an angry reaction from families of Lockerbie victims, with one saying the British government had "lost all credibility" and another claiming ministers were being "played" by Mr Koussa.
Meanwhile, the decision to grant him free passage from the UK led to claims that questioning by the Crown Office and Scottish police had failed to establish any "evidential link" between Mr Koussa and the Lockerbie bombing. Officers from Dumfries and Galloway Police were allowed to question him last week as a "potential witness" in the outrage, in which 270 people died.
First Minister Alex Salmond said that, while the Scottish prosecuting authorities had no control over Mr Koussa's movements, he was confident that they would have access to him again if necessary.
"He has not been under Scottish jurisdiction and, therefore, the Crown Office has no power over his movements," Mr Salmond said. "However, we have every reason to believe the Scottish authorities will be able to interview him again if required."
More on Libya
• Ruth Sherlock: Death stalks the streets in the living hell of Misrata
• 'I was attacked by 15 men for two days' reveals rape victim
• The natural choice for Mideast talks
• William Hague seeks wider Nato support
• Contact group to discuss Libya's future after the fighting
• Sick trapped in Misrata dying despite medical aid shipments
• Qatar confirms rebel oil deals
During his trip to Qatar, Mr Koussa will meet rebel Libyans and countries involved in the contact group of nations looking at how to rebuild his homeland.
Earlier, in a prepared statement, Mr Koussa had appealed to all parties to avoid plunging Libya into civil war.
"This would lead to so much blood and Libya will be a new Somalia," he claimed.
The Foreign Office said Mr Koussa would be offering his "insights" on the current situation in Libya to representatives of the Qatari government and others attending the contact group talks in Doha.
However, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, whose family fled Libya when Col Gaddafi took power, said the government was repeating the mistakes made over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
"Many people will be very anxious that Britain is being used as a transit lounge for alleged war criminals," Mr Halfon said.
"We should learn from the release of Megrahi that we should not release those people associated with Gaddafi, or let them out of the UK until they have faced the full course of the law, whether in British courts or international courts."
Brian Flynn, whose brother died at Lockerbie and who now organises the Victims of PanAm 103 Incorporated group in the United States, said the British government was being "played" by Mr Koussa.
"He is not the suave diplomat in the suit sitting on the sidelines; he is one of the key guys who masterminded (the bombing of] PanAm flight 103," he said.
"He is a stated enemy of the British Government. The Scottish and American prosecutors are being betrayed by the politicians and the diplomats."
Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora in the Lockerbie bombing, said she was "concerned" about the actions of the UK government and called for the US to intervene.
Speaking from her home in New Jersey, she said: "I was hoping that the CIA would be able to speak with Moussa Koussa.
"After what happened with the release of Megrahi, I no longer trust the British – the English or the Scots – on this.
"I want the US involved in this. After they let Megrahi out, why should we trust the Scots or the English to handle this?
"To me, Moussa Koussa is nowhere near as important as Gaddafi, but he is helpful to us in terms of information he has on Lockerbie. That is very, very important.
"My concerns are how long he is going for, and whether he will come back. I am mostly worried about how much access the Americans will have to him and how much he will share with us, and when this information about Lockerbie will become public.
"How can we trust the British any more? I think they have lost all credibility."
Mr Koussa has been held at a safe house since he fled to Britain late last month, but MI6 agents stopped questioning him last week, according to Foreign Office sources.
Noman Benotman, a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and relative of Mr Koussa, claimed he believed he had "cleared most of the legal hurdles in the UK" surrounding his alleged involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and arming the IRA.
Meanwhile, the former Linlithgow Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who has always maintained that Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing, argued that Mr Koussa's departure proved there was no evidence to keep him in the UK.
"The clear conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no evidential link between Mr Koussa and Lockerbie," he said.
A Scottish Crown Office spokeswoman said: "Officers of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary … met Mr Moussa Koussa on 7 April in relation to the ongoing investigation into the Lockerbie bombing.
"As the investigation remains live, and to preserve the integrity of that investigation, it would not be appropriate at this time to offer any further comment."
Mr Dalyell has said that when he met Mr Koussa in 2001 in Libya, the former foreign minister implied that the crime was committed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command.
At the time of the atrocity, Mr Koussa was a senior operative in the intelligence service. He took over as head of the intelligence service in 1994.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who, as Tory Scottish secretary in 1988, visited Lockerbie shortly after Flight 103 was blown up, suggested the government was treading a fine line and wanted to encourage others to defect.
He admitted people would be "very upset" by Mr Koussa's departure, but insisted it "ought to be welcomed, not deplored".
He said it would "reassure other guys considering defecting that they won't be immediately sent to the Hague".
There were suggestions last night that Mr Koussa would be returning to the UK for further questioning, although the Foreign Office said it would be of his own free will.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West