LIBYA will invite Scottish police officers to Tripoli to interview the former Libyan agent convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, according to Britain’s foreign minister Alastair Burt.
The move, which could see Dumfries and Galloway police travel to Libya shortly to speak with Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, was welcomed by Scotland’s most senior law officer the Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland QC.
Although Megrahi was convicted of the murder of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded, it has always been accepted that he did not act alone.
Yesterday Mr Burt, minister for Middle East and North Africa, who is visiting Tripoli, said Libyan ministers would agree with him that there should be an “early return of the Dumfries and Galloway police in relation to Lockerbie”.
The breakthrough came in talks yesterday with Libya’s new interior minister, Fawzi Abdul Aal, who was sworn in as part of the new government on Sunday.
According to Mr Burt, Abdul Aal also agreed that a separate team from London’s Metropolitan Police could travel to Libya to investigate the killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher, gunned down in front of the Libyan embassy in April 1984.
“We are very keen that the Metropolitan Police should return to continue their investigation,” said Mr Burt. “They will be allowed to return. I have no doubt about this. The [Libyan] government is aware of how important it is.”
Libya has given no date for the invitations, but Britain expects it to be soon. Asked why the date was not yet set, Mr Burt said: “I don’t know. This is a new government, I think they have a lot on their plate. [British police] will be allowed to return, I have no doubt about this.”
Since his release by the Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill on compassionate grounds, Megrahi has been living in Tripoli.
But Libya’s new authorities have been under pressure from London to allow him to be re-interviewed about the case.
Yesterday Megrahi’s brother Nasser said the former Libyan agent, who is suffering from prostate cancer, was too sick to be interviewed by British investigators.
So far Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, formed in March to lead the revolution that toppled Muammar al-Gaddafi, has dragged its feet on giving Scottish officers access.
But the new cabinet is keen to build trust with the West as it seeks to unfreeze more than £100 billion in assets held by international banks.
Frank Duggan, the Washington-based lawyer representing US victims of the bomb, said: “I am pleased to hear it. The US families want to make sure that this case is still alive. I suppose it is impressive that after 23 years it is still alive.”
Mr Mulholland said: “If reports are correct I am pleased that the Transitional Government of Libya has agreed to allow officers from Dumfries and Galloway police to travel to Libya for inquiries.
“This is a live inquiry and Scottish police and prosecutors will continue to pursue the evidence to bring the others involved to justice.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our police and prosecution authorities stand ready to investigate and follow any new lines of inquiry which may be emerging in Libya.”