years ago, Nelson Mandela travelled to Glasgow to
visit Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in Barlinnie prison.
Megrahi, a Libyan, is serving 27 years for the 1988
Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 innocent people died.
from Barlinne, Mandela told journalists that he had
been "impressed" by Megrahi but "unimpressed"
by the conditions in which he was being held. He hoped
Megrahi would be allowed to appeal to the European
Court. Pressed to explain his interest, Mandela refused.
reason for the reluctance to comment directly was,
presumably, that it would have been inappropriate
for the former president of a foreign country publicly
to question a Scottish court verdict. But why had
Mandela taken the time out to travel and visit Megrahi?
And why express the view that he did about his prison
conditions and prospects of an appeal?
was clearly implying that he believed Megrahi to be
Swire believes this, too. His daughter, Flora, died
in the atrocity. He was one of the leaders of the
campaign which led to Megrahi's trial before three
Scottish judges in the Netherlands four years ago.
Earlier this month, he met Megrahi's wife, Aisha,
41. She now lives in Glasgow so as to be near enough
to her husband for their four children to visit.
Swire: "I told her I fear I may have played an
important part in a miscarriage of justice. I told
her I hoped there would be a new appeal and of my
guilt over what has happened to her husband, who I
believe is innocent".
are useful things to keep in mind as we consider coverage
of Tony Blair's Libyan visit.
leader Michael Howard, backed by much of the media,
complains that the wounds of Lockerbie remain raw,
that the time is not yet to normalise relations. New
Labour and another media faction would have it that
the visit is apt "reward" for Libya having
paid compensation to the Lockerbie victims. This is
an ersatz argument.
Premier Shukri Ghanem blurted out the truth on Radio
Four, that the compensation was not an acknowledgement
of blame for the bombing but the price which had to
be paid for restoration of economic ties.
for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Libya doesn't have
any. What's being dismantled is a potential capacity
to produce WMD. Israel, on the other hand, is armed
to the teeth with WMD. As, of course, is Tony Blair's
is a country which has suffered from international
terrorism for generations. It lost more people per
head in the struggle against fascism in the 20th century
than any other country in the world. Libyans were
rounded up in droves by Italian troops and hanged
in public from scaffolds 50 yards long which could
handle 20 executions at a time. The cruelty was such
that the German consul in Benghazi protested to Hitler,
urging intervention with Mussolini.
fair number of readers will have heard of Tobruk,
taken by the British from the Italians in January
1941, by the Germans from the British in June 1942,
by the British back from the Germans in November '42.
It's a small Libyan port, about the size of Newry.
There was scarcely a stone left upon a stone when
the European armies had done with it.
people know these things, because many don't want
wouldn't like to be a Libyan on the wrong side of
Gadafy. But the Libyans I know I like very much. They
are are friendly and forgiving to an extent which
seems almost irrational to the Western mind. The fact
that they allowed Blair into their country proves
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