Might make one imagine that the Lockerbie bombing was a state sponsored act one might think from this.
By Nabila Ramdani
Last updated at 10:01 PM on 14th August 2010
Libya will mark the first anniversary of the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi by thanking God for Gordon Brown and Kenny MacAskill, the two men who let him go.
Colonel Gaddafi, the country’s dictator, has ordered prayers to mark Friday’s anniversary of the decision to free Al Megrahi from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
The Libyan leader is keen to avoid a repeat of the international condemnation sparked by the decision to give the convicted terrorist a hero’s welcome when he returned to Libya on August 20, 2009, allegedly with just three months to live.
The families of the 270 people who died in the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 were furious at what they saw as scenes of triumphalism at Tripoli airport, with large crowds cheering and shouting.
A spokesman for the Libyan leader said: ‘The celebrations this year will involve people giving thanks to God for Brother Al Megrahi’s release, and marking the event with their own quiet celebrations.’
He added: ‘People will pray for Al Megrahi and give thanks to those who helped free him, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.
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‘This is what the Brother Leader [Col Gaddafi] wants. He does not wish to cause offence in other parts of the world, especially in Britain and America.’
Despite this official nervousness, youths across the country will pay their own tribute by wearing the same kind of white baseball cap that Al Megrahi, 58, wore at the time of his release. Many will also have his image blazoned across T-shirts.
‘Brother Al Megrahi is massively popular across the country – a real hero,’ said near neighbour Hamid Najiz. ‘Young people love him, and many new babies have been named after him.’
The most significant gathering will be in the two-storey house that Al Megrahi shares with his wife and five children.
The Libyan dictator’s second son, Saif Gaddafi, will visit the property, paying for food and drinks for selected guests following a day’s fasting as required during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But even these low-key celebrations are likely to attract intense international criticism.
The continued survival of Al Megrahi, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, has led many to question the decision to free him.
Critics on both sides of the Atlantic claim that the release was approved as part of moves to secure a £450?million Anglo-Libyan oil deal that was engineered by the last Labour Government in 2007.
A year after this treaty was signed, Peter Mandelson, the then Business Secretary, met with Saif Gaddafi to discuss bilateral relations and Al Megrahi’s future. The prisoner-transfer treaty that paved the way for the bomber’s release was eventually signed in 2009.
In June, Saif Gaddafi claimed that Tony Blair had become an adviser to the state fund that now advises Libya on its oil wealth. However, a spokesman for the former Prime Minister denied that he had any paid or unpaid role with Colonel Gaddafi.
According to the terms of his release from Scotland, Al Megrahi is not allowed to leave his luxury family home, which is under 24-hour guard by the Libyan authorities.
As a sick man Al Megrahi is excused the need to stop eating and drinking during Ramadan, but his diet is nonetheless extremely meagre.
Despite recent claims that Al Megrahi was solely relying on natural remedies to ease the pain of his cancer, he has just begun a new course of chemotherapy.
Al Megrahi has always maintained his innocence over Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity.
A source in Tripoli said: ‘His number one aim is to prove he had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing, and this is the reason he is putting so much effort into regaining his health.’