Wednesday 13 December 2017

US to quiz former MI6 agent over bomber's release

Robert Winnett in Washington

A FORMER MI6 official who helped BP to win valuable oil contracts in Libya has been summoned to appear before a US senate committee investigating the company's role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Mark Allen, who became a special adviser to BP after leaving the intelligence services, will be asked about a series of communications he had with Jack Straw, the former justice secretary, over a prisoner transfer agreement between Britain and Libya.

Mr Allen, who also had private meetings with Colonel Gadaffi, both for BP and earlier for MI6, will appear before the Senate's foreign relations committee next week.

It is understood that Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, has also been asked to appear, just weeks after being called before a separate committee to be questioned on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

If BP refuses the request, it is likely to provoke more American anger towards the company. Senators announced earlier this month that they would hold a hearing to analyse BP's potential role in the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The oil company has admitted lobbying the British government to introduce a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya. However, the final decision to free al-Megrahi in August last year was taken by Scottish ministers on the basis that he had only three months left to live. He is still alive and the Scottish Executive is now under pressure to release confidential medical reports setting out the prognosis.

Sen John Kerry, the committee's chairman, has asked either Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, or Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, who made the final decision to release al-Megrahi, to attend the hearing.

In replying to a letter from Mr Salmond, explaining his decision, Mr Kerry said: "The extension of 'compassion' to (al-Megrahi) was gravely misplaced. Your description of the circumstances surrounding the release reinforced my determination to publicly air the facts."

Irish Independent

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