Moussa Koussa, the former foreign minister of Libya who recently defected to the United Kingdom, may soon be answering questions about the tragic Lockerbie bombing of December 1988, according to Scottish prosecutors.
Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing more than 270 people, including victims on the ground. Libya was widely blamed for the atrocity – Koussa is believed to have been a senior member of the Libyan Bureau for External Security -- the Mathaba -- at that time.
It is regarded as the worst mass murder in UK history.
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing thus far.
Megrahi was later released, largely due to Koussa’s efforts.
(Megrahi was freed in August 2009, on compassionate grounds, because he reportedly was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and had less than three months to live. However, he is still alive.)
Representatives from Scotland's Crown Office and detectives from Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary met with officials of the British Foreign Office in London on Monday to discuss interviewing Koussa.
It was a very positive meeting and steps are being taken with a view to arranging a meeting with Mr. Moussa Koussa at the earliest opportunity in the next few days, the Crown Office said in a statement.
The British foreign secretary William Hague has said the government will encourage Koussa to cooperate with Scottish investigators. (Hague specified, however, that Koussa will not enjoy any immunity, despite his value as an intelligence official).
Moreover, Hague asserted that since Koussa is not under arrest he cannot be officially forced to testify about Libya’s sponsorship of terrorism.
Moussa Koussa is not being offered any immunity from British or international justice, Hague said.
He is not detained by us and has taken part in discussions with officials since his arrival, of his own free will. We will encourage Moussa Koussa to cooperate fully with all requests for interviews with law enforcement and investigation authorities, in relation both to Lockerbie, as well as other issues stemming from Libya's past sponsorship of terrorism, and to seek legal representation where appropriate.
Hague added there is insufficient evidence to produce further prosecutions, but that may change in future.
In the meantime, Koussa has been providing information to British officials about the inner workings of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime and the ongoing civil war in Libya.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who told BBC that the Lockerbie file is still open, said: Obviously everybody accepts that this tragedy that happened was not carried out by one man alone - there has been a live file and ongoing investigation. What this will lead to, I don't know, but I think everybody accepts that the Crown and police investigation in Scotland has been thorough, diligent and carried out fairly and appropriately. So I hope it will provide some greater leads. But that is a matter for the appropriate bodies and that's the prosecutors.
In addition, Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party's shadow home secretary, said that Koussa must also answer queries related to the killing in 1984 of police officer Yvonne Fletcher who was murdered during a protest outside the Libyan Embassy in London.
There has been some criticism in Britain about the government embracing a man like Koussa.
For example, Hague has said the European Union may consider lifting a travel ban and asset freeze against Koussa since he’s not part of Gaddafi’s regime anymore.
Sanctions are designed to change behavior and it is therefore right that they are adjusted when new circumstances arise, he said.
In response, Labour MP Barry Gardiner complained: This will mean that a man who has engaged in the most despicable acts, both abroad and in the exploitation of his own people, and who has built up those assets upon that basis would then be able to enjoy the fruits of them.
Hague defended the government’s benevolent treatment of Koussa.
When they cease to be a member of that regime, it follows that change in those restrictions should be discussed. Otherwise of course there would be no incentive whatsoever for members of the regime to abandon the regime, Hague said.