In public, senior Ministers from the last Labour Government and the Scottish First Minister have repeatedly insisted that terminally ill Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds in a decision taken by Scottish Ministers alone.
But the confidential papers show that Westminster buckled under pressure from Colonel Gaddafi, who threatened to ignite a ‘holy war’ if Megrahi died in his Scottish cell.
Friendship: Letters from Gordon Brown to Gaddafi sent in July 2007 (left) and September 2007 (right)
And despite repeated denials, the Labour Government worked frantically behind the scenes to appease Gaddafi’s ‘unpredictable nature’.
As recently as last month, a spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond was insisting: ‘The decision was taken on the basis of Scots law and was not influenced by economic, political or diplomatic factors.’ via dailymail.co.uk
Equally damaging, the documents also suggest that as well as sharing intelligence-gathering techniques, Britain gave Libya hundreds of suggested questions for Islamic militants detained in Libya in 2004.
This will inevitably cause widespread dismay because of the regime’s systematic use of torture during interrogation. Friends: Former Prime MinisterTony Blair greets Muammar Gaddafi at his desert base outside Tripoli in 2007
Education: A letter from Downing Street reveals how Tony Blair was ‘stimulated’ by Said Gaddafi’s PHD (left), while a second document reveals Tony Blair’s New Year wishes to Gaddafi and his family (right)
The revelations come in documents – some marked ‘UK secret: UK/Libya Eyes Only’ – found strewn on the floor of the British Ambassador’s abandoned residence in Tripoli.
Many of the papers demonstrate the warmth of the relationship between Britain and Libya and, in particular, the extraordinarily close links between the Blair Government and the Gaddafi regime.
The notes show how:
- Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi’s playboy son Saif with his ‘dodgy’ PhD thesis while he was Prime Minister.
- British Special Forces were offered to train the Khamis Brigade, Gaddafi’s most vicious military unit.
- MI6 was apparently willing to trace phone numbers for Libyan intelligence.
- Gordon Brown wrote warmly to Gaddafi in 2007 expressing the hope that the dictator would be able to meet Prince Andrew when he visited Tripoli.
- MI6’s budget (£150 million in 2002) was readily disclosed to Libyan officials, along with details of how Britain’s Downing Street emergency committee Cobra operates.
- Britain’s intelligence services forged close links with Gaddafi’s brutal security units.
Megrahi was released two years ago and transferred back to Libya, where he received a hero’s welcome from Gaddafi. Last week, it emerged he is still alive – although very ill – after he was tracked down to his home in Tripoli.
A series of documents marked ‘confidential’ and ‘restricted’ reveal that Gaddafi threatened Britain with ‘dire consequences’ if Megrahi died in Scotland.
Diplomats feared the harassment – ‘or worse’ – of British nationals; the cancellation of lucrative contracts with firms such as BP, Shell and BG; and the end of defence deals and counter-terrorism co-operation.
Devastating: The stash of documents were left in the British Ambassador’s residence
As a result, the British Government ignored the anger of both America and the families of victims of Britain’s biggest terrorist outrage to push for the fastest release through the signing of a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya.
Set against Britain’s role in the military intervention in Libya, and David Cameron’s description of Gaddafi last week as a ‘monster’, the revelations in the papers are bitterly ironic.
Yet during the concerted appeasement campaign, Britain was under no illusion about the nature of Gaddafi’s security forces or of what they were capable.
Another thick briefing paper points out that their primary objective was the protection of the Libyan leader, his family and their friends and to ‘defend the regime’s repressive politics inside and outside the country’.
Despite this, Simon McDonald, Gordon Brown’s foreign policy adviser, told the dictator’s son Saif in June 2008 how glad he was to hear of the first meeting between MI6’s head of station and the feared Libyan Internal Security Organisation.
‘I understand that this preliminary meeting focused on training,’ he wrote. ‘I look forward to hearing of progress.’
From the police to prisons, from the health service to the high court, the documents detail links and co-operation between the two countries at every level.
What appears to underpin them all is Tony Blair’s plan to bring Gaddafi in from the cold while winning rich contracts for British businesses.
Even the Department for International Development got in on the act, drawing up plans to work with Libya in Africa.
Among the most enthusiastic participants were the police, despite the shadow cast by the shooting in London of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984.
In November 2005 the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke met the Libyan security minister in London to agree a series of ‘security and co-operation talks’.
Six months later, at a meeting in Tripoli, Libyan officials asked for assistance on riot control, which they stressed was one of their ‘priorities’.
Despite the horrific reputation of Gaddafi’s jails, there was also collaboration with Libya’s prison services.
This included a trip to Libya by the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham, another in July 2009 by a team of British prison officials and the funding of visits to Libya by academics from King’s College, London, who were each paid £630 a day to run a two-week course in Tripoli.
Libya was notorious for corruption under the Gaddafi regime, with the dictator’s family dominating commerce and demanding a cut of most big deals.
Rivals who crossed them could have their businesses – or lives – destroyed.
But the Law Society spent 18 months working with Libyan officials to review laws on banking and the creation of a more ‘enabling’ business environment.
There were also exchange visits between British and Libyan health ministers and proposals for joint work from the Health Protection Agency.
Even former Labour leader Neil Kinnock became involved, holding discussions on education with Saif Gaddafi.
‘I am pleased that you had a successful meeting with Lord Kinnock,’ Tony Blair’s then foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, told the dictator’s son in an April 2007 letter.
The letter, updating Gaddafi on progress on several fronts, ran to four pages.
It concluded with the Prime Minister sending ‘his warm wishes to the Leader and to yourself’.
A separate cache of secret files found in Tripoli show that MI6 gave the Gaddafi regime information on Libyan dissidents living in the UK.
The documents, discovered in the Tripoli offices of former Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa, include a personal Christmas greeting signed by a senior spy as ‘your friend’.
They also reveal that MI6 and the CIA had a regular contact with their counterparts in Libya, in particular Mr Kusa, who became foreign minister and earlier this year defected to the UK.
British Special Forces have warned Libyan commanders hunting Colonel Gaddafi that he could be wearing a suicide vest – choosing to kill himself rather than be captured.
A senior security source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The intelligence suggests it will be packed with enough explosives to take out anyone around him.’
The incriminating documents were found in the wreckage of the British ambassador’s home in Tripoli, a three-storey house vandalised in April by Gaddafi loyalists.
There were several booklets filled with the faces of suspected terrorists, scores of personally signed letters sent from Downing Street and detailed intelligence data on the Gaddafi regime.
Incredibly, all this had lain amid the debris for four months, with no attempt made to secure the papers even in
the week after the rebels ousted the dictator from the city.
Mountains of shredded paper showed British diplomats tried to destroy many documents before fleeing.
One of the more intriguing proposals in the papers is the idea of founding a Centre for the Study of Meteors and Shooting Stars in the middle of the Saharan desert.
Hundreds of meteorites have been found in the Libyan desert, including rocks from the Moon and Mars.
BLAIR HELPED PLAYBOY SAIF WITH HIS DODGY PhD THESIS:
Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi’s playboy son Saif with his ‘dodgy’ philosophy PhD thesis while he was Prime Minister.
The extraordinary revelation, confirmed by a leaked letter sent by Mr Blair to the tyrant’s son, demonstrates just how close the links were between the Blair Government and the Gaddafi regime.
Saif, 39, has called Mr Blair ‘a close, personal friend’ of his family. Mr Blair also had a close personal relationship with dictator Muammar, exchanging friendly notes even after he left No 10.
Typical was one sent from Downing Street on December 28, 2006. ‘Eid Mubarak!’ it begins, acknowledging a Muslim festival. ‘At this sacred time of harmony and reconciliation, recalling how our passionate God has mercy on mankind, I would like to express my personal wishes to you, to your family and to the Libyan people.’
The documents show Mr Blair’s surprising level of involvement with Saif’s 2008 London School of Economics thesis. Mr Blair sent Saif a personally signed letter on No 10 paper, addressing him as ‘Engineer Saif’ and thanking him for sending the 429-page thesis for him to read.
The PM also offered three examples of co-operation between governments, people and business ‘that might help with your studies’, including Make Poverty History, which he said worked because ‘it bought together an unusual coalition of players from Bono to the Pope . with a simple but inspiring message of hope.’
Mr Blair then discusses how to prevent corruption in oil-rich nations – even though the Gaddafis were notorious for stealing billions – and his ‘personal interest and commitment’ to the topics Saif studied.
He signed off: ‘I wish you well for your PhD and send my warm good wishes.’ Saif – who donated £1.5 million to the LSE – is said to have plagiarised much of his thesis.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘Neither Tony Blair or Downing Street officials saw Saif Gaddafi’s thesis in advance. A letter was drafted by officials giving examples of good practice which was sent in the Prime Minister’s name. It was perfectly proper to do so.’
Incriminating: The documents reveal the close ties between Gordon Brown and Gaddafi (pictured toegether on the left in 2009), and how the Libyan leader warned of a holy war if Megrahi (right) was not released
WE HELPED TRAIN BRIGADE BEHIND REGIME’S WORST ATROCITIES
Who Dares Wins: The SAS spent six months training Libyan elite troops two years ago
Britain developed astonishingly close ties with the Libyan military following Tony Blair’s 2007 deal in the desert with Colonel Gaddafi, despite its history of brutal internal repression and bloody foreign adventurism.
Among the deals revealed this weekend are the use of UK Special Forces to train the feared Khamis Brigade, run by one of Gaddafi’s sons and thought to have been behind some of the worst atrocities in the recent conflict.
The SAS spent six months training Libyan elite troops two years ago as part of what was described by the Foreign Office as ‘ongoing co-operation in the field of defence’ between the two countries. A troop of four to 14 SAS men are understood to have trained the Libyans in counter-terrorism techniques, including covert surveillance.
The training was agreed under Tony Blair in 2004 but ‘signed off’ by Gordon Brown in 2009. British officials also proposed further military collaborations including:
- Training Libyan officers at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
- Dispatching a Royal Navy vessel to visit Tripoli.
- Paying for high-ranking Libyans to visit the European Union and Nato headquarters in Brussels.
- Sending 100 officers a year on English language courses.
- The sale of naval ships to Libya.
It is now clear that British support for Gaddafi’s military machine went considerably further than training – and that much of it was based on ideas proposed by the deposed Libyan regime.
In April 2007, a month before the desert accord was signed, Mr Blair’s foreign policy adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald told Saif Gaddafi that Britain was ready to develop a partnership with Libya ‘starting with some of the ideas you set out’.
Sir Nigel said he was ‘extremely pleased’ agreement had been reached on the sale of the Iskander missile system – although it was delayed by international pressure.
In February 2008, Gordon Brown wrote to the Libyan leader: ‘I am confident that our defence co-operation can grow, building on the accord signed in Sirte last May.’
Mr Brown hoped they could conclude negotiations on two arms deals: a £147 million anti-tank missile system and related £112 million communication system, plus an £85 million deal to supply radios.
In a letter to Saif in June 2008, Mr McDonald outlined the deal to train up to 90 members of the Khamis Brigade by Arturus, a UK-based private military security company. He added: ‘The MoD would then be willing to have serving personnel from UK SF [Special Forces] visit and provide quality assurance.’
Last night, Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army commander, said: ‘Today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies as these deals show.’