Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been accused of sealing a "blood money" deal with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that led to the release of a Lockerbie bomber — just hours before BP (British Petroleum) unveiled a $900 million oil contract with Libya.
Blair as prime minister laid the groundwork for the freeing of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi during a meeting with Gaddafi in Libya two years ago, Britain's Daily Mail reported.
"The pair thrashed out a controversial prisoner transfer deal just before BP Chairman Peter Sutherland announced the firm was investing $900 million to search for oil in Libya," according to the newspaper.
Megrahi was convicted of killing 270 people when a transatlantic airliner crashed near Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, after a bomb exploded on board. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was released by Scottish authorities on Thursday and returned to Libya.
Megrahi, 57, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, and his release was officially granted on "compassionate grounds."
But "critics are suspicious that Mr. Blair's deal was part of an attempt to develop closer relations with the former pariah state to protect Britain's oil interests," the Daily Mail observed.
A spokesman for the UK's Foreign Office said: "No deal has been made between the UK government and the Libyan government in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country."
But Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi admitted that the Megrahi issue had been raised repeatedly by Blair, the BBC reported.
"In all commercial contracts for oil and gas with Britain, [Megrahi] was always on the negotiating table," he stated in an interview.
Susan Cohen, whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie bombing, told the Mail: "Tony Blair has behaved absolutely appallingly. Some people would describe it as blood money.
"He put compassion for the oil industry ahead of any compassion for my daughter, for the families of all those people killed by a convicted mass murderer and terrorist."
In releasing Megrahi, Scottish authorities ignored an entreaty from President Barack Obama to have the convicted murderer "serve out his term" in Scotland, and a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Megrahi's release would be "absolutely wrong."
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