LONDON (Reuters) - The investigation into the 1988 bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland is closed and Tripoli will not release more evidence that could lead to others being charged, Libya’s interim leaders said on Monday.
The British Foreign Office, however, said the investigation into the bombing “remains open.”
Scottish prosecutors had asked Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to give them access to papers or witnesses that could implicate more suspects, possibly including deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya’s interim justice minister Mohammed al-Alagi turned them down, telling reporters: “The case is closed.”
But the Foreign Office in London said it had talked with the NTC late on Monday and it had promised continued cooperation.
“NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil has already assured the prime minister that the Libyan authorities will cooperate with the UK in this and other ongoing investigations,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
“Having spoken with the NTC this evening, we understand that this remains the case. The police investigation into the Lockerbie bombing remains open and the police should follow the evidence wherever it leads them.”
Former Libyan agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing in 2001 and sent to a Scottish prison to serve a life sentence. The Scottish government released him and sent him back to Libya on compassionate grounds in 2009 because he had cancer and was thought to have only months to live.
His release and return to a hero’s welcome in Libya angered many in Britain and the United States, home to most of the victims.
Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was among those killed in the attack, told Reuters in an emailed statement: ”Suggesting that the Lockerbie case is closed is ludicrous.
“I am not surprised that the new interim government might want to avoid getting involved, but this is a miserable attempt to avoid a perfectly reasonable request for any information or evidence that there might be in Libya. Perhaps there is nothing.”
No one at Scotland’s public prosecution service was available to comment on the Libyan minister’s statement. A spokesman earlier said Scotland had asked the NTC to supply “any documentary evidence and witnesses which could assist in the ongoing inquiries.”
“Lockerbie remains an open enquiry concerning the involvement of others with Mr Megrahi in the murder of 270 people,” the spokeswoman said before the Libyan statement.
Scottish prosecutors also noted that Megrahi’s trial court had accepted he had not acted alone.
Police at the time said they had submitted a list of eight other suspects whom they wanted to interview but that Gaddafi had refused to allow them to be questioned.
In March, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Libya’s former justice minister and now its interim leader, said he had evidence of Gaddafi’s involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Megrahi’s co-accused at the specially convened Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands in 2000 was Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah who was cleared of mass murder.
He told Sweden’s Expressen newspaper last month that Gaddafi should be tried in court over widespread suspicions he ordered the bombing.
“There is a court and he is the one to explain whether he is innocent or not,” Fhimah said. “He has to.”
Reporting by William Maclean in Tripoli and Peter Griffiths, Stephen Addison and Michael Holden in London; Writing by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Robert Wooward