Libya PM acknowledges govt's role in Lockerbie suspect's transfer

Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah announces election bid in Tripoli
Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah gestures as he arrives to submit his candidacy papers for the upcoming presidential election at the headquarters of the electoral commission in Tripoli, Libya November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo

TRIPOLI, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Libya's Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah indirectly acknowledged on Thursday that his administration had been involved in the transfer of a Lockerbie bombing suspect to the United States last week.

Dbeibah and his Government of National Unity (GNU) had not yet commented on the detention of Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi or his transfer to the United States, which has prompted anger in Libya.

"An arrest warrant was issued against him from Interpol. It has become imperative for us to cooperate in this file for the sake of Libya's interest and stability," Dbeibah said in a televised speech.

Mas'ud is suspected of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, killing 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground.

He was not formally charged by the United States until 2020, when it uncovered fresh evidence revealing he had apparently confessed his crimes to a Libyan law enforcement official.

Mas'ud, who had been imprisoned in Tripoli after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against autocratic ruler Muammar Gaddafi, was seized from his home by an armed unit linked to Dbeibah last month, his family have said.

On Sunday the United States said he was in U.S. custody.

Libya, where control over government is disputed, has no extradition treaty with the United States and the Attorney General has opened an investigation into the circumstances of Mas'ud's detention and transfer.

Some critics of Dbeibah accuse him of illegally detaining Mas'ud and handing him over to the United States to curry its support in his standoff with rival factions over control of government.

Dbeibah said the government would provide Mas'ud a lawyer "regardless of his involvement in terrorism".

Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom; Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean

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