CONTRARY to reports in the Western press, there was no “hero’s welcome” for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi when he returned to Libya earlier this month.
There was not in fact any official reception for the return of Mr. Megrahi, who had been convicted and imprisoned in Scotland for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The strong reactions to these misperceptions must not be allowed to impair the improvements in a mutually beneficial relationship between Libya and the West.
When I arrived at the airport with Mr. Megrahi, there was not a single government official present. State and foreign news media were also barred from the event. If you were watching Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, at the time the plane landed, you would have heard its correspondent complain that he was not allowed by Libyan authorities to go to the airport to cover Mr. Megrahi’s arrival.
Shortly after the controversial homecoming of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was greeted by cheering crowds as he emerged from his airplane in Libya, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by Saif Al-Islam El-Qaddafi arguing that, as the piece’s headline puts it, there was “No ‘Hero’s Welcome’ in Libya.”
The Op-Ed was penned in the wake of outrage by Western governments over the warm reception given to the man who was involved in bombing of an airplane that killed nearly 300 people.
Qaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, opens his piece with this premise: “Contrary to reports in the Western press, there was no ‘hero’s welcome’ for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi when he returned to Libya earlier this month.”
Qaddafi is of course entitled to his opinion of what constitutes a “hero’s welcome.” But he should not be entitled to back this opinion with factually incorrect information, as he does in the Op-Ed’s second sentence: “There was not in fact any official reception for the return of Mr. Megrahi,” he claimed.
Not only was there an official reception, but the occasion — a visit with no less an official than Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi — was broadcast on Libyan state television, as seen in the footage below.
The writer, of course, had to ignore this meeting in order to maintain the illusion that there was no “official reception” for Mr. Megrahi when he returned to Libya. And while concealing this from readers, he deftly (mis)directs their attention with the following assertion: “When I arrived at the airport with Mr. Megrahi, there was not a single government official present. State and foreign news media were also barred from the event.” This description of the moment of Megrahi’s arrival may be true. But as the footage from the following day makes clear, Qaddafi’s broader assertion that “there was not … any official reception for the return of Mr. Megrahi” clearly is not.
Although CAMERA has brought the video to the attention of the New York Times, the newspaper has indicated it would not be correcting the misinformation.