Cablegate: Media Reaction: Release of Pan Am 103 Bomber Megrahi
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0684 2321433
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 201433Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5182
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1131
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0803
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0572
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5726
C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000684
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, NEA/PPD, EUR/WE (NIMA ABBASZADEH), L/LEI (PETER GUTHERIE)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/20/2019
TAGS: PREL KMDR KPAO UK LY
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: RELEASE OF PAN AM 103 BOMBER MEGRAHI REF: A. Tripoli 662; B. Tripoli 660 CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, Charge d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: Libya's state-run media outlets are reporting that convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al Megrahi is expected to be released today, Thursday, August 20, from a Scottish prison on medical grounds. Libya's most widely distributed print publication, "Oya" features an article in which a cancer specialist who visited Megrahi called for his return to Libya. English newspaper "The Tripoli Post" features a human interest story on Megrahi's mother as a front page article. Local press have not reported on the official U.S. position against Megrahi's release and have not republished articles from Western media outlets that predict a negative U.S. reaction. Internet commentary from Libyan readers to international web press reports is generally supportive of Megrahi's release. Post has received no indication that the local response to Megrahi's release will be anti-American. End Summary.
2.(U) Local state-run media outlets, including "Libya Al Youm" and "Libya Watanona" are reporting on the impending release of Megrahi in a factual manner, without commentary or specification of the U.S. response to the Scottish decision. Print outlet "Oya" featured an article that quotes a cancer specialist as calling for Megrahi's release on medical grounds after having examining him.
3.(U) Libya's weekly-printed English language newspaper, "The Tripoli Post," features a front-page article profiling Megrahi's 95 year-old mother, entitled "Al Megrahi Calls Mother Who Says She Keeps Door Open, Expecting Him to Enter at Any Time." The article describes his mother, Hajja Fatma, as "frail but upbeat," and explains that her family thinks it best for her health not to tell her that Megrahi's condition is terminal. In the article she explains that she never locks her door in hopes that her son will return home after his ten year absence.
4.(U) Internet commentary from Libyan citizens in response to a UK press article on Megrahi's release primarily reflects support for the decision, although one reader called on Libya to take action to release prisoners of conscience. Several readers expressed religious praise for Megrahi's release, while others called the conviction of Megrahi "political" and a "conspiracy." One reader described his release as confirmation of his innocence.
5.(C) Comment: While "The Tripoli Post" article created a human interest story out of the experience of Megrahi's mother, other local media outlets continue to report factually on the matter and have neither reprinted nor commented on any international opinions about Megrahi's release. "The Tripoli Post" article will likely engender sympathy among readers for Megrahi's ill condition and that of his mother, although the Libyan web responses show that sympathy for Megrahi already exists among the local population. The characterization of Megrahi's conviction as "political" or conspiratorial corresponds to the dominant opinion on the Libyan street, as well as to the statements Qadhafi made to CODEL McCain on the issue (ref A). We have not seen any indications that the public response to Megrahi's return will be anti-American or anti-Western. We continue to monitor the situation. End Comment. POLASCHIK