DCSIMG

IRA victims could sue Tony Blair over alleged Libyan Semtex deal

Firemen help clear the scene of devastation after the 1987 IRA poppy day explosion in Enniskillen.

Firemen help clear the scene of devastation after the 1987 IRA poppy day explosion in Enniskillen.

Tony Blair could be sued by IRA victims over allegations he helped Colonel Gaddafi avoid paying compensation for Libyan-backed atrocities.

Lawyers acting for around 200 people claim the former prime minister and government officials “connived” with the Libyan leader to block payments which would have compensated UK victims for Semtex-inflicted injuries.

During the Troubles, Col Gaddafi supplied a significant amount of weapons and Semtex explosive to the IRA.

The dictator, who was deposed and killed by anti-government rebels in 2011, settled a $1.5 billion claim with US victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism, but the new regime in the north African state has so far failed to give any compensation to victims from the UK. The lawyers have claimed Mr Blair assisted Gaddafi in killing off the UK victims’ class action for damages in a “scandalous and perverse” move.

In an email obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, former UK ambassador to Libya Sir Vincent Fean appears to suggest a deal between Blair and Gaddafi that secured the US payouts, while ending hopes of a resolution in the UK.

The email suggests the former PM helped to broker an agreement between Col Gaddafi and the then US President George W Bush.

The lawyers are also demanding to know whether Sir Vincent “misled” MPs and peers over government involvement in the case.

Jason McCue of McCue & Partners, which is representing around 200 British victims of IRA Semtex attacks, said the disclosure could form the basis for legal action in the UK.

“It’s bad enough being a victim of Semtex bombs supplied by Libya for the Provisional IRA campaign. [But] it’s sheer horror then to be informed that the British government and Tony Blair may have connived with Gaddafi to ensure the few brave British victims that justly sued and stood up to the dictator received no compensation from the Libyans,” he said.

The email in question was written by Sir Vincent to Mr Blair’s aides in June 2008 – two days before a meeting between the former prime minister and Col Gaddafi in Libya.

The note described how Mr Blair had approached President Bush on Gaddafi’s behalf following an American court ruling that the proceeds of Libyan business deals could be seized to compensate victims of a Libyan terrorist attack.

Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush ... to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.”

However, a spokeswoman for Mr Blair said there was no evidence to suggest the former prime minister had intervened in the compensation case.

“This persistent attempt, backed by no evidence whatever, to suggest that Tony Blair ‘interfered’ with the terms of compensation is malicious and wrong,” she said.

“He has never had anything to do with it and he has never discussed any such terms with President Bush.

“The email you reference merely expresses government policy of the time which was to re-engage with the Libyans after they gave up their WMD programme and chose to cooperate rather than sponsor terrorism.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The government believes compensation claims are best pursued directly with the Libyan government through private campaigns.

“The claim that government officials took any deliberate action that denied other UK victims compensation in the 2008 settlement is wrong.”

Enniskillen poppy day bomb survivor Stephen Gault has called the failure of the UK government to secure compensation from Libya a “betrayal”.

Mr Gault, whose father Samuel was one of 12 people who died as a result of the 1987 atrocity, described it as one of the “world’s worst Libyan-sponsored Semtex IRA atrocities”.

He said: “Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism are quite appalled at the treatment which they are receiving by their own government. Dozens of people were murdered here and hundreds of others injured, physically and psychologically, as a consequence of the apparatus of terrorism being provided by the Libyan regime.

“It is an absolute betrayal of my father’s memory, and the memory of hundreds of others, that the UK government is not prepared to act as our defenders in our quest to secure compensation.”

 

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