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Proper processes followed on Megrahi release, MacAskill tells MPs

13 January 2010

The Scottish Government followed the rules and guidance and came to the right decision for the right reasons when releasing convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told a committee of MPs yesterday.

He and First Minister Alex Salmond were giving evidence to Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee over the circumstances leading up to the decision last August, which caused a storm of controversy. Mr Megrahi was then believed by medical advisers to have less than three months to live, but has not yet succumbed to the terminal prostate cancer on which his release was founded.

Mr Salmond rejected claims that he failed to work closely enough with Westminster over the release. He said it had not been possible to involve the UK Government too closely in the decision, which was an issue devolved to Scotland, but his administration "had never been in any doubt" that the UK Government did not want Mr Megrahi to die in a Scottish prison rather than his native Libya.

He also criticised the prisoner transfer agreement reached between the UK and Libya in 2007 because it raised Libya's expectation that Mr Megrahi would be included. It was a mistake, he said, because it cut across the due process of Scots law under which legal processes had to be completed first, and because it "cut across" what he believed to be prior agreements with the US Government and with relatives.

Mr MacAskill told the MPs that he had no regrets about his decision, and defended his visit to Mr Megrahi in prison, saying he was legally bound to make the visit to seek Mr Megrahi's views, as the application under the transfer agreement had been made by the Libyan Government and not by Mr Megrahi.

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