The Scottish Justice Secretary urged the Lockerbie bomber to abandon his appeal against conviction in order to “make it easier” for him to be released on compassionate grounds, according to a new book. The Scottish government has denied the claims, with Downing Street branding the book “an insult.”
“Megrahi: You Are My Jury” was written by John Ashton, with the full cooperation of Megrahi and features exclusive interviews and revelations. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, claims he was “the innocent victim of dirty politics, a flawed investigation and judicial folly.”
The book which is made up of around 60 per cent of Megrahi’s own words, claims that MacAskill met with Libyan officials, including Abdulati al-Obedi 10 days before the announcement of the decision to drop the appeal. Megrahi claimed: “After the meeting, the Libyan delegation came to prison to visit me. Obedi said that towards the end of the meeting, MacAskill had asked to speak to him in private.
“Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal. He said he was not demanding that I do so, but the message seemed clear.
“I was legally entitled to continue the appeal, but I could not risk doing so. It meant abandoning my quest for justice.”
Today the allegations were denied by a spokesperson for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.
“The Justice Secretary has not had a meeting with any party to this issue in the absence of officials. So there has been no such meeting.”
Continuing, the spokesperson said the Scottish Government had “no conceivable’ interest in whether the appeal was perused and added that the basis of the story was inaccurate.
Downing Street also criticised the book describing it as “an insult”.
A spokesperson said: “This is yet another reminder that Alex Salmond’s government’s decision to free the UK’s greatest mass murderer was wrong. Writing a book three years after he was released is an insult to the families of the 270 people who were murdered.”
The book, “Megrahi: You Are My Jury” was launched in Edinburgh today with Ashton describing the comments from Scotland’s First Minister and The Prime Minister as “outrageous”.
“The Prime Minister knows nothing about this case. He should read the book, and if he read the book he would know this conviction was not safe. I think it is pretty outrageous that he would comment on something that he knows nothing about.”
Mr Ashton and Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the atrocity, called for a new appeal and a full inquiry following the book launch today.