Claims MacAskill urged Lockerbie bomber to drop appeal

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“Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal.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.

 

Also see:

Lockerbie Timeline

Podcast: new book sheds light on Lockerbie bombing

Lockerbie Bomber; damage or no damage

lockerbie-bomber-release-photo.preview

(Courtesy of Atlantic Council) The release

by Luke Rajczuk

The release of the Lockerbie Bomber Ali al-Megrahi from the 20th of August sparked a debate between experts and Edinburgh locals on whether the act damages relationship between the US and Scotland. Megrahi was released from the Scottish prison on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Recent appearances of the new American Ambassador Louis Susman show that the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds had strained US relations with Scotland, but likened it to a “little fight” between a married couple.

“We never anticipated his release,” he said. “I think if we ever thought we had a release, we probably would have asked for extradition early on.”

The US were trying to extradite the Bomber before the release without a positive result and that has made Edinburgh leading professors express their opinions on the matter.

Professor John Peterson from The Edinburgh University, Politics and International Affairs Department said: “I think that it was a very difficult decision for the Scottish government to make and for Kenny Macaskill to make. You will know that he was pressured by a group of senators. One of the last things Ted Kenndy did before he died was to sign a letter protesting against his imminent release. It’s worth remembering that more Americans died on that plane than British people.

I don’t think there will be any real long-term effect on relations between the United States and Scotland. I don’t even think it will have any effect on tourist traffic from the United States because when you think about it, it’s kind a fortunate timing. It happened at a time before anyone is thinking about where they’re going next summer or has made plans to come to Scotland next summer. I think all this talk about ‘this is going to have a permanent damage on Scottish American relations is way overblown.”

Although both sides the Americans and the Scots seem to have different opinions on the release the overall result is that there is no permanent damage to the relationship between the US and Scotland.  It is as Luis Susman said: “there might be fights in marriages but it doesn’t mean there’s going to be a divorce“.


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