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Monday, February 07, 2011

Labour and the freeing of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi

This morning's Daily Telegraph reports that David cameron is poised to release a dossier of previously secret documents today that will show that the former Labour Government was “complicit” in Libya’s efforts to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is the only man to be convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. He was freed from jail on compassionate grounds in August 2009 following claims that his prostate cancer meant he had no more than three months to live. He is still alive more than 17 months later.

At the time I wrote: 'I believe that the decision was the wrong one. Quite apart from the fact that I have been suspicious of prisoners who are released due to serious illness since Ernest Saunders staged the first ever recovery from Alzheimer's disease I very much regret that it has led to the withdrawal of the appeal against al-Megrahi's conviction because I believe that this was the only opportunity for victims and their families to get the whole truth about what actually happened that night. I also believe that there is a good chance that al-Megrahi may be innocent but if that is the case then this sort of decision is not the way to proceed. His innocence needs to be proved through proper process. Now he will die as the Lockerbie bomber and many questions will remain unanswered.

If al-Megrahi is guilty then he deserves to die in prison for his crimes. Compassion is an important feature in any judicial system but there are times when it can be exercised in such a way as to frustrate justice and in my view this was such a time. That has been underlined by the speculation of secret deals that just makes the decision look shabby. If there were deals and pressure from the UK Government then we need some transparency and accountability. If there were not then there needs to be a review of the protocols that govern the relationship between the Scottish and Westminster Governments. This may have been a devolved decision but it clearly has foreign policy implications and we need to be assured that these were taken into account as well.

The decision by the SNP Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill was widely condemned by Labour politicians in Scotland but now it seems that their own Government may have helped the process along:

It is understood the release will show Labour ministers were "complicit" in efforts to free the bomber. Mr Blair was instrumental in striking a 2007 prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Gaddafi, signing the "deal in the desert" just hours before BP unveiled a £500million oil contract with Libya.

Jack Straw, the former Justice Secretary, has admitted originally wanting to exclude Megrahi from the PTA. He dropped his objection after Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed last week that Bill Rammell, a former Foreign Office minister, sent Libyan officials legal advice on how to use the bomber's cancer diagnosis to ensure he was freed.

It seems that Robin Cook's ethical foreign policy agenda did not survive his departure from the office of Foreign Secretary. A combination of the SNP Government's naivety and the UK Government's pursuit of 'UK interests' has denied the Lockerbie families the chance to learn what truth might have emerged from an appeal as well as releasing a convicted murderer prematurely.
Guido Fawkes has what he describes as a "smoking gun" here - and later snipes at Gordon Brown for his apparent lack of honesty.

No doubt the US will express high moral outrage, but it should be remembered that the release of al-Megrahi put a stop to his appeal against conviction. This appeal may well have exposed details of a deal between Libya, the US and UK before the arrest of al-Megrahi.
I don't blame you or anyone outside of Scotland for being ignorant of Scots Law but you should really refrain from making judgements on things which you now nothing about.

The fact of the matter is that had Kenny MacAskill refused the request, the Scottish Government would have been subject to judicial review and the decision would have been reversed.

There is no provision to deny an application for compassionate release if the criteria has been met. The expert evidence presented was, clearly and unanimously, that the criteria had been met.

You may argue that the law is wrong but you can't expect a Justice Secretary to ignore what the law is and expect everyone else to abide by it.

Due process - pure and simple.
Theres a vast difference between the and Ernest Saunders. It is clear that Saunders was misdiagnosed.However Al Megrahi is obviously dying,.
You either agree Prisoners should be released on compassionate grounds based on Medical evidence.
We should ask. How many released prisoners have died in the time predicted to them?
You can't base a judgment on af ew high profile cases.
What ever happens it seems the SNP justice minister behaved honorably in this affair in his belief Al Megrahi was close to death when making his decision.
Clearly he was not that close to death
Anon (9:48 PM)> "The fact of the matter is" Ministers hid the truth about a deal.

If it was such an open and shut case as to Scottish law then why the subterfuge and misdirects from Ministers?

This is going down so well with Americans, e.g., families of Syracuse University students who were on the plane.

They and other Americans including the senior Senator for NY are, to put it mildly, 'not best pleased'.
And another misconception which, I would say, the Scottish Government has not done enough to explain...

The prognosis made can only be based on the subject's regime of care while he is incarcerated. i.e. the prognosis really was - he is likely to be dead within 3 months if he stays in jail.

There is a vast difference between being locked up in Greenock Jail receiving twice a day 'medical attention' and being in sunny Tripoli with the best continuous palliative care that money can buy.

The fact that he is alive today is, frankly, irrelevant. The overwhelming likelihood is that if he had not been released he would have been dead long ago and that is the basis on which he was released.

And, this is where I am in total agreement with the former UK Government, if that had happened Greenock, Scotland and the UK would have become terrorist target #1 for militant muslims the world over.

He is gone and we are all much, much safer as a result. The current UK government should thank it's lucky stars because it gives them the freedom to cut the defence budget to shreds.
Peter.....your suggestion that the former Labour Government in Westminster was “complicit” in the release is nonsense. To be complicit you have to have influence and ability, and this was not the case. It's true that the Labour party had doubled standards over the issue, but they had no influence over the decision taken by the Scottish Justice Minister.

As for your point about miraculous recovery, I'd be interested in you expert alternative in the medical diagnosis. The reality is that this form of cancer is fatal, and while it is true a period of remission is possible, there is no miraculous cure. If of course, a cure has been found, I trust you will ensure your LibDem colleagues in Scotland will ask the Libyans to share this medical breakthrough so it can be implemented at Morriston hospital.

You say that "IF al-Megrahi is guilty then he deserves to die in prison for his crimes". He IS guilty as he was found so in a Scottish court. Why should the taxpayer pay for his cancer treatment? Let him die, his cancer clock is ticking regardless, time enough for the Libyans pay for it! I'm sure the Scottish health budget can be spent on more deserving patients.
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