Al-Megrahi 'pressured to abandon appeal'
THE man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was forced to abandon his appeal to secure compassionate release on the grounds of his terminal cancer, a justice department whistleblower claims.
• Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ordered the release of Megrahi Picture: Adam Elder/Scottish Parliament
Three senior sources close to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, who has now exceeded the three months he was expected to live by more than ten months, have confirmed the whistleblower's version of events.
Megrahi suddenly dropped his appeal against conviction shortly after the Scottish Government announced he was to be released to return to Libya on compassionate grounds.
It was claimed at the time that the government had made the dropping of the appeal a condition of his release, in order to spare any damage to the reputation the Scottish justice system. The government has always denied the allegations.
The whistleblower's information appeared in an e-mail received last year by the Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame, who met Megrahi after viewing a documentary that convinced her of his innocence. She continues to lobby for justice for him. The message came from someone in the Scottish Government's Justice department. Although Grahame is protecting the identity of the writer, she says the e-mail was sent by someone "very senior" who had access to the top level discussions on Megrahi.
The e-mail reads: "The minister seemed set to do the decent thing, allow a dying man to go home and the appeal to continue. However the department has strongly intimated to the Libyans that if Megrahi is to be granted compassionate release he must first drop his appeal. This was the (sic) rammed home to the Libyans at their meeting with the minister yesterday.
"Megrahi is desperate and will do anything to get home, including dropping his appeal, as his prisoner transfer request demonstrates. The department knows it, as does the minister."
Megrahi has always protested his innocence, and the independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had referred his case back to appeal.
The SCCRC found there were six grounds for believing that Megrahi's conviction might have been a miscarriage of justice.
It emerged a year before his release in August 2009 that Megrahi had terminal cancer that had started in his prostate and spread to his bones. As the months passed, it became increasingly likely he would be allowed home to die with his mother, his wife and five children around him.
The most likely route was through the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which could only happen if there were no outstanding legal proceedings in this country.
It seemed inexplicable that he would abandon his appeal, but sources close to Megrahi have now revealed the chain of events and have confirmed that he was given no choice.
One Libyan source confirmed the meeting mentioned in the e-mail took place.He said: "Three senior Libyans, including the Minister for Europe Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, met with Mr MacAskill and it was made clear that things would be resolved speedily if he dropped his appeal.
"They left Edinburgh and went direct to Greenock to visit Baset and they told him he had no choice. In fact they gave him no choice. They told him the appeal would be dropped, but that he would soon be home.
"He was not happy about the appeal. Even after he dies, he does not want his offspring to be labelled the children of the Lockerbie bomber."
Two other sources who have maintained close contact with Megrahi since his return to Libya and have been told the story directly by him confirmed the chain of events.
One said: "A few months earlier he'd have fought tooth and nail not to abandon his appeal. But he really did feel so ill he was sure he must die soon and the desire to get home and die with his family round him overtook everything else."
Grahame said: "I suspected inappropriate pressure had been placed on Megrahi and these latest revelations appear to confirm that. This makes the case for a full and thorough public inquiry even more pressing."
A Scottish Government Spokesperson said: "We have absolutely no knowledge of any such e-mail. The Scottish Government had no conceivable interest in the appeal being dropped."
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