'Political influence over legal cases is a weakness'

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ALLOWING politicians to make final decisions in cases such as the Lockerbie bomber is a "serious weakness" in the system, a human rights chief said yesterday.

Scottish Human Rights Commission chairman Alan Miller called for reform amid international scrutiny over the decision by Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

Mr Miller said: "Yes, he made the right call for the right reasons. But it should not have been in his gift to do so.

"Allowing a politician to be the final decision-maker over the liberty or detention of any individual is a serious weakness in the system.

"It unnecessarily and unhelpfully politicises the decision and the decision-making process."

Mr Miller said an independent tribunal or court should replace the current system.

His comments were posted on the commission's website as pressure continued to mount on Mr MacAskill for the controversial decision.

The SNP's opponents have heaped criticism on the former lawyer, who has also been the target of American political anger.

Mr Miller added: "To his credit MacAskill appears to have taken the views of everyone into account when reaching his views, but the system should not support this level of political involvement."

He said the human rights of victims, their families and Megrahi had not been "recognised or respected" in the 20 years since Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up.

A "fair trial" and second appeal would have recognised these rights, he added.

Mr Miller accused the UK government of withholding documents during the appeal process – which was formally abandoned by Megrahi at the High Court in Edinburgh last week.

He said: "The length of time taken to attempt to resolve the issue has contributed to the situation we have now reached where Megrahi's deteriorating health has regrettably brought the appeal process to an end.

"The UK government has denied the relatives of the victims and Megrahi their rights, and the public interest requires that all documents are released."

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