Kenny MacAskill ‘surprised’ by Lockerbie bomber release fury

Kenny MacAskill claims he was surprised at the outcry when he agreed to the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. Picture: Getty Images

Kenny MacAskill claims he was surprised at the outcry when he agreed to the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. Picture: Getty Images

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Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has come under fire after suggesting he did not realise the kind ofoutcry his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber would attract.

The 2009 decision prompted a furious reaction in the US where most of the victims of the atrocity were from.

All 259 people on board PanAm Flight 103 were killed when it exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988. Eleven people were also killed on the ground. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was the only man convicted of the bombing in 2000, but was released from jail in Scotland on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed as being in the final stages of terminal cancer.

Mr MacAskill was justice secretary throughout Alex Salmond’s time as First Minister, but stepped down as an MSP last week. He is shortly publishing a book which details the background to the release of Megrahi, but said in an interview yesterday that the release was an “Andy Warhol moment” and admitted he had not foreseen the likely global impact.

“What I can say, without disclosing the full contents of the book, I knew we were a cog in a wheel, what I didn’t realise was how small a cog and how big a wheel,” he told Holyrood magazine.

“I think what comes out of this is that others should hang their head in shame and none of them are in Scotland.

“There are a lot of things out there that people want to know and I think I am entitled to do that.

“That’s how I see it, I think this is a matter more of setting the record straight.”

MacAskill had visited Megrahi in Greenock prison in the weeks before his release, but revealed that bringing the bomber to see him in the Scottish Government’s St Andrew’s House headquarters was another option which had been on the table.

“That was clearly preposterous – it would have been an OJ Simpson scenario,” he said.

“The easiest thing for security, given he was a prisoner, was simply to go to Greenock prison.”

Leading North-east Tory candidate Alex Johnstone said: “Having been justice secretary at the time, Kenny MacAskill should have known how much fuss and anger releasing Megrahi would have caused and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

“When Alex Salmond’s government took the decision to release Megrahi it was not done in the name of Scotland, or in the name of the Scottish Parliament. It is surprising to hear this revelation – but then he does have books to sell.”

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