A REPORT that purports to show that the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber was a miscarriage of justice is now “very likely” to be made public, the Scottish Government has claimed.
Information contained in the 800-page report includes the six grounds on which Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi planned to appeal against his conviction for killing 270 people by placing explosives on Pan Am flight 103. It is currently protected under data protection laws.
Last week justice secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote to his UK counterpart, Ken Clarke, saying it was “imperative” that the document be made public. The move could only go ahead if the UK government makes a one-off exception under data protection law.
Yesterday, a Scottish Government source said it was encouraged by Clarke’s reponse “that officials should meet to discuss this. If they are not minded to do it, why meet? I think on this, of all issues, openness serves the interest of everybody. I would be encouraged that the UK government is willing to enter a process of discussions about setting aside data protection restrictions. That’s a very welcome development.”
Earlier this year, Westminister officials met Gerry Sinclair and Michael Walker, chief executive and senior legal officer respectively at the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which holds the report, to discuss the case. If the UK government allows the data protection exception, the SCCRC would then take the decision on whether to publish.
The Scottish Government believes that the publication last week of John Ashton’s book, Megrahi – You Are My Jury, along with two documentaries hinting at what is contained in the report, has strengthened the case for the report’s disclosure.
A spokesman for the First Minister Alex Salmond said: “One impediment is data protection. We are saying that, on a one-off basis, this data protection can be set aside.
“I think the SCCRC would take the view that elements [of the report appearing] in the public domain would strengthen the case.”
The Scottish Government has introduced laws in the parliament making it legal for the SCCRC to publish the document, which clears one of its potential hurdles.
MacAskill has faced criticism over claims in Ashton’s book that he told a Libyan delegation that dropping the appeal against conviction would make it “easier” to secure Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds. The former Libyan secret agent was released in 2009, apparently with just three months to live. He is reportedly frail, but still alive almost three years later.