Full inquiry to be held on Megrahi

A HOLYROOD committee is to hold a full inquiry into the way the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber was made.

It is understood that the planned inquiry, by the justice committee, will focus on concerns that the decision to send Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi back to Libya was based on investment and trade concerns rather than legal and health grounds.

This comes after questions were asked by the Conservatives about justice secretary Kenny MacAskill's brother Allan, who is an energy industry executive with the firm SeaEnergy Renewables, which has ties to Libya.

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Last week the Scottish Government also admitted that Megrahi's release was discussed alongside trade and investment at a meeting with representatives from Qatar, which chaired the Arab league at the time.

SNP ministers have been pursuing Qatari loans in an effort to pay for Scottish infrastructure and at the same give them some autonomy from Whitehall.

The committee wants to grill Mr MacAskill on why his decision was apparently leaked a week before he made it.

It also hopes to scrutinise whether the minister properly took into account issues such as the nature of the crime which saw 270 people murdered on 21 December, 1988 when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up, plus the length of the sentence and how much of it had been served.

In addition, it intends to look at the quality of the medical evidence received by Mr MacAskill justifying the prognosis that Megrahi had less than three months to live.

The report provided by Dr Andrew Fraser, the director of health and care at the Scottish Prison Service, said that four prostate cancer specialists had been unwilling to give the three-month prognosis and it had only come from the Greenock Prison doctor, a GP.

Question marks over the influence of Libyan doctors have also been raised.

Justice committee convener Bill Aitken has confirmed he has received a letter from Labour leader Iain Gray requesting the committee holds an inquiry.

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The Scotsman understands that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already agreed to the inquiry in principle and it will be confirmed before the end of September. There had been some speculation that Labour might want the issue to be closed because of questions over the UK government's dealings with Libya.

But Labour's Holyrood justice spokesman, Richard Baker,

said: "The documents published by the Scottish Government shortly before the debate cover a great deal of ground but they need to be examined forensically by a committee inquiry.

"Since then, even more information has emerged, all of it pointing to the mishandled decision of the SNP."

Last night, a Scottish Government spokesman insisted it had nothing to fear.

On the subject of Mr MacAskill's brother, he added: "The Tory claims are ridiculous, confused, and entirely without foundation. Mr MacAskill's brother is director of an offshore wind development company in Scotland, based in Aberdeen.

"The justice secretary made his decisions to reject prisoner transfer and grant compassionate release based on due process according to the Scots Law."

Meanwhile, former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell has hit out at the lack of co-operation on the Megrahi case between London and Edinburgh during a speech in Belfast.