FIRST Minister Alex Salmond released a statement this afternoon, in which he defended the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
“Our first thoughts are with the families of the Lockerbie atrocity, whose pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years.
“Today’s news was not unexpected – Mr Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, which was the basis on which he was released. His death does, however, put to rest some of the conspiracy theories which have attempted to suggest that his illness was somehow manufactured – today’s news confirms what we have always said about his medical condition.
“The Lockerbie case remains a live investigation, and Scotland’s criminal justice authorities have made clear that they will rigorously pursue any new lines of inquiry. Scotland’s senior law officer the Lord Advocate recently visited Libya, and we have been offered the co-operation of the new Libyan authorities. It has always been the Crown’s position that Mr Megrahi did not act alone but with others.
“It is open for relatives of Mr Megrahi to apply to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission to seek a further appeal. And the best, indeed the only, place for guilt or innocence to be determined is in a court of law.
“Mr Megrahi’s death ends one chapter of the Lockerbie case, but it does not close the book. However, all information which comes forward will confirm that the decisions of this administration have been in accordance with the due process of law.
“Extensive scrutiny under three jurisdictions supported the position that the Justice Secretary released Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone, based on the rules and regulations of Scots Law and the reports of the Parole Board for Scotland, the Prison Governor, and the Scottish Prison Service Director of Health & Care, Dr Andrew Fraser – all of which have been published.
“The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee examined the matter in full, and concluded that the Justice Secretary’s decision was taken ‘in good faith’ – this was also borne out by the UK Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell’s Review, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
“Indeed, what emerged is that the Scottish Government were the only ones playing with a straight bat – in contrast to the last UK Government which was revealed by Sir Gus O’Donnell’s Review as doing ‘all it could’ to facilitate Megrahi’s release, either under the PTA or compassionate release.
“Substantial opinion at home and abroad supported the decision, and we entirely respect the views of those who opposed it, but regardless of people’s views they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of the due process of Scots Law. Today’s news provides further confirmation of that fact.”
• For more information on the release of Al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds go to: scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/legal/lockerbie