Security raised over threats to justice secretary

SECURITY around justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has been increased following fresh threats to his safety.

His Edinburgh constituency office has installed panic alarms and a CCTV camera as the row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber becomes increasingly bitter.

The number of police "drive-bys" has also been boosted and officers have increased their visits to the office in a bid to reassure staff.

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The moves follow a series of threatening e-mails and phone calls from American citizens angry at the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. It is understood the MSP has received hundreds of e-mails and more than a dozen phone messages, including threats described as "horrible".

Police have checked some e-mails to try to establish their origin.

Although Mr MacAskill is said to be relaxed about the threat, Scottish parliamentary officials are taking it seriously enough to authorise the installation of the panic alarms in his office.

Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame last week said an unnamed American caller contacted her and said he had urged his congressman to back military action against Scotland.

In contrast to the response from the US, Mr MacAskill's office said Scottish e-mailers and phone callers have been overwhelmingly supportive of the move, which saw Megrahi sent home to Libya in August last year.

At the time, Mr MacAskill said doctors made it clear Megrahi had less than three months to live.

The Scottish Conservative Party and others have called on Mr MacAskill to publish all the medical advice he was given at the time. This weekend, Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a letter to US senators that Megrahi's release was "wrong and misguided".

But he added that it was "legally and constitutionally proper" that the decision was made by the Scottish Government.

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Mr Hague also disclosed that BP had at least five meetings with the former Labour government in October and November 2007 over fears that disagreements on a prison transfer deal involving Megrahi might scupper the company's exploration plans in the North Africa country.

He said: "This was perfectly normal and legitimate practice for a British company."