Scottish minister calls for release of Lockerbie files

The Scottish first minister has called
on the UK and US governments to publish all of their documents relating to the
release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The Sunday Times claimed to have seen a
letter from the US administration to the Scottish government before the release
of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

It said the US government did not want
Megrahi released from prison.

But it said a compassionate release would
“preferable” to transferring Megrahi to a jail in Libya.

Alex Salmond said the documents would
“vindicate” the Scottish government.

Megrahi was jailed after being convicted
by a Scottish court of murdering 270 people by blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over
the town of Lockerbie, in south west Scotland, in 1988.

The majority of those who died were US
citizens.

He was released in August last year
after doctors said he was dying of prostate cancer and had three months to
live.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Salmond
emphasised that the Scottish government had made public all of its own
documents relating to the release of Megrahi.

He said the UK and US governments had
refused to grant permission for some of the correspondence they had with the
Scottish government ahead of Megrahi’s release to be published.

Mr Salmond did not explicitly confirm
the existence of the letter referred to in the Sunday Times.

But he said: “I think that a fair
description of the American government’s position is they didn’t want
al-Megrahi to be released.

“However, if he was to be released,
they thought it was far preferable for compassionate release as opposed to the
prisoner transfer agreement.

“Presumably the reason that they
were so opposed to the prisoner transfer agreement is on roughly the same
grounds as the Scottish government had for opposing that agreement – because it
was signed initially at the same time as an oil deal was being signed in the
famous Deal in the Desert.”

The US ambassador to the UK, Louis
Susman, said the US was examining whether its correspondence over the issue
could be released but refused to be drawn on the reported memo..

The ambassador added: “It is quite
clear that the US government was strongly against the release of Megrahi.

“We had a mutual understanding with
the British government that if he was tried and convicted he would serve his
entire sentence in Scotland.

“The fact that the justice minister
made a decision on compassionate grounds to release him was something we were
not in favour of.

“We obviously had conversations
with them in which we strongly objected to any type of release.”

Oil firm BP admitted earlier this month
it had lobbied the UK government in late 2007 to conclude the prisoner transfer
agreement with Libya as it feared any further delay would damage its commercial
interests in the region, including the ratification by the Libyan government of
BP’s exploration agreement.

Mr Salmond repeated that the Scottish
government had no contact with BP in the build up to Megrahi’s release on
compassionate grounds.

Last week, President Barack Obama told a
White House press conference that the US had been “surprised, disappointed
and angry” about Megrahi being released.

The Scottish government has refused to
send any representatives to a US Senate committee hearing into Megrahi’s
release, which is due to be held on Thursday.

The committee, which is to be chaired by
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, wants to establish whether oil giant BP
influenced the decision.

Mr Menendez is also understood to have
requested that the correspondence between the Scottish and US governments be
published.

Former UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has
also declined an invitation to appear before the committee.

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