Friday, 16 January 2009

Follow-up on prisoner transfer

Today's issue of The Herald has a follow-up article on the alleged moves (which would involve abandonment of the current appeal) to secure Abdelbaset Megrahi's transfer back to Libya to serve the remainder of his sentence. It reads in part:

'The father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing plans to meet the man convicted of carrying out the atrocity to discuss a diplomatic deal which would allow the Libyan to return home, ending any prospect of an appeal.

'As revealed by The Herald yesterday, official talks have been held in secret on allowing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi to serve the remainder of his 27-year sentence in Libya but any appeal proceedings would have to be dropped for the transfer to be agreed. (...)

'He wants to raise the issues at a meeting with Megrahi which he hopes will take place "fairly soon" but he said he would not ask the Libyan, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, to stay in Scotland simply so the evidence can be heard in court.

'He said: "I couldn't possibly go to him and say Please continue the appeal because we want to get to the truth'. I couldn't possibly take that attitude. He is an intelligent man, an honest kind of guy. I wouldn't be surprised if he is mulling over his decision, considering the effects of it on people like myself, people who want to get to the truth.

"I wouldn't want him hanging back on the decision to go home because he thought that he shouldn't, out of loyalty to people like me." (...)

'Professor Robert Black, one of the architects of the original trial at Camp Zeist, said it was "very important" that evidence collated for a future appeal should be released even if legal proceedings are dropped.

'He said: "Theoretically all of this material is Megrahi's. He is the client and he, or his wife and children, would make the decision. I can't think of any reason why the material that Megrahi's lawyers have gathered for the appeal shouldn't simply be released into the public domain.

'"It would be a very unusual step and there are difficulties. Some of the material that has been discovered will be, I think, highly defamatory so if it is simply disclosed without any legal protection that could cause legal difficulties."

'Dr Swire, who first met Megrahi more than three years ago, said: "I would hope some outlet for the evidence could be found but it would have to be used in a format where there was credibility."

'During First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the "prisoner transfer agreement" was raised by Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, who asked whether the integrity and principles of the Scottish justice system would be upheld in relation to any plan to release Megrahi. Alex Salmond replied "yes".

'The Tory leader then asked if Megrahi would be returned to Libya, adding that releasing the bomber would cause "deep unease". Mr Salmond said he could not prejudge or comment on a decision he might be asked to make.'

The Scotsman also has a brief article on the matter. It can be read here.

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