Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Miliband: Lockerbie bomber release was clearly wrong

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

Labour leadership contender David Miliband has condemned the decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing as clearly wrong.

His comments in an exclusive interview in The Herald today represent a dramatic change in his previous position on Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s release on medical grounds.

They were made as criticism of the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill intensified on both sides of the Atlantic.

The SNP last night hit back at the shadow foreign secretary’s comments. A source said: “This ludicrous about-turn by Miliband will damage his credibility and do him absolutely no good, either in his party or anywhere else.” (...)

When Labour was in government Miliband avoided commenting on the rights or wrongs of MacAskill’s ruling, but he now suggests the medical evidence, which said Megrahi had only three months to live, was flawed.

Asked if it was a mistake to release Megrahi, Miliband told The Herald: “It was clearly wrong because it was done on the basis he had less than three months to live and it’s now 11 months on.”

The frontrunner to succeed Gordon Brown as Labour leader added: “The decision was made in accordance with our constitution and so it was a decision for the Scottish minister to make.

“Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds and, as I understand it, that depends on him having less than three months to live, so something has gone badly wrong.”

Miliband acknowledges MacAskill made his decision in good faith but stresses he understands the anger felt by families of the American victims. This is in sharp contrast to his earlier reaction to the Libyan’s release in August last year.

In a Commons statement in October, Miliband pointed out that British interests “would be damaged, perhaps badly, if Megrahi were to die in a Scottish prison rather than Libya”. (...)

Last night, a Scottish Government source said: “It was David Miliband’s own government that did the deal in the desert and Miliband was Foreign Secretary when the UK signed the PTA with Libya with the clear intention of sending Megrahi back to Libya.

“It was tawdry and Kenny MacAskill rightly rejected the PTA application. This ludicrous about-turn by Miliband will damage his credibility.”

[For an interesting comment on the politics of Miliband's change of heart, see this article on The First Post website.

The letters page of today's edition of The Herald contains two interesting contributions. The first, from Colin Chilton reads:

"So the Americans and the UK Conservative Party want a full public inquiry into the release of Abdelbaset Mohmed Al Megrahi ...

"After almost 22 years is it not time we had a full public inquiry into the events of that terrible night when PanAm flight 103 crashed near Lockerbie? All we had in the aftermath was a Fatal Accident Inquiry which is obviously more limited in its scope than a full inquiry. Surely if the Westminster and US Governments are so keen to see justice is done that they will release all information pertaining to this matter and not just the evidence that suits them.

"So many unanswered questions remain from the Lockerbie disaster, from the Americans who were at the scene within two hours poring through the debris, to the sudden switch of investigation from Syria to Libya which happened rather conveniently when Libya was the only country on Iraq’s side in 1991 during the Gulf War of that year where the Americans needed Syrian support. If the Americans and UK Conservatives are so keen to see justice is done, let’s see them open the files after all what do they have to hide?"

The second, from Tom Minogue, echoes his earlier letter in The Scotsman. The three letters in that newspaper -- and the readers' comments -- are also of interest.]


  1. How difficult would it be to set up a petition on line demanding a full independent international investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity?

  2. Miliband isn'treallybeing inconsistent. He didn'twant Megrahi dying in jail, or living a year afterrelease. It was wrong to release his quite so early, he's saying.

    Jo G, I don't know. I just started investigating.

    And for the international teamwork part:

    Do you mean how do you get people with power and authority to investigate? Huh, interesting thought... I really don't know.

  3. Caustic Logic, thanks for your views. What I'm thinking of is something which is completely people-power orientated. Ordinary folks saying, "We want a full investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity."

    Deep down I think ordinary people in the British Isles, and especially in Scotland, know how awful that event was and the impact it had on us just being residents here. The enormity of the crime......it was something we just couldn't take in.

    Something has to be done to counter the fact that some Parties are using the issue, in Scotland especially, for Party-political purposes. That is disgusting. What I would like to do is generate something which rises above Party-politics and which will focus only on the fact that what we ended up with, after Mr Megrahi went home, was ton of loose ends we all need to tie up. If our pain over the injustice associated with the original trial is acute think of others like Jim Swire. Our passion for the truth is about our belief in justice but people like Jim need the truth for so many other reasons too.

    For me as an ordinary person people like Robert Black, Hans Koechlar of the UN and Jim Swire have been beacons. Ordinary people like me can bring other ordinary people into the debate. And if we could create something on the internet related to demanding a full international inquiry into the whole Lockerbie atrocity I am sure we could bring many people to it to sign a petition along those lines.

  4. I'd love it if that could be done, but people have been calling for such an enquiry for 20 years and they just get fobbed off. Since the appeal was abandoned, journalists have even stopped discussing Megrahi's probable innocence. The meme of "the worst mass murderer in Scottish history" seems to be sticking.

    And yet, hey, let's have a public enquiry about why Kenny let him go. As if we didn't all know, and BP was pretty irrelevent. Just drop the appeal sir, and you can be on the next plane home.

    There's just no poltical will.

  5. Rolfe, there is however, the will of the people. And if people got behind it the politicians would have no choice but to listen and act. It isn't something that could be set up overnight. It requires some thought but definitely worth considering.