Thursday, 19 August 2010

Abbott: releasing Megrahi was right

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

Diane Abbott has backed the Scottish Government’s decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing – in sharp contrast to another high-profile Labour leadership contender.

Ms Abbott, the only woman in the race to succeed Gordon Brown, said she had “every confidence” that the move by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was the right one.

She made her comments on the eve of a 10-day visit to Scotland, and ahead of the first anniversary tomorrow of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds.

David Miliband, one of her rivals for the Labour leadership, last month condemned the decision to release Mr Megrahi, saying it was “clearly wrong, because it was done on the basis he had less than three months to live”.

But Ms Abbott argued that such predictions were not exact and that many cancer patients lived longer than expected.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, she said: “It is not for me to second-guess the Scottish Government but I have every confidence that they made the best decision, the right decision, under Scottish law in relation to the evidence that they had before them.

“We all know of cancer patients who have lived longer than was expected, or lived for less time.

“He has got terminal cancer. He will die. The fact that he has lived a little bit longer than people thought ... he did go home and see his family.” (...)

Ms Abbott said: “I am not going to criticise the Scottish Government or Scottish ministers, and I felt very strongly that they should not go before a senate committee. British ministers are not accountable to American senators.” (...)

A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Diane Abbott’s position is both welcome and consistent, in contrast to the ridiculous about-turn by David Miliband. Last October, he told the House of Commons the UK Government did not want Megrahi to die in a Scottish prison.”

[Regrettably, Diane Abbott is very much an outsider in the UK Labour leadership race.]

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