The head of Scotland's government said Wednesday that he stands by his country's decision a year ago to release a man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing from prison on compassionate grounds despite new questions about his prognosis.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said in an interview with The Associated Press that "everything we've done on the Lockerbie case over the last 20 years...has been done following the precepts of Scottish jurisdiction and Scots law." (...)
He said his government clearly stated, in announcing its decision to release al-Megrahi, that "this is an estimate, that Mr Megrahi may live shorter than three months, he may live longer than three months."
"Everybody knows from their own experience of friends and family that it's extraordinarily difficult to be precise over the exact term of life of somebody with a terminal illness," Salmond said. "Our doctors made a reasonable estimate at the time, and our ministers followed that medical advice."
He spoke to the AP in Oslo, Norway, where he was attending bilateral meetings on economic and energy ties between Scotland and the oil-rich Nordic country.
Scotland will not seek the return of al-Megrahi, Salmond said, noting that, in past instances, prisoners released on compassionate grounds were not returned to prison even if they lived longer than expected.
Last week, four Democratic US senators — Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, of New York, and Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, of New Jersey — sent a letter to Salmond asking that al-Megrahi's full medical records be disclosed. (...)
"Clearly, we've made the point that the Scottish government...is not answerable to the United States Senate, nor is the American government answerable to the Scottish Parliament," Salmond said. "But we've tried to co-operate to answer all of the questions."
He said he'd responded to the letter, but that there was no more information to share since Scotland has "already published, and did last year, all relevant information because we have nothing to fear from the scrutiny and from the examination of anybody, domestically or internationally."
"The point I've made is that there's only one medical report" that informed Scotland's decision, he said.
That report — by Scottish Prison Service's medical chief, Andrew Fraser — shows Fraser was advised by four specialists at the time of al-Megrahi's release. The report describes the three-month prognosis for al-Megrahi as "reasonable," but confirms that none of those consulted ruled out that al-Megrahi might live longer.
Salmond categorically denied allegations that any outside influence — such as claims that oil giant BP pressured Scotland to free al-Megrahi so it could win access to Libyan oil reserves — affected Scotland's decision.
[From a report by The Associated Press news agency on the website of The Canadian Press.]