Monday, 2 August 2010

Salmond's latest letter to Menendez

[What follows is the text of a press release just issued by the Scottish Government.]

First Minister Alex Salmond has today replied to the letter from Senator Menendez of July 29.

This follows the First Minister's previous letter to Senator Menendez on July 26, which answered five detailed questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also provided copies of documents.

The First Minister has also previously written to Senator John Kerry on July 21, providing comprehensive information and assistance ahead of the planned hearing which was later postponed. Senator Kerry described this correspondence as "thoughtful and thorough".

The letter is copied below:

Dear Senator Menendez

Thank you for your letter of 29 July.

I have made clear in my letters to you and to Senator Kerry that the Scottish Government's decision to decline your previous invitation for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Dr Fraser to attend a hearing in the US was based on principle rather than on any issue of practicality.

The most appropriate way for us to assist the Foreign Relations Committee is to provide a statement of the position of the Scottish Government, as I have done, and to answer any questions that the Committee may have in writing, as we have also done.

Scottish Ministers and public officials are properly accountable to the Scottish Parliament and not to other legislatures. It is difficult to envisage circumstances in which serving members of the US Government would agree to appear as witnesses in hearings or inquiries held by the legislature of another country, and there are many high-profile and indeed current examples of the US Government declining such invitations.

Your letter again seeks to link BP with the decision made by the Scottish Government to grant Mr Al-Megrahi compassionate release. No-one has produced any evidence of such a link because there is none. We have said repeatedly that there has never, at any point, been any contact between BP and the Scottish Government in relation to Al-Megrahi. The statements we have made on this issue are entirely clear and consistent.

It was with concern that I watched you attempt to insinuate such a link on BBC Newsnight on 30th July by citing a letter from Conservative Party peer Lord Trefgarne, the chair of the Libyan British Business Council, to Justice Secretary MacAskill last year. This was one of approximately one thousand representations received by the Scottish Government last year, including many from the USA. You have this letter because the Scottish Government published this last year as part of our comprehensive issue of documentation related to the decision. That being the case, you must also have seen the reply from Mr MacAskill, also published, which stated that his decisions would be "based on judicial grounds alone and economic and political considerations have no part in the process". In order to avoid any suggestion of misrepresentation, I trust that you will include that fact in future references.

BP's admitted lobbying on this issue referred to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) and with the UK Government. As you must by now be aware, the Scottish Government opposed this agreement from its inception, a position that we have maintained publicly and privately since. Indeed, I revealed the existence of the proposed PTA to the Scottish Parliament in a statement on 7 June 2007. It is perhaps to be regretted that our warnings about the circumstances in which this agreement came into being found no response at that time from the UK Government, the then opposition in the UK Parliament, or indeed from the United States Senate.

Finally, you and some of your Senatorial colleagues, have suggested that the Scottish Government have sought to pass responsibility to others for the release of Al-Megrahi. That is simply not the case. Secretary MacAskill took the decision following the precepts and due process of Scots law and jurisdiction - the same jurisdiction which over a period of some 20 years led Scotland to play the leading role in investigating, trying, convicting and incarcerating Al-Megrahi. We do not resile from our responsibility in making that decision.

The point we make is a different but a quite simple one. Please do not ascribe to the Scottish Government economic or commercial motives for this decision when there is no evidence whatsoever for such a claim.

If you wish to investigate commercial or indeed other motivations surrounding this case, then call the former UK Ministers and Prime Ministers who were involved in proposing, negotiating and then signing the PTA and, of course, where there is a public record of admission that business and trade, along with other issues, were factors. In this light your decision not to proceed with the draft invitation to offer evidence to former Prime Minister Blair, who actually signed the proposed PTA in May 2007, seems puzzling.

These people, of course, may have had, and indeed in some cases have conceded, motivations other than justice considerations. However, they did not take the decision on Mr Megrahi.

I am copying this letter to Senator Kerry.

Alex Salmond

[The following are excerpts from a related report on the BBC News website.]

Meanwhile Mr Menendez announced an "investigative phase" to the inquiry.

During a press conference at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mr Menendez and fellow New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg also released the first in a series of letters to the Scottish government requesting new information.

And they said requests to interview "key individuals", potentially outside of the US, would be made. (...)

Mr Menendez and Mr Lautenberg have pledged to carry out a thorough review of all documents already made public by the UK and Scottish governments, and all documents newly released to them by the UK government.

The senators said they would also make requests for specific additional documents from sources potentially including the UK, Scottish, Libyan and US governments, as well as BP.

In a fresh letter to Mr Salmond, they wrote: "One of your stated reasons for not participating in our hearing process is that you judge that the inquiry by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee was sufficient.

"In reviewing the documents available from your inquiry in the absence of direct testimony, it seems that the inquiry was quite limited, which leads me to the first series of questions we would appreciate your help in answering."

[An Agence France Presse news agency report on the senators' press conference and letter can be read here.]

26 comments:

  1. .... due process of Scots law and jurisdiction - the same jurisdiction which over a period of some 20 years led Scotland to play the leading role in investigating, trying, convicting and incarcerating Al-Megrahi. We do not resile from our responsibility in making that decision.

    Now that bolded part is the problem, Mr. Salmond, not the compassionate release. A thorough review of that stinking pile of ordure is what's needed.

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  2. Delighted with the tone of Mr Salmond's letter. I hope he sharpens it further if these eejits continue to insist they are coming here to "interview" people! He should arrange to publicly ask questions, again, of these hypocrites: "Will you support a full independent, investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity and then apologise for your feigned histrionics while you continued to peddle lies designed to ensure the truth never emerged? Will you apologise that your government virtually wrote and paid for testimony from a star witness who couldn't even recognise Megrahi in the courtroom? Is there room, in your definition of the word justice, for the truth and if so will you commit your government's co operation in finding it?"


    Truly Americans will sink lower than a snake's belly when it comes to exploiting what is a tragedy of an appalling scale for their own political gain in this year's elections. Shame on them!

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  3. MISSION LOCKERBIE:

    The subversive "Lockerbie- Bomb" against Libya remains to today for the Scottish Justiciary more dangerously "DUD" !

    sorry this commentary is only in german language:

    Die subversive "Lockerbie-Bombe" gegen Libyen bleibt bis heute für die Scottish Justiciary ein gefährlicher "Blindgänger" !
    Es ist zuhoffen, dass mit der lange erwarteten Öffnung der 'SCCRC' Dokumente der "Blindgänger sehend wird" und sich das Miscarriage of Justice in 6 Punkten bestätigt ...

    Man stelle sich vor die subversive Conspiracy Planung gegen Libyen wäre zwischen dem 7. und 21. Dezember 1988 und am 22. Juni 1989, wie geplant perfekt abgelaufen; das heisst:

    1) > am 7. Dezember 1988 hätte es um 18:00 Uhr geregnet;

    2) > am 20. Dezember 1988, wäre Ed. Bollier (wie vorsätzlich
    gebucht) mit 40 Timer von Tripoli nach Malta gereist um nach
    einem Tag Aufenthalt, am 21. Dezember nach Zürich
    weiter zureisen;

    3) > Ing. U. Lumpert hätte dem offiziellen "BUPO" Beamten am
    22. Juni 1989 nicht einen "braunen" Prototype MST-13 Circuit-
    Board übergeben, sondern ein "grünes" MST-13 Circuit-Board
    von (Thüring) welche in den nach Libyen gelieferten MST-13
    Timer eingebaut waren, und man hätte aus einem "grünen"
    Thüring MST-13 Circuit Board das "crucial" Fragment PT/35
    hergestellt...

    Libyen und Mr. Baset al Megrahi hätten keine Chance gehabt sich aus dem "Lockerbie Lügen-Inferno" als unbeteiligte zu retten...

    Wieso konnte Secretary of Justice, Kenny MacAskill so überzeugend die gesamte Verantwortung für die Freilassung von Al-Megrahi ohne Probleme von A-Z auf sich nehmen ?:
    Weil MacAskill, als Insider wusste, dass Al-Megrahi und Libyen nichts mit dem Bmbenanschlag auf PanAm 103 zutun hatten.

    Ihr Senatoren, Minister und Rechtsgelehrten, vergesst den angeblichen BP-Deal und alle Theorien um den Lockerbie-Fall und verlangt die sofortige Öffnung der 'SCCRC' Dokumente.

    Ihr werdet sehen, dass Kenny MacAskill durch seine Verantwortungsnahme für die Scottish Justice, Scotland, Libyen und andere Betroffene, "GROSSES" geleistet hat...
    Gratulation Mr. Kenny MacAskill

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland
    URL: www.lockerbie.ch

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  4. Interesting... because Salmond hinted a few times for them to look elsewhere to that obvious place, and they purposefully ignored the hint, and eventually he has had to spell it out to them, B-L-A-I-R. Ask him to your party, if you can afford his expenses.

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  5. Blogiston, :)

    Jo, you're right of course, but as far as I can tell Alex is not calling for a full inquiry into what happened at Lockerbie, that is into who actually bombed that airliner. He's happy to rest on the identification of Megrahi as "the Lockerbie bomber".

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  6. And if anyone now thinks that an inquiry into the original verdict is any nearer following tonight’s development then they are smoking something.
    The whole attempt to link BP to Megrahi’s release was no bad thing for him because there is no connection, and so the peripheral publicity and interest that brought, could also be used to promote the case for the desired inquiry.
    But this positive effect only works to a certain degree. With tonight’s escalation I think you will find that to manage this exchange, Salmond’s position on anything regarded as irrelevant or which could confuse the issue will be very predictable; namely talk of inquiries will be taboo.

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  7. In the medium to long term, revelation that Kenny MacAskill released an innocent man might not be especially bad for the SNP as a party. However, right now is not the medium to long term.

    And it ignores the factor that we don't really understand - why the SNP leaders were so keen to get the appeal dropped. This is baffling to me on the face of it. Grant the compassionate release, let the appeal continue, then when it's successful, look like Solomon in all his glory.

    I'd have said it was a no-brainer.

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  8. Wasn't Solomon's solution to pull out his knife and threaten to cut someone in half? (He must must have been a judge at Glasgow Sheriff Court)

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  9. That was a ruse, remember? Threaten to cut the baby in two, and the real mother will beg for it to be given to the other woman. So, the real mother is identified.

    If there was any such wise elephant-trap in the handling of Megrahi's release, I'm totally failing to spot it.

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  10. Rolfe, I apologise - my attempt at humour must have sounded facetious to you. I always had this problem when I worked in Edinburgh with you guys...that's why I decided to, "Go West!"
    [Regarding you substantial blog from last night: It’s now apparent to me that there are people on Robert’s Blog capable of writing faster than I can read – and when I say, read, I mean absorb. You’re one of them. I do hope it’s not ingratiating to suggest, you are prolific. Impressive. And I am a quarter way through composing a reply.]

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  11. It's OK, I did understand you were being humorous. I just thought it was a point that led on to a serious response.

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  12. Regarding what I wrote last night (and the much more speculative stuff I wrote eariler today), I realised some time ago that there was no dispassionate assessment, overview or explanation of the Lockerbie affair. Thus, I wuld have to work out what I thought for myself - I had help of course. I tend to do this by typing out my ideas then waiting to see who corrects me.

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  13. Blogiston I happen to think, since Prof B clarified how this appeal could indeed be resurrected, that hopes in that direction should indeed be high. Tonight's development isn't part of that and it certainly doesn't change the fact that calls for the investigation we want are increasing, particularly in the media.

    Rolfe, I understand what you say about Salmond and it is indeed frustrating to hear him repeating that original verdict. But remember MacAskill did that too during his speech and he is now calling for an independent investigation. He would not have done that without Salmond's approval.

    What I was delighted with about Salmond's letter however was the sharper tone adopted towards the Americans. They have well and truly crossed lines now and it is time they were told to butt right out. Look at this quote from their letter..

    "One of your stated reasons for not participating in our hearing process is that you judge that the inquiry by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee was sufficient.

    In reviewing the documents available from your inquiry in the absence of direct testimony, it seems that the inquiry was quite limited, which leads me to the first series of questions we would appreciate your help in answering."

    WHO do these people think they are? They have no remote right to do this and yet we are tolerating it. They are more or less setting aside questions already asked here (at Holyrood and at Westminster) about the release and stating that isn't enough and they will conduct their own hearing. Yet they have no jurisdiction here whatsoever. No wonder much of the world hates and loathes America. The arrogance of these people is utterly breathtaking.

    So I'm hoping that Salmond is about to reach the point where he absolutely tells them where to go and that while Cameron has publicly labelled the UK as a "junior partner" of the US, this particular corner of it is not and will not answer to them or be controlled by them!

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  14. But remember MacAskill did that too during his speech and he is now calling for an independent investigation. He would not have done that without Salmond's approval.

    But has he done that? I'm still not clear that he's done any more than call for an independent investigation (that is, not the Yanks, I imagine) into the murkiness that was the lobbying for the PTA with Tony Blair. All aspects of Megrahi's release indeed, because he knows the Scottish government is whiter than white in the bits the senators care about, that is not the dropping of the appeal. But all aspects of the case, including the possibility that we jailed an innocent man and let the real terrorists get away with it? I doubt it.

    What I was delighted with about Salmond's letter however was the sharper tone adopted towards the Americans. They have well and truly crossed lines now and it is time they were told to butt right out.

    Oh yes, indeedy!

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  15. And Blogiston, Salmond didn't need to hint about Blair, the Americans know, they just don't want to involve him, he is their friend. News about Blair's deal in the desert setting up the PTA has been in the public domain for three years. It was the subject of a public brawl between Newsnight's Kirsty Wark and Alex Salmond and was memorable because Wark made a monumental fool of herself. I say brawl, she was the one brawling, Salmond was as cool as a cucumber. But he made it public that night that Blair was dealing on the subject of Megrahi. Wark accused him of "picking fights with Westminster". What Salmond pointed out to her was that Blair was doing deals regarding a prisoner who was in Scottish custody and who could not be released unless a Scottish Justice Minister decided to release him.

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  16. This is the quote from MacAskill just a few weeks ago.

    "Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has reiterated his support for a full investigation into the Lockerbie bombing and has suggested that a wider UK inquiry or UN investigation is required.

    Mr MacAskill was responding to calls from four US senators for an inquiry into the release on compassionate grounds of Al Megrahi.

    The SNP Minister has called for a full and properly constituted inquiry into the events surrounding the Lockerbie bombing.

    Mr MacAskill said: "We would always look to assist any properly constituted inquiry - and indeed we very much support a wider UK public inquiry or United Nations investigation capable of examining all of the issues related to the Lockerbie atrocity, which go well beyond Scotland's jurisdiction - and that remains the case."

    If you remember, during his speech he also made reference to troubling aspects of the case (while also paying tribute to all who had investigated it, ironically!)

    "I accept the conviction and sentence imposed. However, there remain concerns to some on the wider issues of the Lockerbie atrocity.

    This is a global issue, and international in its nature. The questions to be asked and answered are beyond the jurisdiction of Scots law and the restricted remit of the Scottish Government.

    If a further inquiry were felt to be appropriate then it should be initiated by those with the required power and authority.

    The Scottish Government would be happy to fully co-operate in such an inquiry."

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  17. Right enough, that sounds promising.

    The thing is, he has seen the full squillion-odd pages of the SCCRC report. He has as much information as we have and more about the case. It's all very well grudgingly acknowledging that "there remain concerns to some", but for goodness sake! He knows that conviction was a crock.

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  18. The main thing for me Rolfe, and I've raised this in letters to him and to the First Minister, it has been acknowledged by MacAskill that an independent investigation is needed. MacAskill is on record now. He said it. The others haven't.

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  19. Jo G: Yes, I'm sure they knew all about Blair's movements. But because he's their friend, they wanted others to finger him, not them - and now Salmond has felt obliged to do that, since they are now repeating that, non-cooperation indicates a cover-up, ergo 'blood money'...and Blair is quietly escaping Scot-free? "Oh no you di'in't!"

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  20. I disagree that Salmond has felt obliged to do anything other than re-state the facts and they were known already.

    The news that Blair was dealing with Libya over the return of Megrahi stunned more than the Nationalists in the Scottish Parliament in 2007. It stunned all of them. The Scottish media in particular tried to play it down until Salmond drew pictures for them, pointing out that Prisoner Transfer Agreements with Libya couldn't point to many Libyan prisoners in the UK since there was only one here and he was in Scotland!

    I will not stop saying either Bloggy that the US is crossing many lines here and they need to be told to back right off. It is infuriating to watch this unfold. No other European country would tolerate this nonsense from the US yet here we are allowing them to interfere in our business. I'm sure our European neighbours must be shaking their heads in disbelief. They said Blair was a US poodle but I'm still searching for a noun to describe Cameron after his "junior partner" comment.

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  21. Hmmm...just reading six US newspapers; two national, three east coast and one in Houston. They are all running the same story and they all quote from Salmond's letter to Menendez but none of them mention the word 'Blair'.

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  22. "they said requests to interview "key individuals", potentially outside of the US, would be made."

    And have already.

    "Mr Menendez announced an "investigative phase" to the inquiry. ... Mr Menendez and Mr Lautenberg have pledged to carry out a thorough review of all documents already made public by the UK and Scottish governments..."

    Idiots! Do you not see this is the wrong order to do things?

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  23. Oh! MacAskill, investigation, into the ATTACK and case. Thanks, Jo G. I didn't catch that yet either!

    Of course words are just words, and promising ones can fade with time into dust. But this is an unexpected twist, even if it's just those words and no more, to be coming from one of the big boys.

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  24. I think so too Caustic Logic. It has come, as you say from one of the big boys whose boss is Mr Salmond and he would not have said it without Salmond's approval. Others, ordinary people, have to take up that call and beat other politicians around the head with it, challenge them, force them to comment on it. If you went around Scotland, in fact the UK, right now and asked people if they want a full investigation into Lockerbie I think you would get a huge "yes" in response. That support needs to be harnessed and utilised because ultimately if we managed to do that the politicians could not possible refuse us.

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  25. I did think the bit about carrying out a thorough review of all the documents they have been supplied with was hilarious.

    Don't you think you should have done that first, before shooting your mouth off any more, esteemed senators?

    We know what's in these documents, and we know the senators have been sent them, so to see Menendez dementing on TV about the questions he wants answered, when we know these questions have already been specifically answered, is comedy gold.

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  26. Well yes Rolfe, except that it isn't remotely funny that he is being given airtime and many media pages in the UK. These idiots need to be kicked into touch.

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