Wednesday, 1 December 2010

US anger over Megrahi may have stopped McKinnon deal

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It follows up on yesterday's story in The Guardian speculating that US anger over the repatriation of Abdelbaset Megrahi might have influenced the US Government to reject Gordon Brown's August 2009 proposal regarding hacker Gary McKinnon. The report reads in part:]

Politicians expressed fears last night that anger over the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing had influenced America’s refusal to agree a deal over Gary McKinnon.

Leaked US diplomatic cables revealed for the first time that Gordon Brown had suggested such an agreement in August last year, which would have avoided McKinnon’s extradition.

But around the same time separate secret cables reveal the depth of US anger over the Scottish Government’s decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, also last August. (...) [RB: As far as I can see, no such "separate secret cables" feature among those so far published by WikiLeaks.]

Last night politicians expressed fears McKinnon, originally from Glasgow, had been treated as a “diplomatic pawn” between America and the UK.

David Burrowes, McKinnon’s MP, said he was concerned McKinnon was denied justice “for political reasons”.

He called on the Americans to review their decision, and added that when he heard Megrahi was to be released, “I thought it put paid to any hope that we had of America making a compassionate decision about Gary.” (...)

The cables show that, despite public claims by the UK Government that it could not intervene, the then prime minister suggested a deal during a meeting with the American ambassador to London. Under the proposal, McKinnon would plead guilty but serve any sentence in the UK.

The newly released cable, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, says that request was passed on to the American attorney general, Eric Holder, and was written by the ambassador, Louis Susman.

Mr Susman told an influential Scottish audience earlier this year that Megrahi should never have been released. (...)

Last night Labour called for reassurances that the decision taken to release Megrahi, by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, had no influence on the case.

Elaine Murray, the Labour MSP for Dumfries, said: “There is no doubt that Kenny MacAskill’s flawed decision to release the Lockerbie bomber damaged our international relationships, but it is important to establish that it did not have an impact on other specific cases.” (...)

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said that it had not known about Mr Brown’s intervention in the case. However, he added that Scottish ministers believed that no external factors should influence such decisions.

“It is our view that justice decisions should be taken on justice grounds alone and no other factor, as certainly happened in the case of Megrahi,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Gordon Brown last night refused to comment. Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary, is currently considering McKinnon’s case.

[There is a related opinion piece by Duncan Campbell on The Guardian website in which he refers to "the alleged Lockerbie bomber".

The following comment comes from columnist Heather Mallick in the Toronto Star:]

Speaking of thin-skinned nations that are intolerant of perceived criticism, the US refused to hear British pleas for the fate of Gary McKinnon, the young Brit with autism who hacked into Pentagon files in 2001 to search for proof of the existence of UFOs. The US is extraditing him, presumably to jail him for life. Why? Because the UK released the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. In fact, the independent Scottish judiciary [sic] released him, possibly just to annoy Downing Street, and also because, embarrassingly, he appeared to be a tiny bit “not guilty.”


  1. It is a shame the UK media gets so involved in such nonsense. McKinnon's crime, and it was a crime, could have been dealt with by the UK government had the will existed to deal with it in the proper manner. He should have been tried HERE where he committed the crime and the UK government could have blocked all attempts by the US to take him there by simply pointing this out.

    Why can't the UK media just state this and be done with it instead of trying to blame yet something else on Megrahi's release? These distractions are just ridiculous.

    McKinnon's mother made many pleas on her son's behalf to have his case heard here. I'm sure it was Alan Johnson who ignored the matter.