[This is the heading over a letter from Bob Taylor published in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads as follows:]
The quest for the truth over the background to the Lockerbie bomber's release goes on (your report, 2 February).
But I don't think we should hold out a lot of hope that all relevant documents will be put in the public domain.
Head of the civil service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, recently refused to disclose notes of discussions between Tony Blair and George W Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war on grounds of diplomatic sensitivity.
A similar impasse is likely to occur over the whole question of freeing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
The fact that intensive discussions took place at Foreign Office diplomatic level and between the Scottish and United Kingdom governments at civil service level should surprise no-one.
How else could the prisoner be flown back to Libya within an hour of justice secretary Kenny MacAskill's formal announcement that he was to be sent back to Libya?
The amount of preparation for this, in terms of security alone, must have been enormous.
But it does not negate this simple point: the geopolitical aspects were a matter for the UK government; the question of the conviction, incarceration and release were a matter for the Scottish Government.
What discussions went on between civil servants and diplomats behind the scenes will be of interest no doubt to students of government. In the end a Holyrood minister had to make a decision following advice. The case for a full inquiry into all aspects of the case remains a strong one.
It is for the United Nations or some other appropriate international body to carry it out. It would not just help dispel much of the lingering anxiety.
It would help lift the debate to a more important level than whether Megrahi should die at home or in Greenock Prison.
[Why not a Scottish inquiry? The investigation of the crime and the prosecution and conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi were all Scottish. It was the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that after an exhaustive domestic and international investigation concluded, on six grounds, that Megrahi's conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice. If the Scottish criminal justice system has convicted an innocent man, isn't it for the Scottish Government to take the appropriate action to rectify this? Or do we Scots really need an international nanny to rectify our domestic mistakes?
I have just become aware of a letter from Brian A D Mann in yesterday's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]
Forget the leaks, we still need to know if Megrahi’s conviction was safe
Once again we must be grateful to Wikileaks for revealing the duplicity of governments and politicians (“UK ‘advised Libya on release of Megrahi’”, The Herald, February 1). The latest leak of inter-government papers confirms what many of us have long suspected – the UK Labour Government was directly and actively involved in the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.
Despite claiming they had played no part in the Libyan’s release and stating that it was entirely the decision of the Scottish Parliament, it is now clear that UK Government ministers and officials were very much involved and actually advised Colonel Muammar Gaddafi how to achieve the release on compassionate grounds, exploiting the Scottish justice system’s position on this and quoting chapter and verse of the relevant (UK) Act. A Foreign Office minister wrote to his opposite number in Tripoli and Foreign Office officials met the US Ambassador to explain the situation.
Don’t tell me that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were unaware of these under-the-counter communications. Remember that the whole problem began with Mr Blair’s original rash action in signing a prisoner transfer agreement with Col Gaddafi, without realising that Megrahi’s release was not in his direct gift.
Yet Labour spokesmen constantly made public statements that their government played no part in the release. Instead they were happy to let Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government take all the flak and scurrilous accusations from the US and around the world. Thanks to Wikileaks we now know the UK Government was actively involved and that the US government itself was fully briefed and well aware of the Foreign Office’s contacts with Libya.
The sad thing is that all this political chicanery has again diverted attention from the real issue of whether Megrahi’s conviction was safe, and in fact if he had anything at all to do with the Lockerbie bombing. No wonder the UK and US governments have refused to reveal the relevant documents, as we now know that these will prove their knowledge and active involvement in the whole affair.
Let’s hope that the next set of leaked documents will prove that the CIA bribed the key witness with $2m, and also disclose information about the fragment of detonator mysteriously found by US agents in a Scottish field six months after the disaster. It’s time Megrahi’s second appeal was re-opened whatever the legal difficulties, or a full public enquiry was set up. Justice must be seen to be done, and that is more important than political reputations.