Monday, 2 May 2011

MacAskill adamant Megrahi release not an election issue

[This is the headline over a report in The Scotsman of 30 April. It reads in part:]

In Kenny MacAskill's constituency office the front page of a newspaper hangs on the wall.

"Mandela supports MacAskill decision" proclaims a headline that must have offered a good deal of comfort to the justice secretary amidst the opprobrium heaped on him after he released the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

When Abdelbaset al Megrahi left Scotland around 18 months ago, never in his worst nightmares could Mr MacAskill have imagined that he would still be alive going into the 2011 election.

The survival of Megrahi so far beyond his three-month life expectancy has provided plenty of ammunition for those who opposed Mr MacAskill's decision to release the UK's worst mass murderer.

But, according to Mr MacAskill himself, Lockerbie is not proving to be a big issue on the doorsteps as he defends his Edinburgh East seat, a marginal constituency balanced on a knife-edge.

Out canvassing, Mr MacAskill has come across the "odd individual" who opposed his decision. "Equally," Mr MacAskill said, "there is a great deal of support for me as an individual and a recognition that I had to make the decision."

Mr MacAskill argues that he came out of the decision with his "hands clean", unlike "charlatan and shameful" Labour who criticised the decision at Holyrood while at Westminster, government ministers were plotting for Megrahi's release.

"Is it an election issue?" Mr MacAskill asks. "Not that we've picked up," he adds, answering his own question.

In any case, Mr MacAskill's only serious rival for the seat is reluctant to make Lockerbie a defining election issue. For the Labour candidate Ewan Aitken, his reasons for playing down the Lockerbie controversy probably has more to do with his own beliefs than any embarrassment over his party's behaviour on the issue.

As a Church of Scotland minister, the Labour councillor is a strong proponent of "compassionate release", although he does have some reservations about how the decision to release Megrahi was arrived at.

Mr Aitken said: "Compassion is an all or nothing thing. There are clearly questions to be asked about the process in this case, but the principle of releasing somebody - no matter how heinous the crime - on compassion is one that I support. But I do ask questions about what happened in this case." He added: "This election here isn't about the life and death of an individual in Libya, it is about jobs."

[The readers' comments that follow the report are also worth reading.]


  1. I'm intrigued by something else. Bin Laden is dead: the US kept the body and buried it at sea? How do we know it was him? Will they need to provide absolute proof of his ID?

  2. The US news are saying they had the DNA from his sister to compare with him to make a positive id.
    However, everything has to be taken at face value (and the photos of him dead circulating could be phony) - they could have captured him alive and at this very moment be waterboarding the hell out of him, to dispose of him later. One report of many I read said he was taken out of the compound by soldiers down the street to an awaiting helicopter - it didn't sound like he was dead. Who knows...I don't expect any of this will be lost on Gaddafi, who's probably in the toilet right now.

  3. Bin Laden is dead: the US kept the body and buried it at sea? How do we know it was him? Will they need to provide absolute proof of his ID?

    Osama Bin Laden's bloodstained passport will float to the surface and be picked up by a (CIA) fisherman. That should be enough proof.

  4. Well Gala, I thought it was just me wondering about that. Can you imagine Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan/Libya/Syria phoning up the White House and saying, "We have found Osama Bin Laden. We have killed him. He is dead and we have disposed of the body now." and the Americans saying, "Hey, great news. Gee thanks guys. We'll just put an announcement out right now. You checked the DNA, right?" "Yes Mr Obama." "OK guys, great work."

    No. I don't think it would happen either.