Monday, 22 August 2011

Council concern over Lockerbie bomber following Libya rebel uprising

[This is the headline over a report published this afternoon on the STV News website. It reads in part:]

A Scottish council that has been in contact with the Lockerbie bomber since his release from prison has confirmed it will try to speak to him “imminently” following this weekend’s developments in the Libyan war.

Staff at East Renfrewshire Council communicate with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi as part of the conditions of his release from Greenock Prison. While he was in jail, members of his family lived in the East Renfrewshire area, so the responsibility of monitoring Megrahi’s adherence to his bail conditions fell to the local authority when he returned to his homeland.

A spokesman from East Renfrewshire Council has confirmed a report that appeared in The Guardian, which states the council urgently want to speak to the convicted terrorist after rebel forces reportedly took control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, and are close to overthrowing the country’s under fire leader Muammar Gaddafi.

He said: "Right up to this point, there has been no breach of the release conditions and nothing up to now which gives us cause for concern. The conditions in the country put us into the position where we will need to contact him imminently to make sure we can still maintain that contact."

A spokesman from the council confirmed to STV News that contact is only made with Megrahi when council justice teams need to speak to him. The spokesman added disruption to Libya’s government since the rebel uprising earlier this year has largely been irrelevant to this arrangement, as contact is made directly with Megrahi and not via any governmental bodies. (...)

Meanwhile, an English MP has said Megrahi should be brought back to the UK if Gaddafi’s regime falls. Conservative Robert Halfon said extradition to the US should also be considered so the convicted bomber does not continue a "life of luxury" in Libya.

Mr Halfon said: "The release of al-Megrahi marked the low point of Britain's appeasement of Gaddafi. We should make every effort to bring him back so he can spend the rest of his time in prison where he belongs.

"Or he should spend the rest of his life in a Libyan jail, or be extradited to the US. We should do everything in our power to make sure he is in jail, rather than living a life of luxury."

[It is interesting that law-makers, even such insignificant ones as Mr Halfon, can be so cavalier about legality. Is this perhaps a symptom of society's general moral collapse, about which there has been so much speculation since the recent riots in English cities?

A report just published in the UK edition of the Huffington Post contains the following:]

A representative for East Renfrewshire Council said that whilst they were monitoring Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi to ensure he kept to the terms of his release, they were under “no obligation” to protect him.

“Up to this point, all of the contact we expected to have, we have had. We have received monthly medical reports. All of our contact is up to date, as of Friday," said the spokesman.

But he said the council was currently trying to get in contact with Al-Megrahi: “Up until Friday, I would have said all of the contact is entirely up to date. The position at the moment is because of the situation in the city we will be looking to make contact with him sooner than we’d expected to, and the reason for that is to make sure that we can continue to make the contact we’ve had over the last two years.”

The spokesperson added that any breaches would be referred back to the parole board and the Scottish justice department, but stressed he would need permission to leave Libya.

“Our role is, because he’s been released on compassionate grounds, he’s released under certain conditions. We need to monitor him under those conditions, things like where he lives."

Scottish lawyer Derek Livingston said the change in government did not matter in “legal terms” but the Libyan transitional council may attempt to send Al-Megrahi back: “It doesn’t matter one iota that there’s been a change of government from a legal point of view. It might matter from a political perspective. In theory the Libyans could try and send him back.”

A Scottish Government Spokesperson did not comment on calls from an MP to send Al-Megrahi back to Britain, only saying: "Al-Megrahi was sent back to Libya because he is dying of terminal cancer, he is being monitored by East Renfrewshire Council according to the terms of his release licence which he has not breached."

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