Sunday, 7 August 2011

Doubts over visa could prevent Lockerbie bomber from returning to the UK

[This is the headline over a report (labelled "exclusive") in today's edition of the Sunday Mail. It picks up (without acknowledgment, of course) this blog post. The report reads as follows:]

The Lockerbie bomber would have to be awarded a UK visa before he could ever return to Scotland.

Supporters of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - convinced of his innocence - believe Britain could be a safe haven from US Special Forces planning to capture him in Libya.

But, in Parliament, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stressed any visa application would take into account "the seriousness of the offence for which he was convicted".

Megrahi was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 that claimed 270 lives. He was released from Greenock Prison in August 2009 after being given three months to live with cancer.

But he was spotted alive and well at a pro-Gaddafi rally last month.

US senators have demanded he face a fresh trial there and there is a plot to capture him.

Professor Robert Black QC, the architect of the process which led to his conviction, said: "The Foreign Office seems to be saying that, even if the Scottish Government revoked the licence, the UK government could deny him a visa."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Megrahi is being monitored by East Renfrewshire Council and he is not leaving."

[Here is the full text of an e-mail that I sent to the writer of the report when he contacted me for a reaction to the FCO written answer:

"I have to say that I'm a bit surprised. Megrahi was released on licence, which permitted him to return to Libya. That licence could be revoked (eg if he broke the conditions attached to it or if the Scottish authorities thought his safety required his return to Scotland). However, the FCO seems to be saying that even if the licence were revoked by the Scottish Government, the UK government could deny him a visa. I wonder what the Scottish government would have to say about that. And it doesn't seem to say much for joined-up government."]


  1. Spotted alive, yes. This must be some new definition of "well" I was previously unaware of.

  2. Charles Norrie's e-mail to me today concluded:

    "Having permitted the Americans to play fast and loose with evidence, Scottish courts, truth, international relations and God knows what else, FCO Minister Lord Howell has a fit of squeamishness: we don't want Megrahi back, even if he's now fit enough to participate in the London Olympics. He's a convicted criminal and cannot be allowed to sully UK soil again!

    "Do I weep or laugh?"