Saturday, 27 August 2011

Leader Iain Gray and Labour Party in Scotland at odds over Megrahi

[What follow are excerpts from a report in today's edition of The Herald:]

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has previously criticised the decision to release Megrahi.

Last night he said the terms of his release were now in “chaos” following reports of his departure.

“Scots who were aghast at the original decision [to release him] will now be totally perplexed at the Scottish Government’s insistence the licence has not been breached. Is Alex Salmond in denial?” he added.

He also accused the Scottish Government of attempts to shift responsibility on to the council, and “wash their hands of the matter”.

Megrahi was released in 2009 suffering from terminal prostate cancer. If he has broken the conditions of his release he could, technically, be recalled.

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party said it was not for opposition parties to decide.

“It does seem if he is on the run as has been reported then he has broken the terms of his licence,” he said. “However, that is not for us to decide – that judgment is for the Scottish Government. It is not for the Scottish Labour Party to monitor his release licence. We do not have the information the Scottish Government and East Renfrewshire Council have.”

He added: “We are not going to say that the conditions of his release have been broken, that would be irresponsible. But people will be asking whether they have been broken.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it contacted the Libyan National Transitional Council in London and would discuss any change in Megrahi’s circumstances with it.

“However, all of the information we have about Megrahi is consistent with him dying of terminal prostate cancer, and he has not been in breach of his licence conditions,” he added.

He also said that contact with Megrahi by the criminal justice social work service of East Renfrewshire Council was not due for some time.

Last night, the council confirmed it was still attempting to speak to Megrahi. A spokesman also confirmed the council had received the latest monthly medical report on Megrahi and another was not due until next month.

[Two letters on the subject of Megrahi appear in the same newspaper. They read as follows:]

Well done to Iain Macwhirter for bringing some sanity back to the Megrahi debate (“If Megrahi is to be tried again, then let it be in the new Libya”, The Herald, August 25).

Many of those clamouring for Megrahi’s blood appear to have forgotten about the Scottish Criminal Courts Review Commission (SCCRC) decision to refer his case for appeal because they were of the view “that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice”.

What is astonishing is that there has been no outcry by our media and politicians over the enormous sum of money apparently paid to Tony Gauci for giving evidence. As Mr Macwhirter implies, this alone should render Megrahi’s conviction unsafe. Why are David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Foulkes, among others, not demanding an explanation for this payment from the US?

Dr Hans Koechler, a university professor, was nominated by the United Nations to be an international observer at the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands. In his evaluation of the proceedings, he stated: “As to my knowledge, there is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused (in the original indictment Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah were jointly accused of the bombing) to the crime. In such a context, the guilty verdict in regard to Megrahi appears arbitrary, even irrational.”

Dr Koechler also found it incomprehensible that when the indictment was based on the joint action of the two accused in Malta, Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah not guilty.

It will be interesting to discover the content of the SCCRC report when it is published next month. [RB: The Scottish Government's legislative programme is to be published next month and is expected to feature primary legislation to enable the SCCRC Statement of Reasons to be published. It is most unlikely that the legislation will be enacted next month.]
Robert Woodcock.

If Megrahi’s release is good enough for Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter on Pan Am flight 103, and has conducted himself with dignity, balance and reason ever since, then it’s good enough for me – and forget the political posturing.
R Russell Smith.

1 comment:

  1. The behaviour of the SNP in this matter might be perplexing, but that of the other parties, most notably Labour, is utterly beneath contempt - it is transparently obvious that the Unionists feel that they have found a stick with which to beat the Scottish Government. The desperate search for any such weapon goes on ceaselessly - it has become the sole function of political opposition in Scotland (and in this we must include most of the MSM). Any considerations of justice, objectivity and ordinary human decency have gone sailing out of the window, if indeed they were ever in the room.