[What follow are excerpts from a report headlined Search for al-Megrahi as Scottish officials lose touch behind the paywall in today's edition of The Times:]
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, used a visit to Edinburgh yesterday to say that he also believed al-Megrahi should be in jail. “My personal view is that he should be behind bars, he was convicted of one of the most atrocious crimes committed in Britain.” Mr Clegg’s view is shared by David Cameron, who opposed the Scottish Government’s decision to allow al-Megrahi to return on Libya in 2009 on compassionate grounds.
Under the terms of his release, al-Megrahi is required to keep in regular contact with East Renfrewshire Council. Failure to do so could render him in breach of his parole conditions.
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, refused to disclose what would happen to al-Megrahi when he is traced. “I can’t speculate on what might happen,” he said. “He has fully co-operated to date, and we have to accept that there are difficulties in Libya that are self-evident on our television screens, of hospitals bursting at the seams, of people fighting in the streets. I think some latitude has to be given.” US politicians including Mitt Romeny, the Republican presidential contender, have called for al-Megrahi to be extradited to the US once he is traced.
Paul McBride, QC, said that any attempt to capture al-Megrahi and return him to jail would be “illegal and preposterous”.
“What do the Americans want him for?” he asked. “He has been convicted in a court they approved of and released. Just because they don’t agree with the decision to release him doesn’t mean they can kidnap him, take him to their country and throw him in jail. That would be a similar situation to Guantanamo Bay.”
The legal difficulties associated with returning al-Megrahi to jail were also cited by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Asked if the Lockerbie bomber should be sent back to prison, he said al-Megrahi would be the responsibility of the Libyan authorities once he was found. “There are technical but important legal issues given that he has already been convicted,” he said.