Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Kenny MacAskill to make statement on claims he advised Megrahi to drop appeal

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

Kenny MacAskill is to make a statement to Holyrood in the wake of claims he advised the Lockerbie bomber to drop his appeal to smooth the way for his release.

The allegations, strongly denied by the Scottish Government, are contained in a new book about the bomber which was published on Monday.
In the wake of the allegations, the Justice Secretary, who controversially freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in August 2009 on compassionate grounds, faced calls from opposition politicians to make a statement to Holyrood.
He will now do that, and answer questions from MSPs on the matter, on Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Scottish Government categorically denied that it "had any involvement of any kind in Mr Al-Megrahi dropping his appeal".
The spokesman insisted that had been "entirely a matter for Mr Al-Megrahi and his legal team".
He also branded the book Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by writer, researcher and TV producer John Ashton, as being "third-hand hearsay".
Mr MacAskill decided to free the Libyan - the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 which killed 270 people - on compassionate grounds. (…)
Mr Ashton's book claims Mr MacAskill met a delegation of Libyan officials ten days before announcing his decision, including foreign minister Abdulati al-Obedi.
In the book, Megrahi said: "Obedi said that towards the end of the meeting, MacAskill had asked to speak to him in private. Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal."
Mr Ashton, who studied the Lockerbie case for 18 years and spent three years as a researcher with the bomber's legal team, said yesterday: "Mr Megrahi makes clear in the book that it was made clear to him by the Libyan official who met with Mr MacAskill that it would help his case for compassionate release if he dropped his appeal."
The author added that Megrahi "felt very strongly that dropping the appeal would help his application for compassionate release".
Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats all called on Mr MacAskill to make a statement to the Scottish Parliament in the wake of the book's allegations.
However the spokesman for the Scottish Government said on Monday the claims in the book were "wrong".
They added: "Officials were present at all meetings the Justice Secretary had on this matter at all times."
[A shorter report can be read here on the BBC News website.


Abdelbaset Megrahi does not claim in the book that Kenny MacAskill directly advised or pressurised him to drop his appeal.  The advice is said to have been conveyed through Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, then the Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister with special responsibility for European relations.  Of all the Libyan officials with whom I had dealings over the years, Obeidi was the most trustworthy and transparent. However, he was very keen indeed to secure the repatriation of Megrahi in time for the fortieth anniversary of the Gaddafi revolution. My suspicion (for which I have no evidence whatsoever) is that Obeidi may have misunderstood something that MacAskill said to him or have interpreted something neutral through the prism of his desire to achieve Megrahi's return to Libya. I also know that Obeidi still had a lingering feeling that repatriation would ultimately be achieved through prisoner transfer, which he was under the impression (not unjustifiably) had been agreed to by Tony Blair in the "deal in the desert". For prisoner transfer, of course, abandonment of the appeal was essential.  I had on several occasions informed Obeidi that Tony Blair was not in a position to secure transfer of a prisoner in a Scottish prison; but I was never wholly confident that he actually got the message. "But Tony told us!" was a frequent refrain.]

3 comments:

  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2012, google translation, german/english:

    A new secret document from the 'British Ministry of Defence' shows that since first August 1991, 44 days before the official Indictment (Statement of Facts) from UK, did go to Libya. the Lord Advocate of Scotland know, that the MEBO (MST-13) timer fragment "PT-35", had nothing to do with bombing of PanAm 103 and in conection with Libya !
    +++
    Ein neues geheimes Dokument vom 'British Ministry of Defence' beweist, dass seit dem 1. August 1991, 44 Tage vor dem offiziellen "Indictment" (Statement of Facts) von UK an Libyen, the Lord Advocate of Scotland wusste, dass das MEBO- (MST-13) Timerfragment "PT-35", nichts mit dem PanAm 103 "Bombing" und Libyen zutun hatte !

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication Switzerland, URL: www.lockerbie.ch

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  2. Robert

    "However, he was very keen indeed to secure the repatriation of Megrahi in time for the fortieth anniversary of the Gaddafi revolution. My suspicion (for which I have no evidence whatsoever) is that Obeidi may have misunderstood something that MacAskill said to him or have interpreted something neutral through the prism of his desire to achieve Megrahi's return to Libya."

    Are you saying the claim that MacAskill had a private meeting with a Libyan representative, who later conveyed to Megrahi the need to drop his appeal to be sure of being freed, is a lie?

    Maggie Scott QC seemed under a similar impression when she announced the dropping of the appeal.

    Personally, like you, I have no evidence whatsoever, but I have felt since day one (the dropping of the appeal) that something stank and MacAskill was in the middle of it. I think he is a thoroughly dishonest man.

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  3. Jo, I'm reluctant to rush to judgment over Kenny MacAskill. I can picture the Scottish and Libyan teams leaving the room at the end of one of their meetings, with Kenny walking beside Abdel Ati. I don't find it difficult to envisage Kenny saying something which Abdel Ati misconstrued, or interpreted in the way most favourable to the goal he was aiming for (Megrahi's repatriation). Abdel Ati's English, though good, is far from perfect. However, this is all just speculation on my part.

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