Friday, 7 December 2012

Scottish Government solicited support for Megrahi release

[The following is taken from a report published this afternoon on the Daily Record website:]

Emails released under freedom of information legislation, have revealed how the Scottish Government asked public figures to endorse the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The documents show that First Minister Alex Salmond's advisers emailed the former South African leader's office, as well as former Irish president Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu asking for them to consider issuing a public statement.

US businessman Donald Trump has already revealed that he was asked, but refused, to put his name to a prepared statement saying he was "certain" the release was made for good reasons.

The Government's requests came shortly after the controversial decision to grant compassionate release to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in August 2009.

Megrahi, who had cancer, died in May this year. He was sentenced to life in prison for the bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town in 1988, which claimed 270 lives.

A template email was sent to the offices of Mr Mandela and Archbishop Tutu, with personalised references to their involvement or interest in the case.

The email sent on August 26 2009 to the Nelson Mandela Foundation stated: "Given his ongoing close involvement in Mr Megrahi's case, it would be very helpful if Mr Mandela was able to issue a public statement outlining his views on the decision of the Scottish Justice Secretary to release Mr al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Please let me know if this is something which you would be able to arrange. My colleagues and I would be happy to discuss this if you require any further information."

Mr Mandela played a role in the handover of Megrahi to face trial in a special Scottish court in the Netherlands.

The response said that Mr Mandela does not want to be involved in public issues any more but that he "sincerely appreciates" the decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

The decision was "in line with his wishes", according to the email.

Archbishop Tutu's office was approached with a similar email which noted his "long-standing humanitarian concerns".

He agreed to the request and issued a statement in which he said there was "nothing wrong" with the decision to free Megrahi.

Mrs Robinson, Irish president between 1990 and 1997, was approached through the human rights organisation she founded. Her office declined the invitation.

The Trump Organisation said in October that an approach was made asking for the decision to be endorsed.

At the time, a spokesman for the organisation said: "As Americans and New Yorkers who have unfortunately suffered and seen terrorism first-hand, it was ludicrous. The answer was no."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government was perfectly entitled to seek support at home and abroad for this decision which was supported by some, including some relatives of Lockerbie victims, and opposed by others."


[A report on The Telegraph website can be read here; and one on the BBC News website here.]

No comments: