Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Minister sacked after promising Megrahi pressure investigation

[What follows is part of an item posted on this blog five years ago on this date. It follows on from the item that I posted yesterday:]

“Farcical scenes” as Baroness Kinnock axed from Lords post immediately after pledging to investigate Megrahi pressure

[This is the headline over a report on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows.]

Labour Peer Baroness Kinnock has been unexpectedly replaced in her post as Europe minister, only hours after pledging to investigate whether Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was pressured into dropping his ongoing appeal against conviction before being transferred to Libya. 

The Scottish Government had denied any pressure had been applied, but the coincidental timing of the dropping of the appeal has been widely perceived as being linked to Megrahi’s transfer. 

In a debate in the House of Lords on Monday Lord Lester of Herne Hill said he was “very concerned about the circumstances in which Megrahi was persuaded to drop his appeal and to go and die in Libya.” 

“I saw him in Barlinnie myself. I would like to know, and I would like the Government to find out whether, when he was visited in prison, it was made clear to him that if he dropped his appeal he would be allowed to go and die in Libya, so that there would then be no appeal and the relatives—Dr Swire and the others—would never know the truth,” he said. 

“I would therefore like an assurance that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure put upon him. The Government may not know the answer, but they should find out. Was any pressure put on Megrahi that he would be sent to die in Libya only if he dropped the appeal?” 

Baroness Kinnock said in response that she was “not aware of what the answer might be,” but would ask for advice and respond. 

Within hours, Kinnock had been replaced amid what the Daily Mail described as “farcical scenes” as her replacement, junior minister Chris Bryant “broke with protocol and announced his new role on the Twitter website before Downing Street or the Foreign Office had a chance to issue a statement.” 

The Firm has asked the Prime Minister’s office to confirm whether Kinnock’s sacking is connected to responses to questions raised about Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. So far Baroness Kinnock’s removal has been dismissed as “housekeeping” by the Prime Minister’s spokesman.

[Later today I begin my trek to Middelpos and Gannaga Lodge (via Cape Town and Stellenbosch). For the next five-and-a-half months the blog will be updated, perhaps somewhat more intermittently, from South Africa.]

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