[What follows is the text of an article published on this date in 2009 in Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm:]
The Firm has learned from reliable sources within the Justice Department that pressure is being applied to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmad Al Megrahi to drop his appeal if he is to be considered for release on compassionate grounds.
The Firm is suspending normal operations for the day to ask Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to answer one question:
“Has it ever been intimated to Megrahi or his representatives that he would be more likely to be granted compassionate release if he dropped his appeal?”
The Firm has previously reported on the possibility that some form of pressure or coercion was being applied to Megrahi through various channels to ensure that he dropped his ongoing appeal. Sources within the Justice Department have now confirmed that this point was “rammed home” when Libyan delegates met with Justice Department officials earlier this week.
“Not everyone within the justice [department] wants the Megrahi problem to go away,” a source within the Justice Department said.
“The Minister seemed set to do the decent thing, allow a dying man to go home and the appeal to continue. However the department has strongly intimated to the Libyans that if Megrahi is to be granted compassionate release he must first drop his appeal.
“This was the rammed home to the Libyans at their meeting with the Minister yesterday.
“Megrahi is desperate and will do anything to get home, including dropping his appeal, as his prisoner transfer request demonstrates. The Department knows it as does the minister. The Minister also knows that the majority of his electorate think Megrahi should go home and that the appeal will create – is creating – an almighty headache for the Scottish criminal justice system.
“The Minister and the department believe they are being smart – they look like the good guys, showing compassion to a dying man and avoiding flak from Dr Swire and others, while the unfortunate Megrahi is forced to deny himself justice and relieve the Crown, Police and judiciary of their albatross.
“The only way this catastrophe may be averted is if the double dealings of the department and Minister are exposed.”
The Firm understands that the Libyan delegation has been pressed to drop Megrahi’s appeal within the next 24 hours. The Firm is therefore asking the Justice Minister to provide a public assurance that the possible compassionate release of Megrahi is not conditional upon him first dropping his appeal.
[On the following day, 13 August 2009, The Firm published the Scottish Government’s response:]
“In answer to the simple question posed by The Firm, the answer is “No,” the Scottish Government said.