Sunday, 7 February 2016

Kenny MacAskill accused of ‘cashing in’ with book on Lockerbie bomber release

This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Sunday Post. It reads in part:]

The former Justice Secretary has been accused of cashing in after he signed a publishing deal which will see him give his account of the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but served just eight years of his sentence before being freed in 2009 because he had cancer and doctors said he would be dead within three months.

It is understood the book will see MacAskill give his version of the period building up to releasing Megrahi and the international condemnation of the decision to free the Libyan intelligence agent, who went on to live for three more years.

MacAskill’s move last night sparked outrage from American Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora.

She said: “I view this book with extreme scepticism. Do we really think MacAskill will tell us the truth? It will just be an exercise in self-serving and some attempt to protect what he thinks is his legacy.

“I don’t care what he has to say, how tough the decision was or any of that.

“There has been this sort of industry grown up around Lockerbie, much like we see with many other disasters or terrorist incidents, where people make money from books or films.

“I find it disgusting frankly.”

She added: “I stand by my view that the release of Megrahi was a disgusting capitulation.

“The man murdered 270 people and lived on for years after we were told he was at death’s door, it was an embarrassment to your government.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “The SNP bent over backwards to set Megrahi free and a lot of people are still angry about that fact.

“It’s scandalous that Kenny MacAskill now feels the need to make money out of this case. Once again, it’s the victims’ families and friends who are set to suffer.” (...)

Megrahi, who always maintained his innocence, was found guilty of the bombing in 2001 and seven years later it was revealed the Libyan had “advanced stage” prostate cancer.

The then Justice Secretary MacAskill released Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, sparking international condemnation with US president Barack Obama branding the decision “a mistake”.

MacAskill said he stood by his decision and would “live with the consequences”.

The veteran SNP figure and former lawyer is stepping down from Holyrood next month after 17 years as an MSP to pursue a “third career”. (...)

One SNP insider said: “Kenny couldn’t speak about the issue as frankly and freely as he would have liked at the time because he was in government.

“Any suggestion he is cashing in is wide of the mark.

“There is a lot to tell, much of which couldn’t be told at the time, so I think it is right that people get to hear the back story to such a momentous decision.”

Mr MacAskill confirmed the book deal when approached by the Sunday Post on Friday but declined to comment further.

[RB: I find it mildly amusing that UK news media seeking comments from Lockerbie victims’ families always approach US families (and usually one particular person, whose comments can be guaranteed to be colourful) rather than UK relatives whose contributions are usually more measured.

A report on the Daily Record website contains the following quote from a UK relative:]

Pam Dix, whose brother Peter died in the atrocity, yesterday said: “I am baffled as to what he can add to the extensive debate on ­Lockerbie and what his own investigation could consist of that could be of any substance.”

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