[What follows is taken from a report just published on the BBC News website:]
Scotland's former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said it suited both the US and UK to pillory him for releasing the Lockerbie bomber.
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted of killing 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown from the skies above southern Scotland in 1988.
After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was released by Mr MacAskill in 2009.
The retired SNP MSP spoke to the BBC about the criticism he received. (...)
Mr MacAskill has been recounting his dealings with the Lockerbie case in a book to be published this week called The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search For Justice.
He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that al-Megrahi had played a part in the atrocity which saw 259 people on board killed, along with 11 people on the ground.
However, he said he believed the bomber to be a "foot soldier" and that his conviction might have been viewed as unsafe.
Mr MacAskill's criticisms were levelled at the "state-sponsored terrorism" he claimed had led to the "devastation" of the town of Lockerbie.
He said: "Scottish justice found itself put on trial. I believe all those in Scotland - whether police, prosecution, courts or in the health service - acted diligently and with integrity. But what happened was a world out there, especially countries such as the UK and the USA, acted shamefully.
"It suited them to pillory myself and Scotland at the same time as they were conniving with Colonel Gaddafi, when they had been involved with shoring him up before they tore him down with spectacular consequences for commercial and military interests."
After Mr MacAskill sanctioned the release of al-Megrahi he was heavily criticised by some of the victim's families. (...)
Mr MacAskill also spoke to the BBC's Scotland 2016 programme.
He outlined key questions that needed answering and why the issue was much bigger than the terrorist act itself. His points included:
- what was going on in commercial deals done with Gaddafi?
- what was going on in the security world at the time?
- Scottish courts do not have the power to compel the US Pentagon to give evidence
- and if justice was to be pursued, then it had to be done as an international inquiry and not by a Scottish court
[RB: As regards the last two of these points, here is what I wrote on this blog in October 2010:]
Here are my responses to the pretexts that the Scottish Government have put forward for refusing to set up an independent inquiry:
Reason 1 "The questions to be asked and answered in any such inquiry would be beyond the jurisdiction of Scots law and the remit of the Scottish Government, and such an inquiry would therefore need to be initiated by those with the required power and authority to deal with an issue international in its nature."
Answer This misrepresents what the petition asks the Scottish Government to do.
The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament "to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988." It does not ask for the establishment of a general inquiry tasked with finding out the truth about the Lockerbie disaster. This would, of course, be beyond the powers of the Scottish Government under the Scotland Act 1998.
The petition asks for an inquiry into the conviction of a person by a Scottish court. This might involve consideration of --
*the police investigation of the tragedy;
*the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the downing of Pan Am 103;
*the conduct of the Crown Office in preparing the prosecution;
*the trial in the Scottish Court in the Netherlands;
*the acquittal of Mr Fhimah and conviction of Mr al-Megrahi;
*the rejection of the first appeal;
*the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's referral of Mr Al-Megrahi's case to the Court of Appeal;
*the dropping of this second appeal;
*the compassionate release of Mr al-Megrahi.
Each and every one of these matters is within "the jurisdiction of Scots law and the remit of the Scottish Government".
Reason 2 "The Scottish Justice Secretary made it clear that under the powers devolved to Holyrood no worthwhile scrutiny could be ordered here because there would be no powers to compel witnesses." (http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/macaskill-tells-world-why-he-freed-megrahi-1.982718)
Answer An inquiry constituted under the Inquiries Act 2005 (www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/12/contents) does have power under sections 21, 22 and 28 to compel witnesses and to compel the production of documents and other evidence. Indeed, the relevant powers of such an inquiry are greater than those of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission under sections 194H and 194I of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. Yet, with even its limited powers, the SCCRC was able to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the Megrahi conviction, involving the interview of many witnesses and the consideration of thousands of documents and other items of evidence, and to reach conclusions based thereon.