Saturday, 19 August 2017

Prisoner transfer agreement “rushed through”

[What follows is excerpted from a report published on the website on this date in 2009:]

The prime minister [Gordon Brown] was accused today of rushing through the ratification of a treaty to protect oil interests in Libya which allegedly involves a 'deal' to repatriate the Lockerbie bomber.
MPs and peers on the joint human rights committee claim they were denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise the treaty with Tripoli.
They accuse government ministers of overlooking human rights in their haste to rush through the agreement with Tripoli and protect British investment.
Justice secretary Jack Straw wrote to the committee in March saying: "Both the foreign secretary and I believe, in the interests of our judicial and wider bilateral relations with Libya, it is important to ratify... a delay beyond April is likely to lead to serious questions on the part of Libya in regards to our willingness to conclude these agreements."
The committee responded: "We... regret that we have been unable to publish a substantive report on the treaty before Easter and, therefore, before ratification."
The Earl of Onslow, a Conservative member of the committee, said: "This is not a good way to deal with matters of justice.
"One shouldn't allow whether one has a right to drill for oil in the Gulf of Sidra to have any influence on what is essentially a criminal matter."
The treaty was allegedly rushed through due to the health of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The Libyan government has long been lobbying for the 57-year-old to be returned to his home country.
Former British ambassador to Libya Sir Richard Dalton said relations with Tripoli would be damaged if Megrahi were allowed to die in prison.
However, he added: "This is first and last a judicial matter."
Last night Hillary Clinton reiterated her opposition to the possible release of the Lockerbie bomber in a strongly worded message to the Scottish government.
The US secretary of state said it would be "absolutely wrong" to release Megrahi.
"We are still encouraging the Scottish authorities not to do so and we hope that they will not," she said.
Earlier this week, a letter was sent from seven US senators including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry to Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, urging him to keep Mr Megrahi behind bars.
The Libyan is currently dying from terminal prostate cancer.
He dropped his second appeal against his conviction on Tuesday - a move which is thought to clear the way for his release from prison on compassionate grounds.
However, a crown appeal against the length of his sentence is still ongoing.
Scotland's finance secretary John Swinney said Mr MacAskill had gone to "significant lengths" to listen to everybody's opinion on the case.
The Scottish justice secretary is due to decide within the next two weeks on an application for Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, as well as a Libyan government request for a transfer to allow him to serve out his sentence in his homeland.

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