Justice for Megrahi's written submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee for its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, 27 March) is now available on the Parliament website. It reads as follows:]
Ex-Scottish Government Ministers: Political Consequences of Public
On 28th June 2011 the Public Petitions Committee referred the Justice for Megrahi
(JfM ) petition PE1370 to the Justice Committee for consideration. Its terms were as
‘Calling 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.’
The petition was first heard by the Justice Committee on 8th November 2011. On 6th
June, 2013, as part of its consideration, the Justice Committee wrote to Kenny
MacAskill MSP, then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, asking for the Government’s
comments on our request for a public enquiry.
In his reply of 24th June 2013, while acknowledging, that under the Inquiries Act
2005, the Scottish Ministers had the power to establish an inquiry, he concluded:
‘Any conclusions reached by an inquiry would not have any effect on
either upholding or overturning the conviction as it is appropriately a court
of law that has this power. In addition to the matters noted above, we
would also note that Lockerbie remains a live on-going criminal
investigation. In light of the above, the Scottish Government has no plans
to institute an independent inquiry into the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.’
At this time Alex Salmond was the First Minister and with Mr MacAskill was
intimately involved in the release of Mr Megrahi on 20th August 2009, a decision
which caused worldwide controversy.
Members will be aware that since leaving office both Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond
have commented publicly on the Megrahi conviction indicating that their opinions on
the guilt of Mr Megrahi and the findings of the court might have changed somewhat
since they left office.
A selection of these statements is shown in the attached appendix ‘A’.
Certain of these statements refer to pressures that were placed on the Scottish
Government by outside governments and agencies which have until now been
hidden, and which had the potential to affect their decisions.
They also raise important political issues which will not be the subject of the ongoing
police investigation and eventual consideration by Crown Office.
It is not clear for instance how many of the issues raised in these public
pronouncements were known to Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond at the time of Mr
Megrahi’s compassionate release on 20th August 2009 and whether, and how, that
information impacted on what was stated at the time to be purely a compassionate
Questions arise as to whether any of their statements came from confidential
information gleaned while they were serving ministers and had the potential to
materially affect the ongoing criminal investigation and any potential appeal
submission by the Megrahi family to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review
Rather than adding clarity to the situation they have only served to raise further
important questions in respect of the guilt or otherwise of Mr Megrahi and the safety
of his conviction and raised doubts about the political decisions which were made in
respect of issues like our enquiry request and Mr Megrahi’s compassionate release.
We believe that aside from the relevance to any criminal investigation and possible
appeal, which should be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, they raise wider
political issues which can only be resolved within the Scottish Parliament.
• Was any confidential information misused in making these statements?
• What is the legal and political position of former senior ministers making public
statements containing information, confidential or otherwise, obtained while
serving in the Scottish Government and which relate to ongoing police and Crown
Office criminal enquiries?
• Was the decision to grant compassionate release to Mr Megrahi based on internal
and external pressures on the Government not admitted at the time?
• Did the facts and opinions now being revealed adversely affect JfM’s petition for a
public enquiry when the request was initially turned down and should that decision
be reconsidered in light of them?
A summary of other relevant questions is shown at Appendix ‘B’ to this submission.
Such political enquiry will not of course affect the ongoing criminal investigations but
might cast more light on the political background to them and assist in an overall
assessment of the whole Lockerbie question.
As things stand these public statements, about matters relevant to the Scottish
Government's decision on an inquiry and the wider need for openness and
accountability by ministers past and present particularly where confidential
information is involved, are unchallenged.
JfM greatly values the committee’s continuing critical political oversight, which we
believe is very much in the public interest, of matters related to our petition. These latest pronouncements by two senior politicians have undoubted relevance to our
petition for an enquiry and to wider political matters related to Lockerbie.
We believe that in the interest of accountability and openness the Justice Committee
should request, as a matter of urgency, that Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill appear
before it to account for their statements, in order to explore related matters affecting
our petition and to serve the wider interests of Parliament and public.
The political issues raised by these interventions will not be the subject of police or
Crown Office enquiry but have a direct relevance to the original rejection of our
petition by the Scottish Government. They also highlight the political culture in which
Lockerbie related decisions were being made.
It is our sincere belief that such a political intervention is long overdue. It is not good
enough for the committee to decide to defer these matters until Crown Office has
considered the Operation Sandwood report or the SCCRC has made a decision re
the Megrahi family submission for a further appeal.
It should be noted that we are not asking the committee to intervene in issues
directly related to the investigation and prosecution of crime or any appeal process.
We are asking for complementary action purely in respect of the public statements
made by Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill which have impacted, and continue to
impact, on Government and parliamentary decision making in relation to all
Lockerbie matters past and present, including our petition.