Lockerbie bomber was advised to drop appeal, claims new book

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is quoted as saying Scottish officials told him dropping his appeal would help his chances of release

The Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is to make a statement to Holyrood in the wake of claims he advised the Lockerbie bomber to drop his appeal to smooth the way for his release.

The allegations – strongly denied by the Scottish government – are contained in a new book about the bomber which was published on Monday.

In the wake of the allegations, MacAskill, who controversially freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in August 2009 on compassionate grounds, faced calls from opposition politicians to make a statement to Holyrood.

He will now do that, and answer questions from MSPs on the matter, on Wednesday afternoon.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Scottish government categorically denied that it “had any involvement of any kind in Mr Al-Megrahi dropping his appeal”.

The spokesman insisted that had been “entirely a matter for Mr Al-Megrahi and his legal team”.

He also branded the book Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by the writer, researcher and TV producer John Ashton, “third-hand hearsay”.

MacAskill decided to free the Libyan – the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 which killed 270 people – on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, remains alive today despite being said to have three months to live when he was released.

Shortly before being freed, he had dropped his second appeal against his conviction. Ashton’s book claims MacAskill met a delegation of Libyan officials 10 days before announcing his decision, including the foreign minister Abdulati al-Obedi.

In the book, Megrahi is quoted saying: “Obedi said that towards the end of the meeting, MacAskill had asked to speak to him in private.

“Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal.”

Ashton, who studied the Lockerbie case for 18 years and spent three years as a researcher with the bomber’s legal team, said: “Mr Megrahi makes clear in the book that it was made clear to him by the Libyan official who met with Mr MacAskill that it would help his case for compassionate release if he dropped his appeal.”

The author added that Megrahi “felt very strongly that dropping the appeal would help his application for compassionate release”.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats called on MacAskill to make a statement to the Scottish parliament in the wake of the book’s allegations.

However, the spokesman for the Scottish government said on Monday the claims in the book were wrong, and added: “Officials were present at all meetings the justice secretary had on this matter at all times.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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