First Minister comments on Al-Megrahi
Commenting on what we now regard to be reliable information confirming the death of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“Our first thoughts are with the families of the Lockerbie atrocity, whose pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years.
“Today’s news was not unexpected – Mr Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, which was the basis on which he was released. His death does, however, put to rest some of the conspiracy theories which have attempted to suggest that his illness was somehow manufactured – today’s news confirms what we have always said about his medical condition.
“The Lockerbie case remains a live investigation, and Scotland’s criminal justice authorities have made clear that they will rigorously pursue any new lines of inquiry. Scotland's senior law officer the Lord Advocate recently visited Libya, and we have been offered the co-operation of the new Libyan authorities. It has always been the Crown’s position that Mr Megrahi did not act alone but with others.
“It is open for relatives of Mr Megrahi to apply to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission to seek a further appeal. And the best, indeed the only, place for guilt or innocence to be determined is in a court of law.
“Mr Megrahi’s death ends one chapter of the Lockerbie case, but it does not close the book. However, all information which comes forward will confirm that the decisions of this administration have been in accordance with the due process of law.
“Extensive scrutiny under three jurisdictions supported the position that the Justice Secretary released Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone, based on the rules and regulations of Scots Law and the reports of the Parole Board for Scotland, the Prison Governor, and the Scottish Prison Service Director of Health & Care, Dr Andrew Fraser – all of which have been published.
“The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee examined the matter in full, and concluded that the Justice Secretary’s decision was taken ‘in good faith’ – this was also borne out by the UK Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell’s Review, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
“Indeed, what emerged is that the Scottish Government were the only ones playing with a straight bat – in contrast to the last UK Government which was revealed by Sir Gus O’Donnell’s Review as doing ‘all it could’ to facilitate Megrahi’s release, either under the PTA or compassionate release.
“Substantial opinion at home and abroad supported the decision, and we entirely respect the views of those who opposed it, but regardless of people’s views they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of the due process of Scots Law. Today’s news provides further confirmation of that fact.”
The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee examined the issue, and concluded that the Justice Secretary's decision to release Al-Megrahi was taken “in good faith”. Report published on 5 February 2010.
The US Senators’ claim was that BP lobbying played a role in the release of Al-Megrahi, but the Senate committee hearing that was held in September 2010 dismissed that claim.
At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on 29 September 2010, in a prepared testimony, Nancy McEldowney, a principal deputy assistant secretary, said that a review of US government records found no evidence that oil company BP sought to secure the early release of Al-Megrahi, and that the State Department has “not identified any materials, beyond publicly available statements and correspondence, concerning attempts by BP or other companies to influence matters” related to al-Megrahi’s release. The Senators report was published on 20 December 2010.
UK Secretary to the Cabinet Sir Gus O’Donnell’s Review made clear that: “Alex Salmond said that if Scottish Ministers were to contemplate release on compassionate grounds, they would need to be satisfied that it was appropriate and genuine, and that any release could not be on the basis of fixing wider UK/Libya relationship issues – it needed to be treated on its own merits.” (UK Govt note of Salmond/Straw discussion of 13 October 2008, page 8 of the Review). The Review was published on 7 February 2011.
The Cabinet Secretary’s Review also concluded as regards the position of the UK Government: “Policy was therefore progressively developed that HMG should do all it could, whilst respecting devolved competences, to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government for Mr Megrahi's transfer under the PTA or release on compassionate grounds. Such an approach was understood across all relevant Government Departments.” (P9/10 of the Cabinet Secretary’s Review).
Dr Andrew Fraser’s report states: “In June and July , assessment by a range of specialists reached firm consensus that the disease was, after several different trials of treatment, ‘hormone resistant’ – that is, resistant to any treatment options of known effectiveness.” It went on: “Reviewing the total picture, the concluding specialist view is that, in the absence of a good response to treatment, survival could be in the order of months and no longer many months.” His clinical condition “declined significantly over the last week (period 26 July – 3 August)”. Dr Fraser’s clinical assessment was that “a 3 month prognosis is now a reasonable estimate for this patient.”
More information on the release of Al-Megrahi