Kenny Macaskill rejects Lockerbie bomber claims

Scotland's Justice Secretary today rejected allegations that he urged the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing to drop his appeal to smooth the way for his compassionate release.

Kenny MacAskill came under pressure from opposition parties to make an immediate statement to the Scottish Parliament following the publication of the semi-autobiographical book Megrahi: You Are My Jury on Monday.

In the book, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi claims Mr MacAskill held a "private" discussion with Libyan foreign minister Abdulati al-Obedi in which "he gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal".

But in a statement to MSPs he said "these claims are wrong", adding that he would be "entirely comfortable" with the appeal being reopened.

He also confirmed that there is a mechanism for the appeal to be reopened even after Megrahi's death.

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Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi Credit: PA

Mr MacAskill said: "Scottish Government officials were present throughout my meeting with Mr al-Obedi.

"At no time did I or any other member of the Scottish Government suggest to Mr al-Obedi, to anyone connected with the Libyan government, or indeed to Mr al-Megrahi himself, that abandoning his appeal against conviction would in any way aid or affect his application for compassionate release."

He added: "The Scottish Government had no interest whatsoever in Mr al-Megrahi's appeal being abandoned.

"I had no involvement in Mr al-Megrahi's decision to drop his appeal against conviction - that was entirely a matter for him and his legal team."

He said members would want to know whether there is a mechanism for an appeal still to be heard, even posthumously.

He said: "I can confirm to the Chamber that there is.

"It would involve an application being made for a further reference by the SCCRC (Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission), the Commission deciding to make a reference and for the High Court to accept such a reference.

"These, of course, are not matters for me as Justice Secretary to decide upon.

"These are decisions for others to make, but I think it is important that we as a Parliament are aware of the position.

"I neither sought the abandonment nor continuation of Mr al-Megrahi's appeal, it is not for me to either seek or oppose a potential appeal, posthumous or otherwise.

"That is correctly a matter for others, and I would have every confidence in the Scottish criminal justice system were there to be another appeal. That is a matter I would be entirely comfortable with."