The Libyan’s death in prison would have harmed Scotland - we now need to focus on getting a full inquiry into Lockerbie
The phrase repeated ad infinitum by the Scottish Government last year after the release of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi was that it was the “right decision for the right reasons”.
The good faith with which the decision was taken is apparent. There can have been no trade deal. The Scottish Government doesn't even have the economic powers to benefit from that. Yes, the UK government though seem to have sold out for a BP oil deal. Tony Blair was present when CEO Tony Hayward signed on the dotted line in tent of Colonel Gadaffi, Megrahi's boss. The MOU between Libya and the UK, including the prisoner transfer agreement, was thrashed out at the same time. Coincidence perhaps, but the correspondence suggests not.
The Scottish Government rightly rejected this PTA. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill took the decision to release Megrahi on the basis that the prisoner had a prognosis of three months to live in prison due to his prostate cancer. That followed the normal process of law for someone in Megrahi’s condition. The easy thing for MacAskill would have been to let Megrahi rot. If he was a man driven by petty party politics, it would have stuck one to London at the same time too. He’s not a short term man though. He doesn’t do things purely for the sake of courting popularity.
That Megrahi is still alive is not a shock, I myself recently met someone who was given a few months to live due to cancer but seven years later is still with us. Incidentally, they are not exactly living it up, they are dying of cancer. Add to this the likely added life expectancy from moving out of prison to go home.
MacAskill’s opposite number in Labour, Richard Baker, in a real signal of confidence to the Scottish medical community yesterday said his position was that if doctors from the EU and US had come to the same conclusions, he would have backed release too (one can’t help thinking that given Scottish Labour’s track record, Megrahi would actually have been put on a plane to Tripoli in 2007 faster than you could say “Tony’s signed a Prisoner Transfer Agreement”). Baker’s release would albeit have been into the community in Scotland, with the security costs of this outweighed by the consideration of Scotland’s image in the world.
By this, presumably he means Scotland’s standing amongst the US political establishment. Because around the world, there is the same feeling that at the very minimum most people in Scotland who have examined the case will privately express – that Megrahi is in all likelihood not the man behind the Lockerbie bombing. If he had died in Scotland from cancer it would have done irreparable damage to our reputation not just in Libya and the Muslim world, but beyond.
This is just pure speculation on my part, but unconsciously the lack of confidence in his guilt may have affected his release. Had he been an undoubted stonecold killer, Megrahi may have remained in prison, and probably be dead by now. We have to be sorrowful that since Megrahi dropped his appeal, we have no obvious method of getting to the bottom of the doubts regarding the safety of his conviction. This is why we need to move beyond the bellyaching, BP conspiracies and political pointscoring, to securing the inquiry - with the evidence that was to be used in the appeal - to get to the truth.