Scotland

Salmond in Lockerbie bomber appeal grounds call

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi
Image caption Megrahi abandoned his appeal shortly before he was allowed to return home to Libya in August 2009

First Minister Alex Salmond has called for the publication of the Lockerbie bomber's grounds for appeal.

It follows assurances by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland that members of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) would not be prosecuted for publishing the details.

The publication of a SCCRC report where the appeal of an accused person has not been upheld is forbidden by law.

But Mr Mulholland said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was found guilty of carrying out the 1988 bombing.

His conviction had been referred to the appeal court but was dropped when he was given compassionate release.

Mr Mulholland said that while it was an offence for the commission to disclose information obtained in its investigations, he considered "it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, given the selective publication" in the media.

The SCCRC took four years to consider the Lockerbie bomber's case.

It produced an 821-page document which referred Megrahi's conviction back to the appeal court for the second time.

Statement of reasons

The document - called a statement of reasons - has never been published even though Megrahi abandoned his appeal shortly before he was allowed to return home to Libya in August 2009 because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is still alive.

Mr Salmond said he welcomed the lord advocate's statement.

He said: "It makes it easier to ensure that the whole statement of reasons is available publicly as soon as possible, which is something I have wanted to see for some time and which the Scottish government has been doing everything we can to enable.

"It is important that everyone is able to read the SCCRC report in its entirety, rather than the selective and partial accounts of its contents which have made their way into the public domain through various media reports, and this statement from Scotland's senior law officer is an important step forward in securing full and proper publication."

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "We are now 23 years on from the Lockerbie atrocity and the prolonged aftermath has understandably caused significant grief for the victims' families and given the unprecedented profile of the case, we support the release of further information that supports the victims' families quest for more information about the tragedy.

"However, it is vital that safeguards are put in place to ensure a wider precedent is not set."

Mr Mulholland's letter to the SCCRC follows the publication of details of the legal grounds for Megrahi's appeal in the Herald newspaper earlier this month.

The newspaper said it had further details of the six grounds for referral back to the appeal court contained in the statement of reasons document by the SCCRC, the body which investigates potential miscarriages of justice.

The six grounds for referral were previously published by the SCCRC in summary.

The letter also follows publication of the book, Megrahi - You are My Jury - The Lockerbie Evidence, in February.

The Scottish government has brought forward legislation to bring about the publication of the full report but data protection rules still bar its formal publication.

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