ALEX SALMOND is set to spark another international row over Lockerbie this summer by forging ahead with plans to publish a secret report that may prove the bomber was not guilty.
Four years ago the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ruled there may have been a “miscarriage of justice” in the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of Britain’s worst terror outrage.
But the reasons for its decision have never been made public, as the release is being blocked by one or more of the parties involved – including the Crown Office, the police, the FBI and the Foreign Office.
Any new evidence casting doubt on Megrahi’s conviction would be a huge embarrassment for both Westminster and Washington, as well as the Scottish investigators.
In February, the First Minister said if the SNP won a second term he would change the law to allow the SCCRC papers to be published.
Speaking to the Scottish Sunday Express yesterday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – who is likely to keep his portfolio – confirmed the Scottish Government would be bringing forward the necessary legislation “in early course”.
Senior SNP sources said their landslide victory showed the decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds had not damaged the party, despite the huge outcry on both sides of the Atlantic. Now ministers hope the release of the SCCRC papers will clear up the remaining doubts in the Lockerbie investigation and trial, while stopping short of a full public inquiry.
Mr MacAskill said: “This is something the new SNP government will do in early course. We have always been as open and transparent as possible. And following the announcement last December that the SCCRC was unable to secure the necessary consents to release its statement of reasons in the Megrahi case due to current legislation, we now intend to bring forward primary legislation to overcome those problems presented by the consent provisions.”
At the moment, the release of the SCCRC report can be vetoed by any one of the parties who submitted evidence to the four-year review. Chief executive Gerard Sinclair said it was “obvious” that it was never going to get permission from everyone involved.
Dr Jim Swire, the Lockerbie campaigner whose daughter Flora died in the 1988 atrocity, yesterday welcomed Mr MacAskill’s pledge.
He said: “It is extraordinary that almost eight years have gone by since the SCCRC came to the conclusion that the verdict was unsafe and yet Scotland has not found a way of taking the matter any further.
“Now that Mr Salmond has a proper majority he is going to have to face up to it. It is time for the SNP to grapple with this problem.” He added: “In Megrahi’s second appeal there was a document that was claimed to be vital for the defence to see.
“The Advocate General got in touch with the Foreign Office which issued a Public Interest Immunity Certificate to prevent it being given to the defence. That was clear political interference in the judicial process.”
That document – said to be a top secret intelligence report from a European country – would be just one of the potentially explosive issues in the SCCRC review. The then Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in 2008 that releasing it could cause “real harm” to national security and international relations.
However, Megrahi dropped his appeal days before he was given compassionate release from prison and sent home to Libya.
SNP backbencher Christine Grahame yesterday said she would keep up the pressure on her own party leaders over the Lockerbie issue. She said: “I fully intend to pick up again the cudgels for Justice For Megrahi.
“This issue is not going to go away. It landed in the jurisdictional court of Scotland and it is for Scotland to find out the answers.”
Courtesy of Sunday Express Scotland