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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Lockerbie bomber claim challenged
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has hit out at claims that a prisoner exchange agreement with Libya did not cover the Lockerbie bomber.

Downing Street insisted a memorandum of understanding, signed during a trip by Tony Blair to Libya, did not apply to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

Meanwhile, former first minister Jack McConnell said transfer attempts were made while he was in office.

Mr McConnell said he was keen to retain his right of veto under Scots law.

The row broke out when the UK Government published details of a deal struck with Libya on prisoner exchange - but it insisted the document did not cover al-Megrahi's case and that no deal had been signed over his future.

First Minister Alex Salmond voiced concern at Holyrood that al-Megrahi could be transferred back to a jail in Libya, comments which were backed by the other Scottish parties.

Such behaviour by Downing Street would have been "deeply regrettable" even before Alex Salmond took power
Brian Taylor
BBC Scotland political editor

Mr MacAskill told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that there was no mention of al-Megrahi in the memorandum, but added: "When we're talking about the transfer of Libyan prisoners they are not secreted in Barlinnie, Saughton, Perth or anywhere else.

"We have only one Libyan national in custody and when we talk about the transfer of prisoners, frankly it is ludicrous to suggest that we are talking in a context other than this major atrocity that was perpetrated on Scottish soil and which was dealt with by a Scottish court and with a sentence provided by Scottish judges."

'Urgent review'

The justice secretary added: "When we talk about the transfer of Libyan prisoners within the jurisdiction of the government of Scotland, we are talking about the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing."

Mr McConnell, in an interview with the radio station talk 107, said the nature of his discussions over a transfer must remain private.

However, he added: "Personally, I was always very keen to retain the right of veto that we had in Scotland as a devolved government over any prisoner transfers, and you can see from the fact that Mr Megrahi is still in Scotland what the outcome of those discussions were."

The Libyan is serving life in Greenock Prison for killing 270 people in the bomb attack on Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie has called for an urgent review of the relationship, concordats and agreements between the Westminster and Holyrood governments.

"The total lack of a relationship between Scotland's two parliaments, evident since 3 May - and highlighted this week - is a recipe for constitutional disaster," she said.

Tony Blair meets Colonel Gaddafi in Libya

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07 Jul 04 |  Scotland

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