Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 12:32 UK

Call made for Lockerbie statement

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
Megrahi is the only person to be convicted over the bombing

There are growing calls for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to make an urgent statement to parliament on the future of the Lockerbie bomber.

It follows reports that terminally ill Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is due to be freed on compassionate grounds.

He has also applied to drop his appeal against his conviction for mass murder.

Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker said the case had been mishandled but the Scottish Government said no decision had yet been made.

Megrahi is the only person to be convicted over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which claimed 270 lives.

Mr Baker said: "We need clarity now and some answers.

"The eyes of the world are on Scotland in its decision over Megrahi's fate but there are now serious questions over the way the Scottish Government has handled this process.

"Parliament needs to have the opportunity to ask questions about this because it doesn't serve the reputation of the Scottish justice system well, or the families of those who died, to have all this confusion over whether the decision has or has not been taken."

Bid to recall parliament over Meghrahi

MSPs are due to return to Holyrood in a fortnight, but Mr Baker said the Scottish Government should consider recalling Parliament now to discuss the issue.

"There has to be a statement by the justice secretary over his handling of this process, and an opportunity for MSPs to debate it," he said.

The MSP's call comes after one of Scotland's top defence lawyers also called on the justice secretary to make an urgent statement to Parliament about whether the 57-year-old is about to be freed.

Paul McBride QC described the manner in which the Libyan's possible release was being discussed as "beyond shameful" and said Mr MacAskill should have recalled Parliament to discuss the matter.

'Special treatment'

He criticised the minister for visiting Megrahi in Greenock Prison and said the bomber had been "feted as almost a celebrity".

Mr Baker also said he disagreed with the visit, claiming that it could be construed as "special treatment".

"It is such an important and serious issue but there's been so much political theatre about it," he said.

The Scottish Government did not comment on Labour's call.

A spokesman said: "We can confirm that no decision has been made on applications under the prisoner transfer agreement or compassionate early release by the Libyan authorities and Mr Al Megrahi.

"Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is still considering all the representations in both cases and hopes to make a decision this month."



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