Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 13:12 UK

Megrahi files 'may be released'

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill said he stood by his decision to release Megrahi

Scotland's justice secretary has said he may release confidential documents relating to the Lockerbie bomber's appeal against conviction.

Kenny MacAskill said a Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report could be made public if those who gave evidence granted their permission.

The independent commission concluded Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Some of its findings have been released but most of the report remains secret.

Megrahi has always denied involvement in the 1988 bombing of PanAm flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which resulted in 270 deaths.

The commission spent three years and more than £1m examining the case before referring it for appeal, having concluded there was new evidence that should be considered.

We're happy to make sure we publish as much as we can as long as it does not interfere or undermine the appropriate rights or sensitivities of others
Kenny MacAskill

But before judges could issue their ruling, terminally-ill Megrahi dropped the appeal. Shortly afterwards he was released from prison on compassionate grounds.

Mr MacAskill said he would now consider publishing the commission's 800 page report but only if those who gave evidence granted their permission.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "There are matters that have to be reviewed here. We have to make sure we don't compromise anybody's security, and that could come about. That we don't lay people open to defamation.

"We have always said we are more than happy to publish everything relevant where appropriate consents are given."

He said he was willing to have discussions with the chairman of the criminal cases review about publishing the report.

He added: "I give you a clear assurance we have nothing to hide. We are happy to co-operate with any inquiry, any jurisdiction and we're happy to make sure we publish as much as we can as long as it does not interfere or undermine the appropriate rights or sensitivities of others."

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate grounds

Mr MacAskill also denied having read medical reports on Megrahi's medical condition that had been paid for by the Libyan government, before deciding to release him.

He said the assessments, by leading cancer specialists, arrived at his office too late, and he was guided instead by the views of the director of health at the Scottish Prison Service.

And he denied having any regrets over the controversial decision to free Megrahi.

"I carried out what fell to me. I didn't choose to make the decision but the decision fell to me because I am privileged to hold the post of cabinet secretary for justice," he said.

"It wasn't an easy decision but it was a decision I had to make. I made it. I stand by it. I believe it was the right one."

In a separate interview, the UK government Children's Secretary Ed Balls suggested he did not want to see the Lockerbie bomber released.

He told BBC Radio Four: "I have to say that none of us wanted to see the release of al-Megrahi but that wasn't a judgement made by the British government it was a decision made by the Scottish executive."

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said he would be writing to the chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee to ask for an investigation into the handling and consequences of the release of Megrahi as soon as Westminster returned from its summer recess.

Mr Carmichael, who is a member of the committee, said UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw should be among those called as witnesses.

He added: "Throughout this whole process it has been the victims' families who have been worst served. As members of the Scottish Affairs Committee it is our job to ensure a good working relationship between the governments and it is therefore right we conduct an early inquiry."

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