Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Straw denies Megrahi interference

Jack Straw: "The decision of the Scottish Executive was a matter for them"

Jack Straw has denied a suggestion the UK government guided Scottish ministers to release the Lockerbie bomber from prison on compassionate grounds.

But ministers did tell the Scottish government prior to Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's release the UK government was not seeking his death in custody.

Mr Straw, the UK Justice Secretary, has been giving evidence to the Commons Justice Committee.

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was released in August.

Tory MP Douglas Hogg challenged Mr Straw when he stated that in effect Westminster was guiding Scottish ministers to free the Libyan, but the justice secretary insisted it was entirely a matter for the Scottish government.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill decided to grant Megrahi a compassionate release after seeking medical advice on his condition.

Mr Straw originally intended to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement signed with Tripoli by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, but he later changed his mind.

In documents published in the aftermath of the Libyan's release, Mr Straw told the Scottish government it was in the UK's overwhelming interests not to exclude Megrahi.

Mr Straw said strong relations with Libya were important and that it would not be sensible to risk damaging them.

Both the Holyrood and Westminster administrations deny any pressure was applied on Mr MacAskill over the decision.

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