Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Lengthy appeal process continues

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Appeal Court
The appeal process will continue after the decision on Megrahi's release

The second appeal of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing got under way in June last year.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which had been investigating the case since 2003, recommended it should be allowed.

Its chief executive described it as "the longest, the most expensive and singularly most complex case we have had to investigate and review".

It paved the way for a new freedom bid by Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

That process has been ongoing to this day.

Much of the legal debate in between has concerned the release of secret documents which his defence team viewed as vital to the appeal.

Security-vetted

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said handing the papers to defence lawyers would put national security at risk.

Eventually, in September this year, it was revealed that the Appeal Court in Edinburgh was to appoint a special defender to view the documents.

This security-vetted lawyer could then argue what information could be released.

The whole process, however, was further complicated by a legal victory for Megrahi in October.

David Miliband
The foreign secretary was drawn into debate about the release of documents

Appeal judges refused to put a limit on his list of objections to the trial which convicted him of the 1988 atrocity.

The Crown had argued that only the concerns voiced by the SCCRC in a 790-page report should be considered.

Megrahi's legal team had asked for its own grounds of appeal to be added and submitted its list, which runs to 317 pages.

Against the backdrop of this lengthy court battle, other significant events have unfolded.

Earlier this year First Minister Alex Salmond sought assurances from the UK Government that Megrahi would be excluded from any prisoner transfer deal with Libya.

It was reported that a deal had been drafted which could have included the man convicted of killing 270 people.

Government approval

However, the UK justice department said any decision on transfer was a matter for the Scottish courts and could not go ahead without the approval of the Scottish Government.

Most recently, on 21 October, it was revealed Megrahi was battling "advance stage" prostate cancer.

It prompted calls for his appeal process to be speeded up.

That was followed almost immediately by an application for his interim release by his legal team.

The verdict on that application has now been delivered, with Megrahi remaining in jail until the hearing next year.

However, the legal process of the appeal is still likely to continue for some time.

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