Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

'Deep unease' over bomber release

Megrahi
Megrahi is serving life for the bombing which killed 270 people

First Minister Alex Salmond has been told there would be "deep unease" if the decision was taken to release the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish jail.

It follows reports that senior Holyrood civil servants had met a delegation from Libya to discuss the matter.

Tory leader Annabel Goldie said the fate of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was a "very serious issue".

Mr Salmond said that officials had not met since November and information provided had been "purely factual".

The Herald reported secret talks were being held which could see the Libyan transferred from prison in Greenock to his homeland.

Is the first minister minded to release a convicted terrorist back to their home country before they have served their full sentence?
Annabel Goldie
Tory leader

Megrahi - who has advanced prostate cancer - is currently appealing against his conviction for the 1988 atrocity.

Miss Goldie questioned Mr Salmond's stance on his possible release during first minister's questions.

"We do need to know the position of this Scottish Government," she said.

"Is the first minister minded to release a convicted terrorist back to their home country before they have served their full sentence?

"Does the first minister recognise that there would be widespread and deep unease if any convicted terrorist prisoner were allowed to leave Scotland prior to completion of their sentence?"

Mr Salmond confirmed that officials had met last year.

"Yes, it is true that Scottish Government officials met Libyan officials at the request of the Libyan government in October and November, as indeed, I believe, UK Government officials did as well," he said.

Prejudge decisions

He said the information provided was "purely factual" about the Scottish judicial processes for conditional release, compassionate release and prisoner transfer agreements.

He stressed that he could not prejudge any decisions the government might be asked to make in future.

Megrahi, 56, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in September.

A campaign has since been launched for him to be released on compassionate grounds.

His appeal against his conviction for the bombing in which 270 people were killed is expected to begin later this year.

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