Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 14:51 UK

Support for bid to clear pirate

Drawing of Scottish-born American privateer and pirate William 'Captain' Kidd standing on the deck of a ship, brandishing a sword, circa 1690
Captain Kidd was rumoured to have hidden his loot

The Scottish Parliament has been asked to support a campaign to clear the name of a captain who was hanged for piracy more than three centuries ago.

Captain William Kidd had been appointed by the Crown to tackle piracy and capture enemy French ships.

In 1698, he looted the Armenian ship the Quedagh Merchant, which was apparently sailing under a French pass.

However, the captain of the ship was an Englishman and Capt Kidd was executed in London in 1701.

The Quedagh Merchant had been carrying satins, muslins, gold and silver when she was attacked by Kidd.

It is thought that a large amount of the booty belonged to the British East India Company.

As well as the piracy charges, Capt Kidd was accused of murdering one of his crewmen during a row in 1697.

During his execution, the first rope put around this neck broke, so he was strung up a second time. That rope also snapped but the third one held.

People are going to be worried about the fact that someone can be used and abused in that way by the state
Bill Kidd MSP

Capt Kidd's body was dipped in tar and hung by chains along the River Thames to serve as a warning to would-be pirates.

Legend had it that Kidd hid much of his loot, which has prompted numerous treasure hunts around the world and inspired Robert Louis Stevenson when writing Treasure Island.

American researchers have been investigating the history of Capt Kidd, who it is thought was born in Greenock or the Dundee area in about 1645.

Dan Hamilton and Chris Macort claim that Kidd was set up by King William III, who wanted to appear tough on piracy but who also stood to profit from the goods which Kidd seized.

A parliamentary motion has been lodged by SNP MSP Bill Kidd, who is not related to the pirate, urging that the parliament welcomes a fresh bid to clear his name following the new research.

Mr Kidd said: "There's no time scale over which justice isn't important.

"I think these types of incidents, whenever they happen, have a lesson and a morality for all time because otherwise we allow people to get away with breaking the law and breaking rules and we allow governments to get away with punishing people wrongly.

"I don't expect that there's going to be a mass campaign in the streets for something that happened 300 years ago but I do expect that people are going to be worried about the fact that someone can be used and abused in that way by the state, whatever time in history.

"If someone is accused and hung for something that he didn't actually do, when he was operating for the government and he was doing the job properly, that comes down to a criminal act on the part of the government not on him."

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