Lockerbie appeal confirms SNP dilemma

By Alex Stevenson

The Scottish government must decide whether to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi following his decision to drop his second appeal against conviction.

Megrahi’s move, accepted by judges today, opens the way for him to be released from prison. He has terminal prostate cancer and is expected to die within the next few months.

But the Scottish National party administration in Edinburgh has received significant pressure from US politicians determined to ensure Megrahi stays behind bars.

Yesterday reports emerged that secretary of state Hillary Clinton had contacted the Scottish government expressing her opposition to Megrahi’s release.

A letter signed by seven senators, including 2004 Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry and foreign relations committee chairman Edward Kennedy, went further.

“We believe he should remain in Scotland to complete his sentence in prison,” the letter stated.

“Recognising the gravity of this heinous crime, the international community demanded that the government of Libya turn the perpetrators over for prosecution and accept responsibility for the crime.

“Our international agreement called for his sentence to be served in Scotland and we believe strongly there should be no deviation from this sentence.”

Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie 21 years ago. The attack resulted in the deaths of 270 people.

The man making the final call will be Scotland’s justice minister, Kenny MacAskill.

He is believed to have cleared his diary to focus on what will be one of the biggest single decisions of his time in office.