Friday, May 08, 2009

Lockerbie Appeal : McBride claims First Minister has undermined impartiality over Megrahi transfer decision

Paul McBride, Vice Chair of the Faculty of Advocates, board member of the Legal Aid Board, and recently represented one Douglas Haggarty in a rent boy scandal, has claimed earlier statements made by First Minster Alex Salmond when he said that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 should serve his sentence in Scotland, effectively undermines the First Minister from any measure of impartiality in making the final decision on Megrahi’s transfer to Libya.

The Scotsman reports :

Salmond warned over bomber

Published Date: 08 May 2009
By David Maddox

ONE of Scotland's top QCs has warned that Alex Salmond should play no part in deciding whether to transfer the Lockerbie bomber back to Libya.

Paul McBride, the vice-chairman of the Faculty of Advocates, said the First Minister's past statements that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi should serve his sentence in Scotland undermined ministerial impartiality on the decision.

It came after a row in Holyrood over answers Mr Salmond gave in First Minister's questions when he was asked about al-Megrahi's transfer application.

The application, made after Libya signed a prisoner transfer agreement with the British government, has to be decided by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill after discussions with colleagues including Mr Salmond.

Yesterday Mr Salmond was asked by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott whether he stood by statements made in 2007 and 2008 that the Lockerbie bomber should serve his sentence in Scotland.

Last year Mr Salmond said: "Anybody connected and convicted of the Lockerbie bombing should serve their sentences under Scottish jurisdiction."

Yesterday he insisted the decision would be made "on judicial grounds and judicial grounds alone". Mr McBride said: "Given what he has said in the past, the First Minister should play no part in this decision. If a judge expressed such a view before considering the case it would be open to challenge and the same is true of a minister."

Further concerns were expressed when Mr Salmond agreed with SNP backbencher Christine Grahame that it would be better if Megrahi's appeal continued. The appeal would have to be dropped if the transfer application were to be considered and victims' families are concerned this will prevent new evidence coming out.

Labour's Elaine Murray said Mr Salmond's reply "may give the Libyan government grounds to seek judicial review should their application be rejected".

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