Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lockerbie Trial : Families of victims criticise plan to send Megrahi to Libya

Families of those who died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 have attacked plans to send the man convicted of the atrocity, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, back to Libya.

The Herald reports :

Straw attacked over moves to send Megrahi back to Libya

CHRIS WATT April 22 2009

Relatives of those who lost their lives in the Lockerbie tragedy have accused Jack Straw of hypocrisy over moves to clear the way for the man convicted of the bombing to return home.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, currently serving 27 years in Greenock Prison for the mass murder over Scotland, could be transferred home to Libya under an agreement being rushed through parliament by the UK Justice Secretary.

However, Families Flight 103, a group of friends and relatives of those who lost their lives in the 1988 terror attack, issued a statement accusing Mr Straw of back-tracking on his earlier sympathy for the bereaved.

"As Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw said in a meeting with representatives of UK Families Flight 103 in 2003 that, if he had been in government at the time of the bombing, he would have instigated an immediate inquiry into the intelligence aspects of what happened," the group said.

"As Secretary of State for Justice, despite his sympathies expressed at the meeting, Mr Straw is now responsible for putting an obstacle in the way of the families' search for the truth about Lockerbie."

The Herald revealed last week that relatives of the Lockerbie dead had received letters from senior legal officials which were seen as a warning that the man convicted of the killings was likely to be granted a transfer to his home country of Libya, part of a new agreement between the UK and the African nation that is likely to be ratified early next week.

Megrahi, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, is due to begin appeal proceedings at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh on April 28. Prisoners still engaged in criminal proceedings would not be eligible for repatriation under the terms of the agreement.

But the Lockerbie relatives fear that Mr Straw will succeed in an attempt to push the prisoner transfer agreement through Westminster on Monday, just one day ahead of the deadline for Megrahi to lose his eligibility.

The Westminster Joint Select Committee on Human Rights called last month for the ratification of the agreement to be delayed until at least the end of April, pending investigation into concerns over the content of the treaty.

However, Families 103 yesterday accused Mr Straw of "riding roughshod" over the committee's request and ploughing ahead with his own agenda to have the agreement ratified as soon as possible.

The Justice Secretary insisted earlier this month that the treaty must go ahead early because "a delay beyond early April is likely to lead to serious questions on the part of Libya in regards to our willingness to conclude" the deal.

But last night the Lockerbie relatives called on Mr Straw to consider their feelings and the standing of the Scottish justice system before passing the new agreement into law.

"We will be reminding the government not to overlook the human rights of the relatives and friends of the 270 people who were murdered over Lockerbie in December 1988," the statement said.

"These rights must come before any potential diplomatic embarrassment that might be caused by a delay in the ratification of the prisoner transfer treaty."

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