Saturday, May 09, 2009

Lockerbie Appeal : SNP’s Christine Grahame ‘hints’ Megrahi may drop appeal

Christine Grahame MSP, the Scottish National Party’s South of Scotland MSP who famously barred the public from testifying to Parliament during her time as Justice Committee Convener, and was recently revealed as claiming over £25,000 in stationery expenses, recently met Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, and ‘hinted’, according to media reports, that Mr Megrahi may drop his ongoing appeal against his conviction, in the hope he will be transferred to Libya.

The Scotsman reports :

MSP hints Lockerbie bomber may drop appeal

Published Date: 09 May 2009
Scottish Political Editor

A NATIONALIST MSP has given the clearest hint yet that the Lockerbie bomber is preparing to drop his appeal in the hope of being reunited with his family in Libya.

The Libyan authorities have requested that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi be transferred to North Africa from Scotland to serve out the remainder of his sentence there.

But the Scottish Government can agree to the transfer request only if all legal proceedings are completed and, as Megrahi is currently appealing against his conviction, he would have to drop the appeal to be eligible for transfer.

Christine Grahame, an SNP list MSP for the South of Scotland, met Megrahi – who is suffering from terminal cancer – in Greenock Prison yesterday. She said afterwards that Megrahi was in deteriorating health and was "absolutely desperate" to see his family.

This appeared to be a clear sign that Megrahi is willing to do anything – including drop his appeal – to make himself eligible for transfer to Libya.

But, even if he does that, there is no guarantee ministers will accede to the request.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, First Minister Alex Salmond and the Scottish Cabinet will make the decision within the next 90 days.

Mr Salmond made clear earlier this week that the decision would be made on judicial grounds only, and not for humanitarian reasons.

After her hour-long visit, Ms Grahame refused to say whether Megrahi – who is serving a life sentence for the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people – was intending to abandon his what is second appeal.

Emerging from the prison, she said: "I found it quite upsetting. The man is obviously very ill and he is desperate to see his family – absolutely desperate to see his family – so, whatever it takes, that's the priority."

She added: "He did tell me things I can't discuss with you.

"But I am absolutely more convinced than ever that there has been a miscarriage of justice."

Asked if Megrahi planned to press on with his appeal, Ms Grahame said: "I can't say that – that is for him to say through his lawyers."

But the MSP again stressed Megrahi's anxiety to see his wife and children.

"I can just tell you what he told me – that his priority is to see his family," she said.

Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and later failed to be freed on bail pending his appeal, which finally got under way last Tuesday in Edinburgh.

Ms Grahame said: "His health is deteriorating, he was pretty upset and he is a man who wants to see his family."

With his health worsening, Megrahi believed he had only "a short time to go", Ms Grahame said.

"It was all about his family – we did talk about other matters, but it kept coming back to the importance of family," she said.

Megrahi did not tell her how long he expected to live, nor did he offer an opinion on the transfer request by Libyan authorities, said Ms Grahame.

But she also said he wanted to clear his name.

"That is essential to him as well," she said.

"Other matters I can't discuss with you because it would prejudice anything else."

Ms Grahame has previously said that if Megrahi's appeal was abandoned, there should be a public inquiry, and she repeated that view yesterday.

She said Megrahi knew a lot about the Lockerbie case.

"This man has lived this case for the last decade; he knows more about it probably than any other person on the planet. He is well-informed, but his priority is his family.

"The man is an able man, but he is a man who is terminally ill and missing his family, as we all would. He wants to die at home with his family."

Scottish Government and Scottish Prisons Service staff have started compiling information that will be used by ministers to decide on Megrahi's possible transfer to Libya.

However, that decision cannot be taken until and unless Megrahi abandons his appeal, something he has not yet done.

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