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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Scottish Officials 'Trying To Trace Megrahi'

The Scottish Justice Secretary said officials are trying to contact Libyan rebel leaders as part of efforts to track down the Lockerbie bomber.

Scottish officials have as yet been unable to contact the Lockerbie bomber in Libya.

Kenny MacAskill said attempts are being made to reach the National Transitional Council (NTC) while fighting continues in Tripoli.

Mr MacAskill released Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds two years ago after medical advice that the prisoner was three months from death.

As part of the terms, Megrahi is supposed to check in with officials at East Renfrewshire Council, but he has not been reached since fighting broke out in Tripoli.

Asked if the Scottish Government is seeking contact with the NTC about Megrahi, Mr MacAskill said: "We're entering into communications. These matters are difficult, but we're seeking to make sure that we lock on to the authorities.

"But at the present moment there is some doubt as to just which parts of Tripoli are controlled by whom. So, we seek to enter into discussions with the appropriate authorities."

He offered his support to council officials trying to contact Megrahi but said the "dust of battle" will have to settle before the picture is clear.

Earlier this week, council leader Jim Fletcher said his officials are in "uncharted water" in trying to track Megrahi.

Mr MacAskill, who was visiting a school in Edinburgh, said: "Tripoli and Libya is a war zone and until the dust of battle settles I think we have to allow them to continue to make the efforts that they're doing.

"Hospitals are over-run, the British embassy is having difficulties operating, so I think East Renfrewshire have done a good job to date and I fully support them in the efforts they're making."

He added: "Everybody is welcoming the fall of the Gaddafi regime - even those who welcomed him and glad-handed him or sold him weapons are delighted at what looks to be his imminent demise.

"But the primary responsibility, from what I hear from the NTC, is the saving of lives in Tripoli and Libya."

Calls have been made to extradite Megrahi from Libya to the US or bring him back to jail in Scotland.

Mr MacAskill said: "Mr Megrahi is a Scottish prisoner. He's been released on licence in terms of the law that applies in Scotland.

"He remains a Scottish prisoner having been convicted by a Scottish court, albeit one that sat in the Netherlands, but it did so after the intervention of the United Nations, of Nelson Mandela and others, and he was tried by international agreement under the laws of Scotland."

He added: "There are obligations that go with him being a Scottish prisoner released on licence. But whilst we're in a war zone, which is accepted by everybody, I think we need to wait and see what happens there."

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