British ex-minister rejects US request over Lockerbie
A British ex-minister asked to appear at a US Senate hearing on BP's role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber declined the invitation Friday, the day after a Scottish minister made a similar rebuffal.
Jack Straw was Britain's justice secretary when Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people, was freed from a Scottish jail last August because he was said to be dying of cancer.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is investigating suggestions that British-based oil giant BP lobbied for the Libyan's release, which caused outrage in the United States where many of the victims were from.
In a letter to committee member Robert Menendez, seen by AFP, Straw said he had "absolutely nothing to do" with the devolved Scottish government's decision to grant Megrahi compassionate release.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with that decision. I saw no papers about it, and was not consulted about it. Indeed I was on holiday at the time and only learnt about it from an item on the BBC News website," he wrote.
Straw, a member of former prime minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party which lost power in May, added: "You will therefore excuse me if I do not accept your committee's kind invitation."
On Thursday, the Scottish government confirmed that its justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, who had taken the decision to free Megrahi, had also declined the invitation to appear before the Senate committee.
Straw had earlier said it was "highly unusual" for a foreign legislature to conduct an inquiry into the decisions of another sovereign state.
Although not involved in Megrahi's release, Straw was involved in Britain's negotiations of a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya, something BP pressed for.
However, Scotland rejected Libya's application for a transfer and Straw said: "The PTA is therefore wholly irrelevant to al-Megrahi's release."
Scotland forms part of Britain, but under its devolved administration has control over its own justice matters.
© 2010 AFP