Scottish minister stands by release of Lockerbie bomber

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The Scottish government minister who took the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber said he stood by the move Tuesday, hours before the leaders of the US and Britain discuss the issue.

Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary in Scotland's devolved government, also said he would consider any request by the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee to give evidence at a hearing on the affair later this month.

"I stand by the decision I made," MacAskill said in an interview with BBC television.

"I reflected and followed the rules and laws of Scotland, I upheld the values and the beliefs that we seek to live by as the people of Scotland."

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 of blowing up a Pan Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 and killing 270 people, was freed from prison by the Scottish government in 2009 on compassionate grounds.

He had been given three months to live due to prostate cancer but is still alive in Libya. A doctor who examined him was recently quoted as saying he could live for another 10 years.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are expected to discuss the case when they hold their first official talks at the White House Tuesday.

MacAskill restated that medical evidence had made it "quite clear that (Megrahi) could live longer" than three months.

Asked whether he would give evidence to the Senate committee, the minister accepted there were "significant unanswered questions" relating to the case.

"That has caused pain for victims both in Scotland and elsewhere around the world and we've been happy to try and provide what information we can," MacAskill said.

"We are happy to assist in matters but we'll need to wait and see what the United States formally requests."

He again stressed he had no knowledge of any deal done which would have seen prisoners released to smooth the way for lucrative oil deals with the likes of BP.

"These are questions that have to be answered by the British government," MacAskill said.

"It was the British government that perhaps did a deal in the desert but that would be for them to state and for the senators to discover".

© 2010 AFP

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