Megrahi: latest developments
Several items of interest on the Megrahi case emerged in the course of October 2009.
Taking the developments in reverse chronological order:
On 25 October 2009 it became public that a new police investigation into the Lockerbie bombing was under way, following fresh lines of inquiry developed as a result of a "desktop" or paper review of the evidence in the case and consultation of forensic scientists by the prosecution service. It is not thought that the investigation will lead to a departure from the position that Mr Megrahi's conviction was correct; so presumably it is looking at the possible involvement of others.
On 24 October The Scotsman carried a story detailing all the prisoner compassionate release cases since the beginning of devolution in Scotland – 25 altogether. The Scotsman's line was that Megrahi had already outlived five in terms of the numbers of days survived after release. For Scots Law News, there were other points of interest. All of those released bar Megrahi and one other released on 18 September 2009 are dead. Three of those released apart from Megrahi had been convicted of murder. Seven were released by Lord Wallace, eleven by Cathy Jamieson and so far seven by Kenny MacAskill. (Six prisoners were released on compassionate grounds between 1993 and 1997 (when, if you remember, we had a Conservative Government and a Secretary of State for Scotland actually running things.) Seventeen of the post-1999 releases were because the prisoners in question had cancer. The longest liver lasted 271 days after release: other relatively lengthy survivals included periods of 182, 173, 168, 119 and (twice) 98 days (all therefore somewhat in excess of the three-month period mentioned in the Scottish Government policy guidelines on the subject). All but one of these relatively long survivors had cancer; the exception had AIDS.
The Westminster Parliament debated the Megrahi release on 12 October. The Foreign Secretary made clear what was already obvious, that the UK Government did not wish to see Megrahi die in a British prison because of the damage this would do to the country's economic interests. But he insisted that no pressure had been placed on, or agreement reached with, the Scottish Government, whose sole responsibility the decision on the release had been. The Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster announced on 21 October that in the light of the Megrahi affair it would conduct an investigation of co-operation and communication between the UK and the Scottish Governments.