Friday 16 July 2010

British Ambassador's letter to US Senate

This is the full text that the British Ambassador in Washington sent to Senator John Kerry about the Al Megrahi case, and rumours he was released as part of a deal with BP.

Dear Chairman,

I am writing to you about continuing speculation in the media over the circumstances in which the Scottish Executive decided last year to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds. While only the Scottish Executive is able to provide the full details, I wanted to write to you to explain the facts as understood by the British Government.

First, the view of the new British Government is that Megrahi's release was a mistake. As the Prime Minster's spokesman said today, "the Prime Minister at the time said that he believed the decision to release Megrahi was wrong, and that he understood the concerns that had been raised about it." The British Government deeply regrets the continuing anguish that his release on compassionate grounds has caused the families of Megrahi's victims in the UK as well as in the US.

However under UK law, where Scottish justice issues are devolved to Scotland, it fell solely to the Scottish Executive to consider Megrahi's case. Under Scottish law, Megrahi was entitled to be considered for release on compassionate grounds. Whilst we disagreed with the decision to release him, we have to respect the independence of the process. As the Inquiry by the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament concluded in February, the Scottish Executive took this decision in good faith, on the basis of the medical evidence available to them at the time, and due process was followed.

I am troubled by the claims made in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government. Both of these allegations are untrue. The British Government worked with British business to promote legitimate commercial interests with Libya, as we do with many other countries. But there was no link between those legitimate commercial activities and the Scottish Executive's decision to release Megrahi. And as the Scottish Executive has stated, the prognosis issued by the doctor quoted recently in the press (Karol Sikora) did not feature in their consideration of Megrahi's case. He was released on compassionate grounds based on medical advice from other doctors that he had three months to live. This is common practice in the Scottish legal system.

I fully understand the concerns expressed by your colleagues in the Senate over Megrahi's case. The families of a great many American and British victims continue to suffer as a result of this terrorist atrocity. However, we have to accept that there is now no mechanism for requiring a person who has been released on compassionate grounds to be returned to prison if they have survived for longer than the prognosis at the time.

I hope that this letter helps to set the record straight and correct inaccuracies which are harmful to the UK. I and my staff are available to discuss this in greater detail should you find this helpful.
Yours sincerely,

Nigel Sheinwald


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