Scottish censors to edit Megrahi report

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Plans for "open and transparent" publication of a report that questions the Lockerbie bomber's conviction took a hit after Scotland's Justice Department said it may have to accommodate data-protection law, European human rights and the concerns of UK and US intelligence agencies in a redacted version of the findings.

The Scottish Government is set to announce next week it will fast-track new primary legislation designed to bypass restrictions on the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The commission is currently prevented from publishing the findings of a four-year, £1m investigation into the trial and conviction in 2001 of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Megrahi was convicted by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands of the murder of 270 people connected to the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988.

In 2007, the commission delivered a summary version of the full Megrahi report, which runs to 800 pages and 13 volumes of appendices. It said that "based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence that was not before the trial court [in 2001] that the applicant [Megrahi] may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."

After enquiries in the UK, Malta, Libya and Italy, the commission identified six grounds where it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. Senior lawyers at the commission believe any new legislation enacted by the Holyrood parliament will only be one hurdle that will have to be overcome before the full report on Megrahi can be published.

The commission's concerns include material guarded by laws on sensitive and personal data issues relating to the Human Rights Act and privacy.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We want to be open and transparent and to go as far as possible because we have nothing to hide in this [Megrahi's] case."

But there was an admission that nothing had yet been finalised on the shape of the new legislation. He added: "We will be looking at a range of issues, including data protection, privacy, and human rights. Intelligence and security concerns will also be taken into consideration."

Two years ago Megrahi was released on "compassionate grounds" and believed to be in the final stages of terminal cancer. He is now in Tripoli and his family say he is close to death.