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Foreign Secretary writes letter to Secretary Clinton

The Foreign Secretary has today written a letter to Secretary Clinton on the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

During his call with Secretary Clinton on Friday 16 July, the Foreign Secretary confirmed the British Government will engage constructively with the US administration and the Senate to dispel concerns about the circumstances leading to the Scottish Executive’s decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. In that context, the Foreign Secretary wrote to Secretary Clinton today to set out the British Government’s understanding of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release.

The full text of the letter

‘Further to our conversation yesterday, it may be helpful if I set out for you the British Government’s understanding of the circumstances leading to Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi’s release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009, particularly in light of suggestions that BP exercised influence over the Scottish Executive’s decision.

Firstly, I must emphasise my own concern and regret at the continuing anguish that the release has caused the families of Megrahi’s victims in the United States, as well as here in the UK. I would like to make clear that this administration believes that the release of Megrahi was a mistake. I said this myself in October 2009 and the Prime Minister also wrote to the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to express his opposition to the release. It remains our view.

But while we disagree with the decision to release Megrahi, we must respect the legal and constitutional independence of the process that the Scottish Executive followed. The decision to release Megrahi, as a prisoner in Scotland, was solely for the Scottish Executive to take. The process they followed was extensively investigated by the appropriate body - the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament - whose inquiry in February 2010 concluded that Scottish Executive followed due process under Scottish law. The previous UK administration and the Scottish Executive have already put into the public domain extensive documentation relating to both the UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement and the release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds in September 2009.

I know there has been much speculation over the connection between the conversations the previous British Government had with BP over their interests in Libya, and the Scottish decision to release Megrahi. There is no evidence that corroborates in any way the allegations of BP involvement in the Scottish Executive’s decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, nor any suggestion that the Scottish Executive decided to release Megrahi in order to facilitate oil deals for BP.

I am copying this letter to Senator Kerry given that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold a hearing on this matter. I have asked Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald to stay in close touch with the Committee about what other assistance it would be appropriate for us to give.’

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Published 17 July 2010