Monday, 24 August 2009

Megrahi - more support for MacAskill

Other SNP campaigners across the country have, apparently, had similar experiences to mine over the weekend - people telling us that releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds was the right decision, others disagreeing with the decision but acknowledging that it was a difficult decision to take and appreciating Kenny MacAskill's good intent and his thoroughness. I only found one who agreed with the Labour/Conservative/Lib Dem line and the story was similar across the country.

Today the Catholic Church added its support with Archbishop Conti saying
"I personally, and many others in the Catholic community admired the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on grounds of compassion which is, after all, one of the principles inscribed on the mace of the Scottish Parliament by which Scotland’s Government should operate.
"The showing of mercy in any situation is not a sign of weakness. Indeed in this situation, with the pressures and circumstances of the case, it seemed to me a sign of manifest strength.
"Despite contrary voices I believe it is a decision which will be a source of satisfaction for many Scots and one which will be respected in the international community.
"I have been impressed by the expressions of understanding and insight from Dr Jim Swire and other relatives who lost loved ones on the Pan Am flight who have acknowledged both the rightness of the gesture of compassion and their doubts as to the safety of the original conviction
“I would welcome any move which would try to find clearer answers as to what happened and why.”

The Church of Scotland had already supported Kenny on the day he made the announcement:
The Church of Scotland today praised the decision that meant Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released today on compassionate grounds by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.
Rev Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland said:
“This decision has sent a message to the world about what it is to be Scottish. We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have chosen to hurt us. Do we choose mercy even when they did not choose mercy?
This was not about whether one man was guilty or innocent. Nor is it about whether he had a right to mercy but whether we as a nation, despite the continuing pain of many, are willing to be merciful. I understand the deep anger and grief that still grips the souls of the victims’ families and I respect their views. But to them I would say justice is not lost in acting in mercy.
Instead our deepest humanity is expressed for the better. To choose mercy is the tough choice and today our nation met that challenge.
We have gained something significant as a Nation by this decision. It is a defining moment for all of us.”

In Parliament today, Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm said:
“Can I regret the politicisation of what is a quasi-judicial decision, and for my part commend the Justice Secretary for a courageous decision, which is entirely consistent with both the principles of Scots Law and Christian morality, as evidenced by the widespread support of Churches across Scotland.
“Does he share my revulsion, however, by what happened when Al-Megrahi returned to Libya, but does he accept that there is nothing that anyone in this Parliament could have done to stop that? And does he also agree that it [Libya reaction] is entirely irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of the original decision?”

Lib Dem MSP John Farquhar Munro said on Radio nan Gael this morning (translation, obviously):
“I’m sure there are plenty of MSPs with the same thoughts as I have.
“I’m of the opinion that Mr MacAskill had no other choice but the one he made. It was obvious from the doctors that Megrahi is suffering with cancer and that Megrahi’s health was going down every day and with that the correct thing happened and that MacAskill let Megrahi go with the information he had.
“I believe that MacAskill did the thing that was right and the ting that people will be looking on for years to come and that every time they raise the question of how well MacAskill did because of the rules and laws of Scotland.
“The right thing happened and MacAskill made the right and correct decision. With that it doesn’t give me any troubles whatsoever that there are some who are complaining.”

Henry McLeish on Radio Scotland this morning:
"If you look at the issue in the context of the criminal justice system and the independent legal system that we have, this is probably the right decision made for the right reasons."
"The intervention of the director of the FBI was totally out of order.
"It would be the equivalent of the Metropolitan police chief writing to Barack Obama to complain about a decision."
He said Mr Mueller's criticism was "ill-informed" and added: "Quite frankly, it`s none of his business. He has a view - fine. But that was a slur on the Scottish criminal justice system that we did not deserve."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister today, when asked whether the release gave succour to terrorists, said: "I don't think it does. This was a decision taken by the Scottish Justice Secretary in accordance with the laws of Scotland. I don't see that anyone can argue that this gives succour."

David Steel:
“I don’t necessarily think he made the wrong decision, I mean it was quite clearly made on compassionate grounds. It wasn’t made as part of a prisoner deal; it wasn’t made as part of a trade agreement, and I think people should focus on that and I think most opinion in Scotland therefore is in favour of the decision to release him on compassionate grounds.”

Jim Swire:
“Good luck to MacAskill. I think he’s done a grand job in standing up at least this much to obvious American pressure in which it’s clear that Mrs Clinton used the Libyan Government to persuade Megrahi to give up his second appeal which so many people believe that had it been completed, would lead to the overturning of this somewhat ridiculous verdict.”

Tam Dalyell:
"Mr MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, has arrived at the right decision on compassionate grounds."

Ming Campbell:
"Labour is clearly facing two ways on this issue: wanting to enhance relations with Libya but at the same time determined to criticise the SNP for an American audience.”

David Owen:
"I am a humanitarian, wherever you can you come down in the final analysis to looking at the individual. Are they entitled to die at home or die in prison? If it is humanely possible you should allow them to die at home.
"It is very hard to get at the truth and yet Lord Mandelson is seen with the Libyan president's son. It is very clear that the British government are in this up to their neck. I view all this noise as party politics in a rather crude way.”

Martin Cadman:
"I'm very pleased he has been released on compassionate grounds because I don't think he was the right person to be there anyway. It is just righting a wrong.”

Sir Richard Dalton:
"Appalling though the atrocity was that led to the deaths of 270 people, there are not good reasons why anybody convicted of that crime should be excepted from normal rules which apply for considering release on compassionate grounds.
"There is no doubt that Megrahi has been sent home to die. The reasons why he met the criterion for compassionate release was set out clearly by the Justice Secretary in Scotland and I believe it was the right thing to do, albeit I understand the pain that would be felt my many of those personally affected by the atrocity."

When asked what he thought of Conservative leader David Cameron's attack on the decision, he said:
"I believe he is wrong. He conspicuously did not address the question which I raised at the beginning, which is why in the case of Lockerbie should normal criteria be set aside? Maybe he was thinking politically about his relationship with the United States politicians rather than thinking in terms of the judicial process."

In addition, there was a demonstration outside Parliament today - people asking that the MSPs support Kenny MacAskill's decision and showing their support for his decision. A lady from Aberdeen drove down to Edinburgh on Friday after listening to the announcement with a bunch of roses and thistles because she had been so moved by Kenny's statement.

On top of that, Frank McAveety's researcher agrees with the decision.

Of the few who oppose the decision, though, why did Iain Gray think he should try to copy Richard Nixon with the "silent majority" nonsense - if they're silent, how does he know what they think? He must think that he can go back to the bad old days when Labour thought they could tell people how to think. Those days are gone.

There are a few questions, though - why was Cathy Jamieson not shoved front and centre on this issue? She must have authorised some compassionate releases in her time as Justice Minister. Could it be that she disagrees with her party's position? Likewise Lord Foulkes, sitting demurely and silently in the chamber today - most unlike his usual demeanour. Does he disagree with Iain Gray? Or are Cathy and George part of the silent majority?

Kenny MacAskill was right in his decision, I think Scotland backs him, and I think the other parties are wrong to behave in the manner they are behaving. That's their choice, though, their decision and their decision alone and they can stand by it and live with the consequences.


roddy said...

couldn't agree more, and good on Chisholm, McLeish and the LibDem MSP who ignored party politics and supported McAskill. It was an incredibly difficult decision, and it is certain that there are angles to consider that we haven't even heard of.

As for taking moral advice from the FBI and Jack McConnell...... words fail me!

Jim said...

Great post!

I've been very uncomfortable with this tory line that the decision was not made in Scotland's name - whatever they mean by that anyway, but my own immediate circle of family and friends agree the right decision was made, irrespective of their political stance. Nice to see the agreement does actually cross party boundaries.