By Ray Fleming

DAVID Cameron was dealt a lousy hand of cards for his visit to the United States. As his press conference with President Obama showed, the BP oil-spill and the Lockerbie bomber issue dominated US interest in his presence. With well-judged help from the president Mr Cameron handled these issues as best he could.

However, his insistence that the Scottish government's decision one year ago to release Abdelbaset al-Magrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, was “wrong” does raise some awkward issues. Should a prime minister criticise a judicial decision in this way? Would he have done so if the legal process that led to Magrahi's release had taken place in England?

One aspect of the al-Magrahi case that seems to have been forgotten is that his release was conditional on his willingness to drop his pending appeal against conviction. Many lawyers and other qualified observers believed that the appeal would be successful.

His trial took place before three judges, not a jury, and one of them spoke of a “mass of conflicting evidence”. Both David Cameron and the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond have agreed to release all relevant documents on the al-Magrahi release.

The emphasis seems to be on satisfying the American suspicion that a BP interest in Libya affected the decision but its legal integrity also needs to be clarified.


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