A body which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice has been given permission to release details of the case of the Lockerbie bomber, it was announced today.
However, it will be for the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to decide what – if anything – to release, said the Scottish government.
The move came on the 21st anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing outrage, and at a time when the Libyan convicted of it, Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al Megrahi, is reported to be in worsening health.
A £1.1m (€1.23m) investigation by the SCCRC led to a finding in June 2007 of six grounds – some put forward by the defence, others as a result of its own investigations – where it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
This decision opened the door to Megrahi’s second appeal against his conviction.
He dropped the appeal shortly before Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, granted an application for his release from jail on compassionate grounds on August 20 this year.
The commission said that Scottish ministers had made an order which comes into effect on February 10, entitling it to disclose “to any members of the public” information obtained during its investigations.
George Sinclair, the commission’s chief executive, said the order allowed disclosure only with the consent of those who have provided the information.
He added: “In considering whether it is entitled to disclose information, the commission will also have to have regard to other relevant matters, including ECHR (the European human rights convention) and data protection legislation and all other relevant law.”
Mr MacAskill said: “The Scottish government has always been clear that as much information as possible in this case is published where relevant and where appropriate, consents are given.
“The order laid today allows the SCCRC to disclose information it holds and it is now for them to decide what, if anything, they release.”
The anniversary of the atrocity which claimed the lives of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town comes as reports from Tripoli yesterday said Megrahi’s prostate cancer had spread and the health of the 57-year-old was worsening.
Dr Jim Swire, the father of one of the British victims, said he understood Megrahi may have a “few weeks” left to live.
A report issued by the Tripoli Medical Centre yesterday is said to have detailed the bomber’s ailing health.
Dr Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, said: “I’ve been talking to people who know about his medical condition and the message I get is he’s likely to only have a few weeks left.
“I think it’s another occasion where we should be grateful for Kenny MacAskill’s bold decision to allow him to go home.”
Megrahi was found guilty of mass murder following a trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001.
He abandoned the second appeal against the conviction ahead of his release, and many of the victim’s families are still fighting for further light to be shed on the circumstances surrounding the bombing.
Another Lockerbie relative, Pamela Dix, told how the reports of Megrahi’s worsening condition added to the continuing ordeal of relatives still seeking answers.
Ms Dix, whose brother Peter was among the dead, said: “It really builds the extreme sense of frustration that this whole year has brought.
“The lack of resolution around the criminal aspect of Lockerbie is almost now complete.”
She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “With Megrahi’s death we will never know whether if he is truly innocent as he protests and as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board considered he might be, or guilty as a Scottish court convicted him.”
She said: “I just find it immensely frustrating to have to sit here in the middle and not know.”