18/08/2011 02:06 BST | Updated 17/10/2011 06:12 BST

Al-Megrahi Not Guilty, Says Veteran Labour Politician

PRESS ASSOCIATION - Veteran politician Tam Dalyell has maintained that the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is not guilty.

Speaking three days before the second anniversary of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, Mr Dalyell also repeated his claim that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher personally dismissed calls for a public inquiry into the bombing.

The former MP told an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that Megrahi "is not guilty as charged".

He said: "The people who did it were the gangs of [Ahmed] Jibril and Abu Nidal from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC).

"One of the reasons why the commission (The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission) said the verdict wasn't safe was the matter of the bill of $10 million which was paid into the coffers of the PFLP-GC on December 23 1988, two days after Lockerbie."

The SCCRC referred Megrahi's conviction back to the High Court in 2007, but the appeal was subsequently dropped to clear the way for his compassionate release.

However, calls persist for a public inquiry, with Holyrood's Justice Committee preparing to consider a petition on the matter by the Justice For Megrahi group, led my Jim Swire whose daughter Flora died in the bombing.

However, Mr Dalyell claimed that Mrs Thatcher personally rejected earlier calls for an inquiry.

He said: "I asked her why, across 800 pages of her autobiography, that she didn't mention Lockerbie once.

"And she said: 'I didn't know about it...I don't know exactly what happened, and I don't write about things that I don't know about'."