NEWS
20/05/2012 15:50 BST

Alex Salmond On Megrahi's Death: 'Our Thoughts Must Be With Families Of Lockerbie Bombing Victims'

First Minister Alex Salmond has stressed the importance of remembering the victims of the Lockerbie bombing on Sunday, following the news that the man convicted of the killings, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, died in Tripoli on Sunday.

The SNP leader said that his "first thoughts are with the families of the Lockerbie atrocity, whose pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years.

"Today's news was not unexpected - Mr Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, which was the basis on which he was released."

Salmond sought to reassure the victims' families that investigations into the Lockerbie case will continue, and that the death of Megrahi will not "close the book."

"The Lockerbie case remains a live investigation, and Scotland's criminal justice authorities have made clear that they will rigorously pursue any new lines of inquiry.

"Scotland's senior law officer the Lord Advocate recently visited Libya, and we have been offered the co-operation of the new Libyan authorities. It has always been the Crown's position that Mr Megrahi did not act alone but with others."

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said that the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing will continue "to bring to justice the others involved in this act of state-sponsored terrorism".

Mr Salmond said Megrahi's relatives can posthumously appeal his conviction by applying to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission.

He added: "The best, indeed the only, place for guilt or innocence to be determined is in a court of law.

"Mr Megrahi's death ends one chapter of the Lockerbie case, but it does not close the book."

The Scottish government has been criticised by political opponents for releasing Megrahi almost three years ago.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "The death of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi closes another door in the Lockerbie saga.

However, this should not stop the questions that still exist, including those regarding his release by the SNP Government.

"Let us not forget that Mr Megrahi was found guilty in court of the biggest mass murder in UK history.

"Our thoughts should now be with the families of the victims who died on that fateful day in December 1988."

Mr Salmond said the Justice Secretary had followed "due process of the law" when granting the release.

He said: "The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee examined the matter in full, and concluded that the Justice Secretary's decision was taken 'in good faith' - this was also borne out by the UK Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell's Review, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

"Indeed, what emerged is that the Scottish government were the only ones playing with a straight bat - in contrast to the last UK Government which was revealed by Sir Gus O'Donnell's Review as doing 'all it could' to facilitate Megrahi's release, either under the PTA or compassionate release.

"Substantial opinion at home and abroad supported the decision, and we entirely respect the views of those who opposed it, but regardless of people's views they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of the due process of Scots Law.

"Today's news provides further confirmation of that fact."