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'It Wasn't for Us to Interfere'

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lally Weymouth of The Post and Newsweek interviewed British Foreign Secretary David Miliband this week. Excerpts:

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Q. The thing that is on everybody's mind here is the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing. How could you have released him?

A. It was a decision by the Scottish authorities according to the criminal justice laws of Scotland.

Did you oppose the decision?

It wasn't for us to interfere. We did not oppose it.

Why not?

Under our criminal justice system, this is a devolved matter according to the law of Britain. The law of Britain gives power over criminal justice issues that relate to Scotland to the Scottish government.

I read that [Secretary of State for Justice Jack] Straw initially opposed the prisoner transfer and then later said it is in the interest of Great Britain.

Megrahi was released under compassionate release, which has existed under Scottish law for a long time. He wasn't released under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. That is a separate issue.

Why didn't the prime minister comment on the release for days after it happened?

Because he was defending the principle that our constitutional arrangements give power over that issue to Scottish ministers.

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