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Scotland parliament votes to condemn Lockerbie bomber release

[JURIST] The Scottish Parliament [official website] voted 73-50 Wednesday to condemn last month's decision by Scottish Justice Minister Kennny MacAskill [official profile] to release [JURIST report] to Libya convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile]. The symbolic vote was a defeat for the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) [party website] but did not represent an attempt to overthrow the government. The vote comes as documents [materials] released Tuesday indicate that the British Middle East minister and other officials told MacAskill that there were no legal obstacles to Megrahi's release. Also Wednesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] denied that there was any cover-up [press release] of a deal between the UK and Libya for Megrahi's release, reiterating that it was a Scottish decision.

Last week, MacAskill defended his decision to release the terminally ill Megrahi to Libya after strong opposition [JURIST reports] from US government officials. In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.

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