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Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond writes to US over Lockerbie

Scotland's First Minister has written to US senators defending his government's decision to release the Lockerbie bomber.

In a letter to John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Alex Salmond made clear that the Scottish Government made the decision to free Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds and had received no representations from BP on the matter.

He said the decision was made with "integrity" and following a "clear legal process".

Libyan Megrahi is the only man to have been convicted of the Lockerbie atrocity which killed 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988. He was released from a Scottish prison last August, having been given three months to live, but is still alive and living with his family in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

David Cameron's first visit to Washington as Prime Minister has been overshadowed by the row over his release, with US senators suspicious that oil giant BP may have had a hand in the affair.

Mr Salmond said he had written the letter making clear the Scottish Government's stance in order to assist the committee with a proposed hearing on July 29.

He wrote: "I want first of all to restate the revulsion of the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland at the bombing of Flight Pan Am 103 and to acknowledge the terrible pain and suffering inflicted on the victims and the relatives of all those who died in the Lockerbie atrocity. Whatever different views we have about the release of Al-Megrahi, I am sure we stand together on that."

"I can say unequivocally that the Scottish Government has never, at any point, received any representations from BP in relation to Al-Megrahi."

Mr Salmond has previously criticised ex-premier Tony Blair for negotiating a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya in 2007 - which was not invoked for Megrahi's release - at the same time as sealing a deal for BP in the country, saying it gave rise to suspicions of "deals in the desert".

He wrote in the letter: "I must make clear that the Scottish Government strongly opposed the PTA and the memorandum that led to it was agreed without our knowledge and against our wishes."

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