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Ministry of The Rt Hon Jack Straw

J ii sr IC E
Lord Chancellor and
Secretary of State for Justice
Selborne House
54 Victoria Street
London SW1E 60W
T 020 7210 8380
F 020 7210 8597
E general queriesjusticegsi gov uk
Kenny MacAskill MSP
Scottish Minister for Justice
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 iSP


At our meeting Past week I indicated that I would write
to you, and to the Secretary of State
for Northern Ireland, to seek your agreement to a negoti
ating mandate for the forthcoming
negotiations on the proposed prisoner transfer agreem
ent with Libya.
Improving relations with Libya is a desire which we
both share. The negotiation of a
prisoner transfer agreement, which forms part of a wider
Memorandum of Understanding
on judicial co-operation, forms part of this process; a proces
s that starts to help Libya re
emerge on the international stage.

I recognise that negotiating a prisoner transfer agreement
with Libya holds particular
sensitivities for the Scottish Executive given the presence
in Scotland of Abdelbaset All
Mohamed al-Mehrahi, the Libyan national convicted of the Locker
bie bombing. However,
we have always made clear that such an Agreement is permis
sive; that in this, as in all
previous Agreements, it would be for the respective
jurisdictions to agree in each
individual case whether or not they were content for a specifi
c prisoner to be transferred
under the final terms of the Agreement. This, of course, ensu
res that the role of the
Scottish Ministers and Scottish judicial system is properly
respected. If an agreement
under the normal terms were in place with Libya it would rightly
be for the devolved justice
system to determine whether or not a prisoner held in
a Scottish prison should be
transferred to his or her home country under that agreement.

I understand from discussions between our officials that you would
prefer that the terms of
any Agreement with Libya should specifically exclude al-Megrahi.
I would be grateful if you
would confirm this to be the case. In the event that this is the
case, I have set out below
the ways that this could be achieved. I believe that my officials have
already shared these
options with your officials.

(i) that the Agreement should exclude all prisoners who have committed
an offence
before a specific date or (ii) that the Agreement should exclud
e all prisoners who
committed their offences on or after the date of implementation of the Agreem
The first option is my preferred way forward. As al-Megrahi committed his offence almost
20 years ago it would be relatively straightforward to establish a date which would exclud
him but would enable other Libyan nationals imprisoned in the UK to seek transfe r.
However, this option may be vulnerable to challenge as it is clearly aimed excluding at
Megrahi. My officials are seeking further advice on this. The second option would be
offered in the event that the first option proves not to be defensible in law or if the Libyan
authorities are not able to accept the first option. This option would enable us to conclu
a standard prisoner transfer agreement but it would exclude other prisoners who
committed offences prior to the implementation of the Agreement. The number of
prisoners disadvantaged as a consequence would be small.

In order to give the Libyan authorities room to manoeuvre it may be necessary to offer to
include a review procedure. This would provide for the terms of the Agreement to
reviewed after 5 years; with the possibility of an earlier review if either party requested
d, but as
This would allow changes to the scope of the Agreement if circumstances change
right to
any changes would require the consent of both Governments we would retain the
block any not acceptable to us.
able to
I would be grateful if you would confirm that the options outlined above are accept
t to final
you. Any Agreement negotiated at official level would, of course, be subjec
ry of State for Northern Ireland.
consultation and agreement with you and with the Secreta
of State for
A copy of this letter has been sent to the Scottish First Minister, the Secretary
Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and to the Foreign Secreta