MacAskill’s Two-Track Railroad: part 1/10
3 August 2010
Note: The posts in this series are not conclusive, but rather what I was able to learn before the anniversary arrived, sporadically updated later. Any suggestions from knowledgeable readers to improve the content will be gladly appreciated.
Next: 5 August >>
One year ago today, "Lockerbie bomber" Abdelbaset al Megrahi was still imprisoned in Scotland, convicted for the murder of 270, with an appeal of that endlessly stalled, and advanced prostate cancer drawing the grave closer to him. He was desperate to return home to Libya before the end, and the Libyan government was nearly as set on getting him back.
One way home had presented itself up to that point - a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) that had been Libya's brainchild, sponsored by Libya-UK business interests, and adopted by the UK government. One of the keen provisions of the PTA was that all legal proceedings - like Megrahi's dangerous second appeal - had to be closed first.
Another provision of the agreement, ratified on 5 May 2009, was its 90-day life span , which expired on this day last year, August 3. But Justice Secrtary Kenny MacAskill, had already "extended the deadline of the prisoner transfer request,” despite its being implausible to execute. 
Curiously, the same day one track was slated to stop (but didn't), a second way home came within reach. Megrahi had formally applied for Compassionate Release less than two weeks earlier, in late July. His original prognosis had been only in September 2008, when he was given “an informal mid-estimate of 18-24 months.”  Compassionate Release rules, first set-up in 1993, have no firm life expectancy standard, but do cite three months as a reasonable guideline.
By some time in July 2009, a "firm consensus" was reached by "a range of specialists" that Megrahi's cancer had become "hormone resistant," and so the prognosis has "has now moved to the lower end of expectations from ten months ago."  That had been 18-24 months, so minus ten from the low end leaves about eight months left.
An unnamed consulting doctor for the Scottosh Prison Service (SPS) looked Megrahi over again a year ago today . This is widely believed to be Karol Sikora, but is apparently not.  (see also comments, below) Having last seen the prisoner on 26 July, the specialist - not paid by Libya that we know of - reported an alarming deterioration in the short interim. A report from a week later explained "the clinical assessment, therefore, is that a 3 month prognosis is now a reasonable estimate for this patient." 
The 10 August report that passes this on was from Scottish Prison Services health director, and expressed his own and a general agreement that the prisoner was suitable for compassionate release. There was no other specific agreement with three months offered. And of course none was needed; as explained above, that benchmark is a guideline, not a requirement.
But it was an important guideline, and it was on the record to inform the choice in Mr. MacAskill's hands alone. He had two tracks to consider now, one of which (the PTA) would cost Megrhi's appeal if used, and the other of which (compassion) could leave the way open to challenge the tenuous conviction...
 Times Online. 21 August 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6804645.ece
 Medical Report, 10 August 2009. PDF download page: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/legal/lockerbie/CompassionateReleasePro/medical-report
 STV. 6 Sept.2009. http://news.stv.tv/scotland/121060-scots-govt-libyan-paid-doctors-did-not-influence-megrahi-release/