ALEX Salmond and Kenny MacAskill should be called before the Justice Committee to answer key questions on the Lockerbie bombing, campaigners claim.

In a petition to the cross-party Holyrood panel, the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) pressure group says the ex-politicians, who served together as First Minister and Justice Minister, must account for public statements relating to the 1988 atrocity.

These include expressions of doubt over the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who died in 2012 more than two years after being released from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds.

Salmond later sent The National a statement responding to the key questions of the group (see below).

JfM triggered a major probe into the conduct of prosecutors, police and forensic officials involved in the investigation and legal actions relating to Megrahi's conviction after making nine allegations of wrongdoing. Titled Operation Sandwood, it was launched in February 2014 and is yet to conclude.

The petition, due to be heard tomorrow, calls for Salmond – who said evidence used to convict Megrahi was "open to question" – and MacAskill to explain whether or not confidential information was "misused" in comments made in the media and for the basis behind claims made by MacAskill in his 2016 book on the case.

These include the assertion that Megrahi, the only person ever convicted over the terror attack, did not buy clothes found in the suitcase that contained the bomb from the Malta shop of witness Tony Gauci.

In a statement, JfM said such a move is "long overdue". The group, which includes , whose members include Dr Jim Swire – whose daughter Flora was amongst the 270 killed, stated: "Since leaving office Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill have not only cast doubts on the safety of Abelbaset al Megrahi’s conviction for the 1988 atrocity that killed 270 people but implied possible interference in the political and legal process and raised questions about the possible misuse of confidential information.

"As Police Scotland prepares to submit its report to Crown Office on a four-year enquiry into JfM’s nine allegations of criminality against police and officials involved in the investigation and trial of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, JfM believes it is vital that the committee investigates the possibility of mistakes or malpractice in the Lockerbie related political decisions that have been made.”

The four main questions were:

1. Was any confidential information misused in making these public statements?

2. What is the legal and political position of former senior ministers making public statements containing information, confidential or otherwise, obtained while serving in the Scottish Government and which relate to ongoing police and Crown Office criminal enquiries?

3.Was the decision to grant compassionate release to Mr Megrahi based on internal and external pressures on the Government not admitted at the time?

4. Did the facts and opinions now being revealed adversely affect JfM’s petition for a public enquiry, when the request was initially turned down by Kenny MacAskill, and should that decision be reconsidered in light of these latest developments? 

UPDATE: Alex Salmond has responded to the statement.

He told The National: "Obviously I would help the Scottish Parliament in any way I can. However, I don’t need to go before the Justice Committee to answer the four main questions asked of me by the Justice for Megrahi Group. I am very happy to answer them now.

"My views on the case were shaped not by any confidential or secret briefing but by the public information in the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission Report of 2007, first published in abridged form and which my Government legislated to publish in full after the 2011 election.

"I did this to make sure that everyone had access to the same full information. I found that report both comprehensive and very convincing. It has always surprised me that so many commenting on this case seem to have read so little of it.

"The second question asked by the Group falls as a result of the answer to the first.

"The answer to the third question is no. The former Westminster Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell’s review of 2011 into the release, established that the Brown Government had an undeclared policy in favour of Megrahi’s release but that had no impact whatsoever on the Scottish Government, just on the reputation of those politicians who attacked the Scottish Government for releasing Megrahi while their own Government had a secret Policy in favour of it.

"Mr MacAskill made his decisions on both prisoner transfer and compassionate release according to the precepts of Scots Law. In my opinion they were the right decisions. The Justice Secretary was not ruling on Mr Megrahi’s guilt of innocence but on whether he should be subject to prisoner transfer or conpassionate release.

"The answer to the fourth question is no. The only place Mr Megrahi’s guilt or innocence can be determined is a court of law, a point I made many times while in office. In contrast my opinion or that of the Justice for Megrahi Group or that of anyone else can not determine anything, nor can any other body. Only a court can determine guilt or innocence. That is, of course , what would have happened on appeal if Mr Megrahi had not contracted cancer.”