A DECISION to keep under wraps a telegram sent to then prime minister John Major three years after the Lockerbie bombing “adds insult to injury” for the families and friends of those who died in the atrocity, according to a campaigner who believes in the innocence of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for it.

The Cabinet Office claimed the contents of the telegram to Major in 1991 were against the national interest – despite the fact that former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill put them into the public domain almost three years ago in his book The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice.

Officials refused a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from The Times newspaper, which means the document will be kept secret at the UK National Archives, at Kew in London, until at least 2032.

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Their response read: “In this instance, we believe the release of the information received in confidence would harm UK relations with the country which provided the information.

“This would be detrimental to the operation of government and would not be in the UK’s interest.

“In light of the potential harm to UK relations with the country concerned, and UK interests there, it is judged that release of the material would not be in the public interest.”

The material is covered by a controversial public interest immunity (PII) certificate, which was signed in 2008 by then foreign secretary David Miliband.

It was identified as important to the defence of Megrahi by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which granted his appeal after the Crown failed to disclose details at his 2002 trial.

The National:

In his book, MacAskill said the telegram to Major, above, was from the late King Hussein of Jordan and blamed the bombing on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), the group originally suspected of carrying it out.

Records at the National Archives confirm that Major received a telegram relating to the bombing on November 15, 1991 – the day after the British and US governments announced they were bringing charges against Megrahi and his co-accused Lamin Khalifah Fhimah.

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Iain McKie, from the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) group, which is campaigning to clear the Libyan’s name, said: “It beggars belief that the UK government, after 30 years of widespread and well-founded doubts about various aspects of the Lockerbie investigation and trial, continues in its efforts to hide the truth about the tragedy.

“That it should claim to be protecting the public interest only adds insult to injury for the family and friends of the 270 souls who perished.

“Why would they claim it was in the public interest in keeping this material quiet until 2032?

“In some ways it heightens – not lessens – suspicion.

“Here in Scotland we’re awaiting the SCCRC decision on the submission from the Megrahi family – and there is a big story to be told internationally.”

MacAskill told The National there was “no good reason” to keep the contents secret, given that Hussein is dead. He said: “It can hardly exacerbate the situation in Jordan.

“Besides, the Crown has always been happy for it to be released as they think it just adds to the conspiracy theories when there’s a good explanation about it and it doesn’t exculpate Libya or Megrahi.”

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The document sent to Major will join dozens of other files relating to the atrocity, which are catalogued as “Aviation security: destruction of Pam Am, Flight 103”. They have also been closed until 2032.

Professor Robert Black QC, the architect of the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands, who believes there was a miscarriage of justice, said: “It is extremely difficult to understand how a document dating from Nov-ember 15, 1991, could still in 2019 adversely affect the national interests of the UK or its relations with the country of origin.”

“Much more likely is that the contents of the documents would embarrass the UK by showing just how tenuous is the case for Libyan responsibility for the Lockerbie tragedy.”