FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mar 1, 2010 1:08:06 PM
By Andy Philip, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland
The far-right Scottish Defence League was today urged to call off a planned vigil in Lockerbie.
Politicians and anti-racist campaigners called on the group, which aims to protests against militant Islam, to cancel its demonstration in the town hit by the Pan Am terrorist bombing in 1988.
It emerged last week that the Scottish Defence League (SDL) is planning a “respectful vigil” which doubles as a protest against Justice
Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who last year released the Libyan man convicted of the atrocity.
The demonstration follows a gathering in Edinburgh last month when about 40 SDL supporters were confined to a pub by hundreds of police while counter demonstrations were held in the city.
Solicitor Aamer Anwar, an organiser with multi-cultural group Scotland United, led calls for the SDL to call off its rally plan, thought to be on March 27.
He said: “We have a simple message for these racist and fascist groups: there is no place for your organisation in Lockerbie or in Scotland and we condemn any organisation that wishes to capitalise on the murder of 270 innocent men and women.”
Mr Anwar said the message applies to counter-demonstrators who may have wanted to appear in Lockerbie at the same time.
The Edinburgh SDL protest was met with scores of anti-fascist and student demonstrators who chanted and waved banners behind police lines close to Jenny Ha’s pub near the Scottish Parliament.
At a press conference in Edinburgh today, Mr Anwar read a statement from Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing.
It read: “We cannot condone any attempt to politicise so grave a matter as the Lockerbie disaster.
“We have a 21-year record of pursuing justice and truth, and have resolutely refused to become associated with any political party,
mainstream or fringe.”
David Mundell, the shadow Scottish Secretary and local Conservative MP, said: “Everybody appreciates that over the last 21 years or so, people in Lockerbie have had to endure a great deal. This is surely one of the most repugnant proposals that has been visited upon them.”
Elaine Murray, Labour MSP for Dumfries, lodged a motion at Holyrood condemning the SDL plan. She said: “The SDL do not speak for Lockerbie. If they have a shred of decency, they will stay away.”
South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said: “Using the Pan Am bombing is sickening. I hope they rethink their plans immediately.”
Education Secretary Mike Russell, an SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, said the SDL is attempting an “organised display of racism” and called for the vigil to be banned.
A Church of Scotland minister and union representatives also joined calls to stop the demonstration.
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