Brown did not want Lockerbie bomber to die in prison

Controversy as documents on bomber's release are published by UK and Scottish governments

Gordon Brown and David Miliband are at the centre of a political storm over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, after an official document has shown that they did not want him to "pass away" in prison.

Documents and letters published yesterday by the UK and Scottish governments revealed that Bill Rammell, then a Foreign Office minister, had passed on the message to Abdulat Alobidi, Libya's Europe minister, at a meeting in Tripoli in February.

Rammell's intervention was disclosed in a record of a meeting which took place in Glasgow in March between Alobidi and Scottish officials.

According to the note, Alobidi said: "Mr Rammell had stated that neither the prime minister nor the foreign secretary would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison but the decision on transfer lies in the hands of Scottish ministers."

This disclosure threatens to undermine the government's neutral stance over the release of Adelbaset al-Megrahi. Downing Street has repeatedly insisted that the decision over Megrahi's release lay solely with the Scottish Parliament.

It is a political blow for Brown, who had been hoping that the publication of the documents would end the controversy over the release of Megrahi, who has terminal cancer.

Rammell reiterated that the decision had been one for the Scottish parliament. He told the BBC: "I did say that. But we need to put it in context. I was making it emphatically clear that this was a decision for Scottish ministers."

David Cameron demanded an independent inquiry into the release of Megrahi, accusing Brown of double dealing. He said: "For weeks [Brown] has been refusing to say publicly what he wanted to happen to Megrahi. Yet we learn, apparently, privately the message was being given to the Libyans that he should be released."

The documents published show intense pressure from Libya to release Megrahi. Alobidi warned that: "Death in custody would be akin to a death sentence without the benefit of the court."

Pressure from business leaders on Edinburgh is also evident. Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, wrote to the Scottish government that if Megrahi died in prison, it would have "serious implications for UK-Libyan relations".

Meanwhile, Megrahi's health is deteriorating. A spokesman for the Libyan government said: "Only God knows when it will be over but he is dying now."