Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fresh Megrahi appeal "a step in the right direction”

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in today’s edition of the Sunday Mail:]

John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Helga in the tragedy, supports appeal to overturn the late Libyan's guilty verdict as it is "a step in the right direction."

The father of a Lockerbie victim has said new moves to clear the man convicted of the bombing bring the truth about Pan Am Flight 103 a step closer.
As we revealed last week, fresh grounds for an appeal to clear Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are in the final stages of preparation before being handed to the Scottish ­Criminal Cases Review Commission.
John Mosey, who lost his daughter Helga, 19, in the 1988 ­explosion which killed 270 people, welcomed the development.
Megrahi’s widow Aisha and son Ali met with lawyer Aamer Anwar and Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy, in Zurich in November to discuss the appeal.
They believe crucial evidence was withheld from Megrahi’s trial.
Reverend Mosey, of Lancaster, said his family supported their ­concerns over the guilty verdict and want to know why then justice ­secretary Kenny MacAskill met Megrahi in jail before he was released on ­compassionate grounds in 2009.
John, who is among 25 ­UK-based relatives of victims ­supporting the appeal, said: “The question of who did it is our basic question.
“It’s important that we live in a society where the legal system ­cannot be manipulated for political ends. The rule of law is vital.
“I don’t think all of the truth will ever out – there’s probably too much at stake. But some things will come out, I’m convinced of that.”
He admitted to being “amazed” that Megrahi was found guilty of planting the bomb that blew the plane up over Dumfriesshire and said campaigners were ­supporting efforts to clear the ­Libyan’s name.
He said: “We’re approaching it on two fronts with our Justice for Megrahi group and this legal action on behalf of the Megrahi family, which is backed by British relatives.
“It is a step in the right direction into getting an inquiry into what went on and why it wasn’t prevented.”
John felt MacAskill was holding back when they met.
He said: “We had several meetings and found him to be a gentleman who treated us with dignity.
“I always got the feeling he would like to have been more helpful than he was allowed. I would be fine if he was called as a witness in the case.”
He believes US politicians exerted influence. He added: “It seems to us ­Washington leaned on Westminster, who leaned on the Scottish legal system.
“It seems to me it’s linked to something the Americans were doing, perhaps in the Middle East.”
Anwar said: “Without the likes of Rev Mosey and Dr Swire, it is likely this campaign for the truth would have been over a long time ago.
“John and Jim, I suspect, will never give up fighting for the truth because they know without it there can never be justice. I hope we can deliver that one day.”

Agreement reached on damages for Lockerbie victims’ families

[What follows is excerpted from an Agence France Presse news agency report published on the Arab News website on this date in 2003:]

Libya will pay $10 million to each of the 270 victims of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing after accepting civil responsibility for the blast, Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham told AFP yesterday. “My country has accepted civil responsibility for the actions of its officials in the Lockerbie affair, in conformity with international civil law and the agreement reached in London in March by Libyan, American and British officials,” he said.

Shalgham said full payment was conditional on UN sanctions against Libya being lifted after payment of an initial installment of four million dollars to each victim, and US sanctions after a similar payment.

After payment of the final installment of two million dollars, Libya would ask to be removed from the US list of countries supporting terrorism, he added. Saying that Libyan businessmen had already set up a fund, Shalgham went on, “I hope that the damages will be paid as quickly as possible, perhaps in the coming weeks.”

The total sum of $2.7 billion was the same as US officials said on March 12 Libya had offered as compensation in talks with the United States and Britain. They also said Tripoli was prepared to assume limited responsibility for the downing of Pan Am flight 103, something it has previously refused to do.

Dan Cohen, whose daughter Theodora died in the crash, stressed after a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns that Washington was insisting that a statement of responsibility came from the Libyan government itself.

He said Libya’s payment was also contingent on individual lawsuits filed against the Libyan government by the families of the victims being dropped, as well as the United Nations and the United States ending sanctions. (...)

United Nations sanctions against Libya were suspended but not lifted after Tripoli handed over the two suspects in the case. The United States has said that UN sanctions cannot be lifted until Libya satisfies all of its requirements under UN Security Council resolutions, including the payment of compensation, an admission of responsibility for the bombing, the disclosure of all relevant information about it and a renunciation of terrorism.

US sanctions, imposed under different terms, would require those steps in addition to moves from Tripoli.

[RB: The Libyan letter acknowledging responsibility (which I played a part in drafting) can be read here.]

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Parliamentary pressure to accept neutral venue trial

[On this date in 1998 Tam Dalyell MP secured his fourteenth adjournment debate on Lockerbie in the House of Commons. What follows is excerpted from his speech in that debate:]

Given the recent travels of Dr Jim Swire of the UK relatives group, accompanied by Professor Black, who had extensive meetings with the League of Arab States, the Organisation of African Unity, the Libyan leader and officials for the two accused, will the Government explain an almost total lack of willingness to communicate with the Libyan Government or to use some kind of communication to get out of the impasse?

I spoke last night to Robert Black, who is visiting Stellenbosch in South Africa. He said that the Libyan Government had stated previously that they would put “no obstacles in the way of their nationals going to trial”. The Libyan Government now say that they "positively welcome" their nationals going to trial in a third country. They have promised to
“facilitate those arrangements and to do everything to achieve that end”. I received a copy of a letter written today by Dr Swire to the Foreign Secretary—I have shown it to senior officials at the Foreign Office, and I apologise for the fact that I was not able to do so earlier. It states that present at the meetings were Mr Abdul Ati Obeidi, Secretary at the Foreign Office, Libya; Mr Zuwiy, Secretary of Justice, Libya; Mr Omar Dorda, the Libyan permanent representative at the United Nations; and, crucially, Dr Ibrahim Legwell, the lawyer representing the two Libyan suspects. The more important point is that they had an endorsing meeting with Colonel Gaddafi. Hitherto, it has been asked, "How do we know with what authority Libyan promises are made?" When the promise is made by Colonel Gaddafi himself, it is high time to accept Libya's assurances in good faith. (...)

Finally, I asked both Dr Swire and Professor Black, "Do you think in your heart of hearts that the Libyans did it or had anything to do with it?" Both replied separately and said, "In our heart of hearts, no, the Libyans were not involved." They are not naive people. That is also my view—and I do not think that I am being naive, either.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lockerbie bomb families in plea to reconsider evidence

[This is the headline over a report published in today’s edition of The National. It reads in part:]

A doctor whose daughter died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie has said that the right of families to know the truth about what happened is being blocked by the authorities’ failure to re-examine evidence from the trial in the Netherlands, which led to the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the atrocity.
Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the 1988 bombing, is among a number of victims’ relatives who believe Libyan Megrahi – who died in 2012 – was innocent.
In an open letter published on the Intel Today website, he said the evidence now appears to show that the bomb was loaded on to the flight at London Heathrow and not Malta.
That was a key part of the prosecutors’ case against Megrahi at the Camp Zeist trial, which heard from a Maltese shopkeeper who said he had sold the Libyan clothing that was found wrapped around the device. (...) [RB: The full text of Dr Swire’s letter can be read here.]
Megrahi’s family said earlier this week they would pursue a further appeal to clear his name.
Meanwhile, pressure group Justice for Megrahi (JfM) is still awaiting the results of the Operation Sandwood investigation by Police Scotland into nine criminal allegations it made against police and others involved in the initial investigation and trial.
JfM member and former police officer Iain McKie, said: “We have never been in a better place for getting to the truth. Sandwood has been a dedicated investigation by Police Scotland and its final report will be a seminal document.”
A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) told The National: “The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court, and Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges. His conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an appeal court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland’s most senior judge. As the investigation against others who were acting with Megrahi in this Libyan plot remains live, it would not be appropriate to offer further comment.”

Lockerbie accused's health deteriorates as appeal hearing opens

[This is the headline over a report published on the website of The Guardian on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]

Doubt over evidence against Libyan convicted for bombing that killed 270 people during 1988 flight over Lockerbie

The health of the Libyan convicted of planting the Lockerbie bomb, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, has worsened and he is experiencing increasing levels of pain, his lawyers said today.

The opening day of Megrahi's appeal against conviction for killing 270 people in the 1988 bombing heard that he is to undergo a new course of treatment for his terminal prostate cancer, which has already spread to his spine and other parts of his body.

His lawyers claim he was wrongly convicted in 2001 on insufficient evidence, and is innocent of the bombing.

He was jailed for life for playing a prominent role in the atrocity when a suitcase bomb killed 259 passengers and crew on Pan Am flight 103 and 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 20 December 1988.

Today's appeal hearing in Edinburgh came nearly two years after the case was referred by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. The commission raised substantial doubts about the reliability of the key witness against Megrahi, a Maltese shopkeeper called Tony Gauci, and said Megrahi may have been wrongly convicted.

Much of Megrahi's trial had focused on forensic evidence linking blast-damaged clothing to the suitcase that contained the bomb.

Megrahi was said to have visited Gauci's shop on 7 December 1988, but the commission said new evidence indicated the clothing was bought at an earlier date. There had been no evidence at the trial that Megrahi was in Malta on that date.

Last November judges rejected an application for Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, to be released on bail on compassionate grounds before the appeal after medical experts said he could live for some years.

Megrahi said afterwards: "I wish to reiterate that I had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing and that the fight for justice will continue regardless of whether I am alive to witness my name being cleared."

Many relatives of Lockerbie victims support his protestations of innocence.

Megrahi's first appeal was rejected in March 2002. Since he was jailed in Scotland, a prisoner transfer agreement has been reached between the UK and Libya. The agreement was formally put before parliament on 27 January but the justice ministry said last night that the treaty could not enter into force until the instruments of ratification had been exchanged.

"Ratification will happen shortly. In the case of prisoners in Scottish jails, including Megrahi, and respecting the devolution settlement, any decision to transfer under this agreement would be for Scottish ministers and Scottish ministers alone," it said.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Megrahi petition on agenda for 2 May meeting of Justice Committee

[Justice for Megrahi’s petition (PE1370) calling for an independent inquiry into the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi features on the agenda for the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee meeting to be held on Tuesday, 2 May 2017 at 10.00 in Holyrood Committee Room 2. JfM’s written submission to the committee reads as follows:]

As you are aware the above petition has been kept open by the Justice Committee since 8 November 2011 to allow various developments related to the Lockerbie case to be monitored by the committee.

A full record of the relevant correspondence with the Justice Committee is reproduced on the Scottish Parliament website.

In this submission JfM wishes to bring the committee’s attention to developments since the petition was last considered on 17th January 2017.

Clarification: In our submission to the 17th January meeting of the Justice Committee, JfM requested that the Committee continue its review of our petition until the Operation Sandwood, ‘police report has been fully considered by Crown Office and its conclusions have been announced.’

In their contributions at this meeting, MSP’s Stewart Stevenson and Mary Fee stated that they agreed with our request for, ‘the petition to remain open until the conclusions of Operation Sandwood have been announced.’

In a letter informing us that the petition would be heard again by the committee on 2nd May, the Deputy Clerk to the committee informed us that it had been, ‘agreed to keep the petition open pending the completion of Operation Sandwood.’

It would be helpful to clarify that as requested in our last submission, and agreed by your committee, the petition will remain open until Crown Office consideration of the police report is complete and any related decisions are made.

Crown Office: As committee members will be aware, a series of Operation Sandwood related parliamentary questions to the Lord Advocate by MSP Alex Neil have been responded to and published.

Mr Neil thereafter wrote to the Lord Advocate and received a response on 20th April. Copies of Mr Neil’s questions and the Lord Advocates answers, his letter to the Lord Advocate and the LA’s response, are attached for member’s information.

Operation Sandwood: JfM continues to hold regular meetings with the Operation Sandwood police team providing mutual updates on the enquiry process and related matters, and continues to have faith in the integrity and completeness of the police enquiry.

The submission of the police report to Crown Office has been delayed and our latest understanding is that it should be submitted in the next few months.

Megrahi Family Appeal: JfM has noted the recent publicity suggesting that the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi will launch a bid to appeal against his conviction in the next few weeks.

If these reports are accurate then this is a significant development for those pursuing the truth about Lockerbie.

JfM appreciates the Justice Committee’s continuing oversight of the Operation Sandwood enquiry and report.

Given the central importance of the findings of Operation Sandwood to any future prosecutions, enquiries or appeals, JfM believes it is critical, and very much in the public interest, that the committee continues to monitor these findings until Crown Office has fully considered them and announced its conclusions.

We would respectfully urge the Committee to allow Petition PE1370 to remain on the table.

Why have Scottish authorities taken so long to realise their dreadful mistake?

[What follows is the text of an open letter from Dr Jim Swire that appears today on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s Intel Today website:]

The attempt by a group of UK relatives to initiate a further appeal against the Zeist verdict was rejected when the SCCRC requested guidance over our application from the Edinburgh High Court.
The High Court in the form of Lord Carloway ruled that we, a group of close relatives of some of the dead had no locus to request a further appeal.
We wanted the truth, that’s all.
Writing this in 2017, when there is thought to be widespread concern over the interests of victims in murder cases such as this, I find it astonishing that the highest lawyers in Scotland believe it right to exclude us in this way.
There has been profoundly coherent evidence readily and even publicly available for at least the last 18 years which seems to show not only that the late Mr Megrahi was not guilty, but that the whole prosecution case, alleging that the bomb was planted in Malta by Libyans, is not correct.
The totality of evidence now appears to show beyond reasonable doubt that the bomb was first put aboard at London Heathrow, and that its origins do not point even to the country of Libya.
These matters can only be resolved once and for all in a Scottish court of law. It should long have been obvious that without formal resolution they will not fade away.
The Scottish authorities have perhaps forgotten that even their own Criminal Cases Review Commission found six reasons why the Zeist trial might have been a miscarriage of justice.
Meanwhile the simple right of the relatives of the dead to know the truth as to all that is really known about the perpetrators and the failure to protect their loved ones, is blocked by the failure to re-examine the evidence used at Zeist, and its augmentation since.
Once it is confirmed that the prosecution case at Zeist was invalid, we shall all want to know why Scottish authorities took so long to realise their dreadful mistake, and how the prosecution case came to be built up in the face of so much knowledge pointing in a very different direction.
We all know the adage that ‘the law is an ass’, but the rigidity of the law, which strengthens that adage through commendable adherence to precedenct cannot be stretched beyond a certain point, even in Scotland, without inviting severe criticism. I believe we are now long past that point.
All of that might contribute to a better performance in the future, a hope close to the hearts of many relatives, along with their simple wish to know the truth about what still appears to have been a totally preventable disaster [initiated through lax security at Heathrow airport.]

Police coached Lockerbie witness to identify Libyan as bomber

[This is the headline over a report published in The Guardian on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]

The key witness in the Lockerbie bombing trial was coached and steered by Scottish detectives into wrongly identifying a Libyan sanctions buster as the bomber, his appeal lawyers claim.

Lawyers acting for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi will tell an appeal court that Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper, was interviewed 23 times by Scottish police before giving the evidence that finally led to Megrahi's conviction for the bombing in 1991.

Their allegations are central to Megrahi's appeal, which begins in Edinburgh tomorrow, against his conviction for the murder of 270 passengers, crew and townspeople when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988.

The first stage of the Libyan's lengthy appeal, which may take until next year to complete, will focus on his claims that the original trial judges were wrong in law to convict him and wrong to discard crucial evidence which undermined their guilty verdict.

Gauci identified Megrahi as the purchaser of clothes at his shop on Malta which were later allegedly packed in the suitcase carrying the Lockerbie bomb. But the Libyan's lawyers will claim there is now substantial evidence undermining the credibility of Gauci's testimony.

Megrahi's lawyers now believe Gauci received a "substantial" reward from the US government after his conviction thought to be as much as $2m - a payment not disclosed at the trial. The case against Megrahi hinges on Gauci's claim that the clothes allegedly packed into the suitcase bomb were bought on 7 December - the only day when Megrahi was in the area. Megrahi's lawyers say they can now prove they were bought up to two weeks before then, when the Libyan was not in the country.

Megrahi's lawyers will claim that in nearly two dozen formal police interviews, Gauci gave contradictory dates of purchase, changed his account of the sale, and on one occasion appeared to identify the Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Talb as the purchaser. Gauci's evidence is made unreliable by "undisputed factors", the appeal court will hear. They include an "extraordinary" delay in Gauci recalling the events of December 1988 and naming Megrahi; the "extraordinary amount of post-event suggestion to which the witness was subjected"; and his exposure to photos of Megrahi.

The appeal, which Megrahi is expected to watch live on a video link from Greenock prison near Glasgow, is being contested by the Scottish prosecution service, and the British government.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sputnik interview

Sputnik Radio's World in Focus programme today includes an interview with me on the projected application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission by the Megrahi family. The relevant segment begins 20 minutes 30 seconds into the programme.

Here is a photograph of the interviewer, Mark Hirst, and me taken in the studio.
SputnikPhoto - Edited.jpg

Death of Lockerbie appeal judge Lord Kirkwood

[What follows is the text of an announcement issued today by the Faculty of Advocates:]

The death has been announced of the Rt Hon Lord Kirkwood, who served as a judge from 1987 until his retirement in 2005. He was 84.
Ian Candlish Kirkwood joined the Faculty of Advocates in 1957, after graduating at the universities of Edinburgh and Michigan. He took Silk in 1970. He was also a former international chess player.
Lord Kirkwood was one of five judges, headed by Lord Cullen, then Lord Justice General, who heard and dismissed the appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing.
He had a reputation as a genial, diligent and scrupulously fair judge.
[RB: Here is something that I wrote during Megrahi’s Zeist appeal:]
During the week it has been abundantly clear that the appeal judges have absorbed the submissions made on behalf of the appellant Megrahi and appreciate the force of a number of the criticisms made in them of the reasoning in the written opinion of the trial Court.  Their Lordships have not been slow to draw their concerns to the attention of the Advocate-Depute.  In particular, Lord Osborne and Lord Kirkwood have asked some very pointed questions indeed and have subjected Advocate-Depute Turnbull and Advocate-Depute Campbell to rigorous cross-examination regarding the Crown's stance in supporting the trial Court's conclusions on certain crucial matters, such as the finding that the bomb was ingested at Luqa Airport in Malta; that Megrahi was the person who purchased the clothes from Mary's House in Sliema; and that the date of purchase was 7 December 1988.
[RB: Why did these serious judicial concerns about the reasoning of the trial court not result in Megrahi’s conviction being overturned? Here is what I wrote shortly after the appeal was dismissed, beginning with a quote from the appeal court’s judgement:]
“When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor stated that the appeal was not about sufficiency of evidence: he accepted that there was a sufficiency of evidence. He also stated that he was not seeking to found on section 106(3)(b) of the 1995 Act. His position was that the trial court had misdirected itself in various respects. Accordingly in this appeal we have not required to consider whether the evidence before the trial court, apart from the evidence which it rejected, was sufficient as a matter of law to entitle it to convict the appellant on the basis set out in its judgment. We have not had to consider whether the verdict of guilty was one which no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have returned in the light of that evidence.”

The limitations under which the Appeal Court was thus constrained to operate effectively disabled it from considering the issues of (a) whether there was sufficient evidence in law to justify such absolutely crucial findings-in-fact by the trial court as (i) that the date of purchase in Malta of the clothes surrounding the bomb was 7 December 1988, (ii) that Megrahi was the purchaser and (iii) that the case containing the bomb started its progress from Malta’s Luqa Airport and (b) whether those findings or any of them (on the assumption that there was a legal sufficiency of evidence) were such as no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have made, or been satisfied of beyond reasonable doubt, in the light of (i) justifiable criticisms of the evidence and witnesses supporting them and (ii) ex facie credible contrary evidence.

Not a snowball's chance in hell the prosecution case will survive

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:

New witness casts doubt on Lockerbie bomb conviction

[The following are excerpts from an article under this headline in today's edition of The Independent on Sunday. The full article can be read here.]

A new witness is expected this week to undermine thoroughly the case against the only person to be convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. New testimony will call into question evidence linking the Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi to the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, his lawyers claim. (...)

[Note by RB: In the first session of the appeal, which starts on Tuesday and runs until 22 May, there will be no new witnesses, just legal argument. Any new witnesses, if the Appeal Court allows them to be heard -- and the rules about fresh evidence in appeals are very restrictive -- will only feature in later sessions.]

Appeal hearings are due to begin on Tuesday, and Megrahi's lawyers insisted this weekend they will go ahead as planned, despite speculation that he may be returned to Libya under the terms of a controversial prisoner transfer agreement, due to be ratified tomorrow.

"We are turning up next week," said Tony Kelly, his solicitor. "We are seeking that the court upholds his appeal, admit that there has been a miscarriage of justice, and grant him his liberty. Whatever remedies come after that is for after the appeal."

Appeal documents seen by The Independent on Sunday reveal that testimony from a new witness is expected to undermine the evidence of a key prosecution witness, Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper. His testimony was vital in connecting Megrahi to the bombing at the trial in 2001.

Mr Gauci identified Megrahi as the person who bought the tweed suit, baby sleepsuit and umbrella found among the remnants of the suitcase that contained the bomb on board.

The new witness, not named in the documents, will provide an account the defence claims is "startling in its consistency with Mr Gauci's account of the purchase, but adds considerable doubt to the date the key items were purchased and identification of Megrahi as the purchaser".

All of this may be academic, as 56-year-old Megrahi, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in October 2008, has been reported as having less than a year to live and the appeal could take two years.

Increasingly, however, it seems likely that the Lockerbie suspect will spend his last days in Libya. This month, officials wrote to the families of victims of the bombing explaining the prisoner transfer programme, interpreted as a tacit agreement that Megrahi may be returned to Libya. Under the terms of the deal, if Megrahi participates in the transfer scheme, he will forfeit his right to appeal.

"If he goes back to Libya, it will be a bitter pill to swallow, as an appeal would reveal the fallacies in the prosecution case," said Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed on Flight 103. Dr Swire is a member of UK Families Flight 103, which wants a public inquiry into the crash. "I've lost faith in the Scottish criminal justice system, but if the appeal is heard, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that the prosecution case will survive."

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Lockerbie luggage returned

[This is the headline over a report that appeared on the BBC News website on this date in 2002. It reads in part:]

Police in Scotland are about to return to families the remaining luggage and personal effects of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing.

Baggage belonging to more than 100 people has been retained by investigators since 1988 in case it was needed as evidence.

The items are being handed back following the dismissal last month of the appeal by Abdelbaset ali Mohmed-al Megrahi against his murder conviction. (...)

Thousands of items of luggage and clothing were painstakingly recovered by police from miles of Scottish Borders countryside.

Much of it was given back to the victims' relatives but some which was, or might have been, used as evidence was held back.

A team of nine officers and two support staff from Dumfries and Galloway Police is now preparing to return it to families in Britain, America and elsewhere.

Forty-three families have asked for their property to be delivered in person while 47 are happy to have it posted.

Twelve others have asked for their relatives' remaining effects to be destroyed.

Detective chief superintendent Tom McCulloch said the return of the property would be an emotional experience and all the officers involved had had advance counselling.

The process is expected to start next month and take up to eight weeks to complete.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Executive formally returned the site of the trial at Camp Zeist to the Dutch Government.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Lockerbie — Pan Am 103: the truth at last?

[This is the headline over an article about the Megrahi family’s forthcoming application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission posted today on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s Intel Today website. In the article he quotes an email that I sent to him earlier today. Here is what I wrote:]

I am optimistic about the outcome of the Megrahi family's forthcoming application to the SCCRC. In June 2007 the SCCRC decided, on six grounds, that there might have been a miscarriage of justice. Since then even more evidence has come to light casting doubt on the verdict (not least Dr Morag Kerr's masterly analysis of the bomb-damaged luggage, which demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the bomb suitcase was ingested at Heathrow, not Luqa in Malta).

My only slight worry is how the SCCRC will apply the "interests of justice" requirement (ie not only must the Commission be satisfied that there might have been a miscarriage of justice, it must also be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice for there to be a fresh appeal). It is possible to envisage the SCCRC saying that there have already been two appeals (the first of which Megrahi lost and the second of which he abandoned) and that it is not in the interests of justice for there to be a third bite at the cherry. I am reasonably optimistic that the Commission will not adopt this approach -- the Megrahi conviction still casts a dark shadow over the Scottish criminal justice system and is far from being generally accepted as just by the public in Scotland and elsewhere. I would expect the SCCRC to take the view that it is in the interests of justice in Scotland that an appeal take place that can remove this dark shadow, one way or the other.