Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A cycle of revenge

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Paul Reynolds published on the BBC News website on this date in 2003:]

A Lockerbie-type atrocity in the war-inflicted world of today, might provoke a very different reaction from the superpowers.

A country which blew up an American airliner today could not expect the patient treatment accorded to Libya over the 15 years since Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie.

It could expect invasion.

What happened to Libya after Lockerbie is an example of how a crisis was dealt with by diplomacy, threats, sanctions and law. (...)

Such a broad approach would be unlikely today. We are living under different international rules since 9/11.

Back in 1988, under President Reagan, international terrorism was considered a problem, a plague even, but not a war.

Libya was an active player. In 1984, its "People's Bureau" in London had shot at demonstrators in the square outside, killing a policewoman standing with them.

In 1986, a bomb exploded in the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, used by US servicemen there. Libya was blamed.

And the United States, under Ronald Reagan, retaliated not by invading, but by raiding.

It sent 16 F111's based in Britain to attack and only narrowly missed getting Gaddafi himself, killing instead a young girl said to be his adopted daughter.

One interesting sidebar to that raid was the doubt expressed by the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In her memoirs she makes it clear that initially she had her reservations:

"I was worried that the US action might begin a cycle of revenge.

"I was concerned that there must be the right public justification for the action which was taken, otherwise we might just strengthen Gaddafi's standing."

Mrs Thatcher was worried about "an inclination to precipitate action in the United States, which was doubtless mirrored there by a perception of lethargy in Europe".

In the end, she swung behind her friend President Reagan and gave permission for the F111's to be used from their British base. (...)

At the time, war was not really contemplated.

Even Ronald Reagan, who could whip up small civil wars in Central America into a Soviet threat to the United States, was content to send in the jets.

So when the Pan Am plane was brought down over Lockerbie, there was no clear American strategy for dealing with international terrorism.

Pinprick attacks had been met with pinprick responses.

There had been invasions of Grenada and Panama was to follow but Libya was a bigger place, an Arab country and not in America's back yard.

There was, for President Bush senior, the added complication that nobody could be immediately blamed.

The suspicion in fact fell first on Syria and Iran.

An Iranian airliner had been shot down over the Gulf a few months earlier by the US Navy which thought itself under attack.

Lockerbie was felt to be revenge for that.

At that time Syria and Iran were close and attention turned to the Syrian sponsored Palestinian group, the PFLP-GC. It had been found by German police to be in possession of radio cassettes of the type used in the Lockerbie bombing.

Then the link was made to Libya through a circuit board sold by a Swiss firm, a bit of which was also found on the ground near Lockerbie.

In due course, one Libyan was found guilty by the Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands and another acquitted. Sanctions were imposed by the UN.

But there was no war. And Colonel Gaddafi remained in power.

He has had to pay a price.

He was isolated for years and became a minor actor on a stage which he wanted to bestride.

He had to admit blame, though in a roundabout way (accepting responsibility for the actions of Libyan government officials) and he is having to pay large amounts of money.

He might well think he got off cheaply considering what has happened in Iraq.

[RB: Eight years later, of course, Lockerbie was one of the pretexts for UK and US military and political support for the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.]

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Megrahi may have been denied justice, the relatives of the dead certainly have been

[What follows is the text of an article by Paul Vallely that was published in The Independent on this date in 2009:]

There has been some very muddled thinking in the debate over whether the man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing should now be freed. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi – the former Libyan intelligence officer who is serving life for murdering 270 people when a bomb exploded on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 – has terminal prostate cancer. Some say he should be released early on compassionate grounds; others because he may well not be guilty of the crime anyway. Others insist he must die behind bars.
It is worth trying to disentangle the arguments here. A society imprisons criminals for a variety of reasons but the main four are: to exact retribution, to restrain villains from committing more crimes, to deter others, and to offer individuals the chance of reform and rehabilitation. Where a prisoner is dying, clearly the notions of restraint and reform can be discounted. That leaves retribution and deterrence.
The word retribution has pretty pejorative connotations in common parlance. It sounds primitive and vindictive. Yet it performs an important function even in a sophisticated community. Offences do not just harm individuals; they do some violence to the social fabric. Retribution is part of how a society restores the equilibrium which the offence disturbed. But in doing that it is important, as the philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued, that punishment must be proportionate.
The Lockerbie bomb was the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in Britain. It is appropriate that the punishment for that reflects the abhorrence people felt at the outrage, and not just in the UK. It is interesting, therefore, that the most vehement reaction to the news that al-Megrahi might be freed has come not from the relatives of the Brits who died, but from the families of the American victims. Most of those who were blasted out of the sky at 31,000 feet were US citizens, which is perhaps why the blow to the American national psyche appears to have been greatest.
There is a political dimension, too, to the idea of deterrence in this case. "Freeing Megrahi," one relative said, "would send a message that terrorism is not being taken seriously." Demonstrating compassion would entrench in the minds of al-Qa'ida and other violent jihadists the idea that the West is soft and decadent and lacks the stomach for mortal combat. Releasing Megrahi could be misconstrued as a kind of weakness.
But there is a danger in confusing mercy with weakness. Justice and mercy are not always in tension. Compassion does not indicate indulgence toward evil or tolerance of injury. Rather it can be a demonstration of the civilised confidence of a society which does not respond to violence with violence of its own. Showing compassion to those who refused to extend compassion to their victims does not necessarily undermine justice. It may sometimes strengthen it.
If it is key to the concept of retribution that it should be proportionate – that the punishment should fit the crime – then there is a powerful argument for suggesting that the compassionate release of a dying man is part of that sense of proportion. Prisons are not hospitals and lack the medical and social facilities routinely available to those who are dying. To withdraw those from a dying prisoner is not to exact the punishment decreed by a court but in some way to extend it. A core element in retribution is the idea that the criminal gets what he deserves. Very few people deserve to die in a cage.
So the argument for releasing Megrahi early obtains even if he is indubitably guilty. He should be allowed home to die. Proportion is important here too. Permission for early release was denied when his lawyers first applied in 2008 after doctors told judges that, with adequate palliative care, Megrahi could live for several years. Early release requests are normally only granted where a prisoner has fewer than three months to live, and that seems proportionate too. If Megrahi is that close to death he should be released.
All this is quite separate from the question of Megrahi's protested innocence, and yet that is not entirely irrelevant either. There are potent arguments both ways on his guilt or otherwise, and differing views are held among individuals who have paid far closer attention to the case than have most of those now offering ready opinions.
It may sound more plausible, as some US intelligence reports have suggested, that it was not Libya behind the bombing but Iran; the Lockerbie bomb happened just five months after a US warship, the USS Vincennes, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner killing all 290 on board, many of them pilgrims bound for Mecca – prompting the Ayatollah Khomeini to announce that the skies would "rain with blood" in revenge. But those who have most closely scrutinised the detail of the case have formed polarised opinions.
On the one hand, a panel of three Scottish judges considered the evidence against Megrahi for 78 days and unanimously found him guilty. On the other hand, many of the British relatives of those who died, who have studied the evidence in most detail, believe Megrahi to be innocent. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the attack, has described the Libyan's conviction as "one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history".
It now looks as though we may never know the truth. Megrahi has dropped his appeal against conviction, possibly to expedite his return to Libya, possibly because he is now too ill to fight on. Justice delayed is justice denied, the old legal aphorism has it. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi may – or perhaps may not – have been denied justice. But the relatives of the dead certainly have been - for they have now lost the only remaining vehicle which might have brought them, 21 years after the event, somewhere nearer finding out who really killed their loved ones.

Monday, 14 August 2017

$2.7 billion Lockerbie settlement reached

[This is the headline over a report published on Aljazeera’s English language website on this date in 2003. It reads as follows:]

Libya has signed a deal with the families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which Tripoli will shell out $2.7 billion in compensation.

Under the accord, Tripoli will pay each of the families $10 million in instalments, based on the lifting of United Nations and United States sanctions, said lawyers on Thursday.

Libya will also be removed from Washington’s list of nations which allegedly support “terrorism”.

Representatives of British families whose relatives were killed in the Pan Am flight 103 disaster over the Scottish town of Lockerbie that left 270 people dead, said the deal was “purely financial” and doubted the money would be paid.

“This is a financial deal for Libya. This is all Libya cares about, to extricate itself from the sanctions and re-enter the international, in particular US, market,” claimed Mark Zaid, a US lawyer for 50 of the families.

In 2001, Scottish court Camp Zeist, set up in the Netherlands, convicted Abd al-Basset Ali al-Megrahi, one of two Libyan agents charged with the bombing, and sentenced him to life in prison.

After signing the accord on Wednesday, family lawyers said they expected the compensation to be deposited with the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) soon, and that Libya would be sending its letter accepting responsibility to the UN Security Council.

Diplomatic sources said on Tuesday that Libya had agreed to send a letter to the Security Council, either by Thursday or Friday, admitting it was behind the attack. [RB: Libya, of course, never did admit it was behind the attack: it accepted "responsibility for the acts of its citizens".]

The first $4 millions are expected to be paid to the victims’ families when world body sanctions against Tripoli are lifted, following its acceptance of responsibility.

The embargo was suspended but not llifted after Libya handed over the two former Libyan intelligence agents in the case.

Lifting UN sanctions will pave the way for talks between Washington and Tripoli about the lifting of separate US sanctions.

A further $4 million would be delivered to each family once US sanctions are lifted and the final $2 million would be handed over if Libya is removed from the US list of states allegedly supporting “terrorism”.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

UK and US Lockerbie relatives’ views diverge on Megrahi release

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Guardian on this date in 2009:]

Preparations are under way to free the Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing from prison next week, after doctors said his terminal prostate cancer was in its final stages.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, sentenced to a minimum life term of 25 years in 2001 for killing 270 people in the bombing, is expected to be released on compassionate grounds in time to return home for the start of the festival of Ramadan next week.

It was reported last night that the Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, told the Libyan government to make preparations for Megrahi's imminent release and arrange his flight home.

MacAskill, who has the final say over whether Megrahi should be transferred or released, visited the Libyan last week in Greenock prison, near Glasgow.

The Scottish parole board has also been asked for its views on granting compassionate early release to the former Libyan agent.

Scottish government officials insisted last night that no decision had been made to release Megrahi, either to send him home on compassionate grounds or to grant a separate Libyan request for him to continue his sentence in Libya.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We can confirm that no decision has been made on applications under the prisoner transfer agreement or compassionate early release by Mr Al Megrahi.

"Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill is still considering all the representations in both cases and hopes to make a decision this month."

Megrahi's release is being resisted by US relatives of some of the 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on 21 December 1988.

American Susan Cohen, whose only child, 20-year-old Theodora, was one of 35 students from Syracuse University in New York on the flight, said any suggestion that Megrahi should be freed on compassionate grounds was "vile".

Speaking from her home in New Jersey, she said: "Any letting out of Megrahi would be a disgrace. It makes me sick, and if there is a compassionate release then I think that is vile.

"It just shows that the power of oil money counts for more than justice. There have been so many attempts to let him off. It has to do with money and power and giving [Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar] Gaddafi what he wants. My feelings, as a victim, apparently count for nothing."

She added: "This is just horrible. Compassion for him? How about compassion for my beautiful daughter? She deserves compassion not a mass murderer."

However, many British families believe Megrahi is innocent. The Libyan is part-way through an appeal against his 2001 conviction, at a trial held in the Netherlands heard under Scottish law. MacAskill cannot grant him a transfer while his appeal against his conviction goes through the courts. However if Megrahi were granted release on compassionate grounds he would not have to drop his appeal for this to be granted.

Pamela Dix, from UK Families Flight 103, said there had been a "lack of justice" for those killed in the tragedy.

Ms Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the atrocity, told BBC2's Newsnight she was "baffled" by much of the evidence in the trial that led to Megrahi's conviction.

Asked whether his release would be a coup for Gaddafi on the 40th anniversary of his rise to power, she said: "That may well be the case. I'm not really in a position to judge the political situation in Libya."

Dix, said last night it was still far from clear whether Megrahi was innocent or guilty since the trial had left so many unanswered questions.

"Almost 21 years after the Lockerbie bombing, I would expect to know who did it, why they did it and how they did it. Instead, we're left in situation of really knowing very little about what happened."

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Flora, said it would be to Scotland's credit if the Libyan was released. "I am someone who does not believe he is guilty," he said. "The sooner he is back with his family the better.

"On reasonable human grounds it is the right thing to do and if it's true that he is to be returned on compassionate grounds then that would be more to Scotland's credit than returning him under the prisoner transfer agreement.

"It would mean that he can go to his family who he adores and live the last of his days on this planet with them."

Martin Cadman, who lost his son Bill, aged 32, in the disaster, concurred.

"I hope it is true as it's something we've been wanting for a long time," he said.

"I think he is innocent and even if he were not innocent I still think it's certainly the right thing to do on compassionate grounds."

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Media urged to back fresh Lockerbie inquiry

[This is the headline over an article published in The Drum on this date in 2010. It reads in part:]

Justice for Megrahi, a campaign group ... is now spearheading an international coalition inviting the press to back a petition calling for an inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing.

... the statement was distributed directly to the editors in chief of the Financial Times, the Herald, Guardian, Observer, The Times, Telegraph, Independent, Irish Times and The Scotsman and their respective Sunday sister titles, in addition to the Times of Malta. [RB: The full text of JfM’s letter to the various editors can be read here.]

Timed to coincide with renewed interest in the case both at home and abroad following Al-Megrahi’s compassionate release, which has seen the terminal cancer sufferer outlive his projected life expectancy by a considerable margin, the group hopes to up the political heat on governments either side of the Atlantic.

Signatories, who thus far include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Jim Swire and Tam Dalyell, are calling for the “travesty of justice” which led to Al Megrahi’s conviction for planting an improvised explosive device within Pan Am 103 to be looked at anew.

This, campaigners hope, will redeem the image of the Scottish justice system which they say is “regarded internationally as an embarrassment… demonstrably malleable by political hands.”

It is hoped that consensual outrage in the press will be sufficient to tip First Minister Alex Salmond into setting up such an inquiry in Scotland after having already endorsed the idea in principle.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The unfinished business of the Lockerbie bombing

This is the headline over a video that was posted on this date in 2010 on the website of The Guardian. In it actor and playwright David Benson describes how he was inspired by Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie plane bombing, to create a play about the attack.

The video can be viewed here. A further article about the play and its genesis can be read here.

[RB: David Benson is again performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year but in a very different play, Dad’s Army Radio Hour.]

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Easier to grant compassionate release if appeal dropped

[What follows is taken from an account written by Abdelbaset Megrahi which is to be found on page 354 of John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury:]

On 10 August [2009], [Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny] MacAskill and his senior civil servants met a delegation of Libyan officials, including Minister [Abdel Ati] al-Obeidi, the Libyan Supreme Court Judge Azzam Eddeeb, and the London Chargé d’Affaires Omar Jelban. By this time I was desperate. The 90-day limit for considering the prisoner transfer application had passed and, although I had some vocal public supporters, MacAskill was coming under considerable pressure to reject both applications. After the meeting the Libyan delegation came to the prison to visit me. Obeidi said that, towards the end of the meeting, MacAskill had asked to speak to him in private. Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal. He [MacAskill] said he was not demanding that I do so, but the message seemed to me to be clear. I was legally entitled to continue the appeal, but I could not risk doing so. It meant abandoning my quest for justice.

Next day, with huge reluctance and sadness, I broke the news to [solicitor] Tony Kelly that I was dropping the appeal

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Salmond’s reaction to deal in the desert changed Scots politics irrevocably

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Scott Macnab headlined Is Alex Salmond now forever on the fringe? published in The Scotsman today:]

Barely a month after Alex Salmond had taken office as First Minister following the SNP’s historic election victory in May 2007, it became clear that Scottish politics had changed irrevocably. An emergency statement was called at Holyrood one Thursday afternoon on UK relations with Libya – and Holyrood went into meltdown. The newly rebranded Scottish Government (it had been the Executive before Salmond immediately ordered this changed) simply didn’t do this kind of thing.

The significance of the event hit home as I was filing speculative copy about the looming statement in my then office with a national news agency, when a senior Scotland Office figure called. “Do you know what he [Salmond] is doing?” he asked.

As it happened, he was about to lift the lid on the so-called “Deal in the Desert” which could have allowed the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi to be transferred to prison in Libya, in exchange for UK firms securing lucrative oil rights. The new Nationalist administration at Holyrood was laying down a marker that things were going to be different. Any quaint notions of cap-doffing to the UK government before going public with such incendiary statements were history.

A decade on, Salmond is preparing to kick off an Edinburgh festival run this weekend following his ignominious election defeat in June, which saw him turfed out of elected office for the first time in 30 years. And while enemies have enjoyed branding him little more than a glorified “cabaret act” these days, it’s worth reflecting on the impact Salmond has had on Scottish life over the past decade. (...)

Salmond’s seven years in office certainly saw Holyrood become the centre of political debate in Scotland. Even Labour acknowledged this as it brought about more autonomy from London to reflect this. More powers continued to be 
devolved through the Calman Commission then the Smith Commission. It meant the prospect of Holyrood replacing Westminster as Scotland’s Parliament seemed entirely plausible, as the independence debate raged. (...)

It remains to be seen if Salmond’s time as a festival turn indicates his political career is over or merely interrupted. But his influence on Scottish politics is hard to overstate. He transformed the prospect of independence from a nebulous idea on the fringes to a dynamic force at the heart of Scottish politics.

Scots complicit in Lockerbie lie

[This is the headline over a hard-hitting article by Professor Hans Köchler that appeared in the Sunday Express on this date in 2009. The last three paragraphs read as follows:]

If Scotland prides itself in its unique judicial system, then the authorities should exercise all efforts to repair the damage that has been done to the country’s reputation by the flawed judicial proceedings in the case of Mr Megrahi.

If Mr MacAskill is indeed serious about dealing with the matter [repatriation of Megrahi] strictly within legal parameters, as he repeatedly said, the competent Scottish authorities should finally make those steps that are necessary to identify the actual Lockerbie bombers (plural) wherever they may be.

They have succeeded for too long in using the Scottish judicial system to make Mr Megrahi a scapegoat in the strange and ugly world of international power politics.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Libya hints at Lockerbie pay-out

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

Libya has said it is willing in principle to pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people in 1988.

Speaking after talks between Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, Libya's foreign minister said the government also wanted to formalise relations with the United States.

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is serving life in a Scottish prison after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Gaddafi had also "said the right things" on a range of issues, including the fight against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has never admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.

In June, Colonel Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, said he believed the Libyan Government would pay compensation, but not say it was responsible for the bombing.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said that Libya was discussing the issue of responsibility, and was "ready to get rid of this obstacle".

Mr Chalgam spoke of Libya's desire to improve relations not only with Britain but with the US.

"We have to extend and expand our bilateral relations with Britain and also we are completely keen to arrive at reconciliation and normalisation with the US," he said.

The meeting between Colonel Gaddafi and Mr O'Brien was the first time since 1983 that a UK minister had met the Libyan leader.

After three hour of talks at Sirte, a coastal town about 320km (200 miles) east of Tripoli, Mr O'Brien was cautiously optimistic. (...)

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam, for his part, stressed his government's willingness to cooperate in the fight against al-Qaeda.

"The fundamentalists are against our project," he said. "They are against the freedom of women, they are against technology."

Libya had shown its desire to move from "pariah" to a state complying with international law by handing over the Lockerbie bomb suspects, said Mr O'Brien.

The UK was keen to boost ties that have been cautiously improving since diplomatic relations were restored three years ago.

Libya is keen to re-enter the world economy and the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Lockerbie detectives oppose release of Megrahi

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

Do not set 'guilty' Lockerbie bomber free, detectives plead


[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

The investigating officers who led the original inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing have made an unprecedented intervention in the case to argue against the release of the Libyan convicted of the attack.

In a letter to the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish police chief and the FBI boss who led the international investigation 20 years ago launch a powerfully worded plea against the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, who is serving a minimum sentence of 25 years for his part in the bombing.

In the letter obtained by The Times, Stuart Henderson, the retired senior investigating officer at the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre, and Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent in charge of the US taskforce, whose detective work helped to convict Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, insist that he is guilty. They also argue that his release would “nullify the dedicated work of dozens of law enforcement and intelligence officials around the world”. (...)

In the letter sent to Kenny MacAskill last month, Mr Henderson and Mr Marquise claim the evidence they gathered added to a “strong circumstantial case” against al-Megrahi, and point out that Libya has admitted culpability for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on a number of occasions since.

They say that releasing him would make a mockery of the work undertaken during the Lockerbie investigation, the biggest murder inquiry in British history, involving Scottish police, Scotland Yard, the FBI and other agencies from around the world.

The pair write: “To release Mr Megrahi to a regime which has admitted culpability for killing 270 citizens of the world would be a mistake. It would nullify the dedicated work of dozens of law enforcement and intelligence officials around the world who only wanted to find the truth.”

The detectives acknowledge al-Megrahi's poor health but contend it should not be a reason to release him.

“The eight judges who have already heard the evidence including three who were able to observe each witness under direct and cross-examination came to the same conclusion the rest of us did - Mr Megrahi was guilty of murder. His current health situation does not change that.”

Mr MacAskill, who is awaiting independent medical reports assessing al-Megrahi's condition, is expected to make a decision on his future by the end of this month. On Wednesday, the minister took the unprecedented step of visiting the Libyan in jail, prompting accusations that he was undermining the legal process. Al-Megrahi's second appeal is currently under way, although he will be forced to abandon his attempt to clear his name if he wishes to pursue a prisoner transfer. Release on compassionate grounds would allow him to continue with the appeal after being freed.

[Note by RB: Mr Henderson and Mr Marquise are gravely in error when they say that "The eight judges who have already heard the evidence ... came to the same conclusion as the rest of us did - Mr Megrahi was guilty of murder." Only the three judges at the Zeist trial heard the evidence and reached that conclusion. The five judges at the 2002 appeal made it clear that they had not considered the sufficiency of the evidence against Megrahi nor whether any reasonable tribunal could have convicted on that evidence. In paragraph 369 of their Opinion they said:

“When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor [senior counsel for Megrahi] 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 [verdict unreasonable on the evidence]. 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 true position, as I have written elsewhere, is this:

"As far as the outcome of the appeal is concerned, some commentators have confidently opined that, in dismissing Megrahi’s appeal, the Appeal Court endorsed the findings of the trial court. This is not so. The Appeal Court repeatedly stresses that it is not its function to approve or disapprove of the trial court’s findings-in-fact, given that it was not contended on behalf of the appellant that there was insufficient evidence to warrant them or that no reasonable court could have made them. These findings-in-fact accordingly continue, as before the appeal, to have the authority only of the court which, and the three judges who, made them."

In June 2007, after a three-year investigation, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission came to the conclusion that Megrahi's conviction may have constituted a miscarriage of justice. One of its six reasons for so finding was that in respect of absolutely crucial findings in fact by the trial court (the date of purchase of the clothing that surrounded the bomb and, hence, the identity of the purchaser) no reasonable tribunal could have reached the conclusion that the evidence established that it was Megrahi.

And whether Libya has admitted culpability for the Lockerbie tragedy has no bearing on whether a particular Libyan citizen was properly convicted or should now be released on compassionate grounds. But, of course, Libya has not admitted culpability. Here is a link to the official Libyan position which is that "Libya accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials". If, as a result of the present appeal, Megrahi's conviction is quashed there is no Libyan government admission of responsibility or culpability.]