Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sunday newspapers on Megrahi's plight

The Sunday Herald runs a long article by John Bynorth, largely based on an interview with me, claiming that Abdelbaset Megrahi has been treated shabbily by the Scottish criminal justice system. It focuses primarily upon the delay in bringing his current appeal against a highly questionable conviction to fruition.

The Sunday Mail prints an article claiming that Megrahi wishes to be released following the diagnosis of advanced stage prostate cancer, but wishes to remain in Scotland (and to be joined here by his wife and children) for palliative care.

The Sunday Times runs an opinion piece by its columnist, Joan McAlpine. It reads in part:

'Last year, after four years of deliberation, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission suggested there may have been a miscarriage of justice. The new appeal will take place next year, missing the 20th anniversary of Lockerbie this December. By then, Megrahi will probably be dead as well.

'Robert Black QC, the emeritus professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, believes a miscarriage of justice has indeed occurred and is scathing about the legal establishment’s apparent reluctance to put this right. He has accused the Lord Advocate and the British government of resorting to “every delaying tactic in the book” to obstruct an appeal, exposing Scottish justice to ridicule around the world. This view is shared by Professor Hans Kochler, the UN observer at the Camp Zeist trial, and one of its biggest critics.

'Given the circumstances, there are many who believe it appropriate for the Libyan to be released early, so he can spend his last days with his wife and children. The law, quite correctly, allows the early release of prisoners who face imminent death. There are some, however, who the public would never tolerate releasing, even on humanitarian grounds, such as West and Huntley. But if Megrahi is guilty, then why should his terrible murders be seen as less serious than their terrible murders? It is easier to be compassionate if you think the man is innocent. Some individuals, including Tam Dalyell MP, describe him as a quiet, cultured man who is incapable of such a ghastly act. I do seem to remember the late Lord Longford saying something similar about the child killer Myra Hindley. Nobody paid much attention.

'For the moment, Megrahi is a convicted child killer — the youngest person on PanAm 103 was nine months old. Many, including the families of most American victims, are convinced of his guilt. The families have, after all, received millions of dollars of compensation from Gaddafi, his employer. This leaves a terrible taste. If Megrahi, an intelligence agent, placed the bomb, it was at the command of a president who is now our new best friend.

'It is for the court of appeal to determine the facts. Black argues it can proceed even if Megrahi dies. Beyond that, we need to nail allegations that Scottish justice was compromised. Was evidence withheld from the defence for political reasons? Why is the appeal process so slow the appellant is likely to die first? Lockerbie is more damaging to our legal system’s reputation than the Shirley McKie fingerprint scandal. Like the McKie case, it should be scrutinised by a full public inquiry.

'As for Megrahi, he should be treated with compassion in his last days. But unless and until his conviction is overturned, that must be within the walls of Greenock prison.'

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