Saturday, 17 October 2009

Lockerbie families' fury at MacAskill's 'taunts'

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Scotsman, a virulently anti-SNP newspaper. It reads in part:]

Kenny MacAskill was last night criticised by relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie disaster, after using his decision to release the bomber to taunt his political opponents.

In his keynote address to the SNP conference in Inverness, Scotland's justice secretary received two standing ovations from the party faithful as he said that to act without mercy towards Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was to "debase the beliefs which we seek to uphold". He also mocked Labour MPs and MSPs who, he claimed, had told him they supported his decision in private, only to oppose it in public.

But Mr MacAskill's attack appeared to have backfired last night as relatives in the United States of those who died in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 in December 1988 said they were "surprised" by the sight of the justice secretary being applauded at the conference.

Frank Duggan, of the families group Victims of Flight 103, said: "I don't know what his political future will be, but the name 'MacAskill' will go down in history for his role in a miscarriage of justice." (...)

The claim that Labour MPs and MSPs had privately backed Mr MacAskill was rebutted by the party last night. [RB: The claim was not, of course, rebutted; it was denied, which is quite a different thing.] However, at least one Labour MSP contacted by The Scotsman said there had been doubts expressed in private meetings before the parliamentary debate about the party's opposition to the decision.

The source said that there were only one or two MSPs who had expressed doubts about their opposition, before agreeing to swing behind their own leader.

[It is perhaps worth noting (a) that there is no mention in the article of views of the UK relatives of the victims of Pan Am 103; (b) that Frank Duggan, though the President of Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc, is not himself a relative; and (c) that the readers' comments that follow the article are overwhelmingly critical of its tone and content and supportive of the release decision.]


  1. Mr. Frank Duggan - first ran into him on YouTube, discussing with George Galloway.

    In my view, Duggan displays superficial knowledge and unwillingness to discuss on any detailed level. That he resorts to name calling is a mistake, which he admits, and should be easily forgiven for.

    But he is a perfect representative for those who have found peace in the belief that justice has already been served.

    - - -

    He says that Megrahi lied in court - something I have given quite a thought.

    I am probably more strongly against lying than most other people. In all my life I never caught my father in lying to me (and I would not have forgiven him either), while my mother was more pragmatic in that matter on a few occasions.

    While witnesses must tell the truth in court, well, there is no penalty for perjury for the accused, which in a way is strange.

    I have tried to picture myself in a trial, where others lie to get me convicted. Let's then say that I believed that I could help myself by lying.

    The problem is of course that courts imperfect, and convict innocent people sometimes.

    Would I really have the stubborn resolve to tell the truth, even if I might get wrongly convicted?

    Well, Megrahi must have been faced with this decision all along.

    I wonder what Mr. Frank Duggan would believe about his personal strength in such a situation.

  2. Megrahi did not lie in court. He had no opportunity to do so, even if he had been so minded, since he did not give evidence. He was advised by his then lawyers that the evidence against him was so flimsy that it was not necessary for him to give evidence in order to secure acquittal. He accepted this advice -- a matter, he informed me, that he now regrets.

  3. Benedict Birnberg's article didn't say a great deal and I thought what he described as Gareth Peirce's "penetrating analysis" was rather let down by occassional fraudulent claims and a number of factual errors and the misrepresentation of the "evidence" against Abu Talb. I very much doubt it was entirely her own work!

    Mr Birnberg might find "Chinatown" part VII of my blog "The Masonic Verses" at of interest as it features an old client of his (from 23 years ago!) who was subject to a similar international abuse of the Criminal Justice system! From my experiences with this case I came to understand a great deal about "Lockerbie".