Sunday, 25 October 2009

Lockerbie questions

[This is the headline over a leader in the edition of The Herald for Monday, 26 October. It reads in part:]

Even if the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is guilty as charged, he must have had co-conspirators. (...)

The news that a police review of the entire body of evidence is being undertaken following the dropping of the freed Libyan’s second appeal is, therefore, welcome, even if it falls short of a full cold case review. Forensic science has been refined considerably since the original investigation and it is possible that further tests on certain items could yield new leads, provided that they have not been contaminated. A cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over this case, robbing the relatives of the 270 people who died that night of the bleak satisfaction of knowing that justice had been done and lessons learned. (...)

This police review of the Lockerbie case raises several questions. Given how much uncertainty surrounds what happened, would a major wide-ranging investigation not be more appropriate? And is it right to entrust such a review to just four officers from the Dumfries and Galloway force, headed by an officer who was involved in the original investigation? A limited review that does little more than cover old ground would serve little purpose except, possibly, to delay the wide-ranging independent government inquiry into the atrocity demanded by relatives of the British victims. As Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the disaster, argues in a letter published in The Herald today, the “ongoing criminal investigation” has been repeatedly used to deny relatives the full inquiry they demand and deserve.

Yesterday the British and Scottish Governments continued to play pass the parcel over who should call an inquiry. UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was a matter for the Scots because “that’s the way our system works”, while a Scottish Government spokesman insisted that any inquiry had to be convened “by those with required powers”. The telephone has been in common use in Britain for more than 100 years. It is not beyond the wit of ministers in London and Edinburgh to agree on the format, structure and remit of a Lockerbie inquiry that hopefully would answer some remaining questions without turning into the open-ended Bloody Sunday-style affair.

Truth is not the only victim to consider here. Those bereaved by this atrocity have waited too long for answers. As Pamela Dix, whose brother died at Lockerbie, put it: “It is unfinished business.”

[The letter from Dr Swire referred to above is not available on the newspaper's website. But, as sent, it reads as follows:]

After more than 20 years, the Crown Office has just announced that the Lockerbie Criminal Investigation is to re-examine the available evidence and assess new channels of investigation. Their announcement coincides to the day with the public announcement by the UK Lockerbie families group 'UK Families-Flight 103' that they are yet again demanding (this time of Gordon Brown), a full inquiry into the failure to protect their loved ones and the identity of the perpetrators.

The 'ongoing criminal investigation' has been repeatedly used as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth as to why our families were not protected back in 1988, to which we are entitled under Human Rights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005.

If further serious meaningful investigation really is to be pursued by the police and Crown Office (CO) as to who else may have contributed to the ruthless murder of our families back in 1988 I would be the first to applaud it. Abu Talb, a potential incriminee has now been released from jail and according to the Crown Office itself was not granted immunity against prosecution over Lockerbie, though appearing as a witness at Zeist. That might be no bad place to start looking for the truth. Trouble is, if he bought 'the clothes from Gauci's shop' then Megrahi clearly didn't. Honest further investigation is almost bound to embarrass the Zeist verdict, on which the CO's reputation, and that of its members past and present heavily depends.

'Who else' I write. Interested parties should go to the website of the London Review of Books ( and read the article by Gareth Peirce, one of England's foremost miscarriage of justice and human rights lawyers. Her article is titled 'The framing of Al Megrahi'. There they will find an erudite critism of the trial.

After that they might like to consider the words of the UN's specially appointed International Observer at the Lockerbie trial, Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna, who found the verdict against Megrahi 'incomprehensible' and a 'travesty of justice'. He was also forthright enough to say that the verdict could not have been reached without 'deliberate malpractice on the part of Scotland's Crown Office'.

That is a weighty charge, which the CO has not publicly contested, nor have Scottish or UK politicians.

Then interested parties might like to press for the public UK showing of Lockerbie Revisited, a brilliant documentary film by Gideon Levy of the Netherlands which has just won a major international prize, yet which no one in the UK has yet had the guts to screen outside the privilege of the Scottish Parliament, under the redoubtable wing of Christine Grahame MSP.

Forgive me, if for now the jury is out as to what the Crown Office are really up to. Let us not forget that very serious issues still surround the conduct of the Crown Office throughout this case, and the verdict against Al Megrahi in particular.

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