Friday, 30 July 2010

An independent judicial review into the Lockerbie bombing is now essential

[This is the heading over a letter in today's edition of The Herald from Iain A D Mann. It reads as follows:]

It is becoming clearer by the day that an independent judicial inquiry is now essential into all the events surrounding the PanAm 103 disaster and the subsequent conviction of one person, the Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, for the crime ...

The pathetic attempt by some US Senators to investigate this deeply complex matter in one afternoon session, by grilling a few foreign politicians on the basis of misguided assumptions and misunderstood facts, underlines how important it now is to have such an inquiry in the United Kingdom (or Scotland) under proper judicial conditions.

If a public inquiry continues to be refused by those in authority, the alternative is to find some way to re-open Megrahi’s second appeal in the Scottish courts. I cannot believe that the Scottish Government and/or the Scottish Justice Department could not devise some way of achieving this if they really wanted to. It pains me to say so, but I believe that the original trial in Camp Zeist, before three High Court judges with no jury, was not the finest hour of our much-vaunted legal system. Its reputation would be repaired, and perhaps enhanced, if it were now seen to provide an opportunity for all the relevant and previously unheard evidence to be reconsidered and tested in court.

Whether that scrutiny is by a public inquiry or a court appeal process, it is imperative that this time both the UK and US governments make available all the relevant documents that they have so far disgracefully refused to disclose, on the spurious grounds of either “national security” or “not in the public interest”. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, after an exhaustive three-year investigation, reported no fewer than six possible reasons for a possible miscarriage of justice, and these must be properly examined and tested judicially.

I am sure there are many like me who want to prove to the world that our country – Britain and Scotland – is still a true democracy, where justice is not denied or distorted by those in authority for whatever misguided reason. The families of all the 270 victims of the PanAm atrocity deserve to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

[A letter from Tam Dalyell in today's edition of The Scotsman reads:]

... Alex Salmond and his justice secretary should travel to Washington to blurt out the unpalatable truth; namely that their decision to release Mr Megrahi had nothing whatsoever to do with BP, compassion or legal precedent.

It had everything to do with avoiding an appeal which would have revealed the delaying and disgraceful behaviour of the Crown Office over 21 years, the "inexplicable" (the UN observer's word) decision by the judges at Zeist and the shortcomings in Mr Megrahi's original defence, not to mention the involvement of the American government in scapegoating Libya, for the crime that was carried out by Jibril, Abu Talb and the PFLP-GC.

The Americans should now be told that the motive for Mr Megrahi's release was the avoidance of the humiliation of Scottish justice in the eyes of the world.


  1. I like Mr Mann's letter: I'm not sure Tam Dalyell's is helpful as it suggests the Scottish Government was involved in all the things he has mentioned. He also omits completely all mention of the part successive British governments played in ensuring the Lockerbie investigation was run in the way it was. That started with Thatcher and the determination to keep the truth buried continued right through successive governments to Blair's arrival at Number 10. It continued again after he'd gone and Brown's cabinet did the same. I have enormous respect for Tam Dalyell but I'm disappointed he has allowed too many people off Scot-free in this letter and I'm not sure that's helpful.

  2. And how (without a formal criminal investigation followed by due legal process) can Tam Dalyell possibly know that the "crime was carried out by Jibril, Abu Talb and the PFLP-GC"?

  3. Tam's thinking on the matter seems to have fossilised over the years. He knows what happened, so he neither thinks about it nor debates it. He seems to have no idea how to present his case in a persuasive way that will not be interpreted as mere conspiracy theorising.

    Initially, this is not about identifying the real culprits. Just as it wasn't necessary to know who really murdered Jill Dando for Barry George's unfounded conviction to be overturned on appeal, it isn't necessary to point to other possible Lockerbie terrorists to highlight the self-evident fact that there was no credible case against Megrahi and that conviction should also be overturned. Only then is it appropriate to turn to the question of identifying the real culprits.

    Putting the cart before the horse is a bad idea. It allows opponents to point to flaws in the PFLP-GC argument, and declare that because that isn't a watertight certainty either, then the Megrahi conviction is sound.

    I wish people would stop doing this.

  4. I wonder, just how many (apparently) sensible, thoughtful, informed people does it take, writing to the papers and phoning in to radio shows and posting on internet comments pages that this case was a blatant miscarriage of justice, before something in the establishment takes notice? Maybe it's impossible, and such communications are always destined to be ignored, no matter how numerous, thoughtful, sensible, well-referenced etc.

    There's huge interest in the affair right now. The primary documents are universally available for research - journalists no longer have to source paper copies of everything. There has never been, so far as I know, a comprehensive series of articles looking at the evidence and scrutinising the findings of the court. (Paul Foot's is the closest, but that was published in 2001 and there's a lot of water gone down the Clyde since then, and Foot is sadly now dead.)

    Look at what Brian Deer did for the Sunday Times in the Andrew Wakefield case. It was a stellar example of investigative journalism at its best. And because it was published as editorial material, it was taken seriously. In the final analysis, Deer was almost single-handedly responsible for the truth about the MMR fraud coming out, and Wakefield being struck off. (The GMC took the case over, and re-investigated and verified Deer's findings, but if it hadn't been for him it's likely this would never have happened.)

    Even a small number of journalists producing insightful analysis of the evidence and the conviction in the manner of Deer in the Wakefield scandal could initiate a real breakthrough in the Megrahi case. It just seems as if nobody is interested.

    sorry, only in german language:

    First Minister Alex Salmond wieso kommt es zu diesen erneuten Lockerbie-Streitfall mit den US Senatoren ?:

    Weil der Secretary of Justice Kenny MacAskill Ende 2009 sein Versprechen bis heute nicht eingelöst hat, die Unterlagen und Dokumente der Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission (SCCRC) zu veröffentlichen; welche in 6 Punkten die Möglichkeit eines 'Miscarriages of Justice' prognostizierten und damit mit grosser Wahrscheinlichkeit, die gesammte Lockerbie-Anklage und Verurteilung gegen Mr. Al-Megrahi und Libya zu einer "SAGA" diskreditiert worden wäre.

    Heute ist von zuverlässiger Seite bekannt und nachvollziebar, dass von "Residenten" eines westlichen Intelligence Services (Abt. Desinformation) vorgesehen war, nur Libyen und Edwin Bollier (MEBO) subversiv in das PanAm 103 Attentat zu verwickeln !!

    Die gleiche "Residentur" gab den subversiven Auftrag, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi und Edwin Bollier auf den gleichen MaltaAir Flug KM-231, am 20. Dezember 1988 zubuchen; beide sollten nach Plan beweisbar, am 21. Dezember in Malta anwesend sein...

    Da Bollier mit den zurückgenommenen 40 Timer (nicht wie für ihn gebucht) am 18. Dezember 1988, von Tripoli via Malta nach Zürich gereist war, sondern dank eigener Initiative mit einem SwissAir Direktflug Tripoli > Zürich zurückreisen konnte, wurde die Planung der "Residentur" (geheimdienstliche Nachrichtenstelle) gestört und es musste auf "laienhafte Art" die Planung umfunktioniert werden.
    Als Ersatz mussten Khalifa Fhimah und Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, für die subversive Mission

    > KM-180>PanAm-103/B>PanAm-103 <

    für das US/UK Indictment, am 14./15. November 1991, als "Täter" herhalten !
    Das FBI und somit die damalige US Führung unter George H.W. Bush wussten aus nachweislichen Gründen, seit Anfang 1990, dass Mr. Al-Megrahi, Fhima und Libya nichts mit dem Attentat auf PanAm-103 zutun hatten !

    Thus is the investigation of the US senators whether Al-Megrahi was allowed to leave the country to Libya absolutely senselessly…

    An independet judicial review into the Lockerbie bombing is now essential, so that an investigation can begin after the true client.
    I hope that with Kenny MacAskill the bells ring and the current chance is used immediately...

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland

  6. Tam D. has delivered consistently over and above expectations on this case for years; using his parliamentary privilege (e.g. Hansard July 1997) before the Utrecht trial (2000) to state the body of factual evidence and accounts that were neither revealed in the FAI (1991) or the eventual trial, criticised the Scottish legal prosecutors for being far too compliant with the ‘conspiracy’ (and one, in particular, for seriously failing in his duty by discrediting trustworthy accounts at the FAI and not voicing concern about the veracity of a key witness before the trial), and pointing the finger at the true perpetrator, including the mechanism and motive, including the motive of our own agencies and friendly agencies to pervert the outcome. Yet still can be relied upon to make very timely and very pertinent comments. What more can be expected of him?

  7. Mmm, I'd like him to try to present the case so that he doesn't come over as a mad conspiracy theorist.

    I was disappointed by his intervention in the Any Answers broadcast the other weekend. He made a very good point at the outset, but then launched into "I first became involved with the Lockerbie affair when a constituent came to me a few days after the crash with concerns that there were US personnel swarming all over the crash scene and interfering with the evidence."

    This, frankly, is not going to get you anywhere. If he'd simply pointed out that he'd been involved in the affair since the very beginning and had a strong record of pursuing the matter in parliament, then fine. But what he actually said sounded like the preamble to a conspiracy theory alleging the US authorities were manipulating the evidence from about the minute the plane hit the ground.

    Whether or not a case can be made for this actually happening is not the point. He is not going to be able to make that case in three minutes on live radio talking to Dimbleby. All it does is turn the uncommitted listener off by sounding like a mad conspiracy theorist.

    The point of his call was that Megrahi had been pressurised to drop the appeal. However, he neutralised that point completely by starting on about US interference at the crash site.

    I think he needs to decide the appropriate point that needs to be made at the time, and make it. Not try to present an entire narrative of cover-up and conspiracy and complicity in a single package.

  8. I have started a thread in the JREF "Conspiracy Theories" forum, trying to lay out the issues as clearly as possible. US authorities framed al-Megrahi for the destruction of Pan Am 103.

    That forum is frequented by a baying mob who like nothing better than tearing apart conspiracy theories and upholding the "official version" of events - principally 9/11, but also things like the Kennedy assassination and the moon landings. That title should have been like a red rag to a bull, but bulls are conspicuous by their absence. After having been smacked a few times the "debunkers" are now leaving the Lockerbie affair strictly alone, and as a result the thread at present is a bit of a monologue on my part.

    I have progressed the argument to the point where I maintain the question is not whether or not Megrahi did it, but whether he was framed simply because he was convenient and they didn't have anyone else they could pin it on, or whether there is an intentional cover-up underlying it all.

    I think, as far as I've got, that it's quite a good exposition, and I would be interested in opinions and feed-back on it. If it's generally felt to be a helpful approach, I might try to give the thread wider exposure, or perhaps work the material up further into an article.

    No, Patrick, I waste quite enough time on the internet without going anywhere near Facebook.

  9. I can see you are spending a great deal of time on the JREF forum demonstrating what we cognoscenti already know: Mr Megrahi was wrongly convicted.

    The problem is how to get the conviction overturned: will it be by a court appeal process, as Mr Mann suggests in his letter, or by a judicial inquiry? It remains to be seen whether your hard work on the internet is going to assist in any way in achieving that objective.

    When you're ready to start blogging about who the real culprits might have been, join me on Facebook.

  10. Patrick, where I choose to spend my online time is my affair. Facebook is not a part of it. I would also remark that I do not "blog" anywhere. I do post on the JREF and other forums, which is a different thing. I have been a member there since 2003, and discuss a great many things with the other members.

    Since that forum has a very active Conspiracy Theories section, inhabited by many people who make a speciality of "debunking" such things, I find it very useful for crash-testing ideas relating the the Lockerbie affair. The fact that, as someone remarked in another context, "the pieces are from the wall", is significant.

    I'm interested in understanding what happened. I'll assist any attempt to advance the campaign to have this conviction overturned, but that's it.

  11. Patrick, if you don't start behaving like like a grown-up rather than a primary school child, I shall remove your comments from this blog.

  12. My goodness - not very diplomatic language here - the Ambassador wont be giving him any Ferrero Rocher.

  13. Rolfe........your comments are most welcome.

  14. Patrick........I mean this sincerely. Are you someone whose views count more than anyone else's?

  15. Jo, I realise you also revealed your identity by associating yourself with your Herald letters. As you didn't get any flak that I noticed for that, I didn't think much about doing the same.

    However, I see I made a serious mistake, and am now being stalked by Patrick, for whatever reason I have no idea. He has previously shown evidence of following me around the internet and made sarcastic comments about posts I have made elsewhere, so perhaps I should have realised the danger. He seems to think it's clever.

    I have asked Prof. Black to remove Patrick's references to my real name, profession, links to my work web site and so on, from his posts, though it is entirely up to Prof. Black whether he does so.

    I think everyone should take note of this incident, and realise one can't rely on certain posters here observing the normal internet courtesies.

  16. I have removed a comment. It appeared immediately above my own comment, above. What follows is a version of the deleted comment, edited to remove personal data about another contributor.

    Patrick Haseldine said...
    Thank you [Rolfe] for explaining about your 'posts' rather than 'blogs' on the internet.

    I hope that in spending so much precious time on those 'posts' to the JREF forum, you are not compensating by ignoring the claims (on your time) of poor defenceless animals!

  17. I'm sorry I told Patrick how to use HTML in comments.

    Patrick, ...

    not worth it. You know what I was going to say. Now go and reflect a bit.

  18. Rolfe, I got my share when I tried to persuade people, who shared my political views, not to see the whole release issue, the US debacle lately and the unhelpful comments from Westminster as Party-political. I was also punished severely by the Editorial Team on one site and publicly trashed on their site because I was seen to be criticising the Scottish Government and that just isn't allowed on some of these sites. I was told the appeal was separate and didn't belong in the debate. You figure out the logic of that because I can't.

    The conviction and the appeal came before all of this nonsense from the US and it is a simple fact that a full independent investigation would blow all of the, by comparison, trivial claptrap out of the water. If the idea is solely to defend the SNP then I would also say they are the only political Party who would come out of all of it with their reputation intact. The other Parties would be seriously damaged indeed. I asked for the opportunity to take these matters up privately with the Editorial Team on that site and the request was ignored. I remain shocked by the experience but I'm also sad because as I said, the truth about Lockerbie is bigger than all of us and I had done nothing wrong.

    We do know that many of the other Parties are trying to use the release against the SNP, that's a given, but to react in the same way is to allow the big issue to get buried all over again.

    The Scottish Government have asked for a full investigation into Lockerbie. Kenny MacAskill did not "rule out" an Inquiry here: the issue there is that the Scottish Government, on its own, does not have the power to call one. That has to be done by Westminster. They could not, either, get access to the material Westminster has slapped a privacy notice on. MacAskill has publicly called for that full Inquiry.

    I find on-line sniping a waste of time and I'm sorry you're having a bad time here Rolfe. Our contributions anywhere should all be valued equally whether they are "posts" or "blogs". I find your contributions extremely interesting and I will go on contributing in my own way as I hope you will too.

  19. On Mr Mann's suggestion about resurrecting the Appeal I'm sure Jim Swire explored this possibility and it cannot be done. It was the case that, had Megrahi died during the wait for the appeal to be heard, his relatives and other interested parties could have continued it. But once it is dropped it is my understanding that no one else can move for it to be put back in place.

  20. Can I also say that Professor Black runs this site extremely well and, given who he is, his knowledge of this affair and the length of time he has been involved in it, he never seeks to belittle any contribution in order to flatter his own ego. I always think that the absence of ego on such sites set the quality bloggers apart from......well, the ego bloggers.

  21. Jo, I greatly appreciate your kind words.

    here is what I wrote some time ago about the possibility of someone like Dr Swire trying to resurrect the appeal:

    "The legislation which set up the SCCRC envisages applications being made by persons other than the convicted person himself: Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, section 194D(1) and (2). Under section 194C, the Commission may refer a case to the High Court if they believe (a) that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred and (b) that it is in the interests of justice that a reference should be made. Condition (a) is clearly satisfied: the SCCRC so decided in Mr Megrahi's own application.

    "But what about condition (b)? Would the Commission regard it as in the interests of justice to refer a case back to the High Court where the convicted person himself had commenced an appeal on a SCCRC reference and then chosen to abandon it? The answer might depend on the precise circumstances in which the appellant came to abandon his appeal. Mr Megrahi's terminal illness; the fact that prisoner transfer was not open while the appeal was ongoing; and the fact that Mr Megrahi had no way of knowing that Kenny MacAskill would ultimately opt for compassionate release rather than prisoner transfer, would be relevant factors."

  22. Would that be an Independent Scottish Judicial Review?

  23. I'm thinking that it would mean the appeal being resurrected under the circumstances outlined above and continuing....?

    Professor Black this is powerful stuff and absolutely fascinating too.

    Would you clarify further following Baz' question above?

  24. An appeal in Scotland would require (a) a further reference back to the High Court of Justiciary by the SCCRC -- see my comment, above; and (b) the High Court to recognise the appellant (assuming that Mr Megrahi himself is no longer with us) as having a legitimate interest to pursue it. A spouse or close relative of Megrahi would qualify. But what of the spouse or close relative of a Lockerbie victim? This is entirely untrodden legal ground.

    A judicial review is a different kettle of fish; but one that is apparently being contemplated by some Lockerbie relatives: see the 22/12/2009 post "Lockerbie families sign up leading lawyer in bid for public inquiry".

  25. This is very encouraging indeed for those of us keeping our MPs and MSPs under pressure. I've written to a few prominent journalists too. The other thing I would say again is that this isn't just a Scottish issue. The media in the south need to get heavily involved too and Cameron, indeed the entire Commons, needs to be put under pressure.

    I thought there was no path back legally........but it is there. Its there!

  26. Convictions have been reviewed, even posthumously, I believe. This is pretty usleless for the most wronged party, but good for society at least.

  27. My point was that that an Independent Review by more Scottish Judges is not going to be Independent. My view is that the Scottish Judiciary had a collective view about the judicial experiment known as "Camp Zeist" and that view was that it was an abomination.