Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lockerbie: now pressure switches to America

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

Pressure is growing on the US government to release secret documents which detail its position on the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

As the trans-Atlantic row deepens over why Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was freed from a Scottish jail last summer, the US government is being urged to drop its ban on the publication of letters it sent to both the Scottish Government and Whitehall on the issue.

The US government refused Holyrood permission to make the papers public in a strongly worded letter last September, a month after Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, was allowed to return to Libya following his compassionate release.

But the move to make the documents public took a step forward as the Senate committee on foreign affairs prepares for Thursday’s inquiry into the prisoner’s release, with chairman Senator Robert Menendez requesting that the Scottish Government provide information on Megrahi’s release in five key areas.

They include “any documents including communications to or from Scottish Government officials, relating to the US government’s position on Al Megrahi’s release or transfer to Libyan custody.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said last night: “We have received another letter from Senator Menendez, who will chair next week’s hearing, and who has now asked for us to provide five categories of documents relating to the case. We are more than happy to do so, and indeed have already published all we hold on this issue, with the exception of some documents where permission for publication has so far been declined.

“These unpublished documents include correspondence between the Scottish Government and the US Government, whose release Senator Menendez has now requested. We would urge the Senator and his colleagues to work with their own Government so that the remaining information we hold can be published in the interests of maximum transparency.”

The Scottish Government also denied reports that Alex Salmond received a letter from committee member Senator Frank Lautenberg, who is said to have “pleaded” with the First Minister to send a representative to the hearing to add “credibility” to proceedings.

[Another article in the same newspaper by James Cusick contains the following:]

Of all the missing pieces in the jigsaw of information on the Lockerbie bombing and its aftermath one of the most confusing is Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s decision to drop his appeal against his conviction for the greatest terrorist atrocity ever perpetrated over Scottish soil. (...)

The Scottish Government had repeatedly branded the 2007 Prisoner Transfer Agreement between the UK and Libya – brokered in Tripoli in May 2007 by the then-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his foreign affairs adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald – as unconstitutional because it took no account of Scotland’s separate legal identity from the UK Government,

For the prisoner transfer agreement to go ahead Megrahi would have had to drop his appeal. But MacAskill rejected the PTA and opted instead to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, under the terms of which the appeal could have gone ahead as planned. Yet Megrahi opted to drop it. Why? (...)

MacAskill will have known the full facts that lay behind the SCCRC’s decision to grant the appeal. The commission produced an 800-page report of the decision taken at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001. It was a Scottish court sitting in an independent country, and heard by three high court judges. A further 14 pages offered evaluation of new evidence and new circumstances surrounding the case against Megrahi, and identified six key areas where a potential miscarriage of justice may have taken place. (...)

Perhaps the most damning fall-out from the imminent appeal process, however, is the potential shredding of the evidence used to convict Megrahi and the unanswered questions about why they were admitted to court in the first place. Other uncomfortable questions centre on why wider investigations into the background of key witnesses did not take place on any scale that would have routinely been tested in a different legal arena.

Crucial to Megrahi’s conviction was the prosecution’s ability to place him in Malta on December 7, 1988. That was the day the court identified as the date a purchase was made at Mary’s House, a shop run by Tony Gauci. Clothes bought in the Sliema shop on this specific date were said to have been in the Samsonite case containing the explosive device.

Gauci was the witness who identified Megrahi as buying the clothes from his shop, on December 7. (...) This is crucial because the Libyan’s passport states that he was in Malta at that time. But if the clothes purchase was made earlier then Megrahi couldn’t have been in Malta at the time. That is the new picture painted in the evidence reviewed by the SCCRC. Gauci’s identification of Megrahi in his shop is also questioned.

Documents also allege that at an early stage of the US-UK investigation Gauci asked for, and was given, $2m by the US Department of Justice for his contributions to the case.

Other new areas of evidence which cast doubt on the conviction included documents said to have come from the CIA which relate to the ‘Mebo’ timer that is said to have been the key device which detonated the bomb on the aircraft. Details of these documents were not given to Megrahi’s defence counsel.

The owner of the Mebo firm, Edwin Bollier, is also listed in review of the evidence as claiming that in 1991 the FBI offered him $4m to testify that the fragments of a timer found near the scene of the crash were part of a Mebo MST-13 timer which the company said had been supplied to Libya.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is supposed to be the outcome of any legal process seeking justice. The appeal of Megrahi, had it gone ahead, suggests that Scottish justice fell short in the way it dealt with Lockerbie.

[A third article in The Sunday Herald by Tom Gordon reads in part:]

To many observers, it was the day Kenny MacAskill crossed a line. Before BP’s oil spill made it the focus for conspiracy theories, it was also the moment some felt ministers pressured a dying man to spare the blushes of the Scots legal system.

Just before 9am on Wednesday, August 5 last year, the Justice Secretary entered Greenock Prison for a meeting with inmate 55725. (...)

On May 5, the Libyan government had applied for Megrahi’s release under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) initiated by Tony Blair.

The following month, on the advice of George Burgess, head of the government’s criminal law and licensing division, MacAskill agreed to meetings with key players in the Lockerbie case, including Megrahi.

On July 24, Megrahi made a separate application for release on compassionate grounds. (...)

MacAskill came with Robert Gordon, director of the Justice Department, and Linda Miller, from the Criminal Law and Licensing Division.

According to official notes of the meeting, MacAskill said he would be considering both applications for release “in parallel”.

After asserting his innocence, Megrahi gave a history of his case, from his surrender in 1999, to trial at Camp Zeist in 2001, up to the present day, his illness, separation from his family, and feeling of “desolation”.

MacAskill stressed he could only grant a PTA transfer if there were no court proceedings ongoing – in other words, if Megrahi dropped his appeals against conviction and sentence.

“Mr Megrahi confirmed he understood this point,” the note recorded.

However, according to one of those close to events, Megrahi wrongly took this to mean that dropping his appeals was also a pre-condition of compassionate release. It wasn’t.

“MacAskill said something stupid. He shouldn’t have mentioned the appeal at all. “[The two processes] were conflated. That’s ultimately what Megrahi took from it,” said the source.

A week later, Megrahi signalled he was dropping his appeals.

His QC, Maggie Scott, told the High Court her client thought this would “assist in the early determination of these applications”.

Note the “applications” plural. (...)

A senior legal source told the Sunday Herald Megrahi was definitely under the false impression that abandoning his appeals would help secure compassionate release.

However the Libyan may simply have calculated that with MacAskill considering the PTA and compassionate applications at the same time, ending his appeals would leave both options open rather than just one. [Note by RB: This is the correct interpretation. Mr Megrahi was very well aware that compassionate release did not require abandonment of the appeal. Equally, he knew that prisoner transfer did; and he, like his government, was still labouring under the lingering impression created by Blair and Sheinwald during the "deal in the desert" that his repatriation under the PTA was really a done deal. Release under the PTA was what was really expected, because that was what Nigel and Tony had led the Libyan government to believe.]

On September 2, by a majority vote, the Scottish Parliament declared MacAskill had “mishandled” the release decision, and that meeting Megrahi while considering his application for compassionate release was “wrong”, and an “inappropriate precedent”.

[An editorial in the same newspaper headlined "Don’t let America give us lessons in justice" contains the following:]

[E]ven if MacAskill’s decision was flawed – and that is surely a subjective opinion – there remains no evidence that BP played any role whatsoever in persuading the Justice Minister to release Megrahi. The Scottish Government has insisted it received no representations from the oil company, and that it had no contact with it. There is no evidence, or indeed any serious suggestion, that is not the case.

There is, however, plenty of evidence that the Westminster Government wanted Megrahi free and that it was lobbied by BP to pave the way for his return to Libya.

It was the Westminster Government – albeit not the present Government – that agreed the prisoner transfer agreement with Libya when Megrahi was the only significant Libyan in a British jail. It was a Westminster Government which specifically agreed not to exclude Megrahi from that agreement. And it was a Westminster Government that decided to agree a strategy of bringing Libya back in from the cold. BP has already admitted lobbying Westminster for a quick conclusion to the prisoner transfer agreement so that trade with Libya could resume. Indeed, a deal between the Libyan government and BP was signed almost immediately after the prisoner transfer agreement was approved. All this is in the public domain. It does not require an inquiry in America to establish these facts.

It was only when it became apparent that Westminister did not have the legal authority to release Megrahi that the matter landed on MacAskill’s desk. Westminster may have officially kept its wishes to itself while MacAskill was making his deliberations but there can be no doubt that it privately wished Megrahi freed. It had already agreed a deal to make that happen.

In the end, MacAskill went against the prisoner transfer agreement but instead decided on compassionate release. It is acceptable to question the wisdom of that decision. It is not acceptable to question MacAskill’s right to make it.

Yet if the events surrounding Megrahi’s death are known, there are many facts about his conviction, and in particular his appeal against that conviction, which remain shrouded in mystery.

By all means we should have an inquiry which would allow the serious doubts about the veracity of the evidence against Megrahi to be aired. But we do not need the inquiry currently being demanded and we do not need America to give us lessons in justice. Alex Salmond is right to have nothing to do with it.



    To crack the Scottish protective wall of Kenny MacAskill another procedure must be used...

    Published only in German language, for a professional translation we are grateful...

    Das *Arztzeugnis und die Erklärung from Dr Andrew Fraser, the Scottish Prison Service medic who provided the prognosis, war der Freipass für die Freilassung des unschuldigen Mr Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, somit nur *Mittel zum Zweck.

    Abgestützt auf das Arztzeugnis (Lebenszeit 3 Monate) kann sich Secretary of Justice, Kenny MacAskill auf eine korrekte, nach schottischem Recht abgewickelte Freilassung al-Megrahi's bis heute abstützen.
    Um die gesetzliche Schutzmauer von Kenny MacAskill zu knacken, muss eine andere Prozedur angewendet werden.

    Die Freilassung des unschuldigen Mr Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi auf Grund seiner fortgeschrittenen Prostata Krankheit oder auf Druck eines angeblichen Oil Deals mit BP war/ist eine rafinierte Ablenkung "Augenwischerei", von den wahren Hintergründen

    Anfang August 2009 stand für die Scottish Justiciary ein "existentielles" Problem im Fokus; das Erfolg versprechende Appeal zugunsten al-Megrahi musste mit allen Mitteln vor der angekündigten Gerichtsverhandlung, am 2. November 2009, verhindert werden!

    Ein Appeal Urteil als "Miscarriage of Justice", wie es durch die Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission (SCCRC) am 28. Juni 2007 in 6 Punkten als Möglichkeit verkündet wurde, hätte in Scotland bei Offiziellen, ein "Köpfe rollen" ausgelöst und in der Welt Entsetzen verursacht!

    Dazu einige Fakts und Fragen zum Nachdenken:

    Bevor der Ratifizierung des Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) am 29. April 2009, al Megrahi has consistently maintained his innocence and vowed several times to stay in Scotland and win his freedom through the appeal courts.
    Heute ist bekannt, dass Mr al-Megrahi seit dem 9. Juli 2009, 26 Tage vor dem Besuch von Secretary Kenny MacAskill wusste, dass sein Appeal nach einem Transfair nach Libyen normal fortgesetzt werden kann...

    1) Frage: Wieso hatte al-Megrahi nach den Besuchen von Kenny MacAskill, ab 12. August 2009 sein Erfolg versprechendes Appeal zurückgezogen ??
    Es gibt dazu eine berechtigte Nachfrage:
    1a) Mit welchen markannten Fakts wurde Mr al-Megrahi genötigt, sein Appeal zurückzuziehen ??

    2) Da der unschuldige Mr. al-Megrahi überzeugend seinen Namen "säubern" will und dafür über seiner Webpage ( um seine Ehre kämpft, sowie demnächst in einem Buch seine Darstellung publick machen will, kann daraus abgeleitet werden, dass al-Megrahi durch die Abmachung mit Kenny Mac Askill in seiner Schuld steht und sich daran halten muss sein Appeal nicht zu reaktivieren...

    Sehr Geehrter Secretary of Justice Kenny MacAskill Sie könnten mit grösster Wahrscheinlichkeit mit einer wahren Antwort, die fragwürdige Angelegenheit zu Ende bringen und al-Megrahi und Libyen die EHRE zurückgeben ...
    Bitte öffnen Sie zusätzlich, wie mehrmals versprochen, die 800 Unterlagen und Dokumente der SCCRCommission.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland

  2. Perhaps in this very unsatisfactory process in which the US senate set out to roast the Scots, we will be able to turn the position on its head so to speak and make the US government face its criminality over Lockerbie.

    In other words the US government connived and collaborated with the Iranian government in destroying 270 lives, many American, simply to ensure the election of the second worst President in US History,

    Hang your head in shame, so-called 'Land of the free'.

  3. "Perhaps the most damning fall-out from the imminent appeal process, however, is the potential shredding of the evidence used to convict Megrahi and the unanswered questions about why they were admitted to court in the first place. Other uncomfortable questions centre on why wider investigations into the background of key witnesses did not take place on any scale that would have routinely been tested in a different legal arena."

    Professor Black......has there been evidence shredded? Could you clarify if possible?

  4. I'd say Tony Gauci's evidence was beginning to resemble the check trousers, anyway.

  5. Jo, the "evidence shredded" comment worried me, too. However, I think it's intended as just a colourful way of saying that, if the appeal had gone ahead, the evidence led at the Zeist trial would have been totally discredited.

  6. It seems to me some of that evidence was already shredded, it's just that the Noble Lords didn't appear to notice.

    First, Tony Gauci's memory was obviously quite remarkable, however dim he was otherwise. If you look at that first statement of his, it appears the detectives came into the shop talking about check trousers, and then moved on to ask Paul about some pyjamas. The pyjamas triggered Tony's memory, and he started to relate the story of the mystery shopper. He then, apparently spontaneously, said tweed jacket, babygro, another pair of lighter brown trousers, umbrella, and red and black check cardigan, as well as the original Yorkie check trousers and three pairs of the pyjamas.

    This is extraordinary. All these items appear on the list of blast-damaged items found at Lockerbie, and he has only missed three - the two Slalom shirts and the Abanderado t-shirt. I wondered at one point if Tony really had sold the bomb-suitcase clothes, or if it was all really good coaching, but that list convinced me. 100% specificity and 70% specificity first go out of the box is impressive by any standards. Imagining he was fed this information requires the most ridiculous conspiracy theory.

    So why should his memory of the purchaser be any worse, on that same occasion? It's surprisingly detailed as regards body size and shape, understandable as he was sizing the man up for clothes to fit. The trouble is, he seems not to have remembered the face very well, and the sketch and photofit he produced are rather dissimilar and quite generic. But the police kept showing him pictures of faces! No wonder he was confused. Just get back to the body size and shape description, and see if it matches Megrahi. It's nowhere close.

    The way Tony was cajoled, hinted at, prompted, coached and (we now discover) bribed to identify Megrahi is simply shocking. And then, what did he say at the identification parade? Shorn of the fractured English, it comes out as "This isn't the man but he looks a bit like him." How the judges managed to turn that into a positive identification of Megrahi is part of the circular logic that pervades the whole case.

    And then the date. 23rd November was a good fit for the purchase, and the SCCRC seem to have uncovered more evidence that supports that. Why prefer 7th December, when you have to torture the evidence till it hollers uncle to get a fit? More circular logic. We've already decided Megrahi did it, so we prefer the readings that say it was him.

    [.... contd....]

  7. [.... contd....]

    But what was the other evidence that suggested Megrahi did it? Nothing at all but the Erac printout and tray B8849. Leaving aside the utterly bizarre provenance of that, how can it possibly incriminate Megrahi? If the baggage records at Malta had been shoddy, if there had been a possible route of introducing the bomb there, maybe. But there wasn't. None. "On the face of it, there is considerable and quite compelling evidence that that could not have happened."

    It was accepted that Frankfurt coders occasionally made mistakes. It was unlikely tray B8849 was a mistake, but not impossible. The judges decided that it wasn't a mistake, on the balance of probabilities. However, they looked at the wrong balance of probabilities. The balance wasn't between an unlikely mistake and a probable correct entry at Frankfurt. It was between an unlikely mistake at Frankfurt and some sort of supernatural intervention at Malta! So what did the judges do?

    Those records demonstrated the carriage of an unaccompanied bag from Malta on flight KM180. The evidence of Mr Borg did not rule out the possibility of that happening. It was to be remembered that the Crown case was that the security measures at Luqa had been deliberately circumvented by a criminal act.

    No shit, Sherlock! Of course it would have been a criminal act. You still haven't produced any evidence it happened though! Mr. Borg merely said, "well, anything's possible," when asked if it was really completely and utterly impossible anything could have got past, after the totally watertight nature of the actual evidence had been gone over in excruciating detail. The alternative was that something had been wrongly coded at Frankfurt. Who did they actually ask about that? Mr. Schreiner, can you completely rule out the possibility that this tray was not from KM180? Huh. Of course he can't, and with far less certainty than Wilfrid Borg.

    Why did they prefer the well-nigh impossible breach of security at Malta, to the merely improbable mistake at Frankfurt, especially given that there was another perfectly reasonable explanation for the introduction of the bomb, if B8849 was accepted as a simple mistake (Bedford's evidence from Heathrow)? Again, because Megrahi was acting suspiciously at Malta at the time, and there was other evidence to implicate Megrahi. And what evidence was that? Well, he bought those clothes from Tony Gauci, obviously.

    Round and round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows.

    That's what was unravelling, when Tony's identification evidence started to fall apart. Just the entire Malta introduction theory, that's what.

  8. I think what we often overlook about Zeist, or Prof. Black will correct me if I'm wrong, is Abdulmajid Giaka. In the eight years before the trial we were all being assured (principally by Vincent Cannistraro) that the prosecution had a star witness who would provide overwhelming evidence against the accused. In my opinion, they'd never have got that case to court without him. Take away his statements, and it's self-evidently smoke and mirrors.

    The real shock at Zeist wasn't that Giaka was proved to be lying for money, it was that the CIA and the US prosecutors obviously knew this, and relied on his evidence anyway. I believe the case should have been thrown out at that point, not just because 90% of the evidence had just gone down the toilet and the remaining 10% wasn't enough to slap Megrahi with a parking ticket, but because it demonstrated serious and indeed fatal bad faith on the part of the prosecuting authorities. How could we have faith in the trustworthiness of the rest of it, after that? Well, we couldn't, as the more recent revelations about $3 million and new lives in Australia demonstrate.

    But the case wasn't thrown out, and the prosecution went ahead on the basis of the smoke and mirrors. Why did the judges convict on such flimsy and inferential evidence? We can all speculate about political pressure till we're blue in the face, and the Noble Lords are just going to deny it. However, I could well imagine that the embarrassment of going through that entire three-ring circus and not bringing in a conviction was more than they could cope with.

    Prof. Black,do you think I'm anywhere close? I often think things are straightforward, and then a lawyer comes along and explains that I'm being hopelessly naive and the law doesn't work like that, but really, how more counter-intuitive can you get?

  9. Rolfe, you have hit the nail on the head. Charges would not have been brought against Megrahi (and Fhima) by the Crown Office had it not been for Giaka. And no representative of the Scottish prosecutors was allowed to interview Giaka until the run-up to the Zeist trial. In other words, the charges were brought and the indictment was drafted purely on the basis of what our American cousins told the Crown Office their Libyan defector would say.

    When the Scots were eventually allowed access to him and discovered that he was a joke, they had two options: to abandon the prosecution or to try to convince the court that he was, after all, a witness of credit. To their eternal shame, they chose the latter.

    [to be continued]

  10. Here is what I have written about the lengths the Crown went to:

    Giaka's evidence was ultimately found by the court to be utterly untrustworthy. This was largely due to the devastating effectiveness of the cross-examination by defence counsel. Their ability to destroy completely the credibility of the witness stemmed from the contents of cables in which his CIA handlers communicated to headquarters the information that Giaka had provided to them in the course of their secret meetings. Discrepancies between Giaka's evidence-in-chief to the Advocate Depute and the contents of these contemporaneous cables enabled the defence to mount a formidable challenge to the truthfulness and accuracy, or credibility and reliability, of Giaka's testimony. Had the information contained in these cables not been available to them, the task of attempting to demonstrate to the court that Giaka was an incredible or unreliable witness would have been more difficult, and perhaps impossible.

    Yet the Crown strove valiantly to prevent the defence obtaining access to these cables. At the trial, on 22 August 2000, when he was seeking to persuade the Court to deny the defence access to those cables in their unedited or uncensored form, the then Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, stated that the members of the prosecution team who were given access to the uncensored CIA cables on 1 June 2000 were fully aware of the obligation incumbent upon them as prosecutors to make available to the defence material relevant to the defence of the accused and, to that end, approached the contents of those cables with certain considerations in mind.

    Boyd said: "First of all, they considered whether or not there was any information behind the redactions which would undermine the Crown case in any way. Second, they considered whether there was anything which would appear to reflect on the credibility of Majid... On all of these matters, the learned Advocate Depute reached the conclusion that there was nothing within the cables which bore on the defence case, either by undermining the Crown case or by advancing a positive case which was being made or may be made, having regard to the special defence... I emphasise that the redactions have been made on the basis of what is in the interests of the security of a friendly power... Crown counsel was satisfied that there was nothing within the documents which bore upon the defence case in any way."

    One judge, Lord Coulsfield, then intervened: "Does that include, Lord Advocate... that Crown counsel, having considered the documents, can say to the Court that there is nothing concealed which could possibly bear on the credibility of this witness?"

    The Lord Advocate replied: "Well, I'm just checking with the counsel who made that... there is nothing within these documents which relates to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Majid on these matters."

    Notwithstanding the opposition of the Lord Advocate, the court ordered the unedited cables to be made available to the defence, who went on to use their contents to such devastating effect in questioning Giaka that the court held that his evidence had to be disregarded in its entirety. Yet, strangely enough, the judges did not see fit publicly to censure the Crown for its inaccurate assurances that the cables contained nothing that could assist the defence.

  11. So why did the judges convict, given their rejection of Giaka's evidence and the manifest weakness of the rest of the Crown case? Here is what I have written:

    It is my firm view that the crucial incriminating findings made by the judges were unwarranted by the evidence led in court and were in many cases entirely contrary to the weight of that evidence. I am convinced that no Scottish jury, following the instructions traditionally given by judges regarding the assessment of evidence and the meaning and application of the concept of reasonable doubt, would or could have convicted Megrahi. So how did it come about that the three distinguished and experienced judges who concurred in the verdict felt able to convict him?

    In paragraph 89 of the Opinion of the Court it is stated: “We are aware that in relation to certain aspects of the case there are a number of uncertainties and qualifications. We are also aware that there is a danger that by selecting parts of the evidence which seem to fit together and ignoring parts which might not fit, it is possible to read into a mass of conflicting evidence a pattern or conclusion which is not really justified.” Regrettably, in my submission, the judges’ intellectual recognition of the danger does not appear to have enabled them to avoid it.*

    *In John Lawton's excellent novel A LITTLE WHITE DEATH (1999) -- a fictionalised account of the Profumo affair and the Stephen Ward trial -- the hero (at p501 of the paperback edition) describes the presiding judge in the trial (Mr Justice Mirkeyn) as follows: "Everyone doing what they think is expected of them. Mirkeyn did the same. It's probably never crossed Mirkeyn's mind that he's a bad judge or a bent judge. He simply did what was expected. Didn't even need a nod or a wink."

  12. 100% specificity and 70% specificity

    Correction. 100% specificity and 70% sensitivity.

    Kim's game. Tony "apple short of a picnic" Gauci was good at it.

  13. We are aware that in relation to certain aspects of the case there are a number of uncertainties and qualifications. We are also aware that there is a danger that by selecting parts of the evidence which seem to fit together and ignoring parts which might not fit, it is possible to read into a mass of conflicting evidence a pattern or conclusion which is not really justified.

    I was struck by that paragraph too. I think it's an unconscious defence mechanism. Look, we can't be making unwarranted inferences! We've acknowledged the possibility of that error, so of course we can't have fallen into it!

    It often works. It's the basis of "retaliate first". It takes the wind out of the sails of the critics, when they have just begun to open their mouths to make exactly that point.

    Nevertheless, these judges were guilty of circular reasoning such as probably has no rival in the annals of justice and injustice.

  14. Prof. Black, I meant to say last night (but it was getting late) how much I appreciated what you wrote in these three posts. I believe I have read it before (earlier on this blog?), and the conduct of the Crown, the prosecution and the judges is simply inexcusable.

    One rather expects a defence team to pull some tricks to try to get their client acquitted, even if the evidence of guilt is fairly blatant. Providing a defence for someone whom you might in your heart of hearts believe to be guilty is an advocate's job, as we understand that everyone is entitled to the best defence that can be mounted, and to the benefit of any doubt that might be going.

    Maybe I'm being naive again, but I do not expect prosecutors to take the same attitude. I do NOT expect a prosecution team to strive blindly for a conviction, using every dirty trick in the book, when any dispassionate view of the evidence points to innocence. The idea that I live in the country whose justice system perpetrated this abomination actually frightens me.

    If this were simply the case not being proven "beyond reasonable doubt", but the balance of probabilities still suggesting guilt, I would still be hugely concerned. But it's not even like that. The balance of probabilities is enormously in favour of innocence, to the point of innocence being virtually beyond reasonable doubt.

    I am simply appalled by this: appalled by the prosecutors and judges who made it happen, appalled by the politicians (especially those conversant with the evidence) banging on about a just conviction, appalled by people who should have some familiarity with the case declaring that the conviction was sound, and perhaps most of all appalled by the virtual media silence about it.

    I remember the year 2000, without much pleasure. I was trying to have a nervous breakdown at the time, and was absent from work for a while. In an attempt to calm my high state of anxiety, I watched a lot of television, and particularly the news bulletins. I also read the Telegraph every day (I know, I know, but I was in England, and my mother liked the crossword). I remember scaremongering about BSE and vCJD and a lot of other things. I remember nothing at all about Camp Zeist, even though I had had an interest in Lockerbie from the very first Channel 4 news that a plane had gone down, and passing Sherwood Crescent on the A74 48 hours later. This "high-profile" trial was completely under the radar. There were no journalists reporting week by week, no headline splashes about the Crown's star witness having been discredited, no analyses of the evidence to date, nothing.

    I believe that if we had had good press reporting of the trial while it was underway, it would have been far more difficult for the judges to have brought in that verdict. If the papers and TV current affairs programmes had been full of analyses of Gauci's credibility, and how much weight could actually be put on Mrs. Erac's printout, and what did John Bedford actually see and so on, the outcry over the verdict would have been enormous. And the judges would have realised that. As it was, they slipped it past a bunch of journalists who were fast asleep.

    The journalists still seem, by and large, to be fast asleep. Is there any reasonable prospect of waking them up?

  15. The other thing that annoys me is, when you do get a journalistic effort questioning the conviction, they launch into conspiracy theories almost from the word go. This might entertain the masses, but it doesn't do a lot for serious credibility. (Tam Dalyell is particularly bad for this.)

    Many of my earliest memories of reading about the case are about an intact blue babygro that was later shredded, and a suitcase full of heroin that vanished, and a dead CIA officer's suitcase being tampered with and so on. Get further in, and people start on about that bloody timer fragment and its bizarre provenance and chain of custody. Fine. Twist my arm and I'll probably agree with you that the timer fragment is a plant. However, this is a very very serious allegation. Suggesting that the prosecution didn't stop at bribing witnesses to perjure themselves but actually fabricated physical evidence is a huge leap, and a leap many readers may be unwilling to take. It removes the story from a real tale of justice denied and innocence convicted, to the realms of the holiday-reading thriller. Don't do it, guys!

    The shenanigans on the ground at Lockerbie itself, if they happened, have no real bearing on the case against Megrahi. (I suspect the CIA might have been trying to secure the luggage of their own dead personnel before anyone else got hold of it, but whatever these officers were or weren't carrying has bugger-all to do with the case.)

    The timer fragment and the radio-cassette manual also have nothing to do with the case against Megrahi. They point to Libya, certainly, but unless you're simply going to convict Megrahi for the crime of being a Libyan security officer who knew Edwin Bollier, they're irrelevant. Once the case against Megrahi has been shown to be spurious, these things undoubtedly start getting interesting. However, going straight in with the apparent assertion that Megrahi is innocent because key evidence was planted by the investigating authorities is a sure-fire way to have your arguments dismissed as nutty conspiracy theories.

    That's not why he's innocent at all. He's innocent because he didn't buy the clothes, and because there is extremely strong evidence that there was no unaccompanied suitcase on KM180, evidence which is not seriously challenged by Mrs. Erac's souvenir. And that's it. Could we stick to the point, guys?

  16. And while I'm at it. The bit of the judgement of the first appeal I find most appalling.

    Hans Kochler recounts that during the appeal hearing, Lord Osborne said of the Malta bomb introduction, "there is considerable and compelling evidence that that could not have happened."

    This is not me talking, or Jim Swire, or Megrahi's lawyers, or Paul Foot. It's one of the appeal judges. If that was how he rated the evidence, it was compelling indeed.

    So how does he overcome this, on the basis of the Erac printout of bizarre provenance, and the agreed potential for operator error at the Frankfurt coding stations?

    Those records demonstrated the carriage of an unaccompanied bag from Malta on flight KM180. [....] It was to be remembered that the Crown case was that the security measures at Luqa had been deliberately circumvented by a criminal act.

    WHAT??? Yes, we know that the Crown alleged security measures at Luqa had been circumvented, and this would obviously have been a criminal act, if it had happened. But we already agreed there was no evidence it had happened! "There is considerable and compelling evidence that that COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED."

    What the hell was going on there? As Hans Kochler says, what happened to Lord Osborne between the "that could not have happened" statement, and the "oh well it did happen after all" conclusion of the judgement he set his name to?

    Just doing what he thought was expected of him? Or, perish the thought, did someone slide up to him and say, "Look, trust us, we can't bring the evidence to court, but we know that bomb went on at Luqa"?

    We'll never know, I suppose. But with evidence of judges simply taking leave of their senses in this way published right up there on the internet for everyone to read, why oh why do we have to listen to so many people insisting that Megrahi was undoubtedly guilty?