Sunday, 25 July 2010

The release of Megrahi: the buck stops here

[This is the headline over a long article by Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday. The first section covers the well-trodden ground of the Scottish government's reasons for not sending witnesses to the Senate hearing and former UK minister Jack Staw's reasons for also refusing. The second section is more interesting -- particularly in a newspaper with the political stance of this one. It contains the following:]

With the two governments having rehearsed their lines over and again, it is hard to see how, even if they hauled Straw and MacAskill over in manacles, they would get further than the simple facts which the two governments can lean upon. MacAskill released Megrahi because he was ill. Straw and BP didn't release Megrahi because they couldn't.

End of story? Not quite. For relatives such as Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among those killed in December 1988, the hope is that the questionable genesis of the Senate inquiry, and the buck-passing of its witnesses, will not deter it from a more thorough investigation; into the trial of Megrahi himself.

Here the controversy really begins. For while BP's alleged involvement has created all the heat in Washington in recent weeks, the slow-burning story of Megrahi's prosecution is likely to last for much longer. Lockerbie veterans such as former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who has long believed in Megrahi's innocence, thinks there is an obvious reason why MacAskill decided to free Megrahi. Yes, because he was terminally ill. But also: "I think he and Alex Salmond know in their heart of hearts that Megrahi was an innocent man who had nothing to do with Lockerbie."

He goes on: "Of course they can't say this because if they were to say it, here would be an SNP government decrying the quality of Scottish justice. It would be saying that Scottish justice had made an almighty fool of itself in the eyes of the world."

Dalyell and other sceptics such as Swire and UN Observer Hans Kochler, all argue that Megrahi's release was inextricably linked to the prisoner's decision to drop his appeal just before he was released last year. Minutes from the controversial meeting MacAskill had with Megrahi in Greenock jail show that the Justice Secretary raised the question of the appeal with Megrahi, warning him that the Scottish Government could "only grant a transfer if there are no court proceedings ongoing".

Megrahi had already been informed that the PTA request and compassionate release request (which was not affected by the appeal) would be taken together. There is no evidence in the minutes of any deal being brokered, but questions about why that meeting took place are now being raised. Kochler declared: "It is entirely appropriate to ask whether the decisive motive might have been the termination of proceedings so that the Scottish, UK and US administrations in the handing of the Lockerbie case would never be fully scrutinised in a court of law." Swire, Kochler and Dalyell all believe the matter needs to be examined.

For many American relatives who are convinced of Megrahi's guilt, such an inquiry into the reliability of the conviction would be met with dismay. Kochler and others are "conspiracy buffs", they argue The evidence linking Megrahi to the crime was clear. But the fact is that the senate inquiry, however misguided in its approach, is now focusing attention once more on the original claims: the Iranian connection; the claims of baggage on Flight 103 being tampered with at Heathrow; the evidence allegedly planted on the scene; the complicity of the US and UK Governments in a cover-up; and whether an innocent man was put in the dock.

The logical lesson to be taken from last week's buck-passing is clear.

If the US Senate cannot get the answers, then surely a proper inquiry should be called. The US Senators themselves have acknowledged this.

Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the four who called this week's hearing, declared: "The only way to restore the integrity of what happened and to continue the integrity of the British government is to do a full and complete investigation." Only a few weeks ago – before he took office – David Cameron agreed, arguing in the strongest terms that the matters most be probed.

Now in office, he is vacillating. It was Jack Straw and Kenny MacAskill who played the blame game last week. But if Cameron refuses to act over the coming weeks, he may go down as the biggest buck-passer of them all.


  1. US wanted Lockerbie bomber released
    THE US government secretly told Scottish ministers they wanted the Lockerbie bomber freed.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    The letter was sent to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US Embassy in London

    It states: "If Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer."

    And it questions the US President’s claim last week that Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" at the bomber’s release from jail.

    The Americans wanted the Lockerbie bomber to remain in Scotland if he was freed.

    But the letter shows they were involved in discussions before he was freed.

  2. On the above piece,

    1. Salmond and McAskill possibly couldn't say publicly the original verdict was possibly unsafe. Fine. They could however have pointed to evidence, from the SCCRC, that the second appeal was granted on those precise grounds and pointed to the strong doubts about the original conviction. They certainly did not have to say, both of them at different times, that Megrahi was guilty and that the Scottish Justice System is just fine thanks very much.

    And in saying both of these things they don't just clash with the "Lockerbie buffs" they clash with many ordinary folk out here who have watched events re Lockerbie since the trial with growing dismay and anger. Many of those people are actually supporters of the Party Salmond heads.

    2. Cameron did not agree to an investigation into Lockerbie as I understand it, nor have the US authorities requested this. They are interested only in the release aspect. If Cameron had agreed to a full investigation we would be preparing for this right now: and many of us who frequent this site would be very happy. Cameron is Prime Minister of the UK and he could order a full investigation in a single sentence. He has not done so. I think therefore that the writer of the above article has misunderstood what Cameron said and what the US authorities want.

    The people in the best position to demand that inquiry are Mr Salmond and Mr McAskill. I'm not interested in what they privately think about Megrahi's guilt. This isn't a private matter. This is about something massive that happened in this country and getting to the truth about it. The issue is in the public domain and has been for years. The private thoughts of politicians achieve nothing: only their public actions and statements move us forward. And both declare Megrahi guilty as charged. That is not acceptable if they privately think otherwise for it suggests there is more to it. It also means they are not being honest and there is more than enough dishonesty over Lockerbie already. The SNP government had no part in the original trial and no part in covering up the truth afterwards. It has nothing to lose then by going all out to get the truth, finally. Indeed it has a great deal to gain for ultimately its political opponents will be exposed as dishonest men, and women.

    Those who speak about "justice" with phoney passion as some of them do while at the same time moving hell and high water to ensure truth doesn't play a part in justice insult the dead, their relatives and all of us who truly do believe in justice and who believe, with genuine passion, that if truth isn't at the centre of any justice system then that justice system is not entitled to use the word justice in its title.

  3. Excellent post, Jo You wouldn't like to re-cast that as a letter to an editor, would you?

  4. Rolfe, I can try. Spent last weekend writing letters which the Herald kept bouncing, haha. Made it on Wednesday tho ; )

  5. Rolfe the other thing is if one even suggests on some sites which are sympathetic to the SNP that McAskill has even put a foot wrong here one will be publicly castigated in all sorts of ways. I fear for ordinary SNP supporters sometimes. Blind loyalty isn't always a good thing. Questions should be allowed. Those who ask questions are not necessarily the enemy.

  6. Nice letter, Mrs Greenhorn!

    I've got one on the stocks myself, but it's a bit lengthy. Might give it a go regardless.

  7. Rolfe try and edit it. Be brave. I am the worst offender when it comes to saying too much and Editors will often spike contributions due to space restrictions. Or compare your word count with other contributions on their pages to get an idea of what they'll go with. And hold fast to the "Don't use a hundred words when you could use ten." philosophy rather than applying that in reverse as I usually do! : )

  8. Will re-edit tonight. It would be better to be less specific anyway.

    They will print quite long things it they're saying something important. The trick is to say something important, and that ain't easy.

    A short one simply saying, it's clear from the notes of the meetings that Mr. al-Megrahi was being kept in the dark and fed sh*t to induce him to drop the appeal, is also quite tempting.

  9. There is an astonishing letter in the Herald today from somone who appears to be saying we need to consign the whole Megrahi issue to the bin marked "hindsight" and "spilt milk".

  10. Chris Parton. I was at primary school with a Christopher Parton, but I don't think it's the same person, because my schoolmate was quite unpleasant. I usually find the Herald correspondent of that name very good, but he's just writing letters for the sake of writing this time.