Thursday, 22 July 2010

Salmond pressed to instigate inquiry into Pan Am 103 by international coalition ...

[This is the headline over a report on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]

First Minister Alex Salmond has been called upon by an international coalition of signatories including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, academic Professor Noam Chomsky, former Father of the House Tam Dalyell and Professor Robert Black QC to institute a "full, open and public inquiry into the investigation of the Pan Am flight 103 tragedy."

The call comes amidst growing international clamour for an investigation, triggered initially by US Senators who wished to probe the connections between the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmad Al Megrahi and oil company BP. A letter endorsed by all the signatories, including relatives groups and the Justice for Megrahi campaign, calls on Salmond to initiate an inquiry "to encompass all aspects of the Lockerbie affair from December 1988 to the present day."

Others, such as Dr Hans Koechler and MSP Christine Grahame, as well as newspaper Leaders across the UK, have called separately for a wider analysis of the circumstances surrounding the Pan Am 103 affair and the discredited conviction against Al Megrahi.

"In response to the current attacks from both the USA and within the UK, it is now being suggested that an inquiry might be opened under the auspices of the Scottish Government into the circumstances of Mr Al-Megrahi's release. In our view, it is vital that the scope of any such inquiry ought also to encompass all aspects of the Lockerbie affair from December 1988 to the present day, including the investigation of the disaster and the Zeist trial itself (as laid out in the UN petition)" the letter to Salmond says.

"Clearly, it is our belief that Mr Al-Megrahi may have been a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice, and in that regard, simply to focus on the questions arising from his release is of secondary import. It goes without saying, therefore, that we would be fully supportive of a full, public inquiry of this type should Edinburgh wish to open one.

"From a political standpoint, such a course of action might succeed in fanning the existing flames, however, we feel that to institute a more wide-ranging inquiry could well serve to silence some of the critics, or at least make them more circumspect before going public. A step of this nature may also go some way towards restoring faith in Scotland's once justifiably envied system of criminal justice, which is now internationally derided as a result of our continuing failure to tackle the problems created and sustained by the Lockerbie affair."

The Firm's Editor Steven Raeburn was also asked to sign the original petition in September 2009, in addition to tonight's letter to Salmond, and has done so.

"Given the international nature of the incident and the fact that there seemed to be little appetite to open an inquiry in the either Westminster or Holyrood at the time, it was the appropriate route to follow," the letter adds.

"We hope that Holyrood will now take up the gauntlet and attempt to lift the fog that many feel has obscured aspects of this case from the very start."

The letter marks one of the the final public acts of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, who announced his retirement from public life today.

[The full text of the letter to the First Minister can be read here.]

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