Thursday, 29 July 2010

US Senators challenged to back inquiry into Lockerbie saga

[This is the headline over a report on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. The following are excerpts:]

The four United States Senators who called for the postponed hearings into the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi have been challenged to add their names to a petition currently endorsed by an international coalition of signatories into the full circumstances of the Pan Am 103 debacle, after one of them called for a “longer term, multidimensional inquiry” in the affair.

Senator Robert Menéndez, set to chair the original Senate hearings that would have looked at BP‘s links to the release said: “no witness of consequence has the courage to step forward and clear the air. They would prefer to sweep this under the rug."

“Because of this stonewalling, we are shifting our efforts to a longer-term, multidimensional inquiry into the release of al-Megrahi. The hearing will be postponed and rescheduled, and it will be coupled with an investigation into al-Megrahi’s release,” he added.

Today, the Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, Frank Lautenberg , Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer have been challenged to add their names to a petition submitted to the UN, signed by noteable figures including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tam Dalyell, by original signatories including Professor Noam Chomksy, Professor Robert Black and Dr Jim Swire and as well as the committee of the Justice for Megrahi campaign.

“On the basis of the evidence laid before their Lordships at Kamp van Zeist, it has always been our contention that Mr Al-Megrahi may have been a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice,” the letter to the US Senators says.

“This view is clearly supported by the fact that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to the Court of Appeal. This appeal was in progress up to a point immediately prior to Mr Al-Megrahi's release.

“We feel that the current focus on the circumstances surrounding Mr Al-Megrahi's release, whilst engaging in their own right, pale into insignificance if indeed there was a miscarriage of justice.”

Last week First Minister Alex Salmond was pressed by the same coalition to initiate a full public inquiry. Others, such as Dr Hans Kochler 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.

“Professor Robert Black, oft referred to as the ‘architect’ of Zeist and Dr Hans Köchler -International Observer at Zeist – appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan- have both variously and very publicly stated views ranging from the verdict’s being a clear miscarriage of justice to one which seemed more concerned with political expediency than justice. If protestations of this calibre alone are not enough to generate an inquiry, one feels obliged to ask: what is?” the letter continues.

“If ever a case were crying out for an inquiry, it is this one. Not only for the bereaved, not only for Mr Al-Megrahi but for justice itself.”


  1. BBC Newsnight program reporting tonight that the Senate 'posse' will travel to Scotland, if required.

  2. It isn't required thanks all the same. They should stay where they are.

  3. While I wholeheartedly endorse the views in this article I am sad to my soul that it does not appear in a place where more people could be beaten about the head with it.

    This site is one free of Party-politics, thank goodness, but I would like to raise an issue which, if it crosses the line I'm sure Professor Black will act and remove it. If he does I will respect his judgement. I will try to be diplomatic however I feel the point must be made.

    I posted on a newspaper Comments site over the weekend on the subject of Mr Megrahi, the release, and raised the subject of the appeal. I was informed by a user name representing a site frequented mainly by Nationalists that the appeal was "a separate issue" and should not be dragged into this. This announcement was delivered in a tone I found patronising to say the least. The poster was expressing his opinion as fact. This is not the first time I have heard this argument from mainly Nationalist sites and it concerns me because ultimately it is deeply wrong.

    I can understand why many Nationalists take, as a Party issue, the criticism heaped on Kenny MacAskill. But to say the appeal and the formal statement by the SCCRC that there were grounds to believe that a miscarriage of justice could have occurred belong in a separate debate from the release is not just misguided it is also quite absurd.

    The findings of the SCCRC, that there were six separate grounds for Megrahi to take to the Court of Appeal, eclipse everything. For that statement roughly translated means we may have convicted the wrong person. And at the very least those grounds should have been tested in the Court of Appeal. Had this happened Kenny MacAskill would not have had to make that decision last year.

    Why these people can't see this is more important than everything else is quite beyond my understanding. This is not about defending Kenny MacAskill, or the Scottish Government, or the SNP. It is bigger than all the political Parties put together. What happened at Lockerbie isn't just about Scotland either. It affected the whole of the UK. UK Governments from Thatcher's onwards were involved, allegedly, in concealing information of vital importance to the trial and to the verdict.

    And if they want to do just Party-politics the Nationalists have less to lose through the truth being exposed so, in fact, they should be calling out for an independent Inquiry rather than getting het up over four senators who have a separate agenda altogether. Calling for a full investigation into Lockerbie will expose detail the Nationalists were not a party to and a scandal they were not remotely involved in.

    The tendency of many Nationalists on forums to refuse to discuss the dropping of the appeal (in case it hurts MacAskill) is disappointing at best. At worst it has, in some cases, led to those (who do vote SNP but who are also deeply disturbed about the dropping of the appeal) being essentially hunted from those forums because many see any mention of the appeal as an attack on MacAskill. This is not sensible, or rational, thinking. Mr MacAskill has himself called for a full independent Inquiry into Lockerbie. Other prominent international figures share that view. There is nothing to fear from joining them. And while some Nationalists attempt to stifle the debate they do themselves no favours. For ultimately they behave like many politicians in the UK right now who simply want to keep the truth hidden. And that is something they should not be proud of. For the SNP has no reason to want that truth to remain buried.

    The current endless nonsense from four insignificant US senators has gone on long enough. They are gearing up for a new hearing in September when they can wring even more air time from it. We can stop that right now by joining in with calls for the investigation we need about Lockerbie. That will silence them and leave them with more important things to worry about!

  4. Yes, Alex Salmond said on Newsnight tonight that there was no question of the Senate Committee sitting or taking evidence in Scotland. They should therefore stay home - as Jo G says - but I don't think they can be silenced as easily as she suggests.

    Today, the Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, Frank Lautenberg , Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer have been challenged to add their names to a petition submitted to the UN, signed by noteable figures including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tam Dalyell, by original signatories including Professor Noam Chomksy, Professor Robert Black and Dr Jim Swire and as well as the committee of the Justice for Megrahi campaign.

    Could someone who knows about these things (preferably Steven Raeburn of The Firm magazine) please confirm that I am one of those 'original signatories'?

  5. Patrick, oh I think they could be silenced very easily with a full investigation. ~The truth has the power to strike those, who have previously done all in their power to bury it, completely dumb.......usually with fear of what will emerge once the route to all the answers is opened up. All we need to do that is people to shout louder.

  6. Jo, I couldn't agree with you more. I've been an SNP member for 18 years, and a branch secretary at one time. The writer of the letter above mine in today's Herald was the convener of that branch at the time, too! I haven't been to a branch meeting since May though, I don't frequent these sort of forums, and I haven't been speaking to anyone in the SNP about it (though as Christine Grahame is my MSP, I just might....)

    Last August, when Megrahi dropped his appeal, I started demanding to get Kenny in a dark alley with a set of thumbscrews, about ten seconds later. I've been repeating that desire at regular intervals ever since.

    I may have upset some people with my letter today. I don't care. It needed to be said.

  7. Rolfe, I can relate to all you say. While not a member of the SNP I am a supporter although obviously that is irrelevant here. I have however suffered serious hostility on pro-SNP sites for raising the matter of the appeal, the questions of the safety of the conviction and the failure of Mr MacAskill to highlight this when I believe he should and could have. People say the appeal is gone and that is true but the original declaration by the SCCRC declaring that there were grounds to take to the Court of Appeal stands alone. It was an independent statement. All of us, politicians and people should have been stopped in our very tracks by the implications of the statement because it meant we may have jailed the wrong person. That Mr Megrahi has been turned, as you say, into a figure of hate in order to protect the truth is something of which we should all be deeply ashamed. That we allow Americans, who played such a major role in the deception to hold us to account now is even worse, especially when the truth, if we had the courage to go after it, would leave their wicked deceit exposed for all the world to see.

    These are the same Americans incidentally who turned down requests to attend Chilcott as we investigate an illegal war which their country led this country into.

  8. I've often wondered if those three judges ever thought about the innocent man they'd locked up in a maximum security jail thousands of miles from his home. Did it affect their lives in any way? Were they able to carry out their lives without thought of the totally innocent man they'd almost certainly knowingly locked up?

  9. I'm happy to confirm that Patrick Haseldine was on the list of retrospective signatories to the UN General Assembly petition.

  10. It obviously didn't Ruth. Our Judiciary people, these "good" judges, were happy to play a waiting game with the second appeal until Megrahi dropped it. No lost sleep at all.