[This is the heading over three letters published in today's edition of The Herald. They read as follows:]
Fred McManus reminds us all of the terrible scenes facing police officers in the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie atrocity (“Still haunted by the scale of the slaughter at Lockerbie”, Letters, August 7).
I am sure those scenes will remain with them for ever. I must, however, disagree that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s guilt was proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
Information now in the public domain, and which has been around for some time, suggests otherwise. I would highly recommend the writings of Professor Robert Black, a man who is undoubtedly part of the establishment, but who makes abundantly clear his absolute shame over the manner in which the original trial was conducted. He is not alone. [Note by RB: If I was ever part of the establishment, which is doubtful, my membership has been revoked because of my activities following the Lockerbie trial.]
Mr McManus says Megrahi is guilty “until the due process of law shows otherwise”. That is why I would question the reluctance of so many politicians, and the judiciary, to set that due process of law in motion and examine properly the doubts raised about the original conviction. Megrahi dropped his appeal but we weren’t told why or what pressures were applied. But the myth, that with the appeal gone we cannot now investigate, is simply that: a myth.
What is true is this: if the political will to investigate existed in Scotland, at Westminster or within the Scottish judiciary then we would indeed get an investigation. The attempts by all of these groups to obstruct such an investigation surely represent a heinous crime too.
Mr McManus concedes that perhaps the verdict is unsafe but, bizarrely, emphasises only perhaps. I’m not sure what point he seeks to make. Is he saying it doesn’t matter that a man could have been wrongly convicted? I do hope not.
For in a crime of this enormity, surely there can be no room for doubt. That is what politicians, the judiciary and, yes, those police officers who had to go to the site and witness unimaginable horror should believe. They should want to know we convicted the right man – and if there are doubts, they, more than anyone, should want those doubts tested publicly and thoroughly in the interests of justice.
As a one-time ambulance driver, I can only be at the threshold of appreciation of the horrendous trauma experienced by former police inspector Fred McManus and his team of unsung heroes in front-line emergency duties after the Lockerbie bombing. He and his colleagues have my utmost gratitude and respect for work which is unthinkingly taken for granted by us all, and consequently I can empathise with his views on Megrahi.
However, I am one of those who believes there is a prima facie case that he was not responsible and that it also appears he did not act alone.
I fear that until questions being asked by Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the atrocity, and others are openly addressed, this wound to our communal sense of justice will fester into infinity. I also believe that grieving families are not best served by American and British Governments avoiding important outstanding issues while allowing focus to centre on the development of a relatively minor storm over the nature of terminal cancer and on compassionate release. (...)
I was greatly heartened to read Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s open letter admonishing the vengeance culture in the United States which feeds an emotion that can never be quenched and which proves that to be the case with recent hounding of the Scottish Parliament and the UK to answer for the release of Megrahi.
I hope that the plain speaking of both the cardinal and Prime Minister David Cameron heralds a new age of international relationships built on truth and justice, painful though that may be. Our lives depend upon it.
[The Herald also runs an editorial headed "Inquiry needed into release of Megrahi" which contains the following]:
Next week it will be exactly one year since Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, was released from prison on compassionate grounds.
This newspaper said at the time that it was the right decision to release Megrahi and we still believe that.
However, it is clear that the longer Megrahi survives, the more problematic it becomes to defend a release on compassionate grounds and the easier it becomes for critics of the decision, particularly in America, to suggest there were other factors at play, most notably the trading interests of BP. (...)
If Mr MacAskill did all he reasonably could to establish good medical grounds for the release of Megrahi, we wholeheartedly support his decision. However, it may be that the only way to establish this for certain – and to rebuff those critics in America who have so angered Cardinal O’Brien – is to hold a full, public inquiry into the decision to release Megrahi.
It is something we have consistently called for and the case for one remains strong.
[The leader writer's memory is at fault. The Herald has never in the past called for a public inquiry into Megrahi's release. What the newspaper has called for is a full independent inquiry into the Lockerbie case, including Mr Megrahi's conviction.]