Thursday, 19 August 2010

Media comment on the eve of the anniversary

The Middle East Online website runs an article headed "A year later, freed Lockerbie bomber lives in seclusion". It contains quotes from a Libyan doctor and from Shukri Ghanem (head of Libya's state-owned National Oil Corporation and a former Prime Minister).

The website of The Sydney Morning Herald contains an Agence France Presse news agency report headlined "Doctor defends Lockerbie bomber decision". It reads in part:

'The decision to free Megrahi was taken by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

'"As an external adviser, I was involved in discussions leading up to the point where Mr Megrahi was considered for release on medical grounds," [Dr Grahame] Howard said in a statement.

'"The background medical portion of that application is a fair reflection of the specialist advice available at the time.

'"The final assessment of prognosis was made by Dr Andrew Fraser taking into account the deterioration in his clinical condition."'

A more detailed report of the statement by consultant oncologist Dr Grahame Howard now appears on The Scotsman website.

A Reuters news agency report headed "A year on, Lockerbie bomber casts a long shadow" contains the following:

'Retired British doctor Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, said he was delighted that Megrahi was alive.

'"We should be rejoicing about the fact that this guy has survived a year," Swire, who believes that Megrahi was framed, told Reuters.

'"I'm satisfied that this man was not responsible in any way for the murder of my daughter," he said.

'Swire urged the Libyan authorities to reveal what treatment Megrahi has been receiving in the hope that it might help other prostate cancer sufferers.

'He has also called on Libya to use its oil wealth to fund a research agency for cancer treatment.'

The Guardian website features an article by Middle East editor Ian Black headlined "Lockerbie bomber: Britain warns Libya over celebrating anniversary". It quotes a Foreign Office spokesman as saying:

"The celebrations that greeted Megrahi's return to Libya a year ago were insensitive and deeply distressing to the [Lockerbie bombing] victims' families. Any repetition of these celebrations this year would be completely unacceptable. Megrahi remains a convicted terrorist responsible for the worst act of terrorism in British history."

The article also states:

'Megrahi has not been seen in public since last September. But he has been reported to be undergoing new treatment, likely to be chemotherapy, which may further prolong his life expectancy.

'Ashour Shamis, editor of the Akhbar Libya website, said: "They are looking after him very well. He has 24-hour care in his home and wherever he goes he has doctors with him. I have been told by someone reliable that a medical source in Tripoli says Megrahi could live for up to seven years."'

The Newsnet Scotland website contains an article headlined "Labour in complete disarray over Megrahi release". The headline says it all (and is completely justified by the text that follows).

A review by Joyce McMillan of Lockerbie: Unfinished Business on the Edinburgh Festivals website contains the following:

'There is nothing fancy about Benson's show: it's delivered in the style of a brusque, forensic lecture, with projected images, about the state of the evidence.

'But Swire's grief and anger over his daughter's death is not suppressed in this version of the story - the character Benson creates is far too intelligent a man not to recognise that his long campaign is in part a way of coping with the crushing agony of Flora's loss, and the show uses some desperately poignant real-life recordings of Flora as a child, over images of her short life.

'The heart of the show, though, lies in Swire's rage at the abject failure of British - and Scottish - justice even to try to expose the truth about the bombings. In meticulous detail, Benson's script stacks up the detail which suggests that the story of Libyan involvement in the bombing was fabricated, that the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was a shocking miscarriage of justice - Swire actually fainted when he heard the guilty verdict - and that the men who probably did murder his daughter have never been brought to justice.

'And although the play occasionally loses pace and dramatic edge, and could perhaps be five minutes shorter, there is no denying its stunning final impact, which combines a respectful, subtle and profoundly moving performance with a mighty and unanswerable indictment of cover-up and injustice, in a show that every thinking citizen of this country should see, and act upon.'


  1. So Richard Simpson wanted "independent" medical advice from...........errrr the US! Independent advice? On Megrahi? From the US? Is he serious?

    As to his other proposal, to send Mr Megrahi to live with his family in the place in Scotland where his family already were living. I'm sure the good folks of Newton Mearns would just have loved that!

  2. With hindsight, I must admit that release to Scotland would have been an excellent idea.

    The general cheer of the local people would have been increased by the interesting visitors from abroad, wishing Mr Megrahi well. As a free man, perhaps he might have liked to invite his head of state for a cup of tea.

    Locals and perhaps our friends from the United States could have had interesting debates about the suitability of those visitors.

    Scottish reporters and camera operators would have found it easier to cover their arrival and have a chat to them, than actually turned out to be the case when he was released to Libya.

    They could even have had better access to Mr Megrahi himself, which would have given Mr MacAskill and Ms Angiolini something to smile about.

    I'm sure there would have been no cross words by anyone, let alone any attempt to harm him or his property.

    Visits to or stays in hospital would have been a joy for the police, health staff, his friends from abroad and the reporters.

    The locals' house prices would have gone up, because the name of the place would have been famous throughout the world.

    They might have enjoyed the celebratory fireworks in the garden along with the visitors and the police officers.

    The Libyan government would have been happy too.

    When he died, the Libyan people and the Arab League would have waved Scottish flags and thanked Gordon Brown for detaining an innocent man.

    But perhaps most importantly, he would be visible as a symbol of compassion. It was compassion which gave him more leisure time to take life easy now his appeal was over, after Mr MacAskill broke Mr Salmond's promise of 13 May to expedite a transfer decision; the UK Government promise of a fair trial according to normal Scots procedure having been broken on its behalf by Mr McFadyen and Mr Boyd on or before 1 June 2000.