Friday, 13 August 2010

Safety of ‘unassailable’ Megrahi verdict has been shown to be increasingly suspect

[This is the heading over a group of letters published in today's edition of The Herald. The following are excerpts:]

What a contrast there is between the pedantic and mean-minded attack by Brian Fitzpatrick on Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Letters, August 12), and the superb letter you published from Dr Jim Swire (August 10). Mr Fitzpatrick writes of the “silencing of the victims and their families”, yet Dr Swire is himself a family victim, as his daughter was murdered on Pan Am flight 103 – and he has not been silent.

Mr Fitzpatrick assumes that the initial verdict is unassailable, an incredible supposition already effectively demolished by Dr Swire and many of your other correspondents. The idea that one low-grade Libyan official single-handedly masterminded the global plot to blow up the plane is too absurd to be taken seriously – as was the evidence of Tony Gauci, the prosecution’s star witness.

Robert Black QC, an emeritus professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, who was one of the architects of the original trial in Holland, has said: “I am still absolutely convinced that I am right. No reasonable tribunal, on the evidence heard at the original trial, should or could have convicted him, and it is an absolute disgrace and outrage what the Scottish court did.” This “absolute disgrace and outrage” is nevertheless defended by Mr Fitzpatrick, whose criticism is revealed as the typical Labourite, anti-SNP, knee-jerk reaction it undoubtedly is.
Brian M Quail

Brian Fitzpatrick comments today on Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s “alarming naivety” about the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi (Letters, August 12). I would rather describe the cardinal as saintly and prophetic. Christ himself was reported as saying that a prophet is never honoured in his own country.
Veronica Gordon Smith

As a former Labour Party MSP, it is not surprising that Mr Fitzpatrick should question Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s ministerial competence in authorising the release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds. That is what an opposition is for, and not all Nationalists agreed with the release either.

However, I do wonder what Mr Fitzpatrick would have thought had Megrahi been released as part of Tony Blair’s prisoner transfer agreement, in return for oil-drilling rights in Libya, as was the intention until Mr Blair was reminded that he had no jurisdiction over this particular prisoner. For ministerial incompetence, he should look no further than the previous Labour government.
Richard McHarg

I was surprised at the vigour with which Brian Fitzpatrick took Cardinal Keith O’Brien to task for his public statement regarding the Megrahi affair.

A Catholic myself, it did not occur to me for one moment to regard the cardinal’s statement in any way as an official one made on behalf of the Catholic Church.

It struck me simply as an opinion expressed by a prominent Scot, one that might have been expressed by some other prominent Scot, say an academic, industrialist, trade unionist or Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. (...)

If one wants an example of a bizarre public statement, one might cite the one made by Prime Minister David Cameron that the UK is a junior partner to the US.

Leaving aside Britain’s position during the Second World War, is it in any way reasonable or comprehensible for one country to declare itself publicly to be a junior partner of another? (...)

I think Cardinal O’Brien could reasonably be regarded as a prominent member of the Scottish establishment and I was greatly heartened by the ability of one such member to put his head above the parapet and speak up for his country.
Ian Ross

[Two further letters critical of Mr Fitzpatrick's position are published in The Herald of Saturday, 14 August. They can be read here.]


  1. Excellent selection of letters. So that's who Brian Fitzpatrick is! An ex Labour MSP. Well who would have thought it! Pretending to be an outraged catholic and all along he's just doing the Labour thing in Scotland, Party-politics and nothing else, while ignoring the big issue.

    Glad to see someone mention the fact that the Church of Scotland backed the release too last year.

    I really do believe the best way to keep pressure on is to keep the issue in the public domain in this way and keep pressure on individual papers like the Herald and the Scotsman to speak out as publications and call for an investigation.

  2. This is not, and should not become, a party political matter.

    There is no such thing as a 'good' or 'bad' political party in this subject.

    Sure, politics interjected into the choice of accused, but that was geopolitics, not party politics.

    I'm pretty sure that neither Sir Teddy Taylor nor Tam Dalyell would regard this as the stuff of party politics, not even when they sat on opposite sides of the House. Neither should we.

  3. Neither should anyone. But you need to tell that to Annabel Goldie and Ian Grey and the rest of them. They only care how it can in some way be used to smear the SNP.

  4. Perconter, I could not agree more. Which is why I have pointed out several times that Labour in particular are using this as a Party political football. Annabel Goldie is going the same road. I am not being Party-political by saying this: it just happens to be the truth. They are exploiting an issue which should be important to all of us in order to beat the Nationalists about the head with. "The Nationalists freed the Lockerbie Bomber" is the cry. I know this. I have emails from Labour people saying it. I have initially emailed them asking why they are not calling for an investigation into the SCCRC findings that there were SIX separate grounds which Megrahi could take to the Court of Appeal which suggest a miscarriage of justice could have taken place. I have asked for their views on that. Do you know what they said? Nothing. Only that "the Nationalists released the Lockerbie Bomber." THAT is Party politics and I will never stop saying it. Because it is the truth. All of them should care about the fact that the credibility of that trial is in tatters and the Scottish Justice System's reputation is in the gutter. Yet they won't utter a word. And if they have to be shamed into taking a view then I for one will keep trying to force them to do so and ultimately expose what their priorities are. Justice is NOT on their list!

  5. Anyway, its so much less depressing reading these wonderful letters than watching the clashing of egos on some blogs! I find more hope on letters pages personally. They are truly public forums and forums scanned by politicians! Hopefully they will get the message.