Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Salmond snubs Megrahi probe bid

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]

First Minister Alex Salmond has turned down an invitation to support a campaign for an international inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing and the subsequent conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

Salmond received the request from the Justice for Megrahi campaign following comments that he had “nothing to hide” from such an inquiry into the atrocity.

The group has petitioned the UN general assembly to hold an investigation into the Lockerbie case and has drawn a number of high-profile backers including former journalist Kate Adie, writer and campaigner John Pilger, human rights commentator Professor Noam Chomsky and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

The First Minister has said he would co-operate fully with an inquiry by an independent authority such as the UN, however, the Scottish Government said it would be inappropriate for Mr Salmond to lend his support to the Justice for Megrahi campaign.

A spokesman said: “On the broader questions of inquiry, the Scottish Government does not doubt the safety of the conviction of Megrahi. Nevertheless, there remain concerns over some on the wider issues of the Lockerbie atrocity.

“The questions to be asked and answered in any such inquiry would be beyond the jurisdiction of Scots law and the remit of the Scottish Government, and such an inquiry would therefore need to be initiated by those with the required power and authority to deal with an issue, international in its nature.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is understood to have uncovered new evidence that strengthens the case against original suspect Mohammed Abu Talb, who was allegedly funded by Iran to blow up the plane in revenge for the American cruiser USS Vincennes shooting an Iran Air flight out of the sky on July 3, 1988, killing 290 people.

The Egyptian-born militant served as a prosecution witness at the Megrahi trial. Talb has now been freed from prison in Sweden where he served sentences linked to terror attacks in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Professor Bob Black, QC, member of the Justice for Megrahi Committee, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Mr Salmond’s rejection, claiming it would have been a “major step forward” for the campaign.

[What follows is the text of the letter sent -- more in hope than in expectation -- to the First Minister by Justice for Megrahi.]
We, the Justice for Megrahi Committee and all signatories to the committee’s activities, wish to convey to you our most sincere gratitude for your recent outspoken comments in the broadcast media in support of an independent United Nations inquiry into circumstances surrounding what has become commonly referred to as the Lockerbie case.
You will, on the back of prior correspondence we have sent to you, be fully cognisant of the fact that we lobbied the General Assembly of the UN in September of last year to precisely the same end. In addition to this, we have made approaches to other bodies, most notably the Government of Malta, the Senate of the United States of America and the Scottish Government requesting support for the establishment of an independent public inquiry encompassing: the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the downing of Pan Am 103; the police investigation of the tragedy; the subsequent Kamp van Zeist trial; the acquittal of Mr Fhimah and conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi; the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s referral of Mr Al-Megrahi’s case to the Court of Appeal; and finally, the circumstances surrounding the dropping of Mr Al-Megrahi’s second appeal and his compassionate release. Unfortunately, all our efforts to reach the goal of establishing an inquiry under the auspices of the UN have fallen on deaf ears thus far.
However, with the support which you are now clearly giving to this cause, in your capacity as the elected leader of the Scottish people, we are becoming increasingly optimistic of success.
You have quite correctly stated your reservations in the past with regard to any given nation state alone setting up an inquiry of any worth on the grounds that they do not individually possess the power of subpoena over other nation states to produce evidence that does not fall within the jurisdiction of the state conducing the inquiry. The obvious choice then is of course to resort to the UN. Regrettably, the General Assembly of the UN is in exactly the same position as individual states are with respect to the international power of subpoena. The only body with such a power is in fact the Security Council of the UN, and this body has ceased to deal with any and all matters relating to the Lockerbie incident (see Security Council binding resolution of 12th September 2003, which states, in operative para 3, that it “hereby removes this item from the list of matters of which the Council is seized”). Therefore, on the assumption that the Security Council may be reluctant to revoke its resolution and that the General Assembly has so far expressed no interest in opening an inquiry, we are at a loss to know how matters could be turned around in New York.
Nevertheless, someone of your experience, political acumen and standing as First Minister of Scotland will assuredly manage to make a deeper impact than we have. In that regard, we (JFM committee and signatories) will stand four square behind you in all your endeavours.
Should your attempts prove unsuccessful, at least you will have peace of mind in the knowledge that Scotland, unlike any other nation involved in this, is in a position to open its own inquiry without having to concern itself too greatly on the issue of international subpoena powers given that: 

·        The event occurred over and on Scottish territory.
·        The case was investigated by a Scottish police force.
·        The trial was conducted under Scots Law.
·        Mr Al-Megrahi was convicted under Scots Law.
·        Mr Al-Megrahi was imprisoned in a Scottish gaol.
·        The SCCRC referred the second appeal to the Scottish Court of Appeal.
·        Mr Al-Megrahi was given compassionate release by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice. 

Therefore, much if not all the documentation, and many of the witnesses required to testify before such an inquiry, already lies within the jurisdiction of Scots Law. Thus, no difficulty whatsoever ought to be posed if the Scottish Government itself ultimately decides to open an inquiry into matters relating to the Lockerbie tragedy.
Not only do we wish to thank you for your most encouraging public comments and offer you our full support behind any course of action you may take to set up an inquiry, but we wish, moreover, to extend to you a warm invitation to add your name to the list of signatories who have over the last year supported the JFM inquiry campaign. By joining this group, you will be consulted as to strategy and kept up-to-date on all its activities. We are an egalitarian organisation. Whilst some signatories may choose a passive role, others have played an active part in formulating and forwarding our aims throughout. It is an individual choice. Justice for Megrahi is simply grateful to have the support of all of its signatories. Since it is clear that you so evidently identify with our aims, you are most welcome to join us.
We are confident that in the points we have made above we speak not only for a large portion of the bereaved of the Lockerbie tragedy, but also for many of the ordinary citizens of Scotland and elsewhere who would like to see a more satisfactory resolution to this issue. Furthermore, it is important to mention that for the inhabitants of the town of Lockerbie to be constantly reminded that their home is synonymous with this appalling event must be intolerable, and an open public inquiry covering events from December 1988 to the present day might contribute in some small way towards returning the town to a degree of normality.
We look forward to your response to our invitation and thank you for your time and attention.


  1. "A spokesman said: “On the broader questions of inquiry, the Scottish Government does not doubt the safety of the conviction of Megrahi. Nevertheless, there remain concerns over some on the wider issues of the Lockerbie atrocity."

    My goodness that's the SCCRC told. Almost four years preparing their report and Salmond declares the original verdict is safe!

    The Scottish Government read the SCCRC report. Salmond knows what it said. The Commission said publicly the conviction could be unsafe on six separate grounds.

    Mr Salmond can't have it both ways. Let's hear what the "wider issues" are . For when you start to list them it will be clear they aren't so very "wide" but are actually central issues in this case.

    And more and more such utterances only lead back to how convenient it was that the appeal was neatly disposed of too.

  2. I think Salmond is in a bind; whatever the likelihood of Megrahi being wrongfully convicted, the First Minister cannot say 'the conviction is unsafe', whether he believes it or not.

    If he did, it would demand that he act, and throw up questions of how long the opinion had been held, why he did not say so before, etc., etc.

    Now it may well be that Scottish justice has been subverted in this case, but for the FM to question it opens Pandora's Box. it would also broaden the discussion in a away that would make truth more difficult to find on this particular case.

    I don't agree, but I understand his decision. Rightly or wrongly, he has to support the system. If it needs reform, having the FM publicly criticise strikes me as the wrong way to go about it.

    Best thing would be some selective leaking...

  3. What the FM doesn't want to admit is that the Scottish prosecutorial and justice syatem was totally hoodwinked over Lockerbie.

    It is a canard to see Mr Talb's name being dragged into this. Do you really think that if the Crown had any doubts about Mr Talb's part in Lockerbie he would have been allowed into the box as a Crown Witness against Mr Megrahi and Mr Fhimah.

    The fact he was a Crown witness means he wasn't guilty and the real perpetrators were being protected, who were the US government of HW Bush, that of Iran and their catspaws the CIA and Pasdaran respectively.

    All at adifferentviewoflockerbie.blogspot.com

  4. Salmond must be under a lot of pressure. Now Menendez and Co are broadening their scope, looking into the dealings of the Scottish government with Libya and its surrogate in re$olutions of international conflicts. [Remember the ultimate mediator in the case of 400+ children infected with HIV in a Benghazi hospital? Yeah, in West-speak it is called the case of the Bulgarian nurses.] That surrogate is Qatar, which was apparently targeted by Scottish government efforts to finance some public works? The Emir subsequently--through his acting minister of Business and Trade--requested that MacAskill remove Megrahi from prison? Who knows what else the senators have in store for their pre-November finale.

    No democratically elected state official can afford to do anything but snub the Justice for Megrahi Campaign, unless that official is prepared to defend publicly the legitimacy of a justice campaign that is associated with one of Gaddafi's syndicates.

    The JFM might be better off directing their pitch to dictatorships. Their pitch to Gaddafi's agent at the UN has not produced squat so far, but their best hope is still with whimsical dictatorships. Maybe they can now target Qatar? Gaddafi might be willing to back their UN appeal through a surrogate like Qatar.

  5. "I think Salmond is in a bind; whatever the likelihood of Megrahi being wrongfully convicted, the First Minister cannot say 'the conviction is unsafe', whether he believes it or not. "

    Politicians are pragmatic people and usually not in a state of mental denial. I can't imagine he doesn't know.

    "...the Scottish Government does not doubt the safety of the conviction of Megrahi..."

    That's what "a spokesman" said.
    If you can't have spokesmen say things like that, regardless of what you believe yourself, you are just not FM.

    What did you learn in school today?
    Our leaders are the finest men, and we elect them again and again.

    "...disappointed, but not surprised." says RB.

    Amen :-(

  6. CJM, no one is asking him to say it is unsafe. But to say it IS safe is ludicrous when the case was about to go to the Court of Appeal with SIX separate grounds highlighted suggesting a miscarriage of justice could have occurred. He is contradicting those findings by making such a definite statement about the original verdict and, I'm sorry, he just doesn't have the authority to do that.

  7. "Rightly or wrongly, he has to support the system. If it needs reform, having the FM publicly criticise strikes me as the wrong way to go about it."

    The thing about that statement is that "the system" said Megrahi's case should go back to the Court of Appeal..........the SCCRC is part of, but independent of, "the system". Salmond is ignoring that.

    I don't think he "has to" support the system either. I think anyone in politics who believes this offers a message of no hope to the people who elect them. "I'm here but actually I can't change anything because I have to support the system". What sort of hope is that?