At a ceremony held in the Scottish Parliament at lunch time today, attended by a large number of print and broadcast media representatives, a paper copy of the Justice for Megrahi petition was handed over to members of the Parliament's Public Petitions Committee. Dr Jim Swire spoke as follows:
"It has been evident since the completion of the original trial of Mr Baset al-Megrahi in the Zeist court in 2001 that there appeared to be flaws in the evidence led, in the sharing of evidence by the Crown Office with the defence, and in some of the decisions made by the court itself , which together call into question the fairness of the trial under Scots law.
"These questions were made public by one of the UN's appointed trial observers at once describing the verdict as 'incomprehensible', and after three years of research, Scotland's SCCRC found that the trial 'may have been a miscarriage of justice'. This finding opened the way for Mr Baset al-Megrahi to launch a new appeal in the Edinburgh High Court.
"Meanwhile many had reviewed the trial for themselves and concluded that the verdict had been subject to political pressure and was not justified. This has led to scathing comments concerning the quality of the Scottish court's proceedings and impartiality, which some would say has made Scots law a laughing stock, particularly outside Britain and America. Only Scotland herself could correct that view now.
"It had been hoped that Mr Baset al-Megrahi's appeal would settle these dire issues, both for him and for the reputation of Scots law in the future. However, following a desperately drawn out opening phase of his second appeal, and in the face of his illness, it was withdrawn, leaving Scotland with no obvious means whereby the verdict's validity could be reassessed.
"Aware of the difficulties surrounding use of the material assembled by the SCCRC, and in urgent search of the truth about Mr Megrahi's conviction, JFM, through this petition, now calls upon the Holyrood Parliament to request the Scottish government to find a route for the re-examination of this dreadful case.
"We believe that Mr Megrahi and his family are already long overdue a full review of this verdict and that the reputation of Scotland's judicial system demands it, while the relatives of the Lockerbie dead have an inalienable right to the whole truth, a right which some of them find to be obstructed by the uncertainty surrounding this verdict."
Cardinal Keith O'Brien thereupon signed the petition and it was then handed over. Questions from the press were answered by Dr Swire, by Cardinal O'Brien and by Justice for Megrahi committee members Iain McKie and Robert Black.
Border Television's coverage of the event can be viewed here; an Associated Press news agency report on the Fox News website can be read here.
The petition is open for signature until 28 October. It can be signed here.