Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Scottish Cardinal to sign Lockerbie petition

[This is the headline over a report on the website of Independent Catholic News. It reads as follows:]

Cardinal Keith O’Brien will add his name to an online petition on Tuesday, calling for an independent inquiry to be set up by the Scottish Parliament into the 2001 conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988. [RB: The petition calls upon the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to establish such an inquiry. A copy of the petition will be handed over by representatives of Justice for Megrahi to members of the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee at Holyrood today at 12.30pm.]

The petition which closes on 28 October 2010 will be submitted to the Parliament for consideration. Commenting on his decision to sign the petition, Cardinal O’Brien said: "Earlier this year, I described the murder of 243 innocent people on board Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 as an act of unbelievable horror and gratuitous barbarity. Many legal consequences flowed from that act culminating in the conviction of a Libyan citizen, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing. From the moment that verdict was announced, voices have been raised in protest. Over the years the clamour has grown amongst, lawyers, politicians, academics and growing numbers of ordinary citizens that the verdict amounted to a miscarriage of justice.”

Cardinal O’Brien added: “I do not claim to have examined all the evidence in this case, far from it, but I do claim to be increasingly concerned about the reputation of the Scottish Justice system. I have defended publicly the system of justice in this country and have done so because it enjoys my support and confidence. Global accusations of wrongful conviction made against our system must be dealt with. Left unheeded they will weaken the administration of justice in Scotland by casting doubts on its probity and ability. I believe the best way to remedy this is for the Scottish Parliament to launch an independent inquiry into the 2001 conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

"Regardless of the outcome I believe Scotland’s Justice System would be strengthened by such a process. Either a conviction will be upheld and the process vindicated or it will be struck down, demonstrating to the world that Scotland has the wisdom and compassion needed to rectify its mistakes. In either event I will willingly accept the outcome.”

[A report on the BBC News website, headed "Cardinal Keith O'Brien calls for Megrahi inquiry" can be read here. The Scotsman's report can be read here; and that on the Telegraph website here.

Steven Raeburn, editor of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm appeared last night on Newsnight Scotland discussing the petition. The programme can be watched here by people in the UK or people overseas who use a UK proxy server. The Firm's article on the issue, headlined "Ian Hamilton QC says Judges' report into Megrahi conviction should be published" can be read here.

My comments on the Newsnight Scotland segment can be read here.

Five full days after it crashed, the Scottish Parliament e-petitions website is still out of commission.]


  1. The Cardinal was interviewed on BBC Ulster this morning. He called for an inquiry, inside Scotland or outside - as long as it was independent. The interviewer asked whether an expensive inquiry was not just an academic exercise since he is 'free' anyway - and whether he (the Cardinal) could be being used as a pawn by Libya (remember Libya is hated in N. Ireland because they helped arm the IRA, and they are not disposed to the Catholic church either, in the mainstream media) - the Cardinal just kept to the script and stressed the need to close the episode properly with an inquiry, since there is so much concern about the verdict. (He didn't mention the e-petition!!!)

  2. The cardinal's signature is of major importance and I'd like to say how much I respect his decision.

    For the interviewer to say that Megrahi is 'free' is absurd. How can the man be free when in the eyes of the law he is a mass murderer? Yes, he's free in his country and enjoys great admiration. But surely he must suffer mentally from this awful stigma. People may say it was his choice to give up his appeal but it wasn't.

  3. Ruth: Well, it is indicative of the opinion (and ignorance) in the rest of the UK about Locherbie - I suppose Scotland is not much better. The story was only picked up by BBC Radio Ulster (I believe) because it contained two key words, 'Libya' and 'Catholic' - both subjects tend to get the desired controversial reaction from their listeners. I also noted the story was not chosen by BBC Radio 4 News (a former serious broadcaster) as an item this morning...they preferred to go with Anne Widdecombe on a flying harness, apparently. This is what happens when Eastenders (i.e. the soap) editorial culture chases either controversy or celebrity to keep audience figures...pertinent stories don't get a look-in.

  4. What is 96 hours plus 24 hours? Perhaps, you should adopt the more dramatic, NASA T-MINUS, convention as a countdown to the e-petition dampish squib (thanks to ScotGov's BIT dept).