Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Media coverage of Justice for Megrahi petition hearing

[The best coverage of yesterday's hearing before the Holyrood Public Petitions Committee is to be found in The Times. It can be read -- but only by subscribers -- here. The report reads in part:]

The Scottish legal establishment was accused at a Holyrood committee yesterday of putting obstacles in the way of an independent inquiry into the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber.

The claim was made by Canon Patrick Keegans, who was the local Catholic priest in Lockerbie at the time of the disaster in December 1988.

He was giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee in support of a 1600-signature petition organised by the Justice for Megrahi (JFM) campaign calling on the Scottish government to set up an inquiry.

Members of the group told MSPs a full independent inquiry was the only way to restore the reputation of the Scottish legal system. (...)

Canon Keegans told MSPs on the committee: “People have never found a full answer to Lockerbie and this will always be a source of distress.”

Canon Keegans, who lived in Sherwood Crescent, part of which was obliterated by falling debris from the aircraft said the case was about the “redemption of the Scottish justice system”.

He added: “We have been denied justice from the very beginning. I am very doubtful about the conviction of al-Megrahi. While doubt remains the victims are denied justice. What we need is the truth about Lockerbie.

He added: “Obstacles have been put in our way by the Crown Office and by the judiciary. There seems to be a desire to put a lid on this and keep it there.

“We need truth and we need justice to be at peace. Otherwise we are back in December 1988 in the darkness.”

Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died in the bombing, said the reputation of Scottish justice had been “shot to pieces”.

He said only an impartial inquiry could rebuild that reputation. Swire said the original criminal investigation was run by Scottish police forces and involved Scottish lawyers.

They were, he added, two obvious groups who might be interested in protecting their reputations.

“Speaking as a relative who has been looking for the truth for 22 years I think it would be vital that any inquiry is seen to be led impartially. Such an inquiry would be of little value if it was deemed to be in any way limited by groups involved in the trial.”

Mr Swire said an inquiry was the only way “we will be able to heal the terrible wounds done to our justice system”.

Professor Robert Black, emeritus professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, said: “The fact of the conviction is being used as an excuse for not holding a wide ranging inquiry.”

He added: “We are asking the Scottish government to set up an inquiry. The government cannot deny there is domestic and international concern. We are asking them to investigate these concerns.”

Both First Minister Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, have said they have confidence in the conviction of al-Megrahi.

After hearing from the campaigners, the committee agreed to write to the Scottish government asking them to respond to the request for an independent inquiry.

The petition has already attracted the support of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

[Less detailed reports can be found in The Scotsman, The Herald, The Press and Journal, The Courier, the Daily Record, The Sun and, in the USA, Fox. The report in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, a twice-weekly newspaper circulating in the Lockerbie area, can be read here.]

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