[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]
American families who lost loved ones in the Lockerbie bombing have nothing to fear from an inquiry into Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s conviction, a long-standing campaigner has told them.
Lockerbie priest Father Pat Keegans has written an open letter to families of the US victims urging them to support a public inquiry into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Dumfries and Galloway town on December 21, 1988, which killed everyone on board and 11 people on the ground. (...)
However, [Megrahi's] conviction has been mired in controversy, splitting opinion on either side of the Atlantic. The rift has intensified amid mounting pressure from Scottish campaigners for an inquiry, after the Libyan had to drop his appeal as a condition of being sent home to die. [RB: Dropping the appeal was a condition of repatriation under the UK-Libya prisoner transfer agreement, not under compassionate release. But, of course, the Justice Secretary made clear that he would deal with both applications together and Megrahi had no way of knowing which -- if either -- the Justice Secretary would favour.]
Father Keegans’s letter asks the US families to “show your concern for the legitimate and sincere views consistently held by me and many others”, insisting the growing number of dissenting voices “cannot be discounted as the rantings and ravings of conspiracy theory fanatics”.
He said: “It is your strongly held view that the trial and verdict were valid … However, your certainty in the validity of the trial and conviction should allow you to accept that such an inquiry would vindicate your belief and you should have nothing to fear from it.”
He added: “Whatever our views, it is clear that the full truth has not emerged; people who murdered our family members and friends are still at large.
“There has been a conviction which is not universally accepted but has been questioned by many. A full, public, independent inquiry into all aspects of the bombing would assist us in finding truth and justice.”
Earlier this month, a petition by the Justice For Megrahi pressure group signed by 1500 people was handed in to MSPs, calling on Holyrood to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the Libyan’s conviction.
Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, was among the group.
Father Keegans – whose home in Lockerbie escaped virtually unscathed after flaming debris from the aircraft demolished neighbouring houses – has been a counsellor for bereaved relatives in Scotland and overseas as well as an outspoken critic of the investigation and trial which led to Megrahi’s conviction.
Father Keegans said he wrote to the families after receiving an e-mail from Frank Duggan, president of the US family group, criticising comments made by Cardinal Keith O’Brien earlier this month supporting an independent inquiry into the conviction of Megrahi. (...)
But Ted Reina, whose daughter Jocelyn was a flight attendant on the aeroplane, said an inquiry would reopen old wounds.
Mr Reina, from California, said: “I see no good from opening an inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing except for the lawyers lining their pockets. Megrahi has been sent home to a hero’s welcome and is alive and well … For the families who have had years of anguish I see only more pain. I wonder how many of those who call for an inquiry actually saw the trial or watched it on closed circuit TV as my wife and I did.”
[According to a report by The Press Association news agency, Dr Jim Swire commented on The Herald article as follows:]
'Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, asked MSPs on Holyrood's Petitions Committee to push for an inquiry earlier this month.
'He backed Father Pat Keegans' attempts, hoping for an "objective look" at the evidence.
'Dr Swire said: "I think in the long term, some degree of truth is going to come out. I agree with what Pat Keegans has been saying but there will be some risk. The longer the truth takes to come out, the harder it will be for some people."'
[The full text of Canon Keegans's letter is as follows:]
Dear USA Families of Pan Am Flight 103,
The President of the family group, Mr Frank Duggan, sent an email to me expressing his disappointment with the recent statements made by Cardinal O’Brien. Rather than simply reply to him as an individual I wish to use his comments as an opportunity to speak to all the families.
We met through an horrendous act of murder. We lost family members and friends through this heinous crime. In all that has happened over the years I have never lost sight of the great suffering inflicted upon you and have sought where possible to be a source of solace, healing and comfort. At the same time I have also been a challenge. Before the trial of Mr Megrahi and Mr Fahima I was saying to many of the families and to the media that I did not believe that the real perpetrators had been arrested and put on trial. During the trial and afterwards I was saying that the trial and the verdict would not stand up to scrutiny; it has not stood up to serious scrutiny. What I was voicing before, during and after the trial has now been voiced by many people at an international level. In his statement Cardinal O’Brien said this: “From the moment the verdict was announced, voices have been raised in protest. Over the years the clamour has grown amongst lawyers, politicians, academics and a growing number of ordinary citizens that the verdict amounted to a miscarriage of justice.”
I for my part would affirm that such voices cannot be discounted as the rantings and ravings of conspiracy theory fanatics or deranged and misguided people. Their voices merit a full, independent and public enquiry into all aspects of what we in Scotland call the Lockerbie Bombing.
I am aware that this is not a view commonly held by you; however, I would ask you to give your support, individually and/or as a group to a full, independent public enquiry. It is your strongly held view that the trial and verdict were valid. After all that has happened since the trial I would have to wonder if such a view is tenable. However, your certainty in the validity of the trial and conviction should allow you to accept that such an enquiry would vindicate your belief and you should have nothing to fear from it. At the same time your support for an enquiry would show your concern for the legitimate and sincere views consistently held by me and many others.
From the beginning we have all sought justice and truth. Whatever our views, it is clear that the full truth has not emerged; people who murdered our family members and friends are still at large. There has been a conviction which is not universally accepted but has been questioned by many. A full, public, independent enquiry into all aspects of the bombing would assist us in finding truth and justice for ourselves and all who have died.
Finally, I will continue to offer to you unconditionally, wherever it is accepted, any support, solace and comfort that I can give.
You are never far from my thoughts and prayers.