Friday, 24 December 2010

We must not be afraid to pursue the truth about the bombing of PanAm Flight 103

[This is the heading over a letter from Dr Jim Swire in today's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]

According to John Lamont, Scottish Conservative Justice spokesman: “The decision by the SNP to release the Lockerbie bomber was a bad decision, made badly. But, as a consequence he has spent the last 18 months with his family and friends in Libya. He has been allowed to live his final weeks and months with those he loves. That is something he denied his victims.” (“Fresh Megrahi fury on anniversary of Lockerbie disaster”, The Herald, December 22.)

I happen to rejoice that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi has enjoyed some relief from the fate nature has brought upon him. How would it have enhanced the lives of anyone if he had had to languish in prison away from those he loves until he died?

The invitation from Mr Lamont is for all of us to decry the decision made by Kenny MacAskill in granting compassionate release, and for us to wallow in the unfairness that Megrahi should receive compassion and a death at home with his family, unlike those poor souls who died at Lockerbie. Sadly, his attitude mimics that of many in the United States and demeans his own country.

We should be proud that Scottish law allows the tempering of justice with mercy.

Mr Lamont should not feel secure in accepting that Megrahi really was guilty. This is unfinished business, and of greater significance than his release.

Our Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) was not sure about the verdict; it feared a miscarriage of justice, and therefore the second appeal was allowed. Holyrood, with but one or two noble exceptions, seems able to ignore the elephant which the SCCRC has introduced into our public arena: was Megrahi guilty or wasn’t he? But first we would need to know what gives Mr Lamont such assurance.

I cannot claim I can heroically forgive the murderers of my daughter and 269 others, because I don’t know who they were. But I am satisfied that Megrahi should never have been found guilty on the evidence led at Zeist.

The Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into Lockerbie did tell us relatives that the disaster had been preventable and the aircraft had been under the Host State protection of the UK while it stood all that day on the Heathrow tarmac, while being loaded.

Yet the Prime Minister of the day, Lady Thatcher, refused even to meet us to discuss these findings, let alone launch an inquiry. All her successors in office since have also refused an inquiry.

Some relatives of the dead who have studied the Camp Zeist trial evidence carefully, have come to the firm conclusion that this man should never have been convicted on that evidence, a view strongly reinforced after the trial by further evidence and the comments of the SCCRC. A way must be found fully to review that verdict

Are we afraid of what the truth might be? Can we really now do no better in Scotland than squabble over the minutiae of the release of Megrahi? Do we not want to know why our SCCRC came to the conclusion that it did? Do we not have the mettle to ask ourselves whether we got it wrong at Zeist?

It only remains to thank Mr Lamont for this opportunity to draw attention once again to the doubts surrounding Megrahi’s guilt, and to the atrocious treatment handed out to those Lockerbie relatives who still only seek to know the truth.

After 22 years, it should be clear to all those at Holyrood and Westminster that these unresolved issues are not going to go away without resolution.

[A letter in the same newspaper from Nigel Dewar Gibb reads as follows:]

Senator Menendez and his colleagues have at last produced their report Justice Undone – The Release of the Lockerbie Bomber ... The report contains much questionable criticism and conjecture, adding nothing constructive to what was known before. Now, to strengthen the US case, the senators decide that Scotland has links with Qatar, leading to a takeover of the “Scottish” Sainsbury’s.

Simultaneously the Scottish Tory justice spokesman weighs in with his tuppence worth saying the decision to release Megrahi was “a bad decision, made badly”, which hardly helps the overall situation.

It is unclear how these worthy gentlemen can arrive at their positive conclusions so readily with their scant knowledge of the background or of the care and serious consideration given by Kenny MacAskill to the principles of Scots law and the medical prognosis.

What is more surprising and unfathomable is the fact that all these concerned individuals seem perfectly happy to accept seriously that Megrahi alone was responsible for the horror of the Lockerbie disaster. How they can accept that one, relatively minor individual, could possibly carry out this atrocity unaided and unsupported defies all logic. Even now no serious attempt is made by the US or the UK governments to investigate the true position, suggesting that they have something embarrassing to hide. Holyrood, meantime, is left on its own to abide by the original court’s findings without any power to set up a proper inquiry to expose the full truth.

[It is disappointing to find the Scottish Government's excuse being repeated here, to the effect that Holyrood does not have the power to set up a proper inquiry. This is nonsense. The Lockerbie investigation was led by a Scottish police force; the prosecution of Megrahi and Fhimah was undertaken by the Scottish Crown Office; Megrahi was convicted (and Fhimah acquitted) by a Scottish court; Megrahi was imprisoned in a Scottish jail; a Scottish public body, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, concluded that Megrahi's conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice after an international investigation extending over more than three years; a Scottish Government minister refused a Libyan application for prisoner transfer; the same Scottish Government minister granted Megrahi's application for compassionate release. Each and every one of these matters is within Scottish jurisdiction and could be the subject of an independent inquiry set up by the Scottish Government under the Inquiries Act 2005. Such an inquiry has more extensive powers of compulsion of witnesses and evidence than does the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. Yet even the SCCRC was able to conduct a meaningful inquiry into the Megrahi case.

It is disgraceful that the Scottish Government and its apologists should still be parroting the dishonest and discredited mantra that Holyrood does not have the requisite powers to establish a useful inquiry into the scandal of the Megrahi conviction.]


  1. Wonderful, wonderful letter from Jim Swire.

  2. Yes as always.

    The best of Christmas and holiday wishes to all those that seek the truth about Pan Am 103, and those that suffered losses therefrom.