Sunday, 13 February 2011

Kenny MacAskill: I stand by Lockerbie decision

[This is the headline over a report by Ben Borland in today's edition of the Sunday Express. It reads in part:]

Kenny MacAskill yesterday broke his recent silence over the continuing Lockerbie saga and insisted he stood by his controversial decision to free the bomber.

In an exclusive hard-hitting interview with the Sunday Express, the defiant Justice Secretary insisted he was not involved in any “murky machinations” or deals and accused Scottish Labour of “astonishing hypocrisy”.

He also categorically denied that he had been swayed by “economic, diplomatic, or any other considerations” and said he acted in an “open and honest way” at all times.

And in a move designed to end conspiracy theories surrounding the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, Mr MacAskill said he planned to press ahead with changes to the law that would allow secret papers relating to Libyan’s appeal to be made public.

The Justice Secretary’s intervention in the on-going row puts his career on the line and comes amid mounting anger at the emergence of attempted back room deals ahead of Megrahi’s release in 2009.Documents released last week sparked accusations Holyrood ministers had brokered agreements with Westminster over air gun powers and legislative change to save millions in compensation for prisoners forced to ‘slop out’.

But Mr MacAskill told the Sunday Express yesterday: “The decision on Megrahi was mine to take and mine alone – and I did so according to the due process and practice of Scots Law, without regard to economic, diplomatic, or any other considerations.

“I rejected the prisoner transfer application, and granted compassionate release. Many people agree with that decision and many disagree, and I respect the views of all the relatives, in all of the 21 countries affected by the atrocity.

“But I hope that everyone accepts I took it in an open and honest way - in stark contrast to the murky machinations of the former UK Labour Government, who we now know changed their policy in secret and did everything they could to facilitate Megrahi’s release for commercial and political reasons.

"And the astonishing hypocrisy of Labour in Scotland who attacked a decision that their own government in London supported.”

Prime Minister David Cameron last week ruled out an inquiry despite a new report showing the previous Labour government had gone out of its way to help Libya in order to secure lucrative oil and military contracts. (...)

Mr MacAskill has now promised to publish full details of the 2007 Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ruling Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The father-of-five was granted leave to appeal by the courts watchdog but was struck by illness and dropped the bid shortly before his release.

Mr MacAskill, who has rarely spoken publicly about the decision that will define his career, said: “We should be proud of our justice system in Scotland. We have nothing to hide – that is why I will publish a Bill soon in the new Parliament so that we can make this further report available.

“I believe that Megrahi was guilty, but I accept that many do not. We will never all agree on these matters, but I hope we can agree that no one in Scotland should have anything to fear from having the maximum possible information about this issue in the public domain.”

Campaigners described Mr Mac-Askill’s acknowledgment that many do not believe Megrahi was behind the 1988 disaster – in which 270 people were killed – as a significant development.

Dr Jim Swire, whose 24-year-old daughter, Flora, died in the bombing, said: “Both MacAskill and Salmond have always stuck to the mantra that they absolutely believe in the guilt of Megrahi, although I don’t understand how they can be so sure when the SCCRC has said there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

“This is a very welcome modification acknowledging perhaps for the first time that doubts exist in the community. I think the SCCRC rulings might well be intensely embarrassing to the office of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office.”

[An interesting article headed Many shades of Gray as Megrahi row hypocrisy emerges appears in today's edition of Scotland on Sunday. It is by regular columnist Duncan Hamilton, one of my former students and a former SNP MSP. I wish he would now turn his journalistic talents towards the scandal of the Megrahi conviction and the shameful and incomprehensible failure of the SNP government to institute an independent inquiry.]


  1. "I believe that Megrahi was guilty, but I accept that many do not."

    This really is not a statement MacAskill even has the right to make. His personal opinion is irrelevant and he knows this. What he has been a party to is obstructing Megrahi's legal and human rights where his appeal is concerned. In that respect the Justice Minister actually obstructed justice and that is not part of his remit regardless of how valuable he believes his "opinion" is on this case.
    It doesn't matter what any of us think: what counts is that the SCCRC raised six grounds to have the verdict reviewed and MacAskill stopped that process from taking place. That isn't my opinion, that's a fact.

    And I won't remember him for releasing Megrahi, I'll remember him as the person who went even further than the "unionists" to make sure the truth about Lockerbie stayed buried. That's who MacAskill has become for many people and some of us will never recover from the shock of that.

  2. I've read this again and I really can't believe MacAskill has said all these things to a newspaper.

    Just look at the contradictions:

    “The decision..... – and I did so according to the due process and practice of Scots Law, without regard to economic, diplomatic, or any other considerations."

    Do people realise how far MacAskill has broken trust with his role as Justice Minister here by making such comments about his personal views?

    He's had access to the SCCRC reports. He knows what they say. He knew Megrahi had an appeal still to be heard and yet he goes on to make sure it isn't heard and it pretty much won't be heard...........and now here he is stating his personal view was that Megrahi was guilty anyway. I can't quite believe he's been so stupid.

    I think Kenny MacAskill just crossed a very worrying line. The Justice Minister should not have expressed a personal view here. He has also just established that he did not make this decision impartially.

    “But I hope that everyone accepts I took it in an open and honest way - in stark contrast to the murky machinations of the former UK Labour Government, who we now know changed their policy in secret and did everything they could to facilitate Megrahi’s release for commercial and political reasons.

    No sir. We now know you weren't honest at all. You've just announced you personally think Megrahi is guilty as charged. That kinds of removes the honesty, and the neutrality from the decisions you took.

    "And the astonishing hypocrisy of Labour in Scotland who attacked a decision that their own government in London supported.”

    Anyone who has listened to MacAskill going over and over his justification for making this decision since August 2009 knows what hypocrisy is and he really needs to take a long hard look at himself. Hypocrisy is claiming to care about Scotland and then doing something which prevents Scots from getting to the truth about something really, really important.

    Mr MacAskill has now promised to publish full details of the 2007 Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ruling Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

    Well we'll see about that eh Kenny? But of course its not certain the SNP will get back in again is it? And let's face it, Labour aren't going to do much about it are they? You've stalled repeatedly until you conveniently ran out of time! You're a dishonest man, and now in this interview you also show you're not fit to hold the Justice post by coming out with the ridiculous statement by allowing your personal opinion to come into this and making it clear that you have no interest in the SCCRC findings. If your Party win power again I hope the first decision Salmond makes is to remove your from your present position.

    “We should be proud of our justice system in Scotland. We have nothing to hide – that is why I will publish a Bill soon in the new Parliament so that we can make this further report available."

    You had plenty to hide Mr MacAskill. You've spent nearly four years doing it. The final insult, to read your own view on Megrahi's guilt proves a great deal. One of the things it proves is that you haven't a clue how to conduct yourself in the post you hold, with decency or honour.

  3. “I rejected the prisoner transfer application, and granted compassionate release."
    MacAskill is being disingenuous when he implies that he considered both applications on an equal basis. He had no power to do anything but reject the PTA application, as the Crown's appeal was still in progress. Yet he solemnly told Megrahi's team that they must drop his appeal before MacAskill 'considered' the PTA application, as though so doing might improve his chances of repatriation. He might have added that he was obliged under the terms of the PTA to reject the application out of hand. Indeed, he might have added further that even if he did have the power to grant a transfer he would chew his arm off before signing the order.

    Although Prof Black has said that Mr MacAskill had the right to do things the way he did, I don't understand why he didn't say much earlier that as he had no power to dictate to the Crown office, prisoner transfer must be ruled out. There was certainly no point in extending the deadline for consideration of the PTA application, unless it was to increase the pressure on Megrahi to withdraw.

  4. I wonder....

    I've never understood this garbage about not doubting the safety of the conviction and so on. And the way Kenny behaved over the dropping of the appeal. Now he says he's convinced Megrahi is guilty.

    Bloody stupid thing to say, and highly inappropriate. Bizarre behaviour all round, from someone aware of the SCCRC findings and so on. I'm just wondering how aware he really is.

    We understand the issues because we've read the documentation without anyone sitting on our shoulder providing "briefings". Interpretation. Telling us what to think. Has Kenny? I suspect not.

    He's a busy man. All sorts of issues to deal with. Lots of things he needs to get up to speed on. He relies on advisors and briefing notes and stuff like that. What are these people telling him?

    Remember "Sent Home to Die"? The STV hatchet job which painted Megrahi as guilty by assuming as fact all the issues that are in fact total BS? The Frankfurt baggage records showed the bomb suitcase had come off a plane from Malta. The shopkeeper identified Megrahi as having bought the clothes packed round the bomb. And so on. Anyone with no other exposure to the problems in the case would have assumed straight off that it was a slam-dunk bang-to-rights, and the rest was just standard bleating by a guilty man's legal team and a bunch of cranks.

    If Kenny isn't reading the primary documentation himself, and making up his own mind (and let's face it that is something he may simply not do, on any issue), he may be entirely at the mercy of those who are interpreting the matter for him. If he is being handed briefing notes that constantly put the Crown's case, presenting it as strong and evidence-based and the doubters as a bunch of loonies, he may genuinely believe that is the case.

    Now before you get going, Jo, I'm not excusing Kenny here at all. I think this is appalling. I'm trying to understand his otherwise inexplicable behaviour. His not actually having an essential grasp of the issues but having been led through them by Crown Office apparachiks with a vested interest in promoting the view that Megrahi is guilty and the SCCRC stuff is just a load of technicalities might be a possible explanation.

  5. "Now before you get going, Jo..." if : )

    I do understand what you're saying and you're no more dismayed than I am myself about the SNP tactics on the whole issue of Lockerbie.

    Prof B has told us before that to defy the Lord Advocate would have meant sacking her so they've clearly gone with her game plan. Even so, given the importance of Lockerbie, it is difficult to understand why the SNP, of all Parties, would have been content to let this all drop and take the flak for releasing Megrahi all the while knowing that had his appeal been heard it would all have been so very different.

    MacAskill's behaviour over the SCCRC report has been bizarre and I've wondered lately myself if Salmond and MacAskill are beginning to realise just how angry people are about what they did there. Much of that anger is within their own voters and even their Party. MacAskill basically inserted that clause making it difficult to publish, if not impossible, and yet now he is saying it will be published in due course and so is Salmond.

    But to come out with this, "I think he was guilty personally." quote is bizarre. No Justice Minister should make statements like that and he must have been mad to say it. It makes him look very foolish indeed.

  6. The other thing is Rolfe, MacAskill is a lawyer himself. Can he really be unaware that even among his peers there is disquiet about that verdict? 86% of lawyers who participated in the Firm survey on the issue were not happy with the original verdict.

    Where will it leave us tho following the May election I wonder? They've said if they get back in they will release the SCCRC report. What if they don't get in tho? Labour aren't going to move on it, nor will the Tories or, (I think) the Lib-Dems. The SNP can hardly start to push for publication then when people can ridicule them and say, "You had the chance to publish and you didn't." I mean MacAskill has even pushed legislation through to limit the SCCRC powers in future. How odd was that when ultimately he was absolutely restricting access to justice, not just for Megrahi, but for anyone facing criminal proceedings?

    I don't get it. I just don't get it.

  7. Rolfe, I find your comment about MacKaskill not understanding to be very naive. Of course he understands, and he understands a lot more than you or I do because he has access to various information most people will never see.

    And doubtless he is under pressure from all manner of people and governments that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

    The spooks have been involved in Lockerbie from the start - hell they even testified in Court for the first time in history. But that doesn't change the fact that they always have and always will be at work in the background to influence the outcome of anything perceived to be in the best interests of their country (including the outcome of any election in Scotland).

    Presumably he also has to tow the Party line or lose his position.

    Kenny is well briefed and well aware of ALL the potential consequences of any possible course of action.

    It takes a lot of guts to do the right thing under such circumstances.

  8. "It takes a lot of guts to do the right thing under such circumstances."

    Actually only honesty is required. If it is there it doesn't take guts to do the right thing. In the matter of Lockerbie the SNP were perfectly placed as the Party to get to the truth. The timeline could not have been better. They arrived in May 2007 and the SCCRC report was concluded in June 2007.

    "Kenny" was indeed well briefed. Which makes his tactics, and his Party's, since 2007 all the more difficult to understand.

    Are you actually saying his actions are understandable Full? That he had no choice? What of the charge made by Professor Hans Koechler that those in the legal and political establishments hiding the truth about Lockerbie were guilty of the obstruction of justice? Because that is what others had done already and the SNP followed suit.

    How can we sit and say, "Oh well, it isn't as if the SNP could have done anything differently." They could have done everything differently and stuck to the line they first seemed determinded to take: that Megrahi's appeal would be heard: that there would be no spiriting of Megrahi out of the country before that business was done in the interests of justice.

    So, no, it isn't the lack of guts we have at play here: it has to be something else entirely because Salmond had the guts to do it. For whatever reason he bottled it, it wasn't about the lack of guts.

  9. I'm not really saying that his actions are understandable. I'm simply saying it is a rare person that will risk a career, risk being kicked out of cabinet (if that is what it is called in Scotland) or caucus, or even risk one's life to do what is right.

    I recall a relative once predicting that Megrahi would "choke on a chicken bone" in Libya and never make it to a trial outside Libya. People in Scotland or anywhere can choke on chicken bones too.

    Bottom line is he is a minister of the government and there has been a conviction. Appeal was unsuccessful and the final appeal was dropped. Right or wrong his is the safe position to take when there is pressure from all sides (including JFM etc.). That is what Government officials do.

    Do I agree with it or his actions? No.

    The post I was commenting on said Kenny perhaps wasn't properly briefed. That I totally reject.


    The new WAR of words between Scottish First Ministers Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill,Secretary of Justice against the former UK Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor Jack Straw (Labour) illuminates the "extorted" deals in connection with the early release of innocent Abdelbaset Al Megrahi (audio monitored).
    To ward off the disgrace Kenny MacAskill remains only a battle cry available: "I stand by my Lockerbie decision"...!
    Now we await the opening of the SCCRC Documents as promised, quickly.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland. URL:

  11. Why do I find part of myself hoping Edwin will hold his breath waiting for the SCCRC documents to be quickly released?

  12. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr. 1053.rtf.
    In the Approaching ...
    By new scientific magnifications comparison photos with laboratory photos of RARDE, it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the allegedly found MST-13 timer fragment (PT/35) in Lockerbie, is not derived from a "Libyan" MST-13 timer!

    Damit sich die letzten "Schläfer" überzeugen können, dass das manipulierte Hauptbeweisstück "PT/35" nicht von einem "libyschen" MST-13 Timer abstammt, wird MEBO demnächst neue wissenschaftliche Foto-Vergrösserungen veröffentlichen.
    Die Vergrösserungen der Stirnseite Schnittstellen zeigen deutlich den wellenförmigen Unterschied der Fiberglas-Lagen, zwischen den zwei verschiedenen MST-13 Timer PC-Boards mit 8 oder 9 Lagen Fiberglas. Zum Vergleich, steht eine gerichtlich anerkannte RARDE Labor Fotografie zur Verfügung, unterschrieben von Experte Allen Feraday.
    Aus der Wellenform der Fiberglas-Lagen kann zweifelsfrei abgeleitet werden, dass das MST-13 Fragment (PT/35) aus 8 Lagen Fiberglas besteht und somit nicht von einem "Libyschen" MST-13 Timer mit 9 Lagen Fiberglas abstammt !

    Scientific photo gallery soon on our website:
    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland.

  13. There are criminal cases that you should never put from the files until it is solved. The "Lockerbie case " is one of them .

    Es gibt Kriminalfälle die man niemals aus den Akten legen darf bis sie aufgeklärt sind. Der "Lockerbie-Fall" ist einer davon.
    Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd

  14. Full I find your position on this most odd. The second appeal and the circumstances under which it was dropped aren't known but the signs are Megrahi was the one under pressure and some of that came from MacAskill.

    So I continue to disagree that MacAskill has taken the "safe" position. We really should keep hauling ourselves back here and bear in mind what's at the centre of it all: almost three hundred deaths. MacAskill's life is in no danger for simply being the Justice Minister and ensuring justice exists within the Scottish system. If he wasn't up to the job he shouldn't have taken it on. And in any case he made his own position a hundred times worse throught the stupid games he played over the SCCRC report, the second appeal and the release of Megrahi.

  15. And why on earth would he be "kicked out of cabinet"???????

  16. I'm not a Scot and I don't have first hand knowledge about the political system there but presumably Alex Salmond is the First Minister and appoints the Cabinet (if that is what it is called) including the Justice Minister.

    And presumably all SNP MSPs must vote along party lines or sit as independents or change parties and all Ministers must perform as expected by Salmond or risk being removed by him?

    So if the above assumptions are correct MacKaskill doesn't have the final say.

    The Kennedy brothers were just doing their jobs too, including having the FBI go after certain Italian people aggressively for the first time.

    So in a simple world only honest is required, yes, but in the real world there are numerous other factors at play, and my original comment simply pointed this out.

  17. A simple world is what we need Full. And it is always simple to start with. It is deceit that complicates matters usually. And MacAskill has turned this simple matter into an absolute mess. There was no Party line on Megrahi within the SNP: ask Christine Grahame. She has campaigned for justice over Lockerbie for many years now within that Party and beyond. She has not been kicked out. And there was a time when Salmond was keen on justice over Lockerbie too.

    Decision making in the Scottish Parliament can be fraught with tension and hostility but as far as I know we've had no shootings yet. So no lives were at risk here over an honest decision on Megrahi's appeal. I am certain the entire country would have welcomed the opening up of the SCCRC report and the hearing of the appeal in order to get to the truth about Lockerbie.

    Fear has not dogged MacAskill's steps but deceit appears to shadow him closely. I too thought there was no way MacAskill would have the final say but he is the one who went around repeating, like a chant, "I and I alone......will make the decision." I agree with you: there was no way it was just down to him. Salmond at least was involved.

    But to return to the implication that politicians function in an environment of fear I'm not buying it. This is Scotland and they were in no danger. Pressures did come but they were not pressures they should have caved into and at the very least we should know what they were because no explanation offered so far answers the questions. The pressures must surely be connected with other deceits and lies. So no sympathy here.

    When you come into power here and you proclaim you are for Scotland, that you want to serve Scotland's interests and you then personally become part of an on-going racket to keep hidden the truth about the biggest atrocity ever to happen here in peacetime you deserve no sympathy. There was a better way for the SNP to deal with this and it would have worked like a dream.

  18. Here's what might have happened here Full. The SNP took power in May 2007. In June 2007 the SCCRC announced its findings in the case of Megrahi. Six grounds to suggest a miscarriage of justice may have occurred at the original trial.

    We have two groups: the Scottish Judiciary and the Scottish Political Establishment and we have the rest of Scotland's people. The first group will be responsible for hearing the appeal to arise out of the SCCRC review. The second group cannot interfere in that however they can make plain their shock that the original conviction may not be safe. For they would be shocked surely? Nearly 300 dead and we may not have the right guy? You would think they'd want the matter clarified at once, yes? Absolutely.

    So the new First Minister, himself in shock over these astonishing SCCRC findings could have said so in the Scottish Parliament. He could have invited his fellow Members of the Parliament to join with him in expressing grave disquiet at the prospect of justice not having been done over Lockerbie. He could have asked them to join with him in imploring the Scottish Judiciary to have that appeal heard as a matter of urgency because of the importance of the truth to all of Scotland, and indeed the UK and even beyond. He could have said the dead deserved to rest in peace knowing we now realised we didn't get the right guy.

    Now then. What if he had said that Full? What opposition Party in Holyrood would have dared challenge Salmond on that? The answer is none because if they had they would have been exposed for not caring who did it, not caring if we got the right guy and that would have been unthinkable because then we'd all know they were happy to go along with the dodgey verdict and the bribing of witnesses and the whole farcical trial in the first place.

    Salmond could have pulled that off, the appeal would have been heard and Megrahi would almost certainly have been freed an innocent man. Long before he ever got cancer.

    See how easy it would have been? No pressures there Full. All the pressure would have been on the Parties who created the original stench over Lockerbie and Megrahi in the first place - Labour and the Tories. Yet now his hands are as filthy as theirs are.

  19. I lost a comment on this yesterday, due to the Blogger software having a hissy fit. Meh. Anyway.

    I'm speculating here. Brainstorming. I could very well be wrong. But let me explore the idea. Not that Kenny "wasn't properly briefed", which happens all the time, but that he was specifically briefed by those with an axe to grind - the Crown Office. (Though if there's anything to this idea it would have to apply to Keny and Alex both, and that's less easy to sustain I agree.)

    We're coming from the position where we can't see how anyone without an axe to grind, reading the documentation on the case (start with the Court Judgement itself and have a look at what Kochler had to say), could possibly believe that Megrahi was justly convicted beyond reasonable doubt. We know that those who investigated and prosecuted the case have an axe to grind, and we also know that they seem to have exerted inordinate influence on the opinions of most of the US relatives. But beyond that, in general, we have those who have not read the documentation, and those fulminating about a stitch-up.

    Kenny had no axe to grind that I'm aware of before 2007, which is pretty late in the day. Did he have any familiarity with the case at all before then? It's possible he hadn't. Or maybe just a general lawyer's gut instinct to want to support the conclusions of the justice process. Given subsequent events, I find it hard to believe that Kenny, in say 2001 to 2006, was clued up about the issues.

    So it all blows up from 2007 onwards, with the PTA negotiations, the SCCRC report, then all the haggling about disclosure of documents, then the appeal starting, and then the PTA application and the compassionate release. Kenny is Justice Secretary through all this, with (I suspect) no background knowledge of the case. He has a choice. Tackle the primary documentation on his own and make up his own mind, or allow himself to be fed pre-digested briefings.

    He's a cabinet minister. What do we think he would do?

    You know, give me someone who is busy with 100 other important things to do so that he isn't likely to start reading 80-page documents (or even 800-page documents) I've already handily summmarised for him, and I think I could make him believe Megrahi was guilty too, if that was my aim.

    There is a lot of conspiracy theorising surrounding this case, some batsqueak crazy, some more plausible. I'd highlight some of that, and show how it was unfounded. We know the defence case to the SCCRC flew some fairly unlikely kites and put forward some points that were always going to be very hard to substantiate. I'd major on that and suggest (for example) that the defence case rested very much on showing the timer fragment to have been fabricated, but it can't be proved it was fabricated. I'd knock down all the bad and questionable points made by the defence and make it look as if I had knocked down the entire basis of the appeal. I'd paint Jim Swire as being addled by the tragic death of his daughter.

    At the same time I'd discourage any close examination of Gauci's evidence, merely repeating that Gauci picked Megrahi's picture, and then Megrahi himself in an identity parade, as the purchaser of the clothes. Insist that the Crown has no doubt about the reliability of that evidence no matter what the SCCRC thinks. I'd also repeat as fact that the bomb suitcase was traced through the Frankfurt baggage records as having come from KM180 as unaccompanied luggage. I would also go on quite a bit about Megrahi being a member of the JSO and travelling on a false passport that morning.

    Yes, by the time I'd finished, I reckon "the Scottish government does not doubt the safety of the conviction."

  20. I'm just getting a bit of a hint now of some doubts creeping in. "I believe that Megrahi was guilty, but I accept that many do not." I wonder if some inconvenient facts are finally getting through? Not enough to change his belief, oh no, but enough to make him realise there's another side to all this?

    I'd dearly love, right now, to ask Kenny to explain to me the basis for his belief that Megrahi is guilty. As he's Justice Secretary, not some pseudonym on an internet forum, I can't. But I've asked others, and I know the answers. Either it's the "Sent Home to Die" version where Gauci definitely recognised Megrahi as the purchaser of the clothes and it's a known fact that the bomb was carried unaccompanied on KM180, or it's the peripheral irrelevancies version. He was a JSO member and he knew Bollier and he was travelling on a false passport and he had a lot of money in a Swiss bank account. Either version may be spiced up with some of Giaka's discredited evidence presented as fact.

    I'd like to know which version our dear JS (and FM) espouse, and if they have even been exposed to the detailed evidence showing this is all BS. And I wonder if they might perhaps look at it in the future, though I'm not holding my breath.

    I agree this is speculative, and may be entirely fanciful. You are free to disagree, entirely. I just thought I'd put it out there, for what it is or isn't worth.

  21. Rolfe: I think what you have written is worth a lot. At the end of the day none of us are going to know how or to what degree Kenny is being briefed. I certainly agree it is unlikely that, as a Justice Minister or Secretary, he is going to read the court documents or SCCRC report himself - yet. The real question is, as Jo G reasonably asks, why is it so difficult for the Government to admit there may have been a miscarriage of justice as their own SCCRC report concludes?

    I think it is quite likely that, especially with an election coming up, he or one of his aids might well read this blog. Or consituents read it and raise the matters.

    JFM caused the Government to admit it had the power to hold an inquiry when it previously maintained it could not - public pressure works, perhaps not quickly but over time...

    When the recent problems broke out in Egypt I discussed the possibilities of such occurances spilling over to Libya with a Middle Eastern friend. His opinion was it could never happen in Libya. I said never say never, but I was still inclined to agree with him. We were both wrong, today there are demonstrations in Libya.

    Things change. The truth has a way of emerging. The internet has power. Justice is important for everyone. If dictators can be brought down Justice Secretaries that don't ensure justice can meet the same fate.

    I wonder if Christine Graham is a lawyer - could she ever be the Justice Secretary?

  22. She says she was a lawyer. I think she stopped paying her dues when she moved into full-time politics.

    She's regarded as being a bit fringe, though.

  23. I wish I was Kenny's constituent. Actually, I'm Christine's constituent, and I think lobbying her would be a bit redundant.

  24. I'm painting a picture in my head of the Scottish Parliament. Christine Graham is standing in the front row announcing a full inquiry into Lockerbie, Kenny can barely be seen sitting in the back row...Hmm.

    Do Scots like to demonsrate?

  25. The hell with a full inquiry, I want to see that conviction quashed. Until it is, everyone and his auntie will hide behind the "fact" that the real bomber was convicted and everything must be made to fit round that.

    THEN you can have your full inquiry. Get the false conviction out of the way, and all hell breaks loose. Why do you think so many people are so keen for that not to happen?

  26. Conviction quashed works for me too!

    Those that want the conviction to stand feel they have too much to loose if it was overturned.

    No one would be happier than me if there was no hiding behind the conviction.

  27. I do feel that any inquiry held before the conviction is quashed is doomed. What are they enquiring into? Megrahi is "the Lockerbie bomber", a court said so. The investigation got the right guy, why are we here?

    Would there be any chance of an enquiry saying, looks as if Megrahi was stitched up, better get an appeal going? Sounds improbable to me. That was what the SCCRC was for, job done, anyway. An inquiry could be reduced to trying to find out who Megrahi's accomplices were, or something equally farcical.

    I agree that JFM needs to push on all possible fronts, but in my view a new appeal is the main thing. Even if all it does is overturn the Gauci identification, that will do it. No identification, no conviction.

    The trouble then will be the attempts to paint this as a just verdict having been overturned on a technicality. That, I submit, is where an inquiry comes in. Look into all the rest of the issues that weren't sanctioned by the SCCRC investigation. The abuse of process inherent in the whole Giaka affair. The "determination to convict" shown by the judges. The ludicrous decision to prefer the tenuous evidence of the Erac printout over the far stronger evidence of the complete Malta baggage records. The matching decision to prefer the tenuous evidence of the Erac printout over the far stronger evidence that the bomb suitcase was inserted at Heathrow. The frankly irrational dismissal of the evidence against Talb and the PFLP-GC as insufficient even to suggest reasonable doubt, while accepting much weaker evidence against Megrahi as proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

    Has anyone pointed out, by the way, that evidence was led at the FAI which conclusively proved the Bedford suitcase couldn't have been legitimate passenger baggage, but that evidence was unaccountably omitted at Zeist?

    And yes, bring in That Bloody Timer Fragment as well. I think it was fabricated, to a very strong balance of probabilities, even if there is room for a sliver of reasonable doubt. Ditto the Toshiba manual page. Shine the light of day on the evidence for that little lot too.

    Find out if Bogomira Erac got any money from Rewards for Justice while you're at it.

    Just make it crystal clear that the scenario decided upon at Zeist was Mr. Wrong Wrong, of Wrong Street Wrongsville, and somebody better take on board that the entire Lockerbie terrorist gang is still at large out there.

    270 cold murder cases to re-open. Is it any wonder the Scottish criminal justice system doesn't fancy going there? Never mind the prospect of what they might find out about what was going on at Frankfurt and why the investigators were ordered to stop looking at the PFLP-GC evidence and start building that trumped-up case against Megrahi.

    What a can of worms.

    By the way, can we have a sweepstake on what the other two SCCRC grounds of appeal might have been, that they wouldn't publish? I tend to go for the concealing of the evidence that Giaka was lying (especially the bit where Colin Boyd lied to the court), and the dismissal of the evidence suggesting PFLP-GC involvement.

    Any other suggestions?

  28. Rolfe, I really can't believe what you're saying. This was the Justice Secretary who knows more than the rest of us put together about the SCCRC findings.

    This is a lawyer who knows how the appeal process works and, its to be hoped, the Scottish Justice System too. This man had the right to have his appeal heard. So did all of Scotland if the truth about Lockerbie meant a toss to MacAskill. (Which it obviously didn't.)

    I consider myself to be a very ordinary person. If I could read up on this case then how on earth can you suggest MacAskill needed help to understand it or wouldn't have have been aware of the detail, especially as Justice Minister? Any committed Justice Minister would surely want to know the facts. Anyone of MacAskill's age group also knows what happened in Lockerbie.

    What is difficult about understanding an independent SCCRC putting forward SIX grounds to suggest a miscarriage of justice may have occurred at Megrahi's trial? What is there not to understand? The big issue was that serious doubts were being cast on that conviction. Not least the US paying $3 MILLION to the Gaucis. You don't need any of your case above Rolfe. Start with the $3 million paid by the US to the Gaucis and nothing they can say will top that. For had the Scottish Court been aware that the US intended to pay out millions to these two witnesses they would have gone the same road as Gaika.

    MacAskill's response was to do a great deal to keep that report hidden. He played games with it: now he's hinting he may publish but only if they get elected again. He was the one who inserted the consents clauses and held back the detail.

    I'm sorry Rolfe, there is no excuse anyone can offer here to explain what he did. And his latest outrageous "I think he was guilty." is an absolute disgrace. He had no right, as Justice Secretary to make such a statement firstly because holders of that office do not go around making their personal views on such cases public but secondly because he knows damn well the Commission says otherwise. Is he saying the SCCRC are misguided?

    I find your case for the prosecution bizarre since I have also read you elsewhere stressing that Gauci did not once positively identify Megrahi but used words like "looks like" and other similar phrases, not to mention other areas of his description where there were significant differences between the height and age of the person Gauci saw and Megrahi's own height and age. None of what you say tops the existence of a report by the SCCRC which states there are six grounds to re-visit this conviction.

  29. Full, I've been writing direct to the Justice Minister for a long time on this: and to Salmond. So have many others. It doesn't need to be one of their constituents. They hold Ministerial Posts so they can be approached. Various Scottish newspapers have called for action on this too. MacAskill is getting the letters I assure you. He knows what is being said. But he's taking orders from someone else.

  30. I've written to politicians and had replies signed by them which I know they didn't write.

    I've seen interns open letters to politicians and write replies to them, without the addressee ever clapping eyes on the things. It's normal. So I would never assume that an MP or MSP to whom I had written had even seen the letter or email, frankly.

  31. Rolfe, please tell me you're not suggesting MacAskill doesn't know the strength of feeling over this? Please tell me you're not saying that.

  32. Serious question Rolfe. Would you have come up with those earlier posts in defence of a Labour Justice Secretary?

    If we're being political let me tell you I am gutted that it is an SNP Minister who has done this. And it doesn't feel one bit good seeing what MacAskill has done believe me. But I can't ignore what I've seen with my own eyes.

  33. Jo, regarding your previous post, both of us are ordinary people with sufficient time to read these documents, and lacking the staff and the advisors to do it for us. Many people don't remember Lockerbie or Zeist all that well. They had other things on their minds at the time, usually. Tney are open to suggestion, frankly.

    I agree with you to a large extent, and particularly that what Kenny did was disgraceful. What I'm trying to do is figure out a why that doesn't imply his brain was taken over by green reptiloids from Mars, or the equivalent. As I said, I'm speculating. I may very well be wrong. It's a suggestion.

    As for my "case for the prosecution", you know very well I think that's BS, what I typed. It's a gross misrepresentation of the facts. But it's the sort of misrepresentation we see all the time from the people with the vested interest in declaring Megrahi guilty. It's actually much less dishonest that Frank Duggan's regular contributions, come to think of it.

    It's the sort of misrepresentation I'd expect a Crown office advisor to present to the Minister if he wanted him to take a particular position on an issue. Sir Humphrey would probably make it sound even better.

  34. Oh, and if you think I'm suggesting that Kenny could be manipulated like Jim Hacker, why yes. That's exactly what I am suggesting.

  35. Serious question Rolfe. Would you have come up with those earlier posts in defence of a Labour Justice Secretary?

    If we're being political let me tell you I am gutted that it is an SNP Minister who has done this. And it doesn't feel one bit good seeing what MacAskill has done believe me. But I can't ignore what I've seen with my own eyes.

    Sorry, we were cross-posting, this wasn't the post of yours I was referring to above.

    No, I wouldn't have come up with that in defence of a Labour (or Tory) Justice Secretary, because there would have been no requirement for such an explanation. Both Labour and the Tories have perfectly plausible motives for wanting Megrahi's conviction to stand, even knowing full well it's a crock of nonsense. The Tories were in power at the time of the original bungled investigation and Labour at the time of the even more bungled Zeist trial. Nuff said.

    I'm just trying to figure out how an SNP Justice Secretary might have been manipulated, persuaded or fooled into taking the line Kenny has been taking. Because there certainly doesn't seem to be any normal motive from where I'm sitting

  36. Rolfe, please tell me you're not suggesting MacAskill doesn't know the strength of feeling over this? Please tell me you're not saying that

    I think he may not. Don't confuse our little corner of the interwebs with the big world out there.

  37. Jo, think about it this way. You say Kenny is "taking orders from someone else", presumably in the full knowledge that the evidence suggests Megrahi had nothing to do with Lockerbie.

    I'm suggesting he might have been manipulated by someone else into believing that the evidence supports Megrahi's conviction.

    Taking your belief, who is giving him these orders, and why is he obeying them? I cannot see or think of any plausible bribe or threat that might be invoked. Can you?

    And manipulating people to do what you want of their own volition always works better than giving them orders to do what they know full well is wrong and against their own interests. If you can pull it off.

    I'm trying to see if the latter might be possible, and I think it might. You're free to disagree, obviously, but do you have a better suggestion? Who do you think is holding a gun to his head, and what is the nature of the "gun"?

  38. I do indeed have a better suggestion. The SCCRC report, that's what. MacAskill absolutely KNOWS what it says and you're skirting around that. You cannot get away from it. He KNOWS every word in it. He worked hard enough trying to get rid of the appeal did he not? He knew how powerful it would be. He knew exactly what he was doing. Compassionate release did not even require the dropping of the appeal. It should have been no obstacle. It could have continued.

    And Rolfe, your speculation here is approaching the point where you're implying the SNP had a complete moron sitting as a Justice Minister. That MacAskill wasn't up to the job, didn't know what the job was about, didn't do the job ever but just did as he was told. I cannot buy that becaue that is not how Salmond runs his Party. Plus that is not how MacAskill has functioned at any point.

    I don't know what has got into you Rolfe. Having debated here with you, read you and learned so much about this case from you personally I cannot believe you are suggesting MacAskill may not know what people think out here.

    We aren't in some wee corner. Newspaper editorials aren't either. Are you saying he doesn't read the Herald either? There are SNP activists everywhere, other MSPs, Christine Grahame and lots more all carrying back messages about the mood in the country. Even Cameron is u-turning on some issues this week because he's been warned England will not wear them. Its how it works.

    Remember too that bit in MacAskill's speech that day when he announced the release, when he acknowledged "other factors" in the Megrahi case. That was the SCCRC report and the doubts. That's what he was talking about. So he DID know.

    He has also met Jim Swire at least a couple of times and gave him certain assurances. He was on the ball, knew what Jim Swire was talking about and knew the issues. So he simply isn't uninformed Rolfe.

    Like you I simply don't know why he has done this, or Salmond either, I am exhausted trying to work it out. Because none of it made any sense and it still doesn't.

  39. Well, as I said, you may be right. I made it clear I was speculating, trying to figure out some explanation that made better sense than some sort of threats or bribes that we can't quantify.

    I'm not suggesting that he didn't know about the SCCRC report of course, that would be ridiculous. I was just wondering if he was hearing a lot from the Crown Office about how it was nothing but technicalities, and the people who really understand these things were quite confident there was nothing significant in it.

    You're so sure that suggestion is wrong, that's your prerogative. I'm not that wedded to it myself. But I can't think of any effective threat or bribe either, so I try.

  40. I`m with Rolfe here, though I will be accused of being partisan as I am also an SNP member.
    The fact is, few Scots are familiar with the details behind al Megraghi`s conviction in any detail and even fewer will know the arguments against his being guilty like, say, the doubts regarding Gaucci`s identification. I ran my own private investigation business in the 80s and 90s and I discussed the Lockerbie affair with many people, including politicians, lawyers and police officers over the years. If most lawyers believe that al Megraghi is innocent,as has recently been claimed on this site, it is not based on any real understanding of the facts of the case and most police officers who I have spoken to believe he is guilty though, again, not based on any true grasp of the evidence. Rolfe is right to point out that most Scots are not nearly as exercised on this matter as we are.
    I do not accept that Kenny MacAskill "knows" that al Megraghi is innocent but, for reasons yet to be revealed, has decided to ignore the facts. My personal opinion is that he has heard arguments on both sides and, over the years, has become more impressed by arguments such as the ones on this site. But, especially given the fact that al Megraghi himself withdrew his own appeal and any enquiry is likely to drag on for years, be deprived of key evidence and finally be inconclusive, it would serve little meaningful purpose. We might welcome even this, as it would be a step forward, but a Justice Secretary like MacAskill would, I suspect, prefer to channel limited resources into areas where "success" would be more tangible. I know that many people think the withdrawal of the appeal was done as part of a deal on his release but , if I remember correctly, even Jim Swire believed that his lack of faith in the Scottish justice system was the main factor behind his decision. (Joe, I`m sure that the arguments in your letters to MacAskill are concise and persuasive but I suspect they might appear less so to someone already scunnered by a mountain of regular correspondence from Edwin Brollier!) In short, Kenny, I think, would simply say that if al Megrghi doesn`t want to take the matter further then why should he?
    I recall a recent conversation with a senior police officer ( who was not involved in the Lockerbie investigation) who blurted out the old police justification when a "fit-up" is exposed, "don`t shed any tears for Megraghi! If he wasn`t the Lockerbie bomber he certainly had blood on his hands. He was a Libyan intelligence officer, for God`s sake!" and I suspect this is the attitude of most cops, lawyers and politicians, even those who might be influenced by our arguments.
    Lastly, if MacAskill is involved in a conspiracy to supress the truth, why has he even suggested that he will facilitate the publishing of the SCCRC papers? What`s in it for him? In spite of our best efforts, the Scottish media, politicians and voters aren`t exactly marching in the streets demanding to know their contents. I really believe, like Rolfe, that MacAskill has considered the matter,realised that it can be done easily and decided that it is the right thing to do.
    (Sorry, I have just hammered this out and it will be a bit disjointed. I also meant to say much more. I will try to sit down next week and do it properly).

  41. "don`t shed any tears for Megraghi! If he wasn`t the Lockerbie bomber he certainly had blood on his hands. He was a Libyan intelligence officer, for God`s sake!"

    That's the argument that really makes me see blazing scarlet. Never mind the truth, never mind that the real bombers got off scot-free, never mind the perversion of the criminal justice system, and never mind the indescribable betrayal of the Lockerbie relatives. Never mind the years of sanctions against Libya, and the lives these cost. Never mind, even, the billions of dollars extracted from Libya on false pretences.

    You got someone for the crime you believe was guilty of some other crime. Fine. That'll do.

    Do these policemen who say that sort of thing even think for half a second about what they just said? Never mind solving any murder case, just arrest and fit-up someone you're pretty sure committed some other murder. Never mind catching the bank robbers, we know some guys who robbed a different bank, we'll just jail them.

    Meh. Some people make me sick.

  42. And while we're at it, do we know that Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence operative and "certainly had blood on his hands"?

    I tend to assume the first part, I have to say. But it's a probabilities thing, and it was never close to being proved in court. The only real evidence was from that lying toad Giaka and we know how much that was worth. He said Fhimah was JSO too, and we know he wasn't. The rest is supposition, based on Megrahi's coded passport, the nature of his day job, and some of the people he associated with. So, plausible but not certain.

    "Blood on his hands"? There was never the slightest shred of evidence to connect him with any actual terrorist, illegal or violent activity. None. So this is another layer of assumption. We've made the assumption he was a JSO officer, and now we're going to assume that all JSO officers have blood on their hands. Where's the evidence for that, then? Maybe there's intelligence information to that effect, but then if Giaka is the quality of their intelligence information from Libya (and it seems he is), I'm not impressed.

    Sometimes I think my assumption that Megrahi was a Libyan spy who was involved in other murky dealings is just wish-fulfilment. I hope he was up to no good at all with that passport that morning, whatever it was he was doing. I hope, in a way, he actually was the evil bastard he's been painted as.

    Because if he wasn't, if he was just an airline official who moved on to a more academic job, and was running the aircraft parts procurement operation for Libya past the UN sanctions, and only visited Malta that day to have a meeting about setting up a legitimate travel agency business and find a joiner to fit a wooden bannister rail in his house, and he only picked up the coded passport because it was the one nearest to hand and his wife gave him hell for it later - and that's what he says happened and nobody has ever proved anything different - what have we done?

  43. Grendal, I didn't say MacAskill "knows" Megrahi is innocent. I said he knows the weight of evidence the SCCRC put forward in their conclusions. He knows what they were and that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

    And regardless of what anyone out here knows, he is the Justice Minister. It is his job to know the facts, especially in a case like this with such associations with Scotland and its own justice system.

    I'm not accusing you of being partisan either. I know many nationalist people who are horrified by MacAskill's handling of this in the end, and Salmond's. Like me they are gutted.

    I quoted from a poll done by the Firm. And I don't get your assertion that lawyers didn't reach that view through any understanding of the facts. They are going on the treatment of this case within our Justice System. The findings of the SCCRC, the clear message sent out about the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, the repeated delaying of the appeal and the rush to get him "freed" before it could be heard. They believe our reputation has been horribly damaged by this case. They also represent clients and they know that legal and human rights were denied Megrahi.

  44. Oh and Grendal, one major fact in all of this is that the US intended to pay the Gaucis $3 million dollars after they testified. Had that particular fact been made known at the trial the Gaucis' testimony would not have been acceptable in a Scottish Court.

  45. And had that particular fact been made known at the Appeal in 2002, the five judges would have unanimously quashed Mr al-Megrahi's conviction.

    I'm still waiting for the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini to do the right thing about the $3m bribe and apply to the High Court of Justiciary for that wrongful conviction to be overturned.

  46. And yet Patrick, she declared the Crown "ready" to defend the verdict. And errrrrrr sent the Justice Secretary out to say the original verdict was sound.