Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lockerbie questions

A letter in the following terms from Dr Jim Swire was published in today's edition of The Daily Telegraph:]

Those who wallow in questions of inter-party blame over the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (...) ignore more important questions. Our politicians continue to play to the American gallery, which has blind faith in Megrahi’s guilt.

The only body appropriate to re-examine the security of criminal verdicts in Scotland is the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC). It worked for three years on the Lockerbie verdict and found that it might have been a miscarriage of justice.

Westminster claims that only Scotland can review the verdict, Scotland that only England has access to the relevant information, despite the findings of its own SCCRC. America concentrates on whether BP might have gained through a “dirty deal” in the desert. A recent petition in Scotland has requested an inquiry into the verdict. So far this has been refused, and now an election looms.

As the father of Flora, aged 23, who was murdered on Pan Am flight 103, I have a different agenda, and it centres on Westminster.

A Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry in 1990 told us that the tragedy was preventable and that the aircraft had been under the host state protection of Britain at all relevant times. Only the consequences involve Scotland. The fate of the aircraft was sealed when the wheels left the runway of Heathrow airport.

We want to know why the aircraft was not protected, and everything that is known about who was really responsible for the atrocity. It may have occurred 22 years ago, but we must live out the rest of our lives bereft of our family members.

Every Prime Minister including Baroness Thatcher has refused an objective inquiry. We are not likely to go away without that knowledge.

[A letter in today's edition of The Scotsman from Jack Fraser reads as follows:]

Once more another dynamic is added to the case of the Lockerbie bomber and with it comes a whole set of new arguments as to why he was released. (...)

Of course, what people and the media in particular appear to do is see the recent revelations of the previous UK government exerting pressure on the Scottish Government as only a part of the decision to release him.

However, we are still left with the elephant in the room and that is the whole complex nature of the Lockerbie case. One cannot seriously make useful conclusions with this week's "revelations" without looking at the wider conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

This case is not only clouded in terms of the release, but in terms of the process by which he was convicted. How is it that revelations on his release are discussed but none of the more significant revelations in terms of after his trial: i.e. the new evidence or evidence not given at the trial?

We should go back to before Megrahi was released. Some see the release of the bomber as evidence of global power politics at work. This is perhaps true, but why is it that the question of global power politics in Megrahi's conviction is never debated - including the legal trial of Megrahi?

There are, therefore, two different elements that are clouded: his release, but, more importantly, his conviction, by which we came to this in the first place.

People have the right to be concerned at the release of a convicted bomber but should they not be more concerned about how a legal system can convict a man with such evidence and how a legal system can be bent in the face of global power politics?

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission stated: "The Libyan may have suffered a miscarriage of justice." An independent inquiry would be the only way to sort all these issues.

[An opinion piece in The Telegraph from Scottish Editor Alan Cochrane reads in part:]

Labour's attempts to hide what should be their acute embarrassment over what can only be described as their culpability over the release of the Lockerbie bomber by trying to drag the SNP into an elaborate conspiracy have largely failed.

Despite an energetic campaign to link Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, to a, frankly, fantastical deal involving prisoners' slopping out as well as the transfer of the mass murderer to a Libyan jail, all Labour succeeded in doing was looking even more silly than they had at the outset. And while we must take his word for it when Iain Gray, their Scottish leader, insists that if he had been First Minister he wouldn't have freed Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, it does take a bit of believing.

After all, to read even a tenth of the 142 papers reviewed and released by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, leads to the inescapable conclusion that everyone in the then Labour government from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the Downing Street cat wanted Megrahi freed. And yet Mr Gray says he would have defied all of that and allowed the bomber to rot and die in Greenock Jail.

As I've already said, we must accept Mr Gray's word for what he'd do; all I can say is that defying Gordon Brown, then at the height of his powers and authority, is not an action I would have associated normally with any leader of the Labour Party in Scotland.

Still, leave that to one side. The real issue is how this will play on May 5 at the elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Prior to the release of the Lockerbie papers, Scottish Labour strategists were confident that they'd get a huge bonus from the fact that it was an SNP minister who had released Megrahi. They reported widespread disgust with the Nats on the doorsteps.

For their part, the SNP were cock-a-hoop with the O'Donnell report, believing that with Labour being seen to be so keen on Megrahi's release – including newspaper photographs of Gordon Brown shaking hands with Colonel Gaddafi – it would neutralise any detrimental effect that Mr MacAskill's decision had with the voters.

However, their joy may be short-lived because no matter what Labour at Westminster thought and said, it was still the Nats who freed the greatest mass murderer that this country has ever seen.

And, unfortunate though that may be for the SNP cause, it is that fact that will remain at the forefront of most voters' minds.

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