[This is the headline over a long article by Justice for Megrahi secretary Robert Forrester published today on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads in part:]
Despite the distress caused to anyone directly connected to the Pan Am 103 incident, it almost seems wrong to draw a spotlight on to the Lockerbie/Zeist case at a time when Libya is being torn apart by civil war. Nevertheless, David Cameron has chosen to do just that recently in seeking to justify his belligerence by saying of Muammar al-Gaddafi: "The people of Lockerbie know what this man is capable of." (David Cameron - 21/3/2011). Justice Secretary Ken Clark is also now playing the Lockerbie card by saying that we have to bring Gaddafi down to prevent him from seeking "another Lockerbie" in revenge for the UK’s support of the rebels.
It is always much healthier if you can draw on some moral high ground to justify your cause in the public eye. We tried it on in Afghanistan with how we were lifting the Afghans out of their feudal political system by waving our magic wand of democracy over them. Now, with Libya, it is Lockerbie and terrorism.
Ever since Libya’s ex justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, set himself up as leader of Eastern Libya in February with claims that he had proof that Gaddafi was behind the Lockerbie incident, this has provided the opportunity to indulge in a bit of sleight of hand and massaging of public opinion. The Lockerbie crash combines public ignorance, terrorism, fear and righteousness, and, it sells papers into the bargain.
Abdel-Jalil’s claims are simply that, claims. After a month, he has yet to produce one iota of substance.
Is he saying that he was negligent enough to leave the documents back in Tripoli? Once Tripoli falls and no documents are produced, are we then going to hear that Gaddafi must have destroyed them? Perhaps though, documents will be produced, however, we all know what is said about truth and the fog of war. It surely comes as no surprise to anyone that Gaddafi would have been behind an action such as the Lockerbie event if one of his countrymen had carried it out. But, did Abdelbaset al-Megrahi do it?
To say that the case against Mr al-Megrahi has one or two problems would be arch understatement.
There was a break in to Heathrow airside giving access to Pan Am 103’s loading bay area shortly before take off. This incident was reported to the Heathrow authorities at the time but not made public until after the verdict was passed twelve years later.
There is no evidence of any unaccompanied luggage leaving on flight KM180 from Malta’s Luqa airport.
There are question marks over the provenance of documentary evidence provided by Frankfurt Airport (the transit point from Luqa to Heathrow).
Along with other alleged inducements, the Crown’s star witness, Mr Tony Gauci (the proprietor of a Maltese clothes outlet) and his brother, Paul, are accused of having been in receipt of payments of $2,000.000 and $1,000,000 respectively under an American rewards for justice scheme for their testimony (a practice understandably alien to Scots Law, and presumably sufficient to dismiss both Tony and Paul Gauci as witnesses. The US authorities have yet to deny this deal). Tony Gauci’s testimony falls considerably short of being conclusive in terms of his eye witness account, which attempts to match up the identity of the purchaser of clothes from his shop, on account of key discrepancies with regard to the date of the purchase and the height, weight, age and build of the purchaser. Even though he had been prompted by numerous photo spreads containing pictures of Mr al-Megrahi and privy to media photographs of the accused prior to the trial, Mr Gauci could do little better than say that the man in the dock “resembled” the purchaser of the clothes. (...)
The above simply serve to illustrate some of the more prominent worries over the safety of the conviction. To compound this, the judges chose to believe a tale of how a bombing was carried out that defies what any normal person could accept as credible, namely: that Mr al-Megrahi contrived to place an unaccompanied luggage item on to flight KM180 from Malta which was then subsequently transferred at Frankfurt to a feeder flight to Heathrow, again unaccompanied, where it was finally loaded on to Pan Am 103, unaccompanied. Thus defying three security regimes in three separate countries, and the bomb still managed to blow up its target and not either one of the first two flights despite the inevitability of delays etc which would have been par for the course around Christmas time. It is truly hard to believe that 15 lay Scottish jurors could reach anything other than a not guilty verdict in such circumstances. Although impeccably qualified as judges, their Lordships, MacLean, Sutherland and Coulsfield, in arriving at their guilty verdict, displayed an absence of experience when it comes to the role of being a juror. Indeed, to give credence at all to the story of the Luqa-Frankfurt-Heathrow connection, especially as it was presented at Zeist, demonstrates a complete inability to imagine how paramilitaries operate. (...)
Mr al-Megrahi’s first appeal failed, this is true. However, in their judgement, the judges were at pains to point out that they took no account of the sufficiency of evidence since the defence did not require them to do so. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) then referred the case back to the Court of Appeal on six grounds suggesting that no reasonable court would have reached a guilty verdict on the basis of the evidence laid before the Crown by the prosecution. This appeal was then, unnecessarily, dropped by Mr al-Megrahi in his attempt to gain compassionate release.
There has been much speculation regarding the possibility that he may have come under pressure to do so even though the terms of compassionate release do not require an appeal to be dropped to become a beneficiary of it.
The long and the short of it is, therefore, that this conviction has not yet been fully tested in law in the interests of justice.
The best that the Crown, in the form of the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, has been able to offer as a counter to these concerns is a mind-boggling merry-go-round of circular polemic which amounts to little more than: he was convicted, therefore, he did it. So parlous are the arguments offered up by the Crown that one almost feels bound to ask what qualifications are required for the job of Lord Advocate. To reassure us all that the Crown and the police are still taking the Lockerbie/Zeist affair seriously though, even at a point ten years after the conviction, Angiolini also claims that the Dumfries and Galloway police are conducting an on-going review of the investigation. It, in fact, transpires that this is being carried out by one sole officer. In the words of Christine Grahame MSP, this constitutes little better than “file management.” (...)
It is hard to see Gaddafi going anywhere now except to follow Saddam to the gallows. The West will do what it knows best and install someone who is suitably on message until the oil runs out. Who knows what may become of Mr al-Megrahi? A one way ticket to the US’s Guantánamo rest home perhaps?
Whatever transpires, it will make no difference to the case being put before the Scottish parliament by justice campaigners. No amount of dissembling mendacity claimed by politicians and others can ever change the documented historical fact of what took place at Zeist. This conviction simply does not stack up, no matter how good your gas mask.