[This is the heading over a letter from Iain A D Mann in today's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]
I am pleased that the Libyan foreign minister and defector Moussa Koussa is to be questioned about Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s alleged responsibility for the destruction of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988 and the deaths of 270 innocent people.
As Colonel Gaddafi’s right-hand man at the time and until recently, Koussa must know more than anyone about Libya’s alleged involvement in the atrocity. But I’m not sure that the Scottish Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary are the right bodies to interview him.
It was that police force whose investigation led to Megrahi’s arrest and trial, and it was the Crown Office that prosecuted him at Camp Zeist. The Crown Office is also preventing the release into the public domain of the report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which identified six possible reasons why the conviction may have been unsafe and a miscarriage of justice.
There is also some suspicion over how Megrahi was persuaded to withdraw his second appeal, when he had no need to do so as he had already been promised release on compassionate grounds. [RB: My understanding is that there was no such promise. Kenny MacAskill announced that he would deal with both applications -- prisoner transfer and compassionate release -- together. Megrahi had no way of knowing which one -- if either -- MacAskill would go for and abandoned his appeal so that both options could remain open.] If he had not done so the SCCRC concerns would have been aired and tested publicly in court.
It is likely these two public bodies would not be best pleased to be told by Koussa that Libya had nothing to do with the terrorist attack, as Gaddafi himself claimed at the outset. It is quite possible that Gaddafi’s subsequent acceptance of guilt and payment of £2.4 billion in compensation to the bereaved families may simply have been a diplomatic device to get Libya accepted back into the international fold, so that it could again buy arms from Britain and the United States, and more importantly start to benefit from its vast undeveloped oil reserves.
What if the police and Crown Office representatives refuse to reveal details of their discussions with Koussa, and simply report that he was not able to shed any new light on the matter? I would much prefer Koussa’s interrogation to be undertaken by an independent group of respected lawyers and other experts.
Names that come to mind are Sir Menzies Campbell and Dame Helena Kennedy QC. Dr Jim Swire should be involved since he knows more about the tragic event than almost anyone else, and perhaps also Dr Hans Kochler, the UN special observer at the trial who has already commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence.
This may be the last chance to find out the truth about Lockerbie, and it would be a tragedy if that chance were missed because of vested interests within the Scottish legal establishment.
[A letter in response from Brian Fitzpatrick appears in The Herald for Friday, 8 April. It reads as follows:]
IaIn AD Mann’s worries about the sensitivities of Scotland’s “legal establishment” (Letters, April 7) are misplaced.
Few, save perhaps the taxpayer, will baulk at a further public inquiry into the circumstances of the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over our skies. Any further evidence emerging from Libya’s freedom struggle as to the guilty parties involved should be welcomed.
An inquiry might also allow scope for laying to rest some of the more egregious claims of the tribe of Lockerbie conspiracy theorists – those who have made a life’s work of the now unravelling assertion that somehow Libya and its senior operatives, including Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, were not to blame.
Many Scots will recall where they were when they heard the news of President John F Kennedy’s assassination, the ripping down of the Berlin Wall and the felling of the Twin Towers. Lockerbie was one of those epoch-defining events. It is a grotesque tragedy for our country that memories of our engagement will not be centred on our fellow citizens who were murdered on our soil by the agents of a foreign power, but focused on the incompetence of our Justice Minister backed to the hilt by our First Minister.
That tragedy is widened when one reflects on the sustained campaign of vilification of those many Scots who laboured to try to ensure that, at least, some measure of justice was done for the victims of that mass murder. Far from a cover-up of the sort much loved by those who would rather secure a headline than undertake any study of the evidence, we should be proud of those women and men across our police and prosecution services who worked hard on the Lockerbie investigation.
I knew many of my fellow advocates who gave of their time and lives to serve the Camp Zeist tribunal – men and women who left families behind to work long hours in uncomfortable circumstances. They will have a better notion of the contribution of the men and women whose work and efforts underlaid their own tasks. I think of the contribution made by the late Lord Macfadyen as one of the five Scottish appeal judges who presided at Camp Zeist – not a conspirator in any establishment plot but a kind, courteous and thoughtful man with an unfailing independence of spirit and loyalty to his judicial oath matched only by his formidable legal prowess.
Our country has been diminished by those who have weaved a tale of deceit and intrigue – and while doing so, blackened the names of better men.
[In yesterday's edition of The Herald UK political editor Michael Settle reported that the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court wishes to question Koussa about possible involvement in crimes against humanity.
In today's edition of The Guardian there appears an article headlined Libya rebels 'pressured into Lockerbie apology'. It reads in part:]
Libya's rebel administration has said that it signed an apology for the Gaddafi regime's role in IRA attacks and the Lockerbie bombing under pressure from the British government, and that the document is the result of "misunderstanding".
After initially denying that the document existed, the revolutionaries' governing council acknowledged that its chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, had indeed signed an apology on behalf of the Libyan people for Gaddafi's provision of semtex used in IRA bombings and for the blowing up of the Pan Am flight in 1988. It also promised compensation.
Amid division and confusion over the declaration, which some blamed on a translation mix-up, council officials said that the issue of the Libyan government's responsibility for attacks in the UK came up only because it was pressed on the revolutionary administration by the British.
Officials in the rebel government say the Lockerbie and IRA issues are not a priority for them given that they are fighting a military campaign to overthrow Gaddafi while trying to administer the rebel-held areas. They say that there are few Libyans who believe they are responsible for Gaddafi's acts or that they should apologise for him.
Council officials privately said that the Foreign Office pressed Jalil to invite a British lawyer, Jason McCue, head of the Libya Victims Initiative, to Benghazi. McCue arrived saying that he was seeking an "unequivocal apology" in the name of the Libyan people and $10m compensation for each death in IRA attacks. All of his demands were met by Jalil.
Council officials said that they regarded McCue as working with a team of British diplomats in Benghazi, led by the UK's ambassador to Rome, Christopher Prentice. Prentice has declined to talk to the press. A council spokesman, Essam Gheriani, said that Jalil had had little choice but to sign as part of the rebel administration's attempts to win diplomatic recognition and gain access to desperately needed funds frozen overseas.
"The whole world knows the Libyan people are not responsible for Gaddafi's acts over 40 years. An apology is not warranted for the simple reason that the Libyan people did not participate in these acts," said Gheriani. "But there is the situation in the international arena."
Britain is holding about £100m in Libyan currency seized from a ship that could be released to the rebel administration, which is needs funds to meet next month's civil service pay roll as well as for imports of food.
Asked if Jalil was pressured by Britain, Gheriani said: "It depends on how you define pressure. I request something from you when you want something from me. It could be defined as pressure."