Monday, 20 June 2011

As Megrahi passes 600-day landmark, was he guilty?

[This is the headline over an article published today on The First Post website. It reads in part:]

The only man ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, passes an extraordinary landmark today: assuming he has not been killed by a Nato missile, then he has now survived 600 days beyond the time limit he was given by medical experts in 2009.

A team of doctors who visited him in Greenock prison on July 28, 2009 gave him three months to live because of his worsening prostate cancer. Based on that prognosis, the Scottish government agreed to free him on compassionate grounds and sent him home to Tripoli so that he might die in the bosom of his family. (...)

Families on both sides of the Atlantic who lost loved ones when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in December 1988 were furious that a man found guilty of such a monumental crime should be set free, however ill he might have been. [RB: I saw no sign of such fury from UK relatives of Pan Am 103 victims.]

The fact that he has conspicuously not died from his cancer - and that he was apparently not as ill as the medics believed - has only compounded their fury.

It was hardly surprising that in March this year President Obama announced that if Gaddafi is ousted from power, it will be a condition of the United States working with the Benghazi-based rebels that they find and hand over Megrahi.

Intriguingly, Obama did not say the White House wanted to throw Megrahi back into a prison cell based on his conviction at the 2000-01 trial in the Netherlands. Instead, Obama wants a re-trial under American law. And such a re-trial could exonerate Megrahi.

There is little doubt as the 600 days landmark is reached - and there'll be another 'anniversary' in a few weeks' time when it will be two years since Megrahi was flown home - that the long-rumbling argument that Megrahi was never guilty of the Lockerbie bombing is gaining ground. (...)

Those seeking the truth are now hoping for a legal breakthrough as a result of Scotland scrapping the double jeopardy law which for 800 years prevented a person standing trial twice for the same crime.

Scotland's recently appointed chief prosecutor, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, has set up a double-jeopardy unit to look at recent failed prosecutions. And according to a report last week by the Scotsman, top of his list of potential re-trials is that of Lamin Khalifa Fhimah.

Fhimah, a former station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines, was Megrahi's co-defendant in the 2000-2001 trial, held under Scots law at Camp Zeist, a disused US airbase in the Netherlands. While Megrahi was convicted of murder, Fhimah was acquitted. Gaddafi duly greeted Fhimah on his return to Tripoli in 2001, just as he would welcome Megrahi home eight years later.

According to The Scotsman, Frank Mulholland is examining new evidence against Fhimah. He has also said he would be willing to launch a prosecution against Gaddafi should he be captured alive. And he is eager to speak to Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the former Libyan justice minister who claimed in February to have proof linking Gaddafi to Lockerbie.

Although some victims' families are not sure whether Fhimah was any more guilty than Megrahi, they welcome the chance to throw new light on what they see as an unsatisfactory outcome of the Camp Zeist trial.

Jean Berkley, co-ordinator of the UK Families Flight 103 group, who lost her son in the Lockerbie bombing, told the Scotsman: "We've always been told the investigation remains open, but it never occurred to us they would be coming back for Fhimah.

"Anything that sheds any light we would be interested in. Our concern has been that we were unconvinced by the trial or that the evidence was sufficient to find Megrahi guilty."

A Cumbrian priest, the Rev John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter at Lockerbie, said: "Having sat through the trial, the first appeal and the second appeal - until it was aborted - I am 95 per cent certain that Megrahi was innocent. There was even less evidence against Fhimah.

"However, the more they look at it, the more possibility they will see that there's something very, very wrong here." [RB: John Mosey, a Protestant pastor, will, I think, be greatly amused to be described as a "priest".]


  1. Would it be beyond the pale to suggest that the three months' life-expectancy was more for Megrahi's 'benefit' than anyone else's? If he himself believed that he had only three months to live, would he not grab the chance to drop his appeal and accept release on compassionate grounds when it was offered?
    For that is what happened.

  2. The suspicion is there, certainly. Megrahi was clearly pushing for compassionate release almost as soon as he got the diagnosis. His first application, in late 2008, was knocked back because he wasn't sick enough at that time. He was pretty pissed-off about that by all accounts. It was almost as if he wanted to be within a few months of the end of his life, as long as that would allow him to get back home.

    So then it got a bit more plausible, and with Megrahi clearly in a fatalistic sort of mood, the opportunity arose to get him on a plane home after having persuaded him that dropping the appeal would be a good tactical move.

    One does have to wonder if the doctors were given the nod that an "appropriate" prognosis would be acceptable to all parties. Just assume he wouldn't get chemotherapy, and had to stay in jail, what would happen. Well, he'd die of course. But giving patients chemo while they're incarcerated is never an easy option. And again, as sick as that and banged up, he'd probably die. So OK, let's go with the three-month estimate.

    By the way, if you look at the photos of Megrahi on his release in 2009, compared to the ones of him in Greenock in (I think) 2007 before the cancer, it's absolutely obvious he was on quite a hefty dose of steroids when he was released.