Thursday, 28 July 2011

No justice until we find the truth surrounding Lockerbie

[This is the heading over a letter from Ruth Marr in today's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]

Many years ago, doctors told a family friend that his heart and lungs were in a very bad way, and he had around six months to live; he lived for another 20 years.

Probably most people could recite similar situations, and Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi would also appear to be in that category, still alive almost two years after doctors pronounced that he had approximately three months to live (“Megrahi attends pro-Gaddafi rally”, The Herald, July 27).

It is totally understandable that those who believe Megrahi to be guilty of the Lockerbie bombing atrocity should feel anger and bitterness, but many worrying questions which demand answers hang over the Lockerbie case, and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has identified six areas which suggests the possiblity that Mr Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

The Justice for Megrahi Group has campaigned tirelessly for a public inquiry into all the facts surrounding Lockerbie, and the Public Petition which it raised with the Scottish Parliament, calling for an inquiry, and which garnered huge support from the public, is to be considered by the Parliament’s Justice Committee.

Until we get at the truth surrounding the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, and the conviction of Mr Megrahi for that heinous crime, we cannot get justice – not only for Megrahi, but for the victims who perished, the grieving families left behind, and everyone connected with the Lockerbie case, who more than 20 years later, still carry the scars of that terrible tragedy.

[In stark contrast is the article by Iain Macwhirter (with whose views I normally, unlike today, find myself in agreement) in the same newspaper. It reads in relevant part:]

Sometimes in life, you just have to admit you got it wrong.

With hindsight it was a mistake to release Adelbasset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, on compassionate grounds in 2009.

The Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, did the right thing by the tenets of Scots law.

He thought long and hard and, on the basis of medical advice that Megrahi had three months to live, he made the wrong call. So did I, by the way, so I’m not exercising 20/20 hindsight here.

Why was it wrong? First of all, because of the impact on the Lockerbie victims’ families, who have had to endure two years of seeing Megrahi celebrated as a national hero by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous regime in Tripoli.

He has become a potent symbol of defiance by the regime against Western “imperialism”. He was paraded again this week in the latest show of strength by the Libyan dictator.

Of course, we didn’t know in 2009 that we would be at war, effectively, with Gaddafi but Megrahi has now turned into a major propaganda asset for the enemy.

Damage has also been caused to Scotland’s image in America and the rest of the world and it has made our justice system look absurd. Kenny MacAskill took guidance on Scots law on compassionate release, but he was not bound to follow it.

In retrospect he should have said that this involved such an exceptional crime, under such extraordinary circumstances, that it would be morally deficient, if legally correct, to release him from jail. Megrahi could have been allowed compassionate time with his family in Scotland, while still a prisoner.

And yes, I realise there were serious doubts about Megrahi’s guilt. The key prosecution witness, Tony Gauci, was allegedly paid $2 million by the US authorities.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board appeared minded to give him another appeal. But the fact remains that he was convicted by the judges in Camp Zeist in a fair trial; found guilty of the worst terrorist single atrocity in British history. That stands.

Megrahi’s release also fuelled the conspiracy stories that, for some reason, Alex Salmond had become Tony Blair’s best friend and had agreed to spring the Lockerbie bomber so that BP could get its hands on Libyan oil.

The infamous “deal in the desert” did involve a prisoner transfer agreement , though the Scottish Government had no involvement in that, and did not repatriate him under any kind of guidance from London.

It was, as Salmond said, a Scottish decision taken in Scotland. The wrong one – albeit for the right reasons.

[Related news reports in The Herald can be read here and in The Scotsman here. An editorial in The Scotsman can be read here.]


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011: Offensive Blocking, (google translation german/english):

    It would be for the Scottish Justice and reputation for 'Great Britain' more successful when Foreign Secretary William Hague would work to ensure that, finally, the "Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission" (SCCRC) - Files are published, in which six points one miscarriage of justice predict !
    Mr. Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and Libya have proven nothing to do with the PanAm 103 bombing over Lockerbie. It shows once again that the opening of the "SCCRC-Files" for the UK is "highly explosive" and would held a rethink over Libya...

    Offensive Blockierung::
    Es wäre für die Scottish Justice und das Ansehen für 'Great Britain' erfolgreicher, wenn Foreign Secretary William Hague sich dafür einsetzen würde, dass endlich die "Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission" (SCCRC)-Files veröffentlicht werden, welche in 6 Punkten, ein Fehlurteil prognostizieren !
    Mr. Abdelbaset Al Megrahi und Libyen haben mit dem PanAm 103 Attentat über Lockerbie, nachweislich nichts zutun !
    Es zeigt sich erneut, dass die Öffnung der "SCCRC-Files" für UK hoch brisant ist und ein Umdenken über Libyen stattfinden würde..

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

  2. Shocked by the MacWhirter piece.

  3. What is MacWhirter saying? Basically, MacAskill did the right thing morally but freeing Megraghi made us look bad.To whom?
    Mr MacWhirter should know better than to write about Megraghi being "paraded" and lumping "victims' families" into a single group. And just how, exactly, is he "a major propaganda asset for the enemy"?
    It seems we are not really at war with Libya but only "effectively" at war with it. Perhaps a respected journalist like Mr MacWhirter should spend some time discussing how war planes that he and I pay for are killing Libyans in a war which is not a real war.
    Or perhaps he should investigate why war planes that he and I pay for are providing air support for fighters of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group as they move towards Tripoli when we were told they were only to be used to defend innocent civilians around Bengazi.

  4. Just read this from Mark McLaughlin, Press Association Scotland.

    The First Minister today reaffirmed his intention to publish a
    confidential report which raises questions over the conviction of the
    Lockerbie bomber.

    Alex Salmond said legislation will be brought forward early in the next
    Scottish Parliament to allow the Scottish Criminal Cases Review
    Commission (SCCRC) to publish its statement of reasons for referring
    Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's conviction back to senior judges at
    the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh.

    The appeal was ultimately dropped before Justice Secretary Kenny
    MacAskill's decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds almost
    two years ago because of a prognosis that he had terminal cancer and may
    have had just three months to live.

    Speaking after a summer meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Fort William
    today, Mr Salmond said: "I intend to publish in full the findings of the
    SCCRC. It hasn't been done to date because under the current law you
    have to have an agreement from all parties before you can publish the
    full statement. It hasn't been possible to secure the agreement from all
    parties and therefore the statement is in limbo.

    "However, we believe that we can change the law so that the matter can
    be published under the full discretion of the SCCRC, and that is what we
    intend to do."

    He continued: "My own feeling is that this statement, insofar as anyone
    can ever have questions answered about this, will give more important
    information to people who have got a legitimate interest in the case."

    He added: "If I paraphrase the issue, the SCCRC believe that the
    forensic evidence that Scottish investigators brought forward was sound.
    It was actually a triumph for forensic investigation. However, they
    raised question marks about the identification evidence that was brought
    forward during the trial, and they wanted this tested before a court of

    The Scottish Government came under renewed criticism for releasing
    Megrahi by Foreign Secretary William Hague when video footage of Megrahi
    attending a rally in war-torn Libya emerged this week.

    Commenting on the footage, Mr Salmond said: "Let's be clear. I don't
    think Mr Megrahi should be out running rallies but I think it's pretty
    evident from the pictures that this is somebody who's in a very severe
    medical condition.

    "Mr Megrahi is going to die of terminal cancer. Are we meant to want to
    accelerate his death? I'm not quite certain where the question goes. If
    someone has got terminal cancer, he will die of that illness."

    Mr Salmond said his recent election victory was an indication that the
    Scottish people did not view the Scottish Government's decision to
    release Megrahi unfavourably.

    He added: "Nobody has seriously suggested that we acted out of any other
    motive than the one that we stated, which is sharp contrast to
    Westminster politicians who were totally and utterly immersed in dirty
    deals for oil and trade and whole lot of other activities.

    "So I am hardly going to take lectures from Westminster politicians and
    parties when it is clear that the Scottish Government acted in good
    faith, and it's equally clear that some Westminster politicians didn't."

  5. Regarding that last post, perhaps somebody needs to point out to Alex Salmond that the forensic work of the Scottish officers contributed precisely nothing to the incrimination of Megrahi.

    Harry Bell contributed a lot to the "lean on Tony Gauci till he says what we want to hear" effort of course. And there was the bizarre assertion that Megrahi had somehow levitated an invisible suitcase on to KM180, all without actually going airside. But hey, that wasn't forensics either.

    So if that's all he's worried about, let him have it. The Scottish forensics effort was stellar. Just acknowledge the rest of the dreck that happened afterwards.

  6. Grendal

    "What is MacWhirter saying? Basically, MacAskill did the right thing morally but freeing Megraghi made us look bad.To whom?"

    It is shocking stuff from MacWhirter on this issue. I emailed him after reading it. Once upon a time he was calling, along with the likes of Ian Bell, for the truth on Lockerbie. He appears to have forgotten. I found his "He got a fair trial." comment particularly bizarre. This guy is no two-bit journalist. How can he make such claims when he has previously said the opposite? (I sent him the trial transcripts to refresh his memory about how "fair" it was.)

  7. Grendal.......the other thing is that in recent weeks the likes of MacWhirter has sneered at Murdoch and the tabloid trash. Isn't it awful that journalists like him who are with the "qualities" are now doing exactly what we'd expect from the tabloids on the subject of Megrahi? The qualities are where the real investigative journalists are meant to be. To see rubbish like this from MacWhirter is thoroughly depressing. Disappointing too. I've been a big fan of his for a very long time.