Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Where are our role models in Britain's 'broken society'?

[This is the headline over an article by Dan Mackay published today on the website of the John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier. It reads in part:]

Doctor Jim Swire, the father of one of the Lockerbie bombing victims, spoke of his continuing sadness when he appeared on stage with the author of a play about his quest for justice.

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business, was a one-off performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Dr Swire's daughter, Flora, was 23 years old when she became one of the 270 victims of the 1988 atrocity.

Dr Swire stood shoulder to shoulder with writer and actor David Benson and members of the Justice for Megrahi committee. Dr Swire and the convicted bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, have become firm friends after they met at Greenock Prison. Dr Swire believes Megrahi is an innocent man and has been leading calls for a fresh inquiry.

He told a festival audience: "This is not my tragedy, it is not even the tragedy of other families. It is a tragedy for Scotland."

Swire insists the Megrahi conviction is one of the worst miscarriages of justice. It's an unusual position for a man who lost his daughter in the Pan Am Flight 103 attack. Remember, though, that Dr Swire is a hugely intelligent and informed man. More than practically anyone else he will know the case inside out.

Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government in August 2009 following the diagnosis of a terminal prostate cancer. He had apparently only three months to live. That was two years ago...

His release was conditional to relinquishing a legal challenge to contest the outcome of his conviction. [RB: Although dropping the appeal was not a necessary prerequisite for compassionate release, it was for prisoner transfer. And if Megrahi wished to keep both options open he had to abandon, given that Kenny MacAskill had intimated that he would deal with both applications concurrently.]

Many questions have since been raised about the underlying reason for his release and whether his conviction might have been quashed had he appealed it. Megrahi appeared, controversially, at a recent pro-Gadaffi rally in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

As Dr Swire told his audience at the end of the play, the Lockerbie story is "unfinished business": it is Scotland's tragedy.

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