Friday, 21 October 2011

Relatives demand evidence linking despot to Lockerbie handed over

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Herald.  It reads in part:]

Libya’s new Government must hand over evidence it claims proves Gaddafi’s involvement in the Lockerbie bombing, relatives of those killed have demanded.

Many expressed regret that the brutal dictator could now never reveal what he knew of the atrocity.

But the Libyan rebels faced calls to release all information they hold about the worst terrorist attack ever committed on UK soil, including evidence that led the head of the new Government to claim he had proof of Gaddafi’s guilt.

The calls came as the National Transitional Council (NTC) claimed Gaddafi’s death had “drawn a curtain” over his crimes.

That view appeared to be at odds with that of the Coalition Government, who said contact with the Libyans over Lockerbie was “ongoing”.

There was outrage last month when the NTC claimed that the Lockerbie case was closed.

It followed a request from the Crown Office for help with its inquiries into the bombing.

Following the outcry, however, the rebels changed their mind, saying they would help Scottish prosecutors.

But Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, suggested they were being less than forthcoming.

He said the relatives of those who died had received no help from the NTC, and called on the organisation to disclose everything it knows.

Earlier this year Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the NTC and Gaddafi’s former justice minister, said he had evidence of the dictator’s involvement in the bombing.

Dr Swire said: “The leader of the NTC has claimed that he has evidence implying Gaddafi’s guilt in the Lockerbie atrocity.

“If so maybe we should see it and be able to assess it.”

An “opportunity has been lost” to find out the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 22, 1988, which claimed 270 lives, he said.

Father Patrick Keegans, the priest in Lockerbie at the time of the disaster, agreed.

“It really would have been preferable if he had been captured alive to have been able to bring some light and truth to bear on what happened with Pan Am 103,” he said. “Some governments will be relieved because they may have been implicated.”

But Professor Robert Black, QC, the architect of the Camp Zeist trial which convicted Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al Megrahi of the Lockerbie bombing, and who believes that the Libyan is the victim of a miscarriage of justice, said: “I don’t think this really makes a difference to the Lockerbie case.

“If people are expecting that lots of new information will now become available, I simply don’t think that is going to happen.

“You have got to appreciate where I am coming from on this, that Megrahi wasn’t involved [in Lockerbie] and I have seen no convincing evidence that Libya was involved.”

Speaking about Gaddafi, he said: “There is absolutely no debate that he was heavily engaged in terrorist activities and he may well have known about how Lockerbie happened through his contacts to terrorists.”

A Crown Office spokesman said they “stood ready” to investigate any new leads.

But another family member of one of the victims said that standing ready was not enough.

Pamela Dix, who lost her 35-year-old brother Peter in the Lockerbie bombing, said: “It must be a very chaotic time in Libya at the moment and of course this [the Lockerbie bombing] is not going to be a high priority for the authorities there just now.

“But when it has settled down I do not want the Scottish Government just to stand ready. I want them to be pro-active and not just wait to see what emerges.”

She added: “I think it is too soon to tell what difference this will make with the Lockerbie situation. It might be the case that Gaddafi knew a great deal about what happened. I don’t know yet if it changes anything for the families who have lost loved ones.

“However, what I would say is that if he did know something, he is unlikely to be the only one who did. “We are still advocating full disclosure of the facts.” (...)

Under the conditions of his release, Megrahi, who was released from Scotland to Libya after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, must keep regular contact with East Renfrewshire Council. In light of Gaddafi’s death, a spokeswoman for the local authority said: “Our position with regards to the monitoring of Megrahi remains the same.”

Mahmud Nacua, charge d’affaires at the Libyan embassy in London, suggested the new regime would offer full disclosure to the families.

“When we are stable all the files of the crimes that have been committed by Gaddafi will open,” he said. “Everything will be known to the world what happened in the time of Gaddafi.”

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