Monday, 28 November 2011

Law change may reopen Lockerbie bomb inquiry

[This is the headline over a report (not featured on the newspaper's website) in today's Scottish print edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Legislation that permits the retrial of suspects comes into force today and could trigger fresh developments in the Lockerbie case.

Under the reform the principle of double jeopardy, which prevents a person being tried twice for the same crime, will be enshrined in law but will permit exemptions.

Crown Office sources have confirmed that they are ready to examine the case of Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who in 2001 was found not guilty of blowing up Pan Am flight 103.

Mr Fhimah's defence argued successfully that the case against him amounted to "inference upon inference".

Over the summer Scottish prosecutors interviewed the Libyan defector Moussa Koussa, Colonel Gaddafi's former foreign minister. It is understood that he was asked a series of questions about Mr Fhimah.

The key changes in the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act were backed unanimously by MSPs in March.

A second trial will be permitted in very serious cases where, after an acquittal, "compelling new evidence" emerges to "substantially strengthen" the case against the suspect. The measures will also allow a suspect to face retrial on a more serious charge if the victim has died since the original trial.

The principle of double jeopardy dates back more than 800 years. "the law needed to be modernised to ensure that it is fit for the 21st century and I am delighted this day has come," said Kenny MacAskill, Scotland's Justice Secretary.

Robert Black, a professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University said that he would be "astounded" if prosecutors sought to re-indict Mr Fhimah.

"The Crown Office is just as aware as the rest of us are that the astonishing thing about the Zeist trial was not the acquittal of Fhimah but the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi," he wrote in his blog

"Any new evidence that has emerged since 2001 points clearly towards the innocence of the accused Libyans rather than their guilt, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission amongst others has pointed out." 

[This story now features in a news item in the Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm headlined Professor challenges Crown Office spin over Pan Am 103 double jeopardy retrial.]


  1. Well done, Professor Black.

    You know as well as I do that Mr Fhimah had nothing to do with Lockerbie.

    No plausible connection can be made with him and the crime. He was not at Luqa Airport on 12 December 1988.

    If he was not there, how did he breach security?

  2. I am baffled as to what the "compelling new evidence" could be.