Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Lockerbie petition goes before MSPs

[This is the headline over a report published today by the The Press Association news agency.  It reads in part:]

A petition calling for an inquiry into the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber is to be looked at by Holyrood's Justice Committee.

The petition, brought forward by the pressure group Justice For Megrahi (JFM), has been passed on to the committee after being kept open by MSPs on the Petitions Committee earlier this year.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was controversially freed from prison on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and had been staging a second appeal against his conviction.

But he dropped it in the run-up to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release him in August 2009.

About 1,500 people signed the JFM petition before it was lodged at the Scottish Parliament.

The pressure group, which includes Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the tragedy, and Professor Robert Black QC has also sent a written submission to the Justice Committee.

It said: "It is time for the government of Scotland to show real independence by standing up to the UK and US governments and other vested interests and instituting an open and accountable judicial inquiry that would at last free the people of Scotland and the relatives of those lost in that terrible tragedy 22 years ago."

[An item in the Diary column of today's edition of The Independent reads as follows:]

Somewhere in Libya there is a man who should have died two years ago, according to the prognosis of his Scottish doctors. Today, the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament will take formal note of a petition signed by more than 1,600 people who believe the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was framed.

The suspicion, which is not as crazy as the conspiracy theories that swirled out of the al-Qa'ida atrocities on 9/11, is that Iran ordered the destruction of Pan Am flight 103, which crashed into the village of Lockerbie, in South-west Scotland, on 21 December 1988, but that it was diplomatically convenient to blame Libya, and it later suited Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to accept the blame to end his country's isolation. Whether this is true or false may be verifiable if Libya opens up its archives.

Meanwhile, there has been speculation about how ill Megrahi really is, in the light of his failure to die on schedule. The US State Department is making noises about having him extradited, to which the Libyan National Transitional Council's reaction has been along the lines that the Americans are welcome to him.

Lord Laird, an Ulster peer, suggested last week that the matter of Megrahi's health could be cleared up if someone from the British embassy in Tripoli popped round to see him, but the Foreign Office said no. This is a devolved matter. Megrahi is in the same position as anyone convicted of a crime in that part of rural Scotland and released under supervision. He is the responsibility of East Renfrewshire Council.

Every week, someone from council headquarters in Giffnock calls a telephone number in Libya. Calls cost 15p a minute, and last four to five minutes, so the extra cost borne by the council is about 10p a day. The council says that Megrahi is seriously ill, and complying with the terms of his supervision order, but will not give out any more detail.

The position in international law is cloudy, but it would seem that if Hillary Clinton really wants Megrahi put on trial in the US, she will have to ask the council, since Megrahi is under its supervision. East Renfrewshire has a population of 86,500.


  1. "The position in international law is cloudy."

    Eh? This is in the Independent? Good heavens. There isn't a cloud in the sky when it comes to international law over this matter. The man has been tried already, with the formal approval of the US, by Scotland. He is free on licence and remains Scotland's responsibility, legally.

    Why is Salmond remaining silent amidst all this nonsense? Why is MacAskill when they had so much to say last year when the US attempted to summon both to answer questions from insignificant senators? Salmond didn't hold back then, nor did MacAskill yet over the speculation about the US threatening to abduct Megrahi illegally we haven't heard a peep. Shocking.

  2. James Kelly's desperation to bury this petition was evident but the case he put was, frankly, absurd. The courts were the right route. I could not agree more however he surely cannot be ignorant of the conduct of Scottish Courts in the matter of Megrahi? The Courts ignored their own independent overseer in the matter of his conviction and deliberately delayed the second appeal. They indulged in conduct which, according to Hans Koechler, was tantamount to the obstruction of justice.

    Christine Grahame played a blinder in defeating Kelly's attempts to get the petition and the calls for an Inquiry buried. She also highlighted the pitfalls of that "emergency" legislation rushed through by MacAskill which removed vital powers from the SCCRC.