Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A letter from Dr Jim Swire to PM David Cameron

[This is the headline over a letter from Jim Swire to the Prime Minister published this afternoon on the Newsnet Scotland website.  It reads as follows:]

Dear Prime Minister,

While in Edinburgh on Monday 27 February, I heard that prior to the book Megrahi: You are my Jury being launched, you had publicly claimed that it was an insult to the families of those who died at Lockerbie.

I just want you to be aware that far from being an insult, this book appears to raise issues which cast yet further doubt upon the verdict reached at Zeist against Mr Megrahi.

We all know that times are hard, but in light of the doubts that exist about this conviction it would be hugely appreciated if some effort could be diverted by Whitehall to objective examination of the fall-out from this terrible case.

Comments from Lady Thatcher's time onwards about the tragedy surely now need review. She wrote in The Downing Street Years that following the bombing by the USAF of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986.

'The much vaunted Libyan counter attack did not and could not take place. Gaddafi had not been destroyed but he had been humbled. There was a marked decline in Libyan sponsored terrorism in succeeding years.'

Yet the UK Government was telling us that Lockerbie was a Libyan atrocity from start to finish.

The paradox between those who actually try to comprehend all the available facts for and against the verdict over Megrahi and those with blind faith in the verdict is not resolving.

To comment in the way that you are reported to have done on Monday morning may be to support the wishes of the American Government and many American relatives, but what we search for is the truth, and that search is not likely to be well supported by such comments about a book which you could not possibly have read beforehand.

May I humbly suggest that you revisit The Downing Street Years, (page 449), just to check that that is indeed what she wrote: there are over 900 pages all told. Then perhaps have an objective assessment made of the contents of the Megrahi: You are my Jury book, as I feel sure that you have not the time to read all of its almost 500 pages.

Please remember that although relatively small in number, our distress at what for some of us appears to be deliberate concealment of the truth is real, and when supported by so significant a person as yourself, deeply distressing. Bereavement is a life sentence as you know only too well.

That said I would welcome the opportunity to come and discuss the situation with yourself, or members of your cabinet.

In view of all this I have made the contents of this letter publicly available (without the need for any hacking!).

Any reply, from yourself, as courtesy demands, will receive appropriate confidentiality, unless cleared by you for similar treatment.

With best wishes to you and your family,

Dr Jim Swire           
Father of Flora murdered, age 23, at Lockerbie 21/12/88.


  1. If Kenny MacAskill was lying to parliament, that is the most convincingly virtuoso performance I have ever seen. It does raise the question, is it possible he said nothing, and the whole thing was a ploy by al-Obeidi to secure the dropping of the appeal despite compassionate release being the obvious way MacAskill was going to jump?

    And if so, why?

  2. I don't think Obeidi (whom I've met dozens of times) would have lied to Megrahi. But he could have misconstrued something that MacAskill said. Here's something I wrote here on 28 Feb:

    Of all the Libyan officials with whom I had dealings over the years, Obeidi was the most trustworthy and transparent. However, he was very keen indeed to secure the repatriation of Megrahi in time for the fortieth anniversary of the Gaddafi revolution. My suspicion (for which I have no evidence whatsoever) is that Obeidi may have misunderstood something that MacAskill said to him or have interpreted something neutral through the prism of his desire to achieve Megrahi's return to Libya. I also know that Obeidi still had a lingering feeling that repatriation would ultimately be achieved through prisoner transfer, which he was under the impression (not unjustifiably) had been agreed to by Tony Blair in the "deal in the desert". For prisoner transfer, of course, abandonment of the appeal was essential. I had on several occasions informed Obeidi that Tony Blair was not in a position to secure transfer of a prisoner in a Scottish prison; but I was never wholly confident that he actually got the message. "But Tony told us!" was a frequent refrain.

    I expanded on this in a comment:
    I'm reluctant to rush to judgment over Kenny MacAskill. I can picture the Scottish and Libyan teams leaving the room at the end of one of their meetings, with Kenny walking beside Abdel Ati. I don't find it difficult to envisage Kenny saying something which Abdel Ati misconstrued, or interpreted in the way most favourable to the goal he was aiming for (Megrahi's repatriation). Abdel Ati's English, though good, is far from perfect. However, this is all just speculation on my part.