Monday, 4 June 2012

I am not guilty: Megrahi's dying words to his family

[This is the headline over a report by Lucy Adams in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads in part:]

The son of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has said his family will back a posthumous appeal after revealing his father's dying words were to protest his innocence.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi died on May 20 – almost three years after he was released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds.
In August 2009, days before his release, Megrahi dropped his second appeal against his conviction at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.
Partly because Megrahi has died, his family could now send a new submission to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to ask them to refer the case back for a fresh appeal.
In an interview with The Herald after his release, Megrahi said he had come under no pressure to drop his appeal but simply wanted to improve his chances of returning to Libya to see his family.
However, since then, he claimed in his official biography that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had – through a Libyan diplomat – encouraged him to drop the appeal. Mr MacAskill has strongly denied that allegation.
Khaled al Megrahi, 27, told The Herald: "I am a believer that my father was not guilty and very soon new evidence will come out. Me and my brothers will not be silent.
"Before he died, my father's last words were he is not guilty.
"I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us. We know one day the truth will come out."
Scottish ministers have said publicly they would be comfortable with a new appeal being launched by Megrahi's family.
Campaigners and relatives of victims have also called for a full public inquiry. The UK Government and Alex Salmond have so far rejected such calls. In a statement last month, a Scottish Government spokesman said: "It remains open for relatives of Mr Megrahi or the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie atrocity to ask the SCCRC to refer the case to the Appeal Court again on a posthumous basis, which ministers would be entirely comfortable with." (…)
After protracted international pressure, Megrahi was put on trial under Scots law at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.
He was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars.
Despite claims he could not have worked alone, and the lingering suspicion by many that he was innocent, Megrahi was the only man ever convicted over the terrorist attack.
He was freed from prison after serving nearly eight years of his sentence after he dropped his appeal.
When interviewed at their former home in Newton Mearns by The Herald in December 2008, Khaled said that, as eldest son, he had to bear the burden of paternal responsibility.
"I was in primary school when my father had to leave," he said. "It was the first time I had seen my father cry. My brothers were too young to really understand what was going on.
"My mother became father and mother and she asked me to help to advise my brothers. I became like the man of the house.
"My dad always supports me. He says I have to be the good example for my other brothers.
"I don't feel angry about what has happened, just sad. I only have one wish and that is that he comes home.
"We forget how it was when he lived with us."  

[If an application were made by (or with the support of) Megrahi's family, I'm pretty confident that the SCCRC would refer the case back to the Appeal Court, both on the original six grounds and on grounds that have emerged since (eg the metallurgical evidence that destroys the link between the timer fragment and the MEBO timers supplied to Libya). But I'm not at all confident that, under its new powers, the Appeal Court would accept the reference. However, what would the Scottish Government's response then be to continued pressure for an independent inquiry? At present they stonewall by saying that a further SCCRC application and appeal is the way to go. If that route is blocked (by section 7 of their very own Cadder emergency legislation) what will their next excuse for inaction be?]


  1. Hmmm. The family will "back" a posthumous appeal. However, will they actually initiate it? It's likely to be an expensive undertaking, and they're not as well off as they were under the Gaddafi regime.

    Someone has to step up to the plate and actually make the application.

  2. Rolfe wrote:
    "The family will "back" a posthumous appeal. However, will they actually initiate it?
    It's likely to be an expensive undertaking..."

    Right, and all in all, the motivation is likely to be vastly insufficient.

    They already live in a country where Megrahi was received as a hero.

    Trying to move matters in far-away countries (with proven corrupt legal systems) is likely to be a complete waste.

    In addition, most people are just not fighters, and just want to get on with their life (makes sense, actually), even if they are the very victims.

    Finally, the political implications and media attention would scare most people.

    "Someone has to step up to the plate and actually make the application."

    So, unless this "somebody" also carries a substantial bag of resources (some combi of dedication/time/money/legal powers) it will simply not happen.

    Damn. Isn't it the last chance of pushing matters anywhere legally?

    If money would make any difference, maybe JFM should start a collection.
    I have the feeling, that we are quite a few who would contribute.

    Anyway, I can't imagine anything else than that JFM already have been through all this.

  3. SM, I keep thinking of Dr Swire when it comes to a new appeal.

    I realise that the newly altered remit of the SCCRC means it no longer has the power to pass a case straight back to the high court but the involvement of Dr Swire personally would mean the application would be viewed by the public with a great deal more respect than if the Megrahis brought the appeal. I am sad to say that Mr Megrahi's family would be treated in the same manner the deceased was by many. Dr Swire on the other hand is respected and held in high regard. People know who Dr Swire is.

    I think despite the new tricks pulled by the Scottish Justice Secretary to fix it so that a judge can now kick out a new appeal might just fail under the weight of public opinion over this shocking case. And there is even more evidence now than there was when the SCCRC first announced its findings. (The Heathrow break-in wasn't one of the six grounds raised then.)

    I hope that's the route this case goes. We simply cannot let this matter drop. Every government since Lockerbie happened is tarnished with this and every Scottish Executive/Government too. ALL of them are guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and worse and the Scottish Judiciary has allowed Scots Law to be manipulated and controlled for the sake of politics in the worst way imaginable. We simply have to keep going with this.

  4. I agree with Jo that it would now be very difficult for a judge to refuse an SCCRC-backed application for a new appeal.

    Whether or not the recent change in legislation was deliberately geared to stymie a new Lockerbie appeal, I don't think that's the agenda now. Nicola Sturgeon's recent pronouncements have all indicated that the Scottish government would support the mounting of a new appeal. I think that's code for "we won't push for a new application to be rejected under the Cadder legislation." It would be hard for a judge to turn it down in the face of that rhetoric.

    The obstacle is whether or not an eligible "interested party" can be found who is both willing and able to sponsor such an appeal. It could be a very expensive undertaking, though I don't know exactly how expensive.

  5. Our friend Rolfe wrote:
    "The obstacle is whether or not an eligible 'interested party' can be found who is both willing and able to sponsor such an appeal. "

    I am more than a bit confused here. There would be numerous 'interested parties'. The whole JFM, myself and at least some hundreds of others. (Don't know what it takes to be 'eligible').

    With the work otherwise done by JFM & Co over time, there can be no shortage of interest or dedication.

    Money, yes, as suggested: start a collection. An estimate of how much would be needed, if at all possible, would of course be great. It is easier to collect if contributors know how much is needed. Some would even contribute twice or more.

    Should not enough be collected in the first place, and the case given up, donate the money to a relevant pre-defined purpose. How about a visible ad in New York times:

    Lockerbie trial prosecution witness was bribed with 2 Million US$.
    Scottish Criminal Case Revision finds Megrahi's conviction unsafe.
    followed an enumeration of the other known evidence killing the case, and some links.

    (They should have had all that by themselves, but since they missed out [like must of the rest of the world], let's help them to inform a little)

    I assume that the reasons we do not hear about JFM's plans regarding an appeal is one of these:
    - it really can't be done.
    - it would be of disadvantage to reveal details at the current stage.

  6. The provisions in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, section 303A, relating to the transfer of the rights of appeal of a deceased person, read as follows:

    '(1) Where a person convicted of an offence has died, any person may, subject to the provisions of this section, apply to the High Court for an order authorising him to institute or continue any appeal which could have been or has been instituted by the deceased.

    '(2) An application for an order under this section may be lodged with the Clerk of Justiciary within three months of the deceased’s death or at such later time as the Court may, on cause shown, allow. (...)

    '(4) Where an application is made for an order under this section and the applicant—

    (a) is an executor of the deceased; or

    (b) otherwise appears to the Court to have a legitimate interest,

    the Court shall make an order authorising the applicant to institute or continue any appeal which could have been instituted or continued by the deceased; and, subject to the provisions of this section, any such order may include such ancillary or supplementary provision as the Court thinks fit.

    '(5) The person in whose favour an order under this section is made shall from the date of the order be afforded the same rights to carry on the appeal as the deceased enjoyed at the time of his death and, in particular, where any time limit had begun to run against the deceased the person in whose favour an order has been made shall have the benefit of only that portion of the time limit which remained unexpired at the time of the death.'

    The problem is whether anyone, other than Megrahi's executor or a member of his immediate family, would be recognised by the court as having a legitimate interest. Certainly, I am absolutely sure that a pressure group such as JFM would not be recognised.

  7. Thank you very much, Robert, for the clarification.

    Of course it makes sense that an appeal can only be instigated by people directly affected by the verdict.

    I suppose this 'executor'-thing is more likely to be accepted by the court, if the matter involves money/debt/heritage, to which the verdict would have had impact.

    So we would need a direct action from Megrahi's family. As earlier written it would be understandable if this would not happen. Nobody could ever blame them for wanting to close the case as-is. They have suffered enough.

    It is not their job helping to clean up other countries' rotten legal systems, especially when the majority of the country's own population does not seem to care.