Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lockerbie bomber’s cancer ‘a gift from God’ for Scottish government

[This is the headline over a long report on the Megrahi keynote session at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in today’s edition of The Malta Independent on Sunday. It reads in part:]

The cancer that killed Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, was a “gift from God” to establishments with something to hide, according to the Libyan’s biographer.

John Ashton made the claim last Saturday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which also featured other high-profile critics of the controversial case.

Megrahi died from prostate cancer in May in Libya after being released from prison in Scotland in 2009 on compassionate grounds.

Ashton said this week: “Megrahi’s cancer was a gift from God for everybody involved that had something to hide. It allowed his release, it allowed the final stages of the rapprochement between the UK and Libya, and it allowed the Scottish government to allow him out of prison on a legal basis that wasn’t one laid down by the hated government in Westminster.”

The course of events was a “political fix”, he told the audience at the venue in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

“It was a tragedy for Megrahi but I think everybody else was punching the air.”

He added: “The judges got it wrong, for whatever reason, and the Crown Office withheld evidence.

“I’m sure they did so in good faith but their behaviour was utterly incompetent and shameful.”

Hans Köchler, the UN observer at the trial in the Netherlands, told the audience he could not understand why Megrahi was found guilty but his alleged co-conspirator was not.

Claiming that the trial was politically motivated, Köchler said: “Eight senior Scottish judges got it wrong, but the question is why? It is not because of a lack of intellectual skills.”

The cover of the biography, Megrahi: You are my Jury, carries a quote from Megrahi saying: “I know that I’m innocent. Here, for the first time, is my true story: how I came to be blamed for Britain’s worst mass murder, my nightmare decade in prison and the truth about my controversial release. Please read it and decide for yourself. You are now my jury.”

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, was also present at the event. Swire demonstrated his anger and frustration surrounding the case, speaking of his meeting earlier this year with the Lord Advocate who claimed did not know why evidence was withheld by the Crown Office in the original trial, specifically the evidence surrounding a break-in at Heathrow airport around the time Pan Am Flight 103 took off from London.

Swire believes that a bomb was taken on board in London.

“During the whole trial we did not know that Heathrow airport had been broken into 16 hours before Lockerbie happened, it seemed to me very likely that was the technology that had been used,” he said. “The whole concept that the thing came from Malta via Megrahi’s luggage or anyone else’s seemed, to me, far-fetched.” (...)

“What I say is, first and foremost, that the judges got it wrong, for whatever reason, and the Crown Office withheld evidence,” Ashton went on to say.

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