[1. What follows is John Ashton’s response to Magnus Linklater’s article in today’s edition of The Times:]
Magnus Linklater’s article in today’s Scottish edition of The Times, ‘Has Scotland really swallowed this crazy conspiracy?’, misrepresents my position on the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. It claims that I, and certain others who believe that Mr Megrahi was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, have alleged a grand conspiracy to frame him and Libya, in which the police, the Crown Office, witnesses, judges, senior politicians and the intelligence services were all complicit. As I pointed out to Mr Linklater at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday, had he read my book, Megrahi: You are my Jury, carefully, he would know that I have done no such thing.
Like the majority of Mr Linklater’s fellow audience members on Saturday, I have not swallowed a crazy conspiracy theory about Mr Megrahi’s conviction. Rather I have noted, among other things, that the Crown failed to disclose to Mr Megrahi’s defence team at least seven key items of exculpatory evidence; that two of the most important Crown witnesses were secretly paid millions of dollars by the US Government; and that the trial court’s judgment was, according to no less an authority than the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, unreasonable. All these facts Mr Linklater’s article omits to mention.
If Megrahi was framed – a big ‘if’, but not inconceivable given their extraordinary antics in the 1980s – it would almost certainly have been done by one of the US intelligence services, without the knowledge of the other protagonists listed by Mr Linklater. It is a matter of public record that during the Eighties the US National Security Council and CIA waged a massive covert campaign against Libya, which involved, among other things, spreading disinformation. During the same decade the same organisations made secret deals with the original prime suspect in the bombing, Iran. One of the Crown’s most important witnesses was revealed to be a CIA informant and prior to Lockerbie the CIA had at least one of the Swiss timing devices that the Libyans were alleged to have used to detonate the bomb. As my book revealed, new forensic evidence proves that the famous fragment of circuit board found within the bomb debris could not have been from one of the timers that, according to the undisputed Crown case, had been supplied to Libya. We don’t know the origin of the fragment, but it is by no means crazy to suggest that it was a plant. According to the head of the FBI’s Lockerbie investigation, Richard Marquise, his opposite number in the Swiss police believed this to be the case. Indeed, Marquise admitted that this possibility also crossed his mind.
Whatever the truth about the fragment, in my view Mr Megrahi was convicted, not because of a grand conspiracy, but, primarily, because the police, Crown and judges, while no doubt all acting in good faith, failed to pursue the truth objectively. It’s a flaw to which newspaper columnists are equally vulnerable.
[2. What follows is a response to Magnus Linklater from Steven Raeburn, editor of Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm:]
Magnus makes some challenging points: thankfully, diligent reporting allows us to go through them. Shall we?
1) Magnus: “To demonstrate that Libya was framed, they have to prove that there was a calculated decision to do so….”
01 Mar 2012 Swire seeks meeting with Cameron: "Deliberate concealment of the truth" in Pan Am 103 case (link)
29 Mar 2011 What's Libya Got to Do With It...? (link)
2) Magnus: “That decision would have had to lead to the planting or suppression of forensic evidence…”
26 Mar 2012 Crown Office under pressure to explain withheld Pan Am 103 evidence (link)
06 Jan 2010 UN explosives consultant says Pan Am 103 circuit board fragment could not have survived explosion (link)
19 Dec 2011 Minister’s testimony ignored for 19 years is “nail in the coffin” of discredited Megrahi conviction (link)
3) Magnus: “the control of witnesses by intelligence services…”
09 Jun 2011 Former Lord Advocate concedes key Pan Am 103 witness was bribed (link)
Exclusive: US Department of Justice won’t rule out investigation into FBI bribery of Pan Am 103 witnesses (link)
4) Magnus: “the approval of senior politicians….
24 May 2011 Exclusive: Guildford Four and Birmingham Six solicitor condemns Tony Blair’s role in the “layers and layers of deceit” in Pan Am 103 case (link)
07 Sep 2011 Megrahi release linkage to oil deals confirmed to BBC (link)
10 Sep 2009 "Al Megrahi was not the Lockerbie bomber" - former UK Ambassador (link)
08 Dec 2010 Political interference in “compassionate” release laid bare (link)
5) Magnus: “the complicity of police officers….”
31 Dec 2011 Scottish police’s “desperate attempts” to block Megrahi miscarriage report to “hide” bribery revelations (link)
Scottish MP Says Lockerbie Evidence Destroyed - Libyan Innocent (link)
6) Magnus: “a prosecution team prepared to bend every rule to secure a conviction….”
27 Oct 2008 Crown Office guilty of "obstructionist wheeze" and "appalling" treatment of Megrahi (link)
22 Dec 2011 “Blinkered” Lord Advocate “failing in his duty” over Pan Am 103 (link)
08 May 2012 Exclusive: Crown Office under fire over “corruption of the trial court” in Pan Am 103 case (link)
7) and a set of senior Scottish judges willing to go along with that….
13 Oct 2010 Justice system "available to manipulation" (link)
02 Oct 2009 Exclusive: Lockerbie judges under pressure to convict, despite unprecedented denial (link)
Now, any good sportsman knows that you should always play the ball, and not the man, but diligence also obliges me to point out a fascinating fact that Magnus Linklater himself revealed to us.
14 Aug 2009 Exclusive: Former Scotsman editor confirms government and CIA influence over Lockerbie investigation
Perhaps Magnus would consider debating these with me [Steven Raeburn] at a public event.