Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Holyrood Justice Committee decision on Megrahi petition

[The following report on today’s proceedings in the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is taken from The Press Association news agency report on the Kincardineshire Observer’s website:]

Calls for a public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing have continued after "serious formal allegations" relating to the conduct of the investigation were laid before the Justice Secretary.

Holyrood's Justice Committee once again continued the long-running petition by the Justice For Megrahi (JFM) group calling for an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

Convener Christine Grahame said: "A letter of complaint has been sent to the Cabinet Secretary lodging serious formal allegations relating to the conduct of the investigation and the trial.

"That has been given 30 days grace to be answered by the Cabinet Secretary and then it will be public. I think we would like to see the Cabinet Secretary's response before we decide to do anything."

Despite initial objections by Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, who suggested that formal routes of appeal against the conviction remain open, the committee agreed to continue the petition.

Ms Grahame added: "I accept what is said about a court case being one way forward, but there is a possibility under the Inquiries Act for the Government to conduct an inquiry into something wholly within its remit. Well, the operation of the police and the Crown Office is wholly within the remit of the Scottish Government. So, there are certain powers that the Government has, whether or not they are used."

JFM said they have given Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill until October 13 to respond to their letter of complaint before they go public with the allegations. In a submission to the committee, sent shortly after the complaint was lodged, JFM said: "Serious question marks (have been) raised concerning the quality of forensic evidence relating to the shard of PCB alleged by the Crown to have been part of a triggering device for a bomb.

"It would now appear that expert evidence provided to the court by representatives of the Royal Armament and Research Establishment was deeply flawed and at least one of the expert witnesses may well have perjured himself."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The issues being raised in relation to the conviction itself must be a matter for a court of law. Mr Al-Megrahi was convicted in a court of law, his conviction was upheld on appeal and that is the only appropriate place for his guilt or innocence to be determined.

"As was made clear by the Cabinet Secretary in his statement to the Scottish Parliament in February this year, it remains open for relatives of Mr Al-Megrahi to ask the SCCRC (Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission) to refer the case to the Appeal Court again on a posthumous basis, which ministers would be entirely comfortable with."

[A report on the website of The Scotsman contains the following:]

Campaigners with the Justice For Megrahi (JFM) group, including Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy, have a petition lodged at Holyrood demanding a full inquiry and MSPs today agreed to keep it running.

Nationalist Rod Campbell, himself an advocate, said it was a “comparatively short time” since Megrahi had died.

“We have no information as to what his intentions are in respect of a possible appeal,” he said.

“The proper place is in the criminal courts until we’re satisfied that no further criminal proceedings will be forthcoming.”

Former police officer John Finnie of the SNP said the current Libyan regime was unlikely to result in the family “receiving encouragement” to pursue an appeal.

Justice committee convenor Christine Grahame, herself a member of the JFM group said a letter has also been sent to justice secretary Kenny MacAskill with “serious formal allegations” about the conduct of the inquiry.

The cabinet secretary has been given 30 days grace to respond to this.

Ms Grahame added: “We would like to see that and the cabinet secretary’s response before we decide anything.

“I accept that the court case is one way forward, but there is also - and I just put this as a possibility – there is a possibility under the inquiries act for the Government to conduct an inquiry wholly within its remit. The operation of the police and Crown Office is within the remit of the Scottish Government.

“There are certain powers that Governments do have whether or not they are used.”

Dr Swire said afterwards major scientific doubts had been cast on the crucial evidence surrounding the bomb’s circuit board, which he believes undermined the verdict.

But he said: “The petition is for an independent inquiry and that would be my number one preference because there are very serious allegations over the Crown Office’s conduct in this case and it’s hard to see how an appeal would do anything other than raise the verdict against Megrahi who is no longer with us.”

“Alex Salmond has the power to call such an inquiry if he so decides.”



    Dear Professor Robert Black
    As you are familiar with all aspects oft he Lockerbie case I would like asking you something.
    The SCCR files have been published. Did they really publish all ?
    Did they publish the 33 pages appendix ? ……………….
    Best regards and thanks for your support

    Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Switzerland, URL: www.lockerbie.ch

  2. Edwin, none of the appendices to the SCCRC report have been published. I don't know whether this is because the Sunday Herald (which was the first to publish the report) does not have them or because they were thought to be too voluminous.

  3. Well done to all the JFM committee and the continued consideration of petition PE1370.

    The recent Hillsborough Report has revealed how a succession of Conservative and Labour govts, at Westminster from 1989 until 2012, are now tarnished by failing to address the concerns raised by the long-suffering families of those who died at Hillsborough. Lies, spread by the powers of various institutions including police and politicians, were allowed to emerge and fester around this tragedy for far too long.

    Let us now hope the SNP, and Mr MacAskill, now in possession of serious allegations around the Lockerbie case, do not allow themselves to be dragged further into the mire occupied by the same successive Westminster governments that ignored the Hillsborough victim’s families. No longer can any administration that holds itself to be open, honest or independent, continue to neglect the deep concerns and questions that surround Megrahi’s conviction.

    Let us hope the SNP and its current leadership will not allow any such a stain or tainting of their time in Holyrood. For, whether it may be next week, next year, or ten years from now, eventually, the truth of Lockerbie will out.

    As a demonstration of their aspirations for independence from the tainted administrations at Westminster (and Washington), and perhaps even provide the tipping point for some federalist Scot's to become nationalist, it is now time for Mr MacAskill and the SNP to grasp the nettle.

  4. On the SCCRC's non-publication of the appendices, the risk of prosecution remained.

    The Crown Office stated:

    "...this decision [not to prosecute] does not apply to the appendices or any of the source material held by the Commission."


    The immunity only applied to publishing a report already (nearly wholly) published.

  5. Update:

    The above prompted me to find out when the SCCRC was due to gain the power to disclose, provided the conditions were met, further information on the Megrahi case, through the Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) (Scotland) Act 2012 coming into force. The answer is last Monday.