[Links to media coverage following on from the publication of John Ashton's Scotland's Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters can be found here on his website. In addition, an opinion piece by Magnus Linklater is to be found (behind the paywall) in Friday's edition of The Times. It reads as follows:]
Jim Swire has been relentless, resolute, and single-minded in pursuit of his campaign for the truth about the Lockerbie atrocity that killed his daughter, Flora.
In all the 25 years that he has spent examining the case, travelling the world to track down evidence, he has never been less than dignified, or given way in public to the frustration and anger he must have felt towards those who stood in the way of his quest. He has dealt with inquiries from the media with patience and courtesy. Throughout, what has driven him is solely the need to find justice in the name of his daughter.
The reasons he now gives for stepping back from his cause are characteristically honest.
“My campaign has been my means of survival,” he says. “I think Flora would be saying ‘You’ve done your very best dad. It’s time to leave it to others, to younger men’.”
Such dedication is hard to challenge: taking issue with Dr Swire’s arguments is to venture into intensely personal territory. Yet his central contention — that Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi was innocent, and that Libya was not involved in the Lockerbie bombing — remains short of the kind of evidence that would stand up in court.
For all the many thousands of words that have been written suggesting that the prosecution case was flawed, and that the Scottish legal system presided over a spectacular miscarriage of justice, the alternative theories are well short of sustaining proof.
It is one thing to challenge the evidence on which al-Megrahi was convicted, another to sustain a case that is not, itself, threadbare.
Dr Swire believes that the bomb was not put on board Pan Am 103 on Malta, but that it was smuggled onto the plane at Heathrow Airport. This, along with other theories, was advanced at the time of the trial, examined, and dismissed for want of evidence.
It may, as Dr Swire, maintains, be the truth, but so far no reliable witness has come forward to confirm it. Yet surely this must be as important as challenging the prosecution case. After all, the al-Megrahi defence suggests that eight Scottish judges, five Lords Advocate, senior Scottish detectives and US intelligence agencies were involved in what must count as one of the most serious conspiracy theories of our time, to deflect blame away from Syria or Iran and point towards Libya.
Of course, at one time that might have been achieved in the best forum of all, a court of law. Yet al-Megrahi chose to drop his appeal, a decision that has never been properly explained.
It remains the weakest plank in the al-Megrahi campaign and for Dr Swire, it must, to this day, be a cause for anguish and frustration.
[With the exception of the well-deserved tribute to Dr Swire, this article is as wrong-headed as Magnus Linklater's other contributions on Lockerbie and Megrahi.]