Thursday, 19 December 2013

"I've always believed Megrahi was innocent... a scapegoat"

[Today’s edition of the Glasgow Evening Times carries a lengthy interview with Justice for Megrahi committee member Canon Pat Keegans, who was the Roman Catholic parish priest at Lockerbie when Pan Am 103 fell on the town.  It reads in part:]

Bodies fall from the sky in slow motion and as each one hits the ground very softly it turns into dust and powder.

It could be a slow motion sequence from a film, but this was the image that haunted the dreams of Cannon Patrick Keegans after he found himself at the very centre of the Lockerbie disaster.

The then parish priest lived at 1 Sherwood Crescent, a house left unimaginably almost unscathed after Pan Am flight 103 exploded in the skies above the Borders town and obliterated every other home in the street.

"I remember everything about the night," he says. "It feels a bit disturbing looking back after 25 years. I think there's an intensity at the moment, the emotions come back up very strongly and people are sensitive and a bit fragile." (...)

In the weeks after the tragedy, he helped the town come to terms with what had happened, and later campaigned against the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. (...)

After getting his mother to safety, he spent the rest of the night walking around the smoke-filled streets with a local policeman trying to identify bodies. He still remembers the tremendous community ­effort of the people of Lockerbie.

"It was only in the next few days we began to realise the full horror of it. It took a while to sink in."

He made a decision to move back into his house early in the new year once it was wind and watertight.

"I did that deliberately because I wanted to make a statement that we could live with this disaster and live through it," he said.

"I was happy to move back into my house, though it was a strange feeling being the only one there."

Now, 25 years on, he says we must pay our respects to those who lost their lives and their families.

He will attend the memorial service on Saturday in Lockerbie. Pragmatically he says, if it reopens old wounds, this is something that has to be done.

"We still don't have any justice. I think this is the thing that is causing a lot of suffering, that the people in the plane and on the ground were cheated out of their lives and cheated out of justice," he said.

"I've always believed the Iran Air passenger flight that was blown out of the skies over the Persian Gulf in July 1988, when 290 people died coming back from a pilgrimage to Mecca, was the main cause of Lockerbie."

He continued: "I've always believed Megrahi was innocent. I thought he was a scapegoat. The truth is there, it's just being covered up."

He talks about visiting Megrahi in prison and praying with him for all the families of the deceased.

And remembers a visit from representatives of some of the main Scottish police forces in the days before Megrahi's name was synonymous with the bombing.

"They came to my house in Sherwood Crescent," he said.

"I'd always been speaking about Syria and Iran and saying Libya doesn't really come into the picture.

"They talked about Libya this, Libya that and Libya the next thing. I asked, have you come here to shut me up?

"He said, no, but when you speak people listen, so I would appreciate it when you're speaking to people in the media if you would follow the same lines as us: Libya.

"I wrote to the Lord Advocate and after about a month I got this reply that said they'd only come to keep me informed.

"That visit convinced me that I was on the right tracks concerning Syria and Iran. Why should they ask me to keep quiet?"

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