Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lockerbie: Libya deal could see new prosecutions

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of The Scotsman.  It reads in part:]

A deal signed by the Lord Advocate during a two-day visit to Libya has raised hopes more people will face justice for the Lockerbie bombing.

Frank Mulholland QC, who returned from the talks on Tuesday, described the meetings as “extremely positive”.

He said a “memorandum of understanding” had been signed which will see Libyan investigators work with those from the UK and US. (...)

Libya is the home country of the late Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted of the atrocity, and the Crown Office believes Libya holds the key to uncovering who may have helped him.

Supporters of Megrahi, who are planning a new appeal against his conviction, believe the Crown Office is looking in the wrong place. However, they hope the investigations could help to clear his name.

Last month, The Scotsman revealed the Libyan attorney general had appointed two prosecutors to work on the Lockerbie investigation.

For the first time, they met Scottish and US investigators who are trying to establish whether there are other individuals in Libya who could be brought to trial for involvement in the attack.

Mr Mulholland said: “The meetings were extremely positive and there is a commitment on behalf of the Libyan authorities to work with both Scotland and the US to progress the investigation, within the parameters of the Libyan criminal procedure code, a mutual legal assistance treaty between the UK and Libya on criminal matters and a memorandum of understanding between the US and the Libyan ministry of justice.”

The Crown Office would not comment further on the memorandum of understanding or whether it would give them access to key individuals, such as Abdullah Senussi, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s brother-in-law and head of his intelligence services, and Megrahi’s immediate boss, who has been arrested and is currently held in Libya.

It is unclear how much evidence will have been retained following the uprising which led to the death of Gaddafi in October 2011.

Graeme Pearson MSP, a former detective, said: “I hope all concerned act in good faith in order that the families of those involved can have the peace of mind in knowing the full picture in regard to who was involved in this atrocity and why.

“Libya has come through some terrible times of late. It may therefore be difficult to obtain evidence that we can know is reliable and untainted.”

Robert Black QC, the architect of the Kamp van Zeist Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands, said: “I don’t think there’s any suggestion that, before the Gaddafi regime collapsed, they destroyed all of their records.”

Mr Black believes the investigations could help clear the name of Megrahi, who died from cancer in Libya last year, three years after being released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds.

Robert Forrester, secretary of the campaign group Justice for Megrahi, described the visit as a “complete waste of taxpayers’ money”.

He added: “It does seem the Crown is rather more interested in its own reputation than pursuing the interests of justice.”

[I would be astonished if material were uncovered in Libya that justified charges being brought against supposed “accomplices” of Abdelbaset Megrahi. I would not be particularly surprised if there were material there that supported his innocence. But I am less than confident that any such material would ever see the light of day, given the doleful history of prosecution non-disclosure of evidence in the Lockerbie case, as pointed out most tellingly by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, four of whose six grounds for holding that there might have been a miscarriage of justice in the Megrahi case related to the Crown’s failure to disclose material that would have been of assistance to the defence.]


  1. A "General Zod" commented on the linked Scotsman article

    More lies and propaganda from the corrupt Frank Mulholland.

    Two years ago, he said the same thing on a visit to Libya with the FBI.

    At the time, the lord advocate said: "I think I would be failing in my duty if I didn't properly seek to take advantage of the opportunity that has opened up with the fall of Gaddafi.

    "I am determined to get the answers these families deserve."

    Who is he trying to kid?

    Mind you, I blame the equally corrupt, spineless and useless Scottish media for entertaining and printing his BS.

  2. Of course it is frustrating to see the case against Knox and Sollecito ending in a guilty-verdict when one of the convicted person will keep walking free. Poor relatives to Meredith.

    I don't have any deep opinion regarding whether they are truly guilty or not. There are already enough people around grabbing an early view in very complicated cases. The certainty most people seem to feel never fails to amaze me. A design flaw in human psychology.

    That case is complicated. Statements, evidence, possible errors, conflicting expert statements, contamination, human behavior.

    It is interesting how much it takes to get convicted. How massive amounts of incriminating evidence can be explained and so does not allow for a conclusion.

    And here we see the incredible difference to Megrahi's verdict.

    Two witnesses which not even the prosecution claimed are anywhere near 'great'.

    'Then, he is Libyan, we are almost certain that the bomb was made by Libya, and he was on the island of Malta, on a fake passport at at time where a plane left with a bomb'. So they said.

    But how much do we know about how many other Libyans were on Malta at the time? There is likely to have been hundreds. Couldn't it simply have been one of them?

    Of course it could. So it hangs - as it had to - on Guaci's identification, which no American lawyer would have dared to use at home.

    Imagine if the apprehended person had been a Scotsman or American, everything else being equal.

    The case would never have reached court.

    Lynching 'the nigger we caught' ('they have always done something') where a white girl was raped - and the conviction of the only Libyan ('we all know what a terrorist state it is') may look different but it isn't.

    It's all based in the enormous differences in what is accepted as sufficient proof depending on circumstances unrelated to the evidence.

    OJ acquitted. Knox/Solleto 2-2.
    But Megrahi was convicted! And the appeal court does not evaluate the question of whether the evidence should lead to a guilty verdict.

    How irrational we humans are.

    "Beliefs can survive potent logical or empirical challenges. They can survive and even be bolstered by evidence that most uncommitted observers would agree logically demands some weakening of such beliefs. They can even survive the total destruction of their original evidential bases."

  3. It's frustrating to see Knox and Sollecito convicted by decree of the Italian judicial system when their innocence has been proven beyond reasonable doubt in three courts, now. I haz a sad on that one.

    That utter foul-up is at least one order of magnitude beyond what has happened in the Lockerbie case. It is both incompetent and corrupt from top to bottom. It is (or should be) an international scandal. Hopefully Knox will never be extradited, but the ruination of Raffaele Sollecito's life is quite appalling.

    It was a perfectly simple case. Meredith Kercher came home to an empty house earlier than expected, and surprised a burglar. This escalated to sexual assault and murder, not necessarily in that order. The guilty man (can you name him, SM?) then went dancing, and later escaped to Germany.

    Meanwhile, the Italian cops decided they could intuit the guilt of the two people who happened to discover the alarming circumstances at the house the following morning, and raised the alarm. They told the world "case closed" before any forensic evidence was in. They interrogated Knox in an all-nighter until the confused teenager went along with the fairy-story the interpreter was laying on her, and got her to sign a fabricated statement couched in perfect Italian legalese. She could barely speak the language.

    Then the forensic results came in. The crime scene was covered in the DNA of someone completely different, with no sign of Knox or Sollecito! Well, they got him, got him back from Germany, and he was convicted in a separate trial. He got a light sentence because the prosecutors were consumed by the intent to implicate their original suspects in the crime. So the real killer's defence were able to co-operate and agree that two other people were involved. He's due for early release quite soon.

    Any decent criminal investigations system would have fessed up to an early over-reaction and rush to judgement, as the English cops did with Chris Jefferies. But no. The entire exercise since then has been a single-minded attempt to get the two original suspects convicted to save face. Including the most gross forensic incompetence it has ever been my misfortune to encounter.

    Italy has one seriously screwed-up criminal justice system. I just hope Scotland's comes out better in the end.

    And yes, it's a pity for the Kercher family. But if they hadn't listened to their corrupt Italian lawyer who has a huge financial stake in getting Knox and Sollecito convicted, then they might have come to terms with the simple facts of what actually happened, years ago.

  4. Oh, and SM, this isn't an "early view". This case has been going on since 2007. I'm personally sick to death of the extreme level of detail that has been discussed for many years. However, it has all the fascination of a slow-motion car crash, sadly with Raffaele Sollecito, the guy who is facing 25 years in jail because he refused to lie to incriminate a girl he'd only known for a week, standing right in front of the runaway truck.

  5. Dear Rolfe,

    thank you for the above discussion of that case.

    I have no doubt that your opinion will be well based on your usual tireless efforts to learn about details.

    I have learned the last several years how uncertain trial verdicts can be, based on insufficient judicial and police work, how poorly the press reports about cases and how little protection there really is when the system fails, however clearly.

    So, though I don't have the insight on any qualified level, to agree or disagree with you on the question of the guilt of Knox/Sollecito, I can definitely say that it unfortunately would not surprise me the very least if you were totally right in what you state. :-(

    A question is then if anything can be done to improve it. It will have to come from within the system which seems to be to be just about the most conservative establishment imaginable. And politicians are happy as it is (their interest in justice appears to be the least among all), and the people does not seems to care (- 'the chance that this is worth my time is too small - I am not likely to be indicted')

    I ran into a tiny hope for optimism yesterday where I read the below. (Emphasis by me)

    Calls for reform

    In the Greshornish House Accord of 16 September 2008, Professors Hans Köchler and Robert Black said—

    It is inappropriate that the Chief Legal Adviser to the Government is also head of all criminal prosecutions. Whilst the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General continue as public prosecutors the principle of separation of powers seems compromised. The potential for a conflict of interest always exists. Resolution of these circumstances would entail an amendment of the provisions contained within the Scotland Act 1998.

    The judges of Scotland's highest court came to share this view. In a submission to the commission set up to consider how the devolution settlement between Scotland and the United Kingdom could be improved, the judges recommended that the Lord Advocate should cease to be the head of the public prosecution system and should act only as the Scottish Government's chief legal adviser. They noted various ways in which the Lord Advocate's roles had caused problems for the judicial system, including the ability "to challenge... virtually any act of a prosecutor has led to a plethora of disputed issues, with consequential delays to the holding of trials and to the hearing and completion of appeals against conviction."

    The judges proposed three alternative solutions: stripping the Lord Advocate of responsibility for prosecutions, exempting the Lord Advocate from compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, or changing the law on criminal appeals. While not specifically favouring any of the three, they noted that the third proposal was radical enough to "generate considerable controversy".

  6. The Scottish criminal justice system has its problems, of that there is no doubt. The Italian criminal justice system is fucked up beyond all redemption.

    I suppose visiting Italy is probably no more hazardous than off-piste skiing, but it's still a risk to be considered before making the decision to travel.

  7. SM, here's a decent article summarising the Kercher murder case.

    It even mentions the name of the actual murderer. Which is quite unusual in articles discussing this case, I find.