[What follows is the text of a message sent today by Justice for Megrahi’s secretary, Robert Forrester, to JFM members and supporters following Tuesday’s meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee:]
The Justice Committee's consideration of JFM's petition 1370, calling on the Scottish Government to endorse for an independent inquriy into the investigation and legal processes involved in the Lockerbie/Zeist affair, held on Tuesday 18th February, was by far the most animated session of the Justice Committee that I have attended on the subject: reaching almost operatic proportions. It generated valiant, bravura performances from both Christine Grahame MSP (SNP Convener of the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament) and John Finnie MSP (Independent) in the teeth of determined pressure to close the petition: this opposition emanated largely from Margaret Mitchell MSP (Conservative).
The principal argument used against maintaining 1370 open was the feeling that the Justice Committee was wandering away from its strict remit with regard to the petition proper by conflating it with JFM's allegations of criminality against police officers, forensic investigators and legal officials. Margaret Mitchell's position is an interesting development in that the principal Conservative Party member on the Justice committee when JFM received its first unanimous vote by the committee to keep 1370 open (11th December 2012) was the late David McLetchie MSP. JFM had up until that moment rather regarded Mr McLetchie an arch foe. However, he was most vocal in his support of the petition: backing up earlier statements made by John Finnie. The catalyst behind his change of heart was in fact that he was attracted by the new dynamic brought to the petition not only by the lodging with the then Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary of the JFM allegations themselves but also by the manner in which the JFM allegations were being treated by the authorities. This referred to the Justice Directorate's release of our private and confidential letter to Cabinet Secretary for Justice MacAskill to the Crown Office and the ensuing media attacks on JFM launched by Chambers Street, culminating in Lord Advocate Mulholland's outbursts to Magnus Linklater on the anniversary of the 103 tragedy in 2012.
It is now, therefore, most curious that the Conservative Party appears to doing a complete volte-face on essentially the same principle that encouraged Mr McLetchie to support 1370. In the current situation, both JFM and the Justice Committee are being confronted by an outrageously dismissive attitude by Police Scotland and the Crown Office with respect to the JFM allegations (follow this link to our submission: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_JusticeCommittee/General%20Documents/20140130_JFM_to_Committee.pdf, and this one to the email sent to myself by Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone, which was also sent as a last minute submission to the Justice Committee on Tuesday morning: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_JusticeCommittee/General%20Documents/20140217_PS_to_JFM.pdf).
As Mr McLetchie recognised at the time, the petition and the allegations had become inextricably entwined as a result of the attitudes of the authorities to the allegations. This situation has not altered one jot. In fact, the attitude of Police Scotland and the Crown Office towards JFM is now even more parlous than it ever has been, so why has the position of the Conservative Party changed? Something of a mystery, methinks.
Ultimately though, the strength of Christine Grahame's anger at the behaviour of Police Scotland, and John Finnie's reasoned presentation of the current, developing environment vis-à-vis JFM and the authorities, and 1370 and the now 9 JFM allegations, won the day. As you will see from the reports below and from watching the recording of the session, it was decided that letters would be sent to Chief Constable of Police Scotland Sir Stephen House and Detective Superintendent Johnstone asking them, amongst other things, to account for the seemingly blasé, slipshod and dismissive conduct of Police Scotland. The Justice Committee also sanctioned a letter to the SCCRC to ask if the al-Megrahi family have made a referral for a third appeal against the Zeist conviction. For details, see the video link below.
We live to fight another day then. What is more, these new letters could well have the potential to be as significant as the one which the Public Petitions Committee sent to the Scottish Government which established that it did after all have the power to sanction an independent inquiry under the Inquiries Act of 2005.
The transcript is not yet available but soon will be. In the meantime, you can watch the session by following this link to Parliament TV:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/41409.aspx. The consideration of 1370 begins 1 hour, 8 minutes and 43 seconds into the session.
See here below links to press reports:
The Committee of JFM would like to express its deep gratitude to its members who turned up in person to back 1370 on Tuesday, and, as ever, to thank all of you for your unqualified support of the campaign, and the invaluable ideas and advice you offer us.
Don't forget that you can follow daily developments as they relate to the Lockerbie/Zeist case on our indomitable Professor Black's blog (http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.co.uk/).