Yesterday’s announcement that an application for review of Abdelbaset Megrahi’s conviction has been submitted to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has received widespread coverage in the UK and overseas media, as a search for “Lockerbie” or “Megrahi” in Google News will demonstrate. Many of these reports are based on news agency reports. What follows is the Press Association report, taken from The Star:]
Relatives of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing have embarked on a legal bid to clear his name amid claims that his case is the "worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history".
Six immediate members of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's family have joined forces with 24 British relatives of those who died in the atrocity to seek, ultimately, a third appeal against his conviction in the Scottish courts.
Campaigners say they are still "desperately seeking to get to the truth" 25 years after their loved ones were murdered and two years on from Megrahi's death.
They have united to submit an application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for a review of the conviction, a move which could see the case referred back to the High Court.
They claim to have evidence that Megrahi was pressured by ministers to drop his second appeal.
Reversal of the guilty verdict would expose the US and UK governments "as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years", their lawyers claim.
Quoting Megrahi's relatives, their solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said: "'We, the family of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, will keep fighting for justice to find out who was responsible for 271 victims of the Lockerbie disaster.'
"They, of course, include Mr Megrahi as its 271st victim."
Prosecutors said they do not fear scrutiny of the conviction.
Megrahi was found guilty of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland on December 21 in which 270 people were killed.
He was jailed for life and lost his first appeal against the mass murder conviction in 2002.
An investigation by the SCCRC led to a finding in 2007 of six grounds where it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, paving the way for a second appeal.
But Megrahi dropped that appeal in 2009 before being released from jail by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds in light of his terminal cancer.
The latest move is believed to be the first time in UK legal history that relatives of murdered victims have united with the relatives of a convicted deceased in such a way.
The members of Megrahi's family involved have not being identified due to concerns for their safety.
Mr Anwar and campaigner Jim Swire today submitted three volumes of papers to the SCCRC in Glasgow, launching their application.
Dr Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the bombing, said: "As relatives, we want to know all that is known about who was responsible for murdering our lovely families all those years ago.
"Who did it? Why am I and other relatives still desperately seeking to get to the truth 25 years after our families were murdered?"
The fact that Megrahi's own family have chosen to take forward an appeal bid could boost its chances of getting back to court.
It is expected to be several months before the review body makes a decision on any way forward.
The commission will be asked to reconfirm the six grounds of appeal it cited in 2007.
The application will also focus on "question marks" over material evidence, allegations of the Crown's non-disclosure of evidence and claims he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopkeeper who "gave a false description" of him.
Mr Anwar said: "The case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.
"A reversal of the verdict would mean that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would stand exposed as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years and having imprisoned a man they knew to be innocent for 10 years."
The legal team will also ask the SCCRC to consider the circumstances that led to Megrahi abandoning his last appeal.
Mr Anwar said: "To date both the British Government and Scottish Government have claimed that they played no role in pressurising Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release.
"However the evidence submitted to the commission today claims that this is fundamentally untrue."
SCCRC chief executive Gerard Sinclair said: "As it does in every case, the commission will now give careful consideration to this new application."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "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."
The Lockerbie case remains a live investigation, with Scotland's criminal justice officials saying they will pursue any new lines of inquiry.
A Crown Office spokesman said: "We do not fear scrutiny of the conviction by the SCCRC.
"The evidence upon which the conviction was based was rigorously scrutinised by the trial court and two appeal courts, after which Megrahi stands convicted of the terrorist murder of 270 people.
"We will rigorously defend this conviction when called upon to do so. In the meantime we will continue the investigation with US and Scottish police and law enforcement."
[As regards the Crown Office response, here is what I wrote on a previous occasion when a similar statement was made:]
The Crown Office is up to its old tricks again. It knows very well that the evidence on which the conviction was based was not “rigorously scrutinised” by two appeal courts. The court which heard the first appeal held that it was barred by the grounds of appeal submitted by Megrahi’s then legal team from considering whether there was sufficient evidence to convict or whether, on the evidence, any reasonable court could have done so. Hardly a rigorous examination of the evidence; indeed, no examination of the evidence at all. And the second appeal was abandoned long before any rigorous examination of the evidence could take place. The Crown Office knows all this perfectly well. But it persists in putting out untruthful statements to the media. Its behaviour throughout the Lockerbie saga has been uniformly disgraceful.