Saturday, 1 November 2014

Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused of gross political cowardice over Lockerbie

The following are two items posted on this blog on this date in 2007 and 2009 respectively:

Today I had a two-hour meeting in Her Majesty's Prison Greenock with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, at his invitation (my first). Since the date of the trial court's verdict against him, my position has been a clear one: on the evidence led at the trial his conviction was simply an outrageous miscarriage of justice, about which the Scottish criminal justice system should feel nothing but shame. As a result of today's meeting I am satisfied that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction.

I will not be disclosing the content of my discussions with Mr Megrahi, but I can say that he now speaks English with a fine Scottish accent (his first words to me were "Thank you for visiting me on such a dreich day") and that his taste in mints is impeccable.

["dreich" in relation to weather means dreary, cheerless, bleak. See]

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Sunday Times about the letter recently received by Dr Jim Swire from the Prime Minister. The article reads as follows:]

Gordon Brown has ruled out holding a public inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster. In a letter to representatives of victims’ families, the prime minister said it would be “inappropriate” for the UK government to hold such an investigation.

His decision was criticised by relatives who said it has left them with little hope of learning the truth about who was behind the attack and the government’s handling of case.

UK ministers say it is now up to the Scottish government to decide if it wants to hold its own, more limited, inquiry into the worst terrorist attack on British soil. The SNP government has ruled out an independent inquiry, saying Holyrood lacks the constitutional power to examine the international dimensions of the case.

Supporters of a UK-led inquiry into the 1988 attack that killed 270 people believe it could involve sensitive Foreign Office files explaining why ministers named Libya as the state which sponsored the attack.

In a letter to Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 24, died in the attack, Brown said: “I understand your desire to understand the events surrounding the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.” But he added: “I do not think it would be appropriate for the UK government to open an inquiry of this sort.”

Brown rejected Swire’s claim that a break-in at Heathrow airport shortly before the plane carrying the bomb took off rendered the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi unsafe.

“I understand the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland did consider whether the incident at Heathrow made the conviction of Mr Megrahi unsafe, and concluded that it did not,” the prime minister added.

Jean Berkley, whose son Alistair, 29, was killed in the bombing, said Brown had let down relatives of the victims.

“By handing it back to Scotland it looks like they are trying to push it into the long grass,” she said.

Professor Robert Black, a QC campaigning for an inquiry, accused Brown of “gross political cowardice”. He suspected the government did not want further scrutiny of sensitive aspects of the case which led the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to report in 2007 that the conviction against Megrahi may be unsafe.

Black pointed out the Inquiries Act 2005 allows the UK government to hold a joint inquiry with Holyrood on matters straddling both parliaments. “The security of the United Kingdom and foreign relations are non-devolved issues and if Gordon Brown is saying these are not areas that would be involved in a Lockerbie inquiry then the man is insane,” he said.

[This story has now been picked up on the Telegraph website and can be read here. The Sunday Telegraph publishes a very moving article about Rev John Mosey whose daughter, Helga, was one of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster. The last three paragraphs read:]

The Moseys know that they cannot "move on" from the terrorist attack that took their daughter's life until they know the truth about who killed her.

Megrahi's decision to drop his appeal denied them the chance to hear new evidence in court that might have given clues about the killers. They, and the other Lockerbie families, will continue to fight for an independent public inquiry.

"I don't know if we will ever get the truth about what happened," Mr Mosey says. "But we will never give up trying. We owe it to Helga."

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