[Today’s edition of The Times contains a report by Magnus Linklater headed Lockerbie conviction is upheld by review. It reads as follows:]
A review of the Lockerbie bombing case by Scottish investigators has concluded that there is “not a shred of evidence” to support claims that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted.
Not only have investigators confirmed beyond doubt that the Libyan was the man responsible for the deaths of 270 people on December 21, 1988, they believe his fellow accused, Lamin Fhimah, who was acquitted, was almost certainly involved as well.
The findings will come as a blow to those, such as Jim Swire, whose daughter was one of those killed, and Robert Black, QC, who maintain that prosecutors advanced a flawed case and that judges presided over a miscarriage of justice. Ever since Megrahi was convicted in 2001 there have been allegations that evidence was manipulated to implicate Libya, steering suspicion away from Middle Eastern states.
Scottish prosecutors have been accused of deliberately ignoring evidence that the bomb was put aboard Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow rather than at Malta, and that the timer fragment, the principal piece of forensic evidence against Libya, was planted or altered.
The claims have been examined in detail in the course of the investigation by the Crown Office and Police Scotland, which have been working on the case with the FBI to identify others who were involved in the bombing.
Sources close to the investigation said there was “not a shred of evidence” to suggest the prosecution got it wrong.
Active pursuit of the case in Libya, they added, has served to confirm rather than undermine the evidence against both Megrahi and Fhimah.
Last night Frank Mulholland, QC, the Lord Advocate, said: “During the 26-year-long inquiry not one Crown Office investigator or prosecutor has raised a concern about the evidence in this case . . . our focus remains on the evidence, and not on speculation and supposition.”
Evidence on the bomb itself, and the crucial timer fragment that linked the attack to Libya, found three weeks after Pan Am 103 exploded, have undermined the conspiracy theory.
Critics say the fragment was either planted at the site, exchanged later for another, or was tampered with to show a link to Libya that was never there.
Police are adamant, however, that the fragment was under supervision. They point out that the evidence would have to have been planted within 23 days, requiring knowledge of all the evidence to come — including Megrahi, whose existence was then unknown.
Set against the speculation are facts that have never been disproved: the presence of Megrahi in Malta, carrying a false passport, on the day the prosecution says the bomb went on board flight KM180 to Frankfurt; Fhimah arriving with him; and their subsequent telephone conversations.
[RB: The police investigation here referred to is not that which is currently being conducted by Police Scotland (under the supervision of an independent QC) into Justice for Megrahi’s allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial. Progress reports on that investigation can be accessed here. Furthermore, an application (at the joint instance of the Megrahi family and a group of victims’ relatives) for Megrahi’s conviction to be referred back to the High Court for a further appeal is currently under consideration by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. In these circumstances and in the light of the evidence disclosed by John Ashton and Dr Morag Kerr in their respective recent books it seems somewhat rash and premature for the Lord Advocate to be trumpeting his confidence that they got the right man after all. But Mr Mulholland, of course, is not noted for circumspection: he characterised Justice for Megrahi’s criminality allegations as “defamatory and without foundation” before they had even been investigated.
Today’s edition of The Times also contains a long comment piece by Magnus Linklater headlined Lockerbie review kills conspiracy theories. Mr Linklater has long been convinced that concerns about the Megrahi conviction are the province of conspiracy theorists (all too often, of course, a lazy slur). In view of his confident certainty, it does seem a pity that he has never responded to John Ashton’s two open letters to him, having indicated that he would do so.]