Friday, 23 January 2015

Megrahi case goes back to court

[What follows is a report published today on the BBC News website:]

A High Court judge is to be asked if members of the families of some of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing can launch an appeal on behalf of the only man convicted of the atrocity.

It is the latest attempt by the relatives to bring the case back to court.

BBC Scotland Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson said it could be the start of a protracted legal battle.

The families want the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi overturned.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) wants the court to rule whether it is allowed to investigate the Lockerbie case again, on behalf of members of victims' families.

Al-Megrahi died three years ago, having abandoned his own second appeal brought by the SCCRC.

The application will be contested by the Crown Office, and it is likely a formal hearing will be arranged later for full-scale legal arguments.

[RB: 1. A slightly longer report appears on the website of The Independent.

2. The SCCRC’s petition to the High Court flows from its decision to regard the current application as brought only by victims’ relatives and not also by Megrahi’s close family. In the light of recent evidence regarding the intentions of the Megrahi family, it is hoped that the SCCRC will soon reverse this decision, rendering the petition otiose. Today’s hearing at 10.00 in the High Court will be attended by Dr Jim Swire.]


  1. So, the Crown Office is expected to oppose. Why? What are they trying to hide from public scrutiny? Could it be the undisclosed diary of chief police investigator Harry Bell? Or could it be the undisclosed hand-written notes of forensic witness Alan Feraday, who knew there was a significant difference in the metallurgy of the fragment said to be found at Lockerbie, from the batch of timers sold to Libya in 1985? Or could it be the new evidence proving that al-Megrahi was not on the island of Malta when the Lockerbie clothes were purchased? Or could it be the secret negotiations that took place throughout the investigation to ensure that the only identification witness Gauci would get a reward comprising "unlimited monies"?

    If the court is persuaded to agree to the SCCRC carrying out a further investigation, all this will come out in a third appeal.

    The SCCRC has already discovered firm evidence to justify a further appeal. Surely they cannot now "undiscover" it because the Crown Office and two or three Scottish judges wish them to do so?

    If the Crown Office persuades the judges to rule against the bereaved families, the disgraceful nature of this saga will be exposed. The Crown Office and the governments of Britain and America will be demonstrated as wishing to cover up matters that were and are deeply immoral. It would be a major insult to the dead of Lockerbie.and bereaved of Lockerbie.

  2. What are they trying to hide? All of that, and more. Except, I'm not even sure it's about hiding it. The whole damn shooting-match is in the public domain already. It's on the net, it's in published books, and it's in documentaries. Anyone who can read can access the information. It's not so much about hiding it as simply maintaining the conviction.

    So long as the conviction is a legal fact, the Crown Office are in a position of power. They can go to their tame journalists and parrot any line they like about conspiracy theorists and evidence in Libya and finding accomplices and how everything is fine because nobody can 100% prove that PT/35b was planted. And the tame journalists will print it (with one eye on the Honours List) and the public will nod and not quite know what to think and go right on not googling for the facts.

    If another appeal comes to court the conviction will be quashed. There can be no doubt about that now. And without the conviction and the mantra that Megrahi is "the Lockerbie bomber" to hide behind, they're stark naked. Instead of just sitting quietly on the internet, the whole horror of the incompetence and worse that was the Lockerbie investigation will be the talk of the steamie. They can't go on calling us conspiracy theorists when a court has confirmed that the bomb was introduced at Heathrow and Megrahi wasn't the man who bought the clothes. Embarrassing doesn't even begin to cover it.

    The Crown Office know this, and they'll do anything they have to do to prevent the conviction from being overturned.

  3. I think the real scandal at the moment is the hypocrisy we're seeing from the Crown Office. For several years Frank Mulholland has been regularly going to the papers and traducing both the relatives of the victims and Justice for Megrahi as conspiracy theorists, and then (apparently oblivious to the irony) going on to declare that the public press was not the right vehicle for this discussion and that it had to be settled in a court of law. The irony being of course that Justice for Megrahi weren't the ones sounding off in the paper, and they were indeed trying to bring the matter to a court of law by way of the nine allegations of criminality lodged against various individuals involved in the investigation and the original trial.

    In the course of all that, he was absolutely up-front in declaring that a third appeal was the only way forward. He repeatedly declared that the Crown would welcome the opportunity to defend the conviction in court and put all the doubts to rest. He pretty much did a Wendy Alexander-style "Bring It On!" And there was no hint that the only person who could legally bring it on was Khaled El Megrahi. The Megrahi family was never mentioned. The assumption always was that the new appeal application should be made by the relatives of the victims. On one occasion he went even further than that, and while engaged in another round of JFM-bashing, actually challenged JFM to submit an application for a third appeal, if they were hard enough!

    This was nonsense. While it's always been assumed that the relatives of the victims counted as "interested parties" and would have the right to apply for another appeal, JFM are more in the category of "interfering busibodies" and could never lay claim to such a right. (That didn't stop the learned Lord Advocate from implying that they could, when it suited the narrative he was delivering at that moment.) But the constant "a court of law is the only proper place to discuss this and we would welcome the opportunity to defend the conviction against a new appeal" litany was absolutely predicated on the assumption that the victims' families could bring such an appeal.

    Now it's crunch time. The families have stepped up to the plate. The application is in. And even worse for the Crown Office, it was given even more legitimacy by the inclusion of six of Megrahi's close relatives. Is Mr. Mulholland going to put his money where his mouth is? Is he hell.

    He's going to grab at the one straw that still seems available to him, the difficulty of getting further documentation from people trapped in a civil-war-torn Libya, to try to block the entire application. Doing this means opposing and denying the right of the victims' relatives to act as "interested parties" in the application. The very people he was taunting to "bring it on!" at a time when he thought that wasn't going to happen.

    Mr. Mulholland, the very idea that you are in charge of my country's criminal justice system makes me sick to my stomach.