Friday, 9 January 2015

The Scottish Government and a Megrahi inquiry

What follows is an item first posted on this blog on this date in 2011:

Megrahi inquiry delay sparks anger

[This is the headline over an article by Bob Smyth in today's edition of The Sunday Post. It does not appear on the newspaper's vestigial website. The article reads as follows:]

The Scottish Government has been criticised over its dealings with an influential parliamentary committee.

Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee finally received answers over ministers' refusal to hold an inquiry into the Lockerbie case on Friday -- a month after the deadline.

The response came after The Sunday Post quizzed the Scottish Government on the delay.

Before the late reply arrived, the campaigners behind the petition slammed the hold-up and a member of the committee also hit out.

Justice for Megrahi, who believe bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, have demanded the inquiry.

The campaigners met the committee on November 9 to highlight their petition calling for a probe into the bombing and the conviction of Megrahi. The group includes Lockerbie relatives, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, TV journalist Kate Adie, retired politician Tam Dalyell and Professor Robert Black, who was central to the setting up of the Lockerbie trial.

The Scottish Government has always refused an inquiry, saying it's beyond their jurisdiction.

Justice for Megrahi secretary Robert Forrester said, "We want them to have an inquiry about the matters that come under Scotiish jurisdiction, such as the police investigation, Megrahi's trial and appeal and his release. (...)

"They were supposed to respond to the committee by December 10 but didn't."

Committee member Cathie Craigie [MSP, Labour] said, "It's very concerning if the Scottish Government is not engaging with the proper process and responding within the timescale. They have an army of civil servants."

The Scottish Government reply said, "The Government’s view is that the petition is inviting the Scottish Government to do something which falls properly to the criminal justice system -- inquire into whether a miscarriage of justice has taken place. 

"The Inquiries Act 2005 provides that, to the extent that the matters dealt with are devolved, and criminal justice is devolved, the Scottish Government would have the power to conduct an inquiry.

"However, the wide ranging and international nature of the issues involved (even if the inquiry is confined to the trial and does not concern itself with wider matters) means that there is every likelihood of issues arising which are not devolved, which would require either a joint inquiry with or a separate inquiry by the UK government."

Legal expert Professor Robert Black said, "The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has no jurisdiction and powers outwith Scotland. Yet it managed to conduct an investigation into the Megrahi conviction that enabled it to reach the conclusion that the conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice. 

"There is no conceivable reason why a Scottish inquiry under the Inquiries Act should have less success in obtaining and uncovering evidence."

[Later today I shall be starting my trek from the Roggeveld back to Edinburgh. It is therefore unlikely that there will be further posts on this blog before 13 January.


Here are a few lines from one of the poems in Michael Cole’s Ghaap: Sonnets from the Northern Cape:

The place was empty, void of anything,
A barren wilderness of thorn and thirst,
Of night frost, and armoured sun spearing
Hard rays all day; the diamonds in the worst
Terrain they could imagine, but their call
Undeniable. No sustenance
But for the game, until they'd shot it all.
Ox and horse brought food and elegance,
Machinery and cables, makeshift sheds,
Rhodes, apartheid, flu and iron beds.]

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