[This is the headline over a report (behind the paywall) in today’s edition of The Times. It reads in part:]
American relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 are calling on campaigners to bin their petition calling for another court hearing
American relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing have objected to a fresh appeal against the conviction of the Libyan found guilty of carrying it out.
In a letter to the Lord Advocate they say they are against the petition being lodged by Jim Swire and fellow-campaigners who believe that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted.
“While Dr Swire is a family member of a victim of the bombing, he speaks for himself and not for the US families of victims,” the letter says.
Writing on behalf of the US families, Mary Kay Stratis, whose husband, Elia, died when Pan Am flight 103 crashed into the town of Lockerbie in December 1988, says that they have confidence in the Scottish judicial system, and believe that justice was done when al-Megrahi was convicted.
“Our only objection, deeply felt and fervently held, concerned the release of Megrahi and his return to Libya for a hero’s welcome,” she writes.“It is past time for Dr Swire and the Megrahi supporters to end their disgraceful and expensive campaign.”
A High Court judge has been asked if families of some of the victims can launch a new appeal, despite al-Megrahi withdrawing his original bid to have the case re-opened.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is considering an application from the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, which includes relatives of British victims of the bombing, including Dr Swire, to review the conviction.
A High Court judge, Lady Dorrian, will rule next month as to whether the campaigners have sufficient legal status to bring an appeal. Although members of al-Megrahi’s families are said to be behind the legal bid, the commission has said that so far they had failed to provide “appropriate evidence” supporting their involvement in the application.
Responding to the comments of the American relatives, Dr Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the bombing, said: “They are entitled to their opinion, but it really is time that all the relatives were allowed an objective look at all the evidence that is now available in this case.”
He added: “Much of the evidence that we want heard in open court was assembled for al-Megrahi’s second appeal, which he cancelled in order to be allowed home to die. It is time it was heard.”
Dr Swire said his desire to press ahead with the appeal was not an indication that he believed al-Megrahi was not guilty of the bombing. “I just want to hear all the evidence in open court,“ he said. “ I have never tried to tell relatives what they should think. I’m not saying he is not guilty. The American relatives aren’t motivated to look at the evidence. That’s fine for them, but it isn’t satisfactory to others involved in this.” (...)
[I]n 2009 al-Megrahi was controversially released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, because he had terminal cancer.
An application had also been made to transfer al-Megrahi to Libya through a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK government and Libya. To facilitate his transfer to Libya, al-Megrahi abandoned a second appeal against his conviction. He died on May 20, 2012, two years and nine months after his release.
[A report in today’s edition of The Herald reads as follows:]
A group of US Lockerbie relatives has become involved in a war of words with a leading British campaigner over his attempts to clear the Libyan convicted of the atrocity.
Dr Jim Swire's efforts on behalf of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi have been branded a "disgraceful and expensive campaign" by the Victims of Pam Am Flight 103 Inc in a letter to the chair of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).
The SCCRC has lodged court proceedings and are considering a joint bid by the Megrahi family and campaigners, including Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 victims of the disaster in December 1988.
The US families said: "We do not support this petition nor do we support the position of the UK family member, Dr Jim Swire and those with whom he stands on this matter.
"While Dr Swire is a family member of a victim of the bombing, he speaks for himself and not for the US families of victims.
"We believe that justice was done in the Scottish judgment and the appeal, and we believe that the Scottish judicial system is praiseworthy, despite the calumny visited upon it by Megrahi's supporters."
The letter concluded: "It will never really be ‘over’, but it is past time for Dr Swire and the Megrahi supporters to end their disgraceful and expensive campaign."
In an email to The Herald, Dr Swire said he was "saddened" by their view, but pledged to continue fighting.
He added: "I sincerely hope that this public expression of exasperation from US relatives will be seen in Scotland simply as a reminder, if one were needed, of the desperate misery that terrorist atrocities like Lockerbie inject into our communities, and profoundly wish that a genuine determination to established the facts will settle the burden for all of us."
A Crown Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that we are aware of the position of the US families board and we are intending to lodge answers to the SCCRC petition by March 6. It is not appropriate to comment further."
Megrahi died of cancer in May 2012.
[I anticipate a more detailed response from Dr Swire in the press tomorrow.]