Saturday, 7 February 2015

Megrahi verdict a powerful tool to deny us objective inquiry

[What follows is the text of a letter submitted by Dr Jim Swire to a newspaper on 5 February but not (yet) published:]

A recent letter from an American Lockerbie relatives' group known as Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc addressed to the Crown Office has been released to the media* by others.

It contains the sentence "it is past time for Dr Swire and the Megrahi supporters to end their disgraceful and expensive campaign".

So far as US relatives of the dead are concerned, of course we all have every right to hold our own views over the atrocity and certainly to believe in the findings of the Zeist court -- a comfort unfortunately denied to some of us. It is very sad that opinions should differ so radically amongst us, since we all hope to know the truth, and are rendered the more unhappy by any suggestions that we may not have reached that truth even yet.

There is also the awesome fact that if our view is correct, then the court process and all the delays that have followed may have protected the real perpetrators from any attempts at justice for fourteen years. On top of that, the Zeist verdict against Mr Megrahi is a powerful tool to deny us the full objective inquiry we have so often sought from Governments. 

I and one other relative, Rev John Mosey, were the only two relatives from the UK or America to listen to all the evidence, as it unfolded, in court. I entered that court believing as a matter of course that the two Libyans must be guilty. I had toiled before the trial alongside such distinguished people as Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh and the late President Nelson Mandela, to try to  persuade Colonel Gaddafi to allow his men to appear, in the sincere belief that they would receive a fair trial under Scots law. But as the trial unfolded, to my lay mind it seemed that the evidence was telling of a very different scenario than that painted by the prosecution.

At the end of the trial, on hearing the verdict, I collapsed, to the point where at least one close onlooker thought I had died. This was widely interpreted as being overwhelming relief that 'we had nailed one of the bastards at last'. In fact it was due to my personal analysis of what the evidence had shown coupled with a personal certainty that the men would be acquitted under Scots law.

It is simply because I am determined to establish the truth as to who did murder my daughter and why the flight was not protected at Heathrow that I feel bound to continue my "disgraceful" campaign. It may be down to deficits in the way I have conducted that campaign that we have so far been unable to establish an objective forum, in Scotland or elsewhere, following the withdrawal of Megrahi's second appeal.

Where blame is being discussed, it may help to know that in a privileged interview with Scotland's Justice Secretary, immediately prior to Mr Megrahi's return to Libya I pleaded for his compassionate release.

In my belief that he should not have been found guilty and in knowledge of the lethal medical condition he carried (researched with one of the professionals involved in his case) and the misery that separation from his family was causing as his life ebbed away, it would have been profoundly wrong, in my view, to take any other position, even though it might make the search for the truth more difficult.

We should be proud that our criminal justice system does include provision for compassion.

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 establish the facts will settle the burden for all of us.

* I [Dr Swire] had inquiries from The Times of London at around 16.00 hours today, which clearly has already received a copy of the US Victims' letter to the Crown Office.

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