Wednesday, 29 April 2015

"No reasonable jury could have drawn the critical inferences"

[What follows is the text of an article by Lucy Adams published in The Herald on this date in 2009:]

The son of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was in court yesterday alongside Libyan lawyers, international observers and the relatives of the victims, to hear the first day of his father’s new appeal.

Khalid al Megrahi, 22, the eldest son of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was present to hear his father's case to clear his name at the Court of Criminal appeal in Edinburgh.

Senior judges heard that the health of Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the bombing, has deteriorated and that he would be unable to sit through a full day of proceedings.

Megrahi, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, will be watching the appeal at HMP Greenock through a live video link. However, Margaret Scott QC, his defence advocate, said he would need to take breaks and attend medical appointments during the appeal.

Megrahi, 57, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years after being convicted in 2001 of bombing Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 and murdering 270 people.

He lost his appeal in 2002 but was referred back to the courts in June 2007 by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) whose three-and-a-half year investigation found that his conviction may have been a miscarriage of justice on six different grounds.

Beginning legal submissions on Megrahi's behalf, Ms Scott QC told the court: "The appellant's position is that there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case."

She said the trial court, on the basis of "wholly circumstantial evidence", concluded it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that Megrahi was involved in the crime.

"In our submission, it was wrong to do so," she said. She told them that Megrahi would require to take breaks due to pain and is to see doctors later this week over a new course of treatment. (...)

In the gallery were a number of relatives of victims of the tragedy, including Dr Jim Swire, the Reverend John Mosey, and Hairat Ade-Balogun, an international observer for the UN.

Ms Scott told the judges the trial court's conclusion centred on four "critical inferences".

These were that Megrahi bought the clothing which was in the suitcase containing the bomb, that the purchase happened on December 7 1988, that the buyer knew the purpose for which the clothing was bought, and that the suitcase containing the bomb was "ingested" at Luqa airport in Malta.

But Ms Scott told the court these were all areas of dispute.

"No reasonable jury, properly directed, could have drawn the critical inferences which were necessary to return that verdict of guilty," she said.

She also suggested other conclusions could have been drawn from the accepted evidence.

Megrahi's request for interim bail was last year turned down by three appeal court judges and there is concern that he may not survive the lengthy appeal process.

The Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between Libya and the UK, which was signed by Westminster last year and is due to be ratified shortly, means that any Libyan serving a sentence in the UK, who has no pending appeal, could be returned home. [RB: The PTA was ratified that very day, 29 April 2009.] Those in Scottish prisons could be moved only with the permission of Scottish ministers.

Libyan officials say they have been encouraged by senior civil servants from both sides of the border, including Robert Gordon, the head of the Justice Department in Scotland, to apply for Megrahi to be transferred as soon as the agreement is ratified.

[A report in The Scotsman concentrates on the difference in attitude towards Megrahi and his appeal between US and UK relatives of Lockerbie victims. The most informative account of the first day of the appeal, and of the background to it, is that of Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer (whose new blog PT35B should be followed by anyone interested in the Lockerbie case) which can be found here.]

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