Wednesday, 27 May 2015

National security and security-vetted advocates

[What follows is taken from a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2008:]

A plea has been made to Lockerbie bombing appeal judges to hold a hearing to discuss a confidential document behind closed doors.

The Advocate General has suggested a security-vetted advocate could represent Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi in place of his usual legal team.

The UK Government claims releasing the document would harm national security.

However, Al Megrahi's lawyers have said it could assist his appeal against his conviction for the 1988 atrocity.

The Advocate General - who represents the UK Government - has lodged a public interest immunity plea to keep the document secret.

A three-day procedural hearing at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh is now meeting to decide how to address the issue.

The court previously heard Foreign Secretary David Miliband had signed the public interest immunity certificate.

Judges were told he believes releasing the secret document would cause "real harm" to the national interest.

Advocate General Lord Davidson [of Glen Clova] QC told the court there should be a public interest immunity hearing, and he suggested judges should have access to the document in advance of that hearing.

He said a special representative, if appointed, would be able to represent Al Megrahi's interests.

The Libyan's defence team have not yet given their views in the hearing but Lord Davidson said it appeared that they contest the use of a special representative in this case.

Al Megrahi was not present at the hearing in Edinburgh.

[RB: Incidentally, Prime Minister David Cameron has not yet appointed an Advocate General for Scotland in his new administration. The strong rumour is that it is to be Richard Keen QC who was senior counsel for Lamin Fhimah at the Lockerbie trial, subsequently Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and is currently chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party.]

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