Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Was Megrahi pressurised into dropping his appeal?

[What follows is the text of an article published on this date in 2009 in Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm:]

The Firm has learned from reliable sources within the Justice Department that pressure is being applied to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmad Al Megrahi to drop his appeal if he is to be considered for release on compassionate grounds.

The Firm is suspending normal operations for the day to ask Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to answer one question:

“Has it ever been intimated to Megrahi or his representatives that he would be more likely to be granted compassionate release if he dropped his appeal?”

The Firm has previously reported on the possibility that some form of pressure or coercion was being applied to Megrahi through various channels to ensure that he dropped his ongoing appeal. Sources within the Justice Department have now confirmed that this point was “rammed home” when Libyan delegates met with Justice Department officials earlier this week.

“Not everyone within the justice [department] wants the Megrahi problem to go away,” a source within the Justice Department said.

“The Minister seemed set to do the decent thing, allow a dying man to go home and the appeal to continue. However the department has strongly intimated to the Libyans that if Megrahi is to be granted compassionate release he must first drop his appeal.

“This was the rammed home to the Libyans at their meeting with the Minister yesterday.

“Megrahi is desperate and will do anything to get home, including dropping his appeal, as his prisoner transfer request demonstrates. The Department knows it as does the minister. The Minister also knows that the majority of his electorate think Megrahi should go home and that the appeal will create – is creating – an almighty headache for the Scottish criminal justice system.

“The Minister and the department believe they are being smart – they look like the good guys, showing compassion to a dying man and avoiding flak from Dr Swire and others, while the unfortunate Megrahi is forced to deny himself justice and relieve the Crown, Police and judiciary of their albatross.

“The only way this catastrophe may be averted is if the double dealings of the department and Minister are exposed.”

The Firm understands that the Libyan delegation has been pressed to drop Megrahi’s appeal within the next 24 hours. The Firm is therefore asking the Justice Minister to provide a public assurance that the possible compassionate release of Megrahi is not conditional upon him first dropping his appeal.

[On the following day, 13 August 2009, The Firm published the Scottish Government’s response:]

“In answer to the simple question posed by The Firm, the answer is “No,” the Scottish Government said.


  1. The dropping of Megrahi's appeal is trivially invalid.
    There are no questions that need to be asked.

    There is no relevant difference between holding a gun towards the head of a person, or the threat of letting him die in jail.
    Likewise, a dying patient can not sign a will that has the doctor as a beneficiary, if the patient believes that the doctor has the sole power of granting or withholding medicine that might save the life of the patient.

    The burden of proof is always reversed when coercion seems to be the obvious assumption.
    A gangster who claims that the man on the street happily would have donated him his wallet, even if he had not had a gun in his hand, will still go straight to jail for robbery.

    For Megrahi's drop of appeal to be valid, we would need to see proof that promises of his release was not the reason.
    A very good proof would be a full confession, including verifiable details that only the bomb-maker would know.

    Instead we have a man who consistently has denied any guilt, and has sought any possible option for appeal that the system allowed for.

    I am sure that crown, lawyers etc. can confuse the issue.
    Maybe the law is not 'designed to' protect people in jail.

  2. The absurdity is not that daylight robberies happen. We know they do.

    But if the presumed victim never complains, and the presumed robber instead is asked for a confirmation that his gun did not play a role...

    Did Megrahi never comment on the conditions about his release?
    Was he not free to?
    Was he never asked?
    Was he too ill?
    Was it simply forgotten?
    Do we know the exact wording of the appeal dropping?
    Were any of his lawyers involved?
    Do they have a comment?
    Don't they dare?

    1. These matters are dealt with, at least in part, in a section of John Ashton's Megrahi: You are my Jury that was written by Megrahi himself (see pages 350 to 354). A flavour of what he says can be found here:

  3. There's an interesting implication hidden in the wording there, that Kenny MacAskill was intending to let the appeal go ahead, but that the Justice Department directly told Megrahi's Libyan advisors/minders that he had to drop the appeal. Wheels within wheels.

  4. Thank you!

    Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal. He said he was not demanding that I do so...


    I recall in my early childhood that our school-bully, Bo, came home with a bicycle, that had been presented to him by one of my friends on his way home.

    No question needed to be asked then.
    The bicycle was returned with an apology from Bo's very unhappy parents, on the spot, and the case was closed.

    To my knowledge, my friend was never asked "Did he threaten to beat you up?" as the answer to that particular question was utterly uninteresting.
    Bo would stop you on your way home, and whether he would let you go depended on how good you could make him feel. I tried that too.

    Everybody understood the situation, and that my friend would never hand over his precious bike to a person that had done nothing good to him, but could - and had - beaten him up on a couple of occasions.
    To keep the bicycle, Bo would have to come up with all the explanations in the world, that he had the right to the gift.
    Nobody would ask him.

    - - -

    Fast forward forty-five years. Now it is Megrahi giving up his appeal to a system that can let him die in jail. The question 'Why would he do that, if not because he would not be stopped on his way home' also seems to have no answer.

    To decide on the question 'Do we accept his decision?'
    Do we need to let it depend on any open questions?

    If the answer is 'no' The Firm rather not have asked the crown anything, and Koechler should have worded differently.