[This is the headline over an article by Magnus Linklater in today’s edition of The Times (subscription). It reads as follows:]
Every countertheory has been examined and has led nowhere
It is time to extinguish the last embers of controversy that have heated the Lockerbie case for so long. For more than two decades critics have argued that Scottish police got the wrong man and that the prosecution of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was — perhaps deliberately — a botched job.
Yet last week, after a long and dogged investigation, the Crown Office announced that it had identified two further suspects, and was asking the government in Tripoli to allow it access to them in prison. It may not succeed — Libya is in chaos at the moment — but it is clear that enough prima facie evidence has now emerged to perhaps home in on those who planned and helped execute a terrorist attack that killed 270 innocent people 27 years ago.
Those who have argued down the years that this line of inquiry is misguided, and that Libya was not responsible, have some hard questions to answer. Why would the Crown Office still be spending public money and using scarce resources to shore up a case that is — as its critics claim — fundamentally flawed?
The central accusations that have sustained the conspiracy theorists is that evidence was manipulated by the CIA to accuse Libya rather than Syria or Iran; that information was withheld from defence lawyers representing al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the bombing; and that Scottish judges presided over what they call “the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history”.
Ever since, they argue, the Scottish judicial system has connived in an attempt to prevent the truth coming out. Allowing al-Megrahi back to Libya on condition that he dropped his appeal was part of the strategy.
Why, then, should that same legal process be obstinately nurturing a case that it must, by now, have conceded is wrong-headed? Perhaps, as one of its accusers has alleged, the explanation is sheer stupidity. Or, as another claims, it is desperately trying to cover its tracks by pursuing an empty investigation.
But perhaps it is simply following the evidence, and doing what every family of every Lockerbie victim wants it to, which is trying to get at the truth. The hard facts are that every countertheory, and every alternative thread of evidence, has been examined to distraction, and has led nowhere. The time has come for those who cling to them to accept that the evidence points firmly in the direction of Libya rather than the myriad of misty theories and unsupported allegations on which their case has rested.
[RB: Magnus Linklater is profoundly mistaken. The Justice for Megrahi campaign is not advancing “countertheories”. It is drawing attention to grave flaws in the evidence that resulted in the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi and to credible scientific and other evidence that further undermines the case against him. This evidence has been pointed out to Mr Linklater by John Ashton amongst others and he has been challenged to respond. Although promising to do so, he has not. All that he contributes is the assertion that the conviction was correct (because Scottish judges do not make mistakes, perhaps?) and that those who fail to swallow it hook, line and sinker are purblind conspiracy theorists. For Mr Linklater, as far as the Megrahi conviction is concerned all is for the best in the best of all possible legal systems. When the house of cards crumbles, as it assuredly will, Scotland’s Dr Pangloss will be deservedly left hanging his head in shame at his part in defending the indefensible.]