Saturday, 24 October 2015

“We all owe Megrahi a profound apology”

[What follows is the text of an article headlined Swire wants to 'apologise' for Lockerbie verdict that was published in The Sunday Times on this date in 2004:]

[Dr Jim] Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, which killed 270 people, said he believes that Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi is innocent and he wants to visit him in prison to offer his sympathy.

Swire was instrumental in establishing the Scottish court in the Netherlands that hosted the Lockerbie trial, believing Megrahi would be found not guilty along with his co- accused Lamen Khalifa Fhima.

While Fhima was acquitted of involvement in the 1988 bombing, Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in jail. An appeal against his conviction failed and he is now waiting for a decision by the Scottish criminal cases review commission on whether he can lodge a fresh bid to have his conviction quashed. The commission is an independent body set up in 1999 to consider alleged miscarriages of justice.

Swire said he plans to wait until early next year, when the legal process is completed, before arranging the visit.

“I would like to see him once the appeal process is settled.

I was made aware that if I wanted to see him I could,” said Swire.

“I decided, at this stage, not to because it would be seen as influencing the criminal justice appeal process.

“But I will have no hesitation in apologising to him for the part I played. Sorry is the least I can say. I have a feeling of guilt over what has happened. I played an influential role that the trial should be on neutral ground. I do not feel happy about the verdict that was reached. If he is not guilty, as I believe, then we all owe Megrahi a profound apology.”

Swire, a former GP, is convinced that vital evidence casting doubt on Megrahi’s guilt was never made available. He believes a Palestinian group — acting on behalf of Iran — carried out the atrocity.

“I believe the verdict was unsafe and it will be overturned. I am not convinced of his guilt and there should be a revaluation of the evidence and why the defence did not do justice to the material it had available to it,” he said.

Eddie McKechnie, Megrahi’s lawyer, has agreed to help arrange a meeting between the pair. “My client has been encouraged by these warm words of support and encouragement and is willing to meet Dr Swire and any of the victims’ relatives,” he said.

Megrahi is serving his sentence in solitary confinement at Barlinnie prison in Glasgow. He is to be moved to Greenock prison in December, where he will mix with other prisoners.

The commission can decide whether it is in the interests of justice to refer Megrahi’s case to the Appeal Court. Megrahi is also appealing against the length of his sentence as a breach of his human rights.

Trade sanctions imposed on Libya in the 1980s were lifted earlier this year as a reward for its renunciation of weapons of mass destruction and its admission of responsibility over the Lockerbie bombing.

The now defunct PanAm airline has lodged a £200m claim against Megrahi and the Libyan government.

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