Sunday, 1 November 2015

Every lawyer who has read the judgment says 'this is nonsense'

[What follows is the text of a report headlined Architect of Lockerbie trial vows to fight for an appeal that was published in The Scotsman on this date in 2005:]

One of the key architects of the Lockerbie trial has vowed to continue his fight to have the murder conviction of the Libyan bomber brought back to the appeal courts. In an interview with The Scotsman, Professor Robert Black said it was "the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years".

The professor of Scots law, who devised the non-jury trial that saw the case heard in 2000, said a failure to address concerns about the case would "gravely damage" the reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi is serving a life sentence for murdering 270 people by bombing Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is looking at his case.

Prof Black said he felt "a measure of personal responsibility" for persuading Libya to allow Megrahi and his co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhima, who was acquitted, to stand trial under Scots law.

"I have written about this and nobody is interested," he said. "Every lawyer who has ... read the judgment says 'this is nonsense'. It is nonsense. It really distresses me; I won't let it go."

Dr Jim Swire, a spokesman for the UK families of Lockerbie victims, also doubts that the conviction is sound. After a meeting involving Prof Black and former Labour MP Tam Dalyell yesterday, the families are to write to the SCCRC urging it to pursue the case, even if Megrahi decides not to take the case further.

Dr Swire is also concerned by comments attributed to the former lord advocate Lord Fraser, which appeared to doubt the credibility of a key prosecution witness, Tony Gauci.

[The full published text of the interview can be read here: Why Robert Black won't let the Lockerbie trial lie.

Exactly two years later, I had my first and only meeting with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Here is how I recorded it on this blog:]

Today I had a two-hour meeting in Her Majesty's Prison Greenock with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, at his invitation (my first). Since the date of the trial court's verdict against him, my position has been a clear one: on the evidence led at the trial his conviction was simply an outrageous miscarriage of justice, about which the Scottish criminal justice system should feel nothing but shame. As a result of today's meeting I am satisfied that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction.

I will not be disclosing the content of my discussions with Mr Megrahi, but I can say that he now speaks English with a fine Scottish accent (his first words to me were "Thank you for visiting me on such a dreich day") and that his taste in mints is impeccable.

["dreich" in relation to weather means dreary, cheerless, bleak. See]

1 comment:

  1. "I won't let it go."

    Small words, easily said and forgotten again.

    But you, Robert, a primus inter pares with JfM and its great friends, made these words huge over 10 years.
    Happy anniversary, and by sticking to them you achieved to have the better informed part of the world knowing what others would have hoped would long be buried: that the conviction of Megrahi is nonsense and that the continued propagation of his guilt is a painful but important reminder that there is so much to fix.