[What follows is the text of a report by Greg Russell published in today’s edition of The National:]
It was one of the worst terrorist atrocities of the 20th century – 27 years ago today Pan Am flight 103 from London’s Heathrow Airport to JFK in New York was blown up over the town of Lockerbie.
All 243 passengers and 16 crew died, along with 11 people in the town itself, leaving a total death toll of 270.
A Libyan national Abdelbaset al-Megrahi eventually became the only man to be convicted of the bombing. He died in May 2012 from terminal prostate cancer, three years after the then justice secretary Kenny Mac- Askill released him from a life sentence on compassionate grounds.
However, the controversy surrounding his conviction has never died. The campaign group Justice for Megrahi (JfM) has revealed a series of responses to their claim that “bias and prejudice” of the Crown Office should disqualify it from assessing a Police Scotland report into criminal allegations JfM made relating to the Lockerbie investigation and trial.
The group said that had these been supported, they would cast serious doubt on Megrahi’s conviction and “point to possible malpractice by Crown Office personnel, police and other prosecution witnesses”.
Justice campaigner and retired police officer Iain McKie, said: “A major Police Scotland report is about to be published which could point to Mr Megrahi’s innocence and possible criminal acts by former Crown Office personnel and prosecution witnesses.
“Surely this disqualifies the Lord Advocate and Crown Office from coming anywhere near this report.”
Hugh Andrew, managing director of publishers Birlinn, which published a book on the disaster, said: “Behaviour such as leaking information by the Crown ... to sympathetic journalists, the refusal to accept the implications of a damning report and the refusal to consider relevant evidence not available at the time of trial and independently verified, is a pointer to something disturbing and rotten in our justice system.”
“In a case of such importance it is essential all evidence is fairly and openly considered. That every form of subterfuge seems deployed to prevent this begs ominous questions.”
QC Ian Hamilton said he did not think there was a lawyer in Scotland who believed Megrahi was “justly convicted”.
Robert Black QC, professor emeritus of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, was born and raised in Lockerbie and has taken a close interest in the case. He told The National: “It is over eight years since the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission concluded that Megrahi’s conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice. After all this time, why has the Lockerbie case not just faded away? It is because the official, judicially-approved version of what happened simply does not hold water. It never did.
“The failure of the Scottish justice system and of Scottish (and British) political institutions to acknowledge this in the face of quite overwhelming evidence is profoundly shocking and depressing.
“Until such recognition occurs and appropriate lessons are learned, we are all of us at risk of such travesties recurring. And that is frightening.”