[What follows is the text of a contribution by John Ashton in The Café section of today’s edition of the Scottish Review:]
Does Magnus Linklater run his Lockerbie articles through reverse fact-checking software before submitting them? How else I wonder could almost every one he writes contain so many basic errors?
His latest piece accuses me of failing to address new evidence concerning Mr Megrahi's relationship with alleged bomber Abouagela Masud. No one reading my recent articles could have failed to miss the fact that I acknowledged the evidence's potential significance and expressed my wish that it be put before the court. I also set out the reasons to treat it with scepticism, which I suspect is Mr Linklater’s real beef. Being sceptical is not the same as failing to address, but maybe his software conflates the two.
Mr Linklater acknowledges that he hasn't looked in detail at the evidence assembled by Dr Morag Kerr, which demonstrates that the bomb originated from Heathrow, rather than Malta (the latter being where Megrahi and Masud flew from to Tripoli on the morning of the bombing). He doesn't need to, he says, because the evidence was considered and dismissed by the appeal court and Megrahi’s trial lawyers. Except it wasn’t. Dr Kerr has in fact gone far further than anyone else in considering the bomb’s origin. If Mr Linklater doesn’t believe me, I’ll be happy to send him the defence paperwork and copies of the appeal court transcripts. I challenge Mr Linklater to read Dr Kerr's book and tell us why it doesn't stand up.
Mr Linklater also asserts that '[for] a long time those who argued for the Heathrow theory placed a lot of weight on the evidence that there had been a break-in: a padlock had been cut, allowing access to a potential bomb-carrier. That theory, I believe, has now been abandoned, because the timing is not right'. Wrong again. The break-in may or may not be significant, but the evidence of Heathrow ingestion stands separately to it and has never been considered as reliant upon it. Furthermore, Dr Kerr, who is the most prominent proponent of Heathrow, has always said that the break-in was likely irrelevant.
Mr Linklater goes on to tell us: 'When you have a large and complex circumstantial case, everything has to to fit into a coherent picture. Picking one part and analysing it in detail is unconvincing if what you come up with ignores other contradictory evidence'. The trouble is, very little of the evidence now fits with the Crown case that he is so keen to defend. Mr Megrahi allegedly bought the clothes from a Maltese shop that were placed in the bomb suitcase, yet the evidence shows that he looked nothing like the purchaser and that the clothes were bought when he was not on the island. The Crown claimed that a fragment of circuit board found among the clothes matched ones in timers supplied exclusively to Libya, but we now know that it did not. Most importantly, the Crown’s central claim that the bomb originated from Malta has been destroyed by Dr Kerr. Take Malta out of the equation and Megrahi's presence there, his lies and his shady associations are irrelevant.
None of this has been properly addressed by Mr Linklater in any of his numerous articles on Lockerbie. Apparently it's okay to ignore contradictory evidence when it's the Crown case that is contradicted.