Wednesday, 30 March 2016

BBC renews attempt to be allowed to televise Lockerbie trial

[What follows is the text of a report headlined BBC renews bid to show Lockerbie trial that was published on the BBC News website on this date in 2000:]

The BBC has returned to court in a renewed attempt to be allowed to televise the Lockerbie bomb trial.

Last month, a judge turned down the corporation's original request saying the Libyan defendents' right to a fair trial was more important than the media's right to freedom of expression.

The BBC, which is seeking to broadcast the entire trial on the internet and show extracts on BBC news programmes, has taken its appeal against that decision to the High Court in Edinburgh.

The BBC's [counsel] Roy Martin QC has asked the panel of judges, headed by Lord Kirkwood, to overturn the judge's decision.

He told the court the Lockerbie trial was of unique interest, nationally and internationally.

He added: "It is of international significance. There is clearly very large international interest in the trial."

The BBC argues that the former Lord Advocate, Lord Hardie, was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which is now a part of Scottish law, by not allowing the trial to be broadcast.

Mr Martin said the BBC would ask the court to refer the matter to the judicial committee of the Privy Council to decide on the differing rights to a fair trial and to the media's freedom of expression.

The BBC contests Lord Macfadyen's ruling that witnesses at the Lockerbie trial would be affected by the presence of cameras.

The judge had said there was the risk of witnesses not attending the trial in Camp Zeist, Holland, if they knew it was being televised.

There were also concerns that witnesses would know what evidence had been given, and that some might play to the cameras.

Relatives of the people who died when the Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York blew up in the skies over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, killing 270 people support Lord Macfadyen's decision however.

Spokesman Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the tragedy, said: "We feel in the case of this court, which does not have the power to subpoena witnesses except those living in the UK, there is a paramount need to avoid deterring witnesses from coming forward or from giving the fullest possible evidence.

"We had feared that broadcast televising of the trial might adversely affect the contribution from witnesses."

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 47, and Al Ali Khalifa Fhimah, 43, both deny conspiracy, murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act.

At last month's hearing the BBC argued the Lockerbie trial, due to take place in Holland in May under Scottish legal procedures, should be televised.

The corporation's case centred on the decision by the former Lord Advocate, Lord Hardie, to allow relatives of those killed in the 1988 bombing to watch encoded pictures of the trial in four locations - Dumfries, London, New York and Washington.

The BBC said as they were physically outside the court, broadcasting had already been agreed.

But in his judgement, Lord McFadyen said there was a clear distinction between transmitting pictures to remote sites, to allow relatives to watch proceedings, and broadcasting to the general public.

[RB: The BBC’s appeal failed.]

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