Friday, 11 March 2016

Briefing paper for Justice for Megrahi media conference


Media Conference: Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS Wednesday 16th March 2016 at 1.45pm 

In September 2012 ‘Justice for Megrahi’ (JfM) made nine allegations of criminality against police, Crown Office officials and forensic scientists involved in the initial Lockerbie investigation and Camp Zeist trial. 

These allegations are currently the subject of a major Police Scotland investigation codenamed ‘Operation Sandwood’ and it is anticipated that the police report will be completed over the next two months and should according to accepted practice be forwarded to Crown Office 

This paper provides a brief outline of JfM’s concerns about the constitutional implications should such a procedure be followed. We believe that the bias and prejudice shown towards JfM and the Operation Sandwood enquiry by the Crown authorities makes it against the public interest for the Crown to receive this report. 

Our concerns are based on three central facts: 

1. A number of JfM’s nine allegations relate to the actions of ex Crown Office personnel or persons who were used as Crown witnesses in the trial of two Libyans, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah. For Crown Office to assess the ‘Operation Sandwood’ report would offend a basic principle of natural justice: - no person can judge a case in which he or she is party or in which he/she has an interest. (nemo judex in sua causa) 

2. Before and after the criminal allegations were delivered to the police, the Lord Advocate and Crown Office personnel described the JfM complainers as ‘conspiracy theorists’, dismissed the allegations as, ‘defamatory and entirely unfounded ... deliberately false and misleading’ and acted publicly to underline their opinion that Mr. Megrahi and his accomplices were the only guilty parties. JfM believes that these public interventions may have had an effect on ‘Operation Sandwood’ witnesses who have been required to provide statements against a background of this very public ‘interference’ by Scotland’s senior prosecution authorities. We also fear that certain Crown, Police and expert witness, encouraged by the Crown statements, might seek to withhold or alter legitimate evidence to ‘Operation Sandwood’. (See appendix) 

3. Given that the ‘Lockerbie Affair’ has been a central interest of Crown Office over the 27 years since Pan Am Flight 103 was downed in December 1988 it is impossible to identify persons within that authority who could be truly said to be ‘independent’ or are not under the potential influence of the Lord Advocate and other persons who have publicly rejected the nine criminal allegations and vilified the members of JfM who made them.  

Given these three facts JfM calls into question the ability of the Lord Advocate and Crown Office to independently and objectively consider the final ‘Operation Sandwood’ police report. Having clearly made up their minds and publicised their views the public interest demands a totally independent prosecutor be appointed. 

These opinions have received backing from senior legal and political sources. 

As a solution we have recommended that a Prosecutor totally independent of Crown Office be appointed to consider any report which emanates from Operation Sandwood and that this person’s decision should not be open to be changed by the Lord Advocate or Crown Office. 

The Lord Advocate has undertaken to have what he terms ‘independent counsel’ appointed to receive and consider the Operation Sandwood report but has failed to confirm that the final decisions on the police report will be made by someone totally independent of himself and Crown Office. 

In pursuit of this goal JfM has enlisted the assistance of the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament, but to date the committee has failed to receive a definitive response. Related correspondence can be found at: 

We have also corresponded with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson but he has refused to intervene. 

It seems clear to JfM that while the Lord Advocate might go some small way to meeting our requests he has no intention of giving up the Crown’s ultimate power to decide who will consider the ‘Operation Sandwood’ report, whether any prosecutions will result and what if anything is made public. 

Given that the police report is expected in the next two months JfM believes it is imperative to act now to do everything possible to ensure that neither the Lord Advocate nor Crown Office have any part to play in the final determination on the ‘Operation Sandwood’ report. 

Failing that it is vital these authorities are aware a steady spotlight will continue to shine on their actions to ensure that the previous bias and prejudice is not allowed to colour their judgement as the report is considered. 

That the Lord Advocate and Crown Office should have publicly dismissed the criminal allegations which will shortly be the subject of a major Police Scotland report is bad enough. That they should now seek to control what action is taken on that report is at best highly improper and at worst a denial of justice to those who believe that the truth should be heard. 



September 2012: ‘Justice for Megrahi’ (JfM) writes to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice seeking an independent investigation into 9 allegations of criminality. At this time and before they had been formally reported to the police Crown Office authorities publicly dismissed them as being without foundation: 

December 2012: Shortly after the allegations were officially made to the police and before their enquiry had started, in widely reported statements, the Lord Advocate again went public calling the JfM members who has made the allegations, “conspiracy theorists” and labelling the allegations, ‘defamatory and entirely unfounded … deliberately false and misleading.’ 

December 2014: At the Lockerbie commemoration ceremony in America, the Lord Advocate re-emphasised Mr Megrahi’s guilt, and the only remaining question was - ‘who were his accomplices’? These comments were made in the full knowledge that ‘Operation Sandwood’ was ongoing and that if any of the criminal allegations were upheld this would call into question Mr Megrahi’s guilt and the culpability of Crown Office and police.

Despite being aware of the seriousness of the 9 JfM allegations and the potential of the ‘Operation Sandwood’ police enquiry to bring new evidence to light, which might affect the guilt or otherwise of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and the integrity of the witnesses used by the prosecution at his trial, the Lord Advocate has continued to undermine ‘Sandwood’ by promoting the theory that the only persons responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy were Mr Megrahi and unidentified suspects in Libya. 

Even now In the latest publicity surrounding Crown Office identification of two ‘new’ suspects they wish to interview in Libya the Lord Advocate and Crown Office have continued to favour their own ongoing investigation without any regard to the potential their comments are having on the ongoing ‘Operation Sandwood'. 

Perhaps the ultimate irony comes in the recent comments made by the Lord Advocate in relation to the publicity surrounding the allegation made in the wake of the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody. 

‘Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland urged all those with an interest in the death of Mr Bayoh not to engage in “speculation and a running commentary”. 

‘Mr Mulholland called for Pirc and the Crown Office to be allowed to “get on with their job” amid intense media interest in the case.’

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