Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Lockerbie bombing conviction ‘crumbling’

[This is part of the headline over a report in today’s edition of The National. It reads as follows:]

The official case against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, is crumbling, according to the father of one of the victims.

Dr Jim Swire’s comments came as the fallout continued from the first extracts published of former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s book The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice.

MacAskill wrote that clothes in the suitcase used to carry the bomb “were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi. But if Megrahi didn’t buy the clothes, he was certainly involved”.

The verdict reached at Megrahi’s trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, hinged on evidence from Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci that he had bought the clothes in his shop.

Swire told The National: “I think what we’re seeing is the official case is falling to pieces. There will have to be a legally powerful review of all the evidence, the way the trial was conducted and it’s more than justified whatever the decisions reached by Operation Sandwood.”

Sandwood is a Police Scotland investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial by the campaign group Justice for Megrahi (JfM) of which Swire is a founder member.

“If Sandwood confirms any of the criminal acts that are alleged then it’s absolutely inevitable that there should be such an inquiry. The evidence has to be reviewed in a way that would have the power to overturn the verdict if it so decided.

“If Megrahi didn’t buy the clothing there’s no case against him.”

Megrahi was released by MacAskill on compassionate grounds in August 2009 suffering from terminal prostate cancer, and died three years later in Libya.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, meanwhile, has claimed that pressure is mounting for a further appeal against the conviction. He had previously applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to have it overturned – an application made on behalf of Swire, the Rev John Mosey and 22 other British relatives of passengers who died on Pan Am Flight 103, as well as immediate Megrahi family members.

“This is not the end of the matter and the fact that a former Justice Secretary and First Minister are raising concerns about the conviction of Megrahi adds to the pressure for a further appeal, because they’re privy to information that none of us are privy to,” Anwar told The National.

“At the end of the day … Megrahi was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed to have sold him clothes, gave a description of him in multiple statements and failed to recognise him in a courtroom.

“It’s now accepted by an ex-Justice Secretary that Megrahi might not have bought those clothes. It’s all very well for Mr MacAskill to say he’s got no doubt that he was involved in the bombing in some way, but that’s not how it works in criminal law.

“If Megrahi did not buy those clothes that were found in the wreckage of Pan Am flight 103 then that casts doubt on his conviction.”

Anwar added that the Scottish and UK governments had always denied playing any role in pressuring Megrahi into dropping his appeal.

MacAskill was unavailable for comment last night.

[A letter from Iain A D Mann published in The Herald today reads as follows:]

It comes as no great surprise to learn from the new book by former Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, analysed by Iain Macwhirter, that the release of the convicted prisoner Abdul baset al Megrahi from a Scottish jail was the result of a cynical undercover deal between Gordon Brown’s UK government and Libya’s President Gadaffi. It was all about undercover oil deals and defence contracts, and had little to do with Megrahi’s state of terminal illness (“Macaskill, Megrahi and a host of questions”, The Herald, May 17).

But the question must then be asked: why on earth did the Scottish Government agree to take all the blame and then be subject to years of abuse from the British and American governments and media? What benefit was that to Scotland? Does Mr MacAskill’s book explain this, and also why the Scottish Government insisted on taking sole responsibility for Megrahi’s early release?

It seems that the new book also confirms that the attack on [Pan Am] 103 “was in revenge for the downing of an Iranian civilian passenger aircraft by a US naval ship”. Most rational people have believed this for years, but again the question arises: why did Libya agree to carry out the retaliation on behalf of Iran? I am sure the Iranian secret service was just as capable of doing its own dirty work, rather than sub-contracting the job to another country which had no good reason to become involved.

Questions also still remain about the reliability of some of the evidence given at the Camp Zeist trial, despite Mr MacAskill’s lengthy review of the case in his book. He also confirms that “other states and terrorist organisations also played their part”. Again many of us have believed that for years, but it was never mentioned at the trial. Sadly this case remains a stain on the reputation of our much revered Scottish justice system, and Mr MacAskill has not helped this situation by these latest revelations.

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