Thursday, 3 November 2016

Stand up for justice, not just for the Scottish legal system

[This is the headline over a group of three letters published in today’s edition of The Herald. They read as follows:]

Kenny MacAskill, not for the first time, has demonstrated his ignorance of some of the basic facts of the Lockerbie case (“Gauci and the benefit of doubt on Lockerbie”, The Herald, November 2). His article starts by getting Tony Gauci’s age wrong and goes downhill from there.

He claims that Mr Gauci was not aware that he might be rewarded for his evidence until after he made a partial identification of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi as the man who bought from him the clothes that were used in the bomb suitcase. In fact, declassified police documents show that when he made the identification he was not only aware that reward money was offer, but had also expressed an interest in receiving it.

Like Mr MacAskill, I don’t believe that Mr Gauci lied for money, nevertheless, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission noted (but Mr MacAskill fails to), his trial testimony was significantly more helpful to the prosecution than his earlier police statements.

Nowhere does Mr MacAskill mention his own reluctant admission that the holes in Mr Gauci’s evidence meant that Megrahi’s conviction was “probably unsafe”. Nor does he express concern that the Crown withheld numerous items of significant evidence from the defence.

Mr MacAskill asserts that the Scottish prosecutors “acted diligently and honourably”. Yet, as he knows full well, key aspects of their conduct have drawn international [criticism].

Standing up for the Scottish criminal justice system is not the same as standing up for justice. If Mr MacAskill is truly concerned for justice, he should temper his patriotism with a recognition that Megrahi, like Mr Gauci, was also entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

John Ashton (biographer of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi)

Kenny MacAskill reiterates one of the main themes of his book, The Lockerbie Bombing, published earlier this year: that the performance of the Scottish criminal justice system, during the investigation into the destruction of Pan Am 103 and the subsequent trial of two Libyans for the crime, was “outstanding”, but was itself overshadowed and undermined by international “commercial and security deals involving the UK, the United States and Libya.

If ever there were an example of somebody crying “It wisnae us” this is it. Innumerable authoritative observers have concluded that the Camp Zeist trial was a travesty of justice. Mr MacAskill himself, in his book, states unequivocally that Megrahi was not the purchaser of clothes, later found to have been packed in the bomb suitcase, from the late Tony Gauci’s shop in Malta. Yet this completely contradicts not only the verdict of the court but also the position Mr MacAskill maintained while Cabinet Secretary for Justice, that he “did not doubt the safety of the conviction”.

In his article Mr MacAskill refers to Tony Gauci both as “a crucial witness for the prosecution” and yet as being only “a small part of the Lockerbie trial”. How can he have been both? Mr MacAskill knows (and concedes in his book) that without Megrahi having been identified by Mr Gauci as the purchaser of the clothes the case against him would have collapsed. He writes that the issues with Gauci’s evidence were less with the actual content of that evidence than that “it was the interpretation put upon it by the court that was critical”.’ How on earth does this square with the idea that the Scottish justice system performed well, and that those of us who think otherwise are somehow traducing it?

James Robertson

I’m afraid I find former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s comments on some aspects of the Megrahi case far from convincing. The one person who certainly did not get the benefit of all the doubts that surrounded the trial is Megrahi.

Mr MacAskill does not even comment on how Mr Gauci was able to identify a casual customer to his shop for a few minutes several years earlier. Could that be because he has an incredible memory for faces and details of every sale, or perhaps it was because he was shown a photograph of Megrahi in advance of the trial, by a person or persons unknown (and perhaps with an American accent)?

After the trial, did it come as a complete surprise to Mr Gauci when he found himself in possession of two million US dollars and a supported move to a new home and comfortable life in Australia? Mr MacAskill’s only comment is that “it appears he wasn’t aware of that or any potential personal gain until considerably later”. Aye, that’ll be right.

Mr MacAskill also says that “the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board was right to home in on both of these aspects”. Yet for various reasons a formal appeal and re-trial was constantly denied or delayed, until Megrahi’s fatal illness provided the welcome excuse to ship him off home.

Mr MacAskill’s article also goes into much detail about subsequent relationships between the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and the United States and UK over trade deals and military support. But he doesn’t even address the question of why Libya should have wanted to destroy an American private airliner in mid-flight. The most obvious reason for such action might have been the shooting down several months earlier of an Iranian civil plane carrying more than 200 passengers by the reckless action of a US warship commander. But strangely that never seemed to occur to anyone in the political or legal hierarchies on either side of the Atlantic.

Much easier to blame a minor Libyan official than risk a major conflict with a real power in the Middle East, and then put pressure on a Scottish court to produce a politically acceptable answer, just because Flight 103 happened to explode just over the Scottish Border instead of in mid-Atlantic. I think Mr MacAskill secretly suspects just that.

Iain AD Mann

1 comment:

  1. DOSSIER LOCKERBIE, 2016: The Investigation Remainings Live!

    In his book (THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING) of MacAskill, states crown witness Edwin Bollier, claimed to have seen Al Megrahi, at explosive tests conducted in Libya, two years before Lockerbie.
    Comment by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd.: This is again a malicious, deliberate insinuation (lie) from MacAskill !
    I, Edwin Bollier, have never made such a statement. against my friend Abdelbaset Al Megrahi !
    Incidentally, the experiments with a military fighterplane bomb, was carried out by the official Libyan military and had absolute nothing to do ,with an improvised explosive device (IED) - an MST-13 timer, was used in this test for reasons of safety, before the military aircraft take-off !
    Mr. Al Megrahi and Libya have nothing to do with the Lockerbie tragedy
    MacAskill is due for a criminal investigation against him...

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage: