Friday, 13 January 2017

Megrahi petition again before Justice Committee

[Justice for Megrahi’s petition features on the agenda for the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee to be held on Tuesday 17 January 2017 starting at 10.00 in Holyrood Committee Room 2. The following are (a) the committee clerk’s note on this agenda item and (b) Justice for Megrahi’s submission to the committee:]

PE1370: Independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction

Terms of the petition
PE1370 (lodged 1 November 2010): The petition on behalf of Justice for Megrahi (JFM), calls for the opening of an inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

Current consideration
19. At its meeting on 27 September 2016 the Committee agreed to keep the petition open pending the completion of Operation Sandwood. This is the operational name for Police Scotland‟s investigation into the nine allegations of criminality levelled by Justice for Megrahi at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the police, and forensic officials involved in the investigation and legal processes relating to Megrahi‟s conviction. The allegations range from perverting the course of justice to perjury. It had previously been understood that the operation would be expected to conclude by the end of 2016. Further information is being sought from Police Scotland and the clerk will update the Committee on this at the 17 January meeting.
20. Police Scotland have previously stated that once the report is finalised it will then be scrutinised and assessed by an independently appointed Queen‟s Counsel appointed by Police Scotland to provide independent direction and advice.
21. In their submission to the Committee for the meeting on the 27 September, the petitioners informed the Committee that they continued to liaise with Operation Sandwood investigators and that they anticipated having a final meeting with them prior to the report being submitted to the COPFS.
22. The petitioners have provided a written submission (Annexe F*) asking the Committee to keep the petition open not only until the completion of Operation Sandwood but until the COPFS has fully considered the police report and announced its findings. The submission does not contain any new information from the petitioners as to the likely completion date for Operation Sandwood.

Options for action on petition PE1370
23. The Committee is invited to consider what action it wishes to take in relation to the petition, having regard to its decision in September in keep the petition open pending the completion of Operation Sandwood.

*Annexe F

Petition: PE1370 submission from Petitioner
In November 2010 Justice for Megrahi (JfM) lodged petition PE1370 with the Petitions Committee calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988. The petition was referred to the Justice Committee which first considered it on 8th November 2011.

In 2012 we lodged with the police nine allegations of criminality linked to the Lockerbie investigation and trial, and for the last three years Police Scotland has been conducting a major criminal investigation into these allegations under the codename “Operation Sandwood‟. It is anticipated that the police will submit their final report to the Crown Office in the early part of this year.

Over the period since its submission in 2011 the Justice Committee has agreed to keep this petition open. At the meeting on 27th September however members decided to keep the petition open “pending the completion of Operation Sandwood”. This could be construed as a change from the previous position, assumed by us, that the petition would be kept open until the Crown Office had fully considered the police report and announced its findings.

Given the centrality of this issue to the image of Scottish Justice at home and abroad and the previous public dismissal of the JfM allegations by Crown Office even before the police investigation of them had begun (indeed, even before the supporting evidence had been submitted), we would seek assurance from the Justice Committee that it will continue its review of our petition and the Operation Sandwood inquiry until the police report has been fully considered by Crown Office and its conclusions have been announced.

We believe that the Justice Committee is the principal body through which the Scottish Parliament fulfils its constitutional duty to provide political oversight of the Scottish Justice System. As such, we believe that its continued monitoring of the actions of the prosecution authorities in relation to the Operation Sandwood investigations is critical and very much in the public interest.

We would respectfully urge the Committee to allow Petition PE1370 to remain on the table until the Crown Office has announced its conclusions in respect of Operation Sandwood.

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