[This is the headline over an article by William Paul that appeared in Scotland on Sunday on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]
A United Nations observer at the Lockerbie trial has branded the verdicts in the case unfair, irrational and politically motivated, saying they should be overturned on appeal.
In a scathing denunciation of the proceedings and the quality of Scottish justice, Professor Hans Koechler, a world-renowned expert in international law, claims there was no basis in evidence for the guilty verdict against one of the accused.
Koechler, personally appointed by UN secretary general Kofi Annan to oversee the trial at Camp Zeist in Holland, said it was tainted by the air of international power politics and was neither fair nor balanced.
The guilty verdict in regard to the first accused appears to be arbitrary, even irrational, his report states.
The outcome of the trial may well have been determined by political considerations and may have been the result of a more or less openly -exercised influence... from outside the judicial framework.
Koechler acknowledges that his condemnation of the trial may have a profound impact on the professional reputation and integrity of the three Scottish judges—Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean—but insists that the verdicts were unfair and adds that he hopes any appeal will correct the deficiencies of the trial. His report has been buried by both the UN and the Scottish authorities for the past two months.
Koechler, president of the Vienna-based International Progress Organisation and professor of philosophy of law at Innsbruck University, reiterated his concerns at a conference in Cairo yesterday. He said: In my opinion, there seemed to be considerable political influence on the judges and the verdict.
He was given privileged access to lawyers and the accused and sat through all sessions of the court. He submitted his analysis within days of Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi being found guilty, and his co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, not guilty of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the mass murder of 270 people.
The publication of his report now will come as a monumental embarrassment to both the Scottish legal establishment and to the UN, which had hoped the end of the trial would signal an improvement in relations between the west and Libya.
After the trial Annan said that justice had taken its course and the authority and legitimacy of the legal process must be respected.
Yesterday, a UN spokesman insisted Koechler’s report was nothing more than a personal opinion and that, as an observer of the trial, he was required only to watch, not to report on its fairness.
Lord Sutherland, the senior trial judge whose verdict was condemned by Koechler, said: It would be inadvisable for me to make any comment. Let the Appeal Court decide whether the verdict was irrational.
A spokesman for the Crown Office said the report appeared to be based on a misunderstanding of the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system in Scotland and other English-speaking countries.
It involves a contest between prosecution and defence rather than an inquiry carried out by judges.
He does not appear to have understood it is for prosecution and defence lawyers to investigate the case and decide what evidence to present to the court. The suggestion that the verdict was politically motivated again proceeds on a complete misunderstanding of facts and the independence of the judiciary.
However, the Rev John Mosey, whose daughter Helga,19, was killed at Lockerbie, said Koechler’s report touched on many of the issues he had raised with the Lord Advocate during the trial without receiving satisfactory answers. It expresses more eloquently than I managed to do all of the major concerns that many of the relatives had identified, he said.