Saturday, 24 March 2018

Justice for Megrahi's suggested issues for Scottish Parliament Justice Committee

[The following document outlines some of the issues that Justice for Megrahi considers arise out of its submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee for consideration at its meeting on Tuesday 27 March 2018. It is expected that the submission itself will appear on the Scottish Parliament website on Monday:]

APPENDIX ‘A’: Justice Committee Brief: MacAskill/Salmond Public Statements and Relevant Questions.

(NB: While quotations have been checked and are believed to be accurate please check against references before use.)


The Times: 15th May 2016

‘Trade deal link to Lockerbie bomber release’

‘In a dramatic new book, serialised exclusively in The Sunday Times, former justice minister Kenny MacAskill also admits his decision to free one of the world’s most notorious terrorists was partly motivated by a fear of violent reprisals against Scots if the killer died in Scottish custody.
His account divulges:
•Ministers refused to travel with MacAskill amid threats to his life;
•The SNP sought concessions from Westminster in exchange for Megrahi’s possible return.’

ITV News Website Monday 23 May 2016

‘Megrahi conviction "probably unsafe" says MacAskill’

‘Scotland's former Justice Secretary has told ITV Border there are doubts about the conviction of the only man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing.

“I do think there are now doubts upon the conviction and I tend to think that it probably would result in it being found unsafe.”

The Times: 25th May 2016

‘MacAskill ‘has destroyed the Lockerbie conviction’’

‘Robert Black, QC, said that Kenny MacAskill’s contention in his new book that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi had not bought the clothes wrapped around the explosive device that destroyed an airliner amounted to “the end of the conviction”…………
“If that were now the official Scottish government position, that is the end of the conviction,” Professor Black said. In a statement, the Crown Office said it remained certain of al-Megrahi’s guilt.’

Sunday Herald 29th May 2016

Book Review by John Ashton: ‘The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice’ by Kenny MacAskill

‘The unravelling of Kenny MacAskill ... and the case against Megrahi’

‘Overshadowing these revelations, however, is a single sentence buried among the book’s 322 pages, which reads: “Clothes in the suitcase that carried the bomb were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi.” ……………….As the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission noted when it referred Megrahi’s conviction to the appeal court in 2007, the assumption that Megrahi was the clothes purchaser was critical. Without it, there was insufficient evidence to convict him.’

‘The weaknesses in the identification evidence were well known to the Scottish government when MacAskill, as Justice Secretary, was claiming that the conviction was safe,’ says JfM’s Iain McKie, a former police superintendent who spent 15 years battling the police and Crown Office to clear the name of his daughter Shirley McKie.’

Scotsman: 5th July 2017.

‘Kenny MacAskill: Lockerbie conspiracy theories ‘absurd’

‘The case is complex. It could only ever be thus given who was involved, how it was carried out and where the bomb detonated. That there was a trial at all is down to the remarkable investigation carried out by Scottish officers and colleagues from many forces in the UK and beyond. The planning of the atrocity was global with several countries and organisations involved, and the debris was scattered from the Solway Firth to the Kielder Forest. As a consequence, the evidence could never be the clearest or most compelling.’

The Herald 30th November 2017

‘Alex Salmond casts doubt on Lockerbie bomber conviction’

‘Alex Salmond has cast doubt on the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber, suggesting it was based on evidence that was “open to question”.

The former First Minister – who was in office when Abdelbaset al Megrahi was controversially freed from prison on compassionate grounds – said it was possible “for someone to be guilty, yet wrongly convicted”……………..
However, his conviction was not just based on the strength of that evidence but on identification evidence which is to say the least open to question.”

The National 30th November 2017
‘US and UK were ‘double-dealing’ on Megrahi release’

‘In a special St Andrew’s Day edition of the Alex Salmond Show on RT today, MacAskill makes the explosive claim that Scotland was “slapped about mercilessly” by the British and American governments, who he accuses of “double dealing”.

Salmond himself says the identification evidence which helped convict Megrahi is “open to question” and berates the “total cynicism” of those who attacked the Scottish Government  over the decision to send the Libyan home on compassionate grounds because he had terminal prostate cancer. He says the UK Government wanted Megrahi sent home to secure an oil deal. (…)’

The Times: 1st December 2017

‘Salmond condemned after casting doubt on Lockerbie conviction’

‘Alex Salmond has provoked criticism for claiming that the only man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing was wrongly convicted.

The former first minister said he believed that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was guilty of playing a part in the terrorist attack that killed 270 people in December 1988, but that the court was wrong to convict him.’

The Cable Magazine: 9th January 2018

‘Kenny MacAskill: Reflecting on Lockerbie’

‘Megrahi was released by me in 2009, on compassionate grounds, when I was Justice Secretary. In many ways, the trial has overshadowed both the events leading up to it, and actions subsequent to it. For some, it has become a cause célèbre and for others, simply the culmination of the tragedy………….Perhaps there should have been more wariness all those years ago, when an Italian air force plane in UN markings collected Megrahi and his co-accused – Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah – from Tripoli, to take them to the Netherlands for trial. For though this was to be a trial held under Scots law (albeit convened in a former Dutch air force base), the major ground rules had already been set. However, the Scottish judges presiding over the trials has not yet been notified of those rules.Vested financial interests should perhaps also have been discerned. The first Scots lawyers to visit Gadhafi travelled on a plane provided by Babcock and Wilcox. Others later returned on the private jet of Tiny Rowland.’

The Herald: 2nd September 2016

‘Kenny MacAskill: Gauci and the benefit of doubt on Lockerbie’

‘The issue with the continued trial of the Scottish justice system is that it lets the major security and commercial interests off the hook. The Scottish police did outstanding work both at the crash scene and in the subsequent investigation, along with law enforcement colleagues globally. Prosecution and judicial authorities acted diligently and honourably. Yet they have been traduced by some, which is a calumny upon them.
The criminal investigation into Lockerbie was overshadowed by commercial and security deals that were ongoing for decades and in which Scotland had no involvement.’

The Herald: 21st August 2016

‘Lockerbie bomber release saw Scotland take rap, says Kenny MacAskill’

‘Scotland was set up to "take the rap" for the release of the Lockerbie bomber, according to former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Mr MacAskill likened the SNP government's involvement to "flotsam and jetsam, the same as the bags that fell upon the poor town of Lockerbie and the people there".
Mr MacAskill insisted the Scottish Government had not been complicit in any prisoner transfer deals for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity, and had "no control and little influence".
The decision to return Megrahi to Libya in 2009 was taken by Mr MacAskill on compassionate grounds.’



Alex Salmond: back cover quotation.

‘It ends with the most credible explanation yet published of who was really responsible for the downing of Pan Am flight 103.’

Kenny MacAskill, in the book itself:

1. p.137: ‘The court itself commented on the lack of evidence of the Samsonite case with the bomb being placed on board the Air Malta flight. It certainly seems that is where it all started and that Megrahi was at the airport at the time with a pass** that allowed him access. But, beyond that, there is really is no evidence other than that he was there. It’s understandable how once loaded at Malta it would work its way through the system unchecked and with only cursory checks at Frankfurt and Heathrow. But there is no direct evidence that Megrahi placed the bag on board.’

2. p.138: ‘Would a jury have convicted the accused? Most certainly they would have.…They would have almost certainly been swayed by views that had already been formed in the court of public opinion before the trial at Camp Zeist convened.’

3. p.139: ‘This [the trial at Camp Zeist] was more than the trial of the accused; so much more. Prospects for peace and trade depended on it; as much as the closure for some victims’ families and vengeance for others… The thaw in international tensions would have receded and fast, and the hoped-for lifting of sanctions and resumption of trade would have faltered and  evaporated. Both Libya and the West both wanted and needed it. The world would have become a less certain and less secured place. The die was cast when the trial was established.…It’s hard to imagine how there could have been any other verdict in the circumstances. In many ways, as with Megrahi and Fhimah, Scots law and its judges were simply actors in the theatre that had been created to circumvent and solve both as diplomatic impasse and political problem. Scots law convened the trial, and yet found itself on trial.’

4. p.305: ‘The clothes were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi. The identification is suspect. The attempts to make the purchase fit the two possible dates when Megrahi was there are problematic indeed. The final selection of 7 December to tie in with the big European football fixture fails to take account of the meteorological evidence of there being no rain. Given the importance placed on Gauci recalling an umbrella having been bought, all that seems rather implausible.’

5. pp.305-307: But if Megrahi didn’t buy the clothes, he was certainly involved.…Megrahi flew in to Malta with the suitcase that was to transport the bomb…Megrahi had been to Malta the month before, which was probably preparatory for the scheme and involved discussions on the logistics of clothes, the suitcase and the bomb equipment. He may even have brought the timers in with him. He would meet with others in the embassy to discuss and build plans already developed by the PFLP-GC − hence the interlining with a flight through Frankfurt in Germany. Though Megrahi had been involved in the acquisition of timers, and even witnessed their use in tests in Libya, he would not be the bomb maker. That would have been prepared in the Libyan People’s Bureau…’

6. pp.312-315: ‘Megrahi took the case to the airport, but it was Fhimah who would get it airside and beyond security.… Fhimah was familiar both with the procedures and to the staff who worked there. Placing a bag behind and into the system was a relatively simple task given the accreditation and access Fhimah had.…
‘It will probably never be known just how the security measures were breached, but no doubt that was why the plot involved those with accreditation, access and knowledge of the airport. If anyone would know how to do it, then Fhimah would.’

7. p.316: ‘There are also aspects of the case that could not be sustained in a court of law with the high standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt required and specific rules on evidence needed. There are equally aspects of this case that may not have seen a criminal conviction sustained on appeal. But, this account of how the bombing was carried out and by whom is based on information gathered meticulously by police and prosecutors from the US, Scotland and elsewhere. It’s also founded on intelligence and sources not available for a court or that have only come to light thereafter.’

** But see item 6, in which KM contradicts himself, as he specifically states that it was Fhimah who had the knowledge and accreditation to get a bag through the security system at Luqa and who did so, even though KM’s explanation of how this happened is entirely speculative.

APPENDIX ‘B’:    Justice Committee Brief: Relevant Questions

In addition to the four central  questions contained in the main submission JfM believes the following ones relevant to any JC consideration.

  1. Why do Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond both now express doubts about the safeness of Megrahi’s conviction was unsafe when their government said that it did not doubt the safety of the conviction?
  2. MacAskill and Salmond must have known that Mr Megrahi’s family might one day resurrect his appeal. Did they not appreciate that, in stating that it did not doubt the safety of Megrahi’s conviction, their government was making a public judgement on a process that was supposed to free from political influence?
  3. When they were in government, to what extent were their own and their government’s public statements shaped by the Crown Office? In asking this question we note that after the publication of the SCCRC report by the Sunday Herald, the Crown Office and Salmond put a remarkably similar spin on the Commission’s findings:
Crown Office statement, 23 March 2012:
‘In the Megrahi case, the Commission was asked to look at more than 40 possible grounds for a referral to the Appeal Court. The Commission rejected the vast majority of these and referred the case to the Appeal Court on six grounds, many of which were inter-related.*
Alex Salmond 24.3.12: ‘While the [SCCRC] report shows that there were six grounds on which it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, it also rejected 45 of the 48 grounds submitted by Megrahi, and in particular it upheld the forensic basis of the case leading to Malta and to Libyan involvement’**
*Scottish government spokesman quoted in the Herald, 21 May 2012
**Alex Salmond quoted in the Mail Online 25.3.12

  1. Was MacAskill briefed by the Crown Office and/or the police when writing his book? On what basis did he state that Megrahi did not buy the clothes for the bomb suitcase from Tony Gauci’s shop?
  2. MacAskill is aware that a major police investigation, Operation Sandwood, is ongoing in to the JfM allegations of criminality against some of the Lockerbie investigators. In his recent article for Cable, MacAskill states that investigators have been "denigrated for alleged falsities” and that "At the trial stage, both prosecutors and judges acted professionally in dealing with the facts then before them.” Did he not consider that this was publicly undermining the investigation?
  3. Why did MacAskill pass the JfM committee’s confidential allegations on to the Crown Office when he knew that the allegations were against Crown Officials?
  4. Why did he insist that the committee must take the complaint to Dumfries and Galloway police, even though its Lockerbie investigation was the subject of the complaints?
  5. Why did he not appoint an independent investigator to examine the allegations, as he was empowered to do under the 2005 Inquiries Act?
  6. Having been given a summary of the JfM committee’s allegations by MacAskill, the Crown Office immediately issued a statement claiming that the allegations were: ‘without exception, defamatory and entirely unfounded’? Do MacAskill and Salmond believe that was an appropriate comment for the CO to make? If not, why did they not rebuke the Crown Office?
  7. Why did MacAskill tell the Scottish Parliament that primary legislation was needed to remove the requirement that all those who had supplied information to the SCCRC must consent to the release of the SCCRC report when in fact all that was necessary under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 was another statutory instrument? And why did also state in the same parliamentary answer that publication would be subject to data protection restrictions?

1 comment:

  1. "Fhimah was familiar both with the procedures and to the staff who worked there," says Kenny. And that's exactly why he couldn't have introduced an extra item of baggage onto KM180 - he would have been recognised, and staff would have wanted to know what he was doing airside when he no longer worked there. Besides this, of course, there's also Air Malta's security system, which was very difficult to subvert, a task which would necessitate an inside job by a member of Air Malta staff - and the investigating team couldn't find a single trace of that having happened. Add to that the fact that staff didn't know until each morning which flights they would be working on, which would mean that if Fhimah and Megrahi had travelled to Malta to deliver a bomb, they could not have known whether they would be able to get it on a flight that day, so a massive coincidence is required.

    Of course, as Rolfe has pointed out many times, there is a ton of evidence showing that the bomb was loaded at Heathrow. I'm just making these points to underline that Malta is not even a remotely credible alternative.