Thursday, 11 April 2019

Reaction to sealing of 1991 Lockerbie telegram to John Major

[A letter from Dr Jim Swire is published in today's edition of The Times. It reads as follows:]

 As the father of Flora Swire, a victim of the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, may I congratulate The Times on its brave attempt to obtain the contents of a telegram sent to John Major as prime minister from an unnamed overseas government (“Lockerbie telegram must remain sealed until 2032”, Scotland edition, Apr 10). It has long been apparent that there are many fatal flaws in the evidence brought to the Zeist court in 2000-01, and used to convict the Libyan Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi of being a key perpetrator.

Lockerbie remains the worst single terrorist outrage to occur in the UK since the Second World War, yet there has been no inquiry. Those who value the independence of judicial systems from political interference must, like us relatives, be concerned about the reluctance of successive UK governments to allow relevant matters to become public. By 2032 I will be 96, and probably leaning on a cromach to listen.

[RB: As submitted, the letter read as follows:]

As the father of Flora Swire, a victim the 1988 Lockerbie disaster may I congratulate The Times on its brave attempt to obtain the contents of a telegram sent to Sir John Major as PM, from an overseas kingdom.

It has long been apparent that there are many fatal flaws in the evidence brought to the Zeist court in 2000/1, and used to convict the Libyan, Baset Al-Megrahi of being a key perpetrator.

During the second appeal by Mr Megrahi against conviction, Scotland's Advocate-General of the day was sent post-haste to confer with then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband who was persuaded immediately to  issue a PII certificate to protect a communication received by Sir John from access by the public or the defence team.

When a distinguished Scottish newspaper, having discovered the contents was about to publish, it was threatened with draconian measures to disrupt its editions

This communication to Sir John  had been in the possession of the Megrahi  prosecution team for years, but denied to Megrahi's defence. Megrahi's second appeal was on the cusp of reaching parts of the evidence in which it might have been highly relevant.

At that point Mr Megrahi was offered compassionate release and his appeal was stopped.

Lockerbie remains the worst single terrorist outrage to occur in the UK since WWII, yet there has been no inquiry.

Those who value the independence of judicial systems from political interference must, like us relatives, be concerned about the reluctance of successive UK Governments to allow relevant matters to become public for so long.

By 2032 I will be 94 years old, and probably leaning on a cromach to listen.

[RB: An article published in today's edition of The National reads in part:]

A decision to keep under wraps a telegram sent to them prime minister John Major three years after the Lockerbie bombing “adds insult to injury” for the families and friends of those who died in the atrocity, according to a campaigner who believes in the innocence of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for it.

The Cabinet Office claimed the contents of the telegram to Major in 1991 were against the national interest – despite the fact that former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill put them into the public domain almost three years ago in his book The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice.

Officials refused a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from The Times newspaper, which means the document will be kept secret at the UK National Archives, at Kew in London, until at least 2032.

Their response read: “In this instance, we believe the release of the information received in confidence would harm UK relations with the country which provided the information.

“This would be detrimental to the operation of government and would not be in the UK’s interest.

“In light of the potential harm to UK relations with the country concerned, and UK interests there, it is judged that release of the material would not be in the public interest.”

The material is covered by a controversial public interest immunity (PII) certificate, which was signed in 2008 by then foreign secretary David Miliband.

It was identified as important to the defence of Megrahi by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which granted his appeal after the Crown failed to disclose details at his 2002 trial.

In his book, MacAskill said the telegram to Major, above, was from the late King Hussein of Jordan and blamed the bombing on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), the group originally suspected of carrying it out.

Records at the National Archives confirm that Major received a telegram relating to the bombing on November 15, 1991 – the day after the British and US governments announced they were bringing charges against Megrahi and his co-accused Lamin Khalifah Fhimah.

Iain McKie, from the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) group, which is campaigning to clear the Libyan’s name, said: “It beggars belief that the UK government, after 30 years of widespread and well-founded doubts about various aspects of the Lockerbie investigation and trial, continues in its efforts to hide the truth about the tragedy.

“That it should claim to be protecting the public interest only adds insult to injury for the family and friends of the 270 souls who perished.

“Why would they claim it was in the public interest in keeping this material quiet until 2032?

“In some ways it heightens – not lessens – suspicion.

“Here in Scotland we’re awaiting the SCCRC decision on the submission from the Megrahi family – and there is a big story to be told internationally.”

MacAskill told The National there was “no good reason” to keep the contents secret, given that Hussein is dead. He said: “It can hardly exacerbate the situation in Jordan.

“Besides, the Crown has always been happy for it to be released as they think it just adds to the conspiracy theories when there’s a good explanation about it and it doesn’t exculpate Libya or Megrahi.” (...) [RB: The failure to disclose the document to Megrahi's legal team before or during the Lockerbie trial is one of the six reasons given by the SCCRC for finding that Megrahi's conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice. It is accordingly difficult to accept the Crown's contention, as reported here by Mr MacAskill, that it does not exculpate Libya or Megrahi, or at least seriously undermine the case against them.]

Professor Robert Black QC, the architect of the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands, who believes there was a miscarriage of justice, said: “It is extremely difficult to understand how a document dating from Nov-ember 15, 1991, could still in 2019 adversely affect the national interests of the UK or its relations with the country of origin.”

“Much more likely is that the contents of the documents would embarrass the UK by showing just how tenuous is the case for Libyan responsibility for the Lockerbie tragedy.”

No comments:

Post a comment