Monday, 28 December 2020

Campaigners write to Lord Advocate about 'prejudicial' US Lockerbie briefing

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The National. It reads as follows:]

Campaigners who believe that the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was innocent, have written to the Lord Advocate criticising a briefing by the US which they say is prejudicial to the family of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi as they try to clear his name.

The committee of Justice for Megrahi (JfM) – which includes professor Robert Black QC – architect of the Camp Zeist trial that saw Megrahi convicted, and Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing – wrote to James Wolffe QC saying the briefing by outgoing US attorney general William Barr on December 21, its 32nd anniversary, caused “extreme distress” to the bereaved UK families.

Barr said the US had charged a “third conspirator” – Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi – who allegedly acted along with Megrahi and his acquitted co-accused Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.

Scots lawyer Aamer Anwar, who represents the Megrahi family in their appeal, accused Barr of “grandstanding”.

JfM said they agreed with John Mosey – whose daughter died in the bombing – that Barr’s action was, “bizarre, disrespectful, insensitive and extremely ill-considered”.

In their letter to Wolffe, JfM said Barr and others had referred to the Megrahi family appeal, identifying him as an accomplice of the new suspect, along with Fhimah, who was cleared of all charges in the Lockerbie trial.

“We, and many other commentators, consider the statements made by Mr Barr and others, and the contents of the affidavit, to be prejudicial to the Megrahi family’s appeal, and that had they been made in Scotland they would have been deemed to be in contempt of court,” JfM wrote.

“Over many years Justice for Megrahi has, alongside other individuals and groups, consistently raised doubts about Mr Megrahi’s conviction and provided detailed evidence in support of these doubts.

“We have been in regular correspondence with yourself and Crown Office and in 2010 lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for an independent inquiry.

“That petition is still being considered by the Parliament’s Justice Committee.”

They added: “If the American statements are accurate, it would appear that you and Crown Office are closely linked to the American actions and conclusions, as outlined in their briefing and in the affidavit, and have agreed to them.”

JfM asked why Masud was not indicted in Scotland given the disaster happened here; why was a media briefing not held in Scotland and if the Lord Advocate agreed that the briefing should have been held on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing.

“Given that Kara Weipz, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, was fully briefed on the American enquiry and was present at the briefing, why did Crown Office not ensure that the interests of UK groups like ‘UK Families Flight 103’ were similarly updated and represented?”

JfM asked if Wolffe agreed that statements in the US briefing were prejudicial to the Megrahi family appeal.

They added: “Do you agree that had this media briefing been held in Scotland some of the statements made at it would have been deemed to be in contempt of court?"

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