Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Dershowitz. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Dershowitz. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday 6 September 2015

Widespread doubt about Megrahi guilt, says Dershowitz

[What follows is the text of an article headlined Dershowitz Blacklisted that was published in the The Jewish Journal on this date in 2001:]

Celebrity Harvard law professor Alan M Dershowitz, the prolific author and veteran battler for human rights, is a much-sought-after speaker, but Temple Adath Yeshurun in Syracuse, NY, may have scored a first by withdrawing an invitation to him.

Dershowitz was to have delivered the keynote address and accepted a Citizen of the Year award at the temple's festive dinner Sept 6, but that was before dinner chairman Alan Burstein received some unsettling news.

The Harvard professor had agreed to serve as counsel to a British law firm that is appealing the conviction of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. The Libyan intelligence officer has been found guilty by a panel of Scottish judges of murdering 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec 21, 1988.

The terrorist act hit the city of Syracuse particularly hard, because aboard the doomed plane were 35 students from Syracuse University. Slated as honorees and participants at the temple dinner were the chancellor of Syracuse University, his wife, and faculty members who still bear the emotional scars of the tragedy.

Under the circumstances, it would have been the height of insensitivity to ask the university leaders to share the dais with a man perceived to be an ally of the convicted terrorist, Burstein said.

Dershowitz responded with characteristic vigor, telling The Jewish Journal, "This is a 21st century version of legal McCarthyism."

He noted that there was widespread doubt among Western intelligence agencies and even some of the families of the British victims that al-Megrahi was the actual perpetrator.

"It is at least as likely that the bombing was carried out not by a Libyan agent, but by someone connected with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command," Dershowitz said. He said his own role was limited to objectively evaluating the validity of the eyewitness testimony that helped convict al-Megrahi.

"It is preposterous to criticize any lawyer for seeking the truth," Dershowitz said. "I have been doing that all my life and will continue to do so as long as God gives me the strength."

During a number of phone interviews, the two principals agreed that if Dershowitz had been aware of the special loss by the Syracuse community, and Burstein of the very limited role of Dershowitz in the appeal, the unhappy incident might have been avoided.

Dershowitz is to appear at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance on Sept 20 to discuss his new book, "Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000," with a panel of legal experts.

"I invite anyone with doubts about my role in the Lockerbie case to come and ask questions," Dershowitz said.

Friday 14 October 2016

Preliminary stages of first Megrahi appeal

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

Relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing are travelling to the Netherlands for the first stage of the appeal, which will determine the fate of the man convicted of the atrocity.

A preliminary hearing will take place in Camp Zeist, near Utrecht on Monday for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

The 49-year-old Libyan was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

The hearing before five Scottish judges - Lords Cullen, Kirkwood, MacFadyen, Nimmo Smith and McEwan - will consider various procedural and administrative matters.

Among those making the trip to the Netherlands are two British men who lost daughters in the atrocity.

Rev John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Helga in the bombing said: "We feel it's important that someone from the families is there to see that justice is done.

"We just feel it is right that we are there."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 23, was killed, said: "We followed the whole of the trial so it makes sense to follow this stage as well."

Dr Swire also revealed how he and other members of the UK Families Flight 103 pressed Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for a full inquiry into the tragedy at a recent meeting.

He said: "We intimated that in our view it's extremely urgent to have an inquiry because Lockerbie was always an avoidable tragedy."

Monday's hearing at Camp Zeist is expected to last one day and set the date for the start of the appeal, which is likely to be next year.

Al Megrahi was jailed for life after being convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in January.

His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted by Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean at the end of the eight-month trial.

Al Megrahi's legal team, which includes American human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz and high-profile British QC Michael Mansfield, lodged an appeal against his conviction in February. [RB: Dershowitz and Mansfield acted as consultants: they could not, of course, appear as counsel in a Scottish court.]

Although the full grounds of the appeal have not been made public it is thought that the defence will challenge evidence which came from Tony Gauci.

During the original trial the Maltese shopkeeper identified Al Megrahi as a man who bought clothing from his store shortly before the bombing.

Remnants of the same clothing were found around Lockerbie after the bombing and there was evidence that the garments may have been packed around the bomb.

Al Megrahi's Libyan lawyer has said he is confident his client will be freed after the appeal.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Megrahi's 2001 appeal

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2001:]

Tne appeal of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi has been plagued by bitter in-fighting because members of his defence team have not been paid for their services.

The Scotsman has learned that Megrahi’s Libyan backers owe tens of thousands of pounds to the lawyers and spin doctors hired to bolster his case. Two members of the defence team have already resigned from the organising committee and one has even served a writ on Megrahi’s UK representative, claiming £30,000 in unpaid fees.

Megrahi was found guilty a year ago of mass murder for bombing New York-bound Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky in December 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people in Lockerbie.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years.

His co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was cleared. Megrahi’s appeal is due to start on Wednesday [23 January 2001].

Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading American civil rights lawyer and one of the main legal brains behind the appeal, has admitted technical specialists and lawyers gathering vital evidence for the case have yet to be paid by the Libyans.

He said: "I’ve been a consultant to the law firm and (I know) some people have not been paid. Some of the experts have not been paid as well. Some of the people that have been retained to do some of the scientific research on the case have not been paid."

Professor Dershowitz’s comments came after David Wynn Morgan and Patrick Robertson, the London-based PR experts brought in to publicise the appeal, resigned from their posts over financial disputes.

Mr Robertson has served a writ on Stephen Mitchell, the representative for Needleman Treon, Megrahi’s London-based solicitors, for almost £30,000.

Last night, Mr Robertson, who has represented former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, confirmed he had served a writ on Mr Mitchell. He said: "I was forced to resign from the committee because I was not paid the agreed sum in my contract to assist the team. I was brought in to inform the media on the case, set up a website on the appeal and organise a seminar for the committee and I had agreed a sum to carry out these functions.

"Unfortunately I have been forced to issue a writ to retrieve the money owed to me, that is now public knowledge and it is a position I would rather not be in."

It has also emerged that Mr Wynn Morgan resigned from the appeal committee by sending an e-mail to his colleagues, stating he was no longer in a position to carry out his duties. The disagreement is said to have come to a head after a five-figure cheque paid to Mr Wynn Morgan’s PR firm was allegedly stopped by representatives acting for the Libyans. A source close to Mr Wynn Morgan said: "David did resign from the appeal committee and it is fair to suggest there was a financial disagreement but we are in a tricky position at the moment.

"All we can say is this ‘disagreement’ has since been resolved and we hope to contribute more to the team in the future, but it was the basis for our withdrawal from the appeal team."

An appeal team insider suggested the timing for the dispute could not be worse and the growing financial cloud hanging over the committee could undermine the Libyan’s case.

He said: "There is a growing unease in the team and many of the lawyers and specialists who have contributed to the appeal feel they have been used by the Libyans."

Megrahi’s appeal is being financed and co-ordinated by a consortium of Libyan lawyers headed by Tripoli-based academic Dr Ibrahim Legwell. [RB: Dr Legwell was not an academic (save for an honorary professorship) but a practising lawyer.]

In a bid to bolster the appeal case, the Libyan lawyers raised funds to recruit the services of some of the world’s leading legal minds and PR men.

The appeal is to be heard by Scotland’s highest-ranking judge, Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice-General, sitting with Lords Kirkwood, Osborne, Macfadyen and Nimmo Smith.

Professor Robert Black, QC, of Edinburgh University, who helped to pave the way for the Lockerbie trial to be held in a neutral country, believes that Megrahi should win his appeal.

He added: "I did not believe either of the accused should have been convicted, and it is pretty plain my view is that the appeal should succeed, simply because Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place on the evidence that was led.

"I believe that conclusions drawn by the court, that Megrahi bought clothing on Malta on a day when he was known to be on the island, went against the weight of the evidence.

"These conclusions were absolutely vital to his conviction. But it is very difficult for five judges to turn round and say, ‘Our three very senior colleagues at the trial got it wrong and they were not entitled to convict.’ I’m not oozing confidence that my view will turn out to be correct."

RB: My lack of confidence in the outcome of the appeal was regrettably justified. The reasons for its failure are set out here, in the section headed “The Appeal”. My view that the trial court’s conclusion, that the clothes that surrounded the bomb were bought in Malta on a day when Megrahi was present on the island, was contrary to the weight of the evidence is shared by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:

“… the Commission formed the view that there is no reasonable basis in the trial court's judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items from Mary's House took place on 7 December 1988. Although it was proved that the applicant was in Malta on several occasions in December 1988, in terms of the evidence 7 December was the only date on which he would have had the opportunity to purchase the items. The finding as to the date of purchase was therefore important to the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser. Likewise, the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser was important to the verdict against him. Because of these factors the Commission has reached the view that the requirements of the legal test [RB: that no reasonable court could have reached that conclusion on the evidence] may be satisfied in the applicant's case.”

Monday 8 August 2016

Lawyer confident about Lockerbie appeal

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001. It reads in part:]

The Libyan lawyer in charge of the Lockerbie bomber's appeal says he is confident that his client will soon be freed.

Dr Ibrahim Legwell's comments came after it was revealed that two top international legal experts had joined the appeal team.

English barrister Michael Mansfield QC and American human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz are both involved in the fight to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

The Libyan was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this year for murdering 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fahima, was found not guilty by three judges at a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.

Speaking from London on Wednesday, Dr Legwell said: "I sent them a copy of the verdict and the transcripts of the trial and asked them for their views and analysis.

"I wanted to know what western lawyers thought about the verdict.

"Their replies gave me the confidence that we can go ahead with the trial with confidence in the western judicial system.

"There are definite aspects which show there has been a miscarriage of justice and I am very confident that we will be able to turn over his conviction." (...)

A further six lawyers have been enlisted to work on Megrahi's appeal.

Among them is Clive Nicholls QC, who represented the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet during extradition hearings at the High Court in London last year.

High profile American lawyer Frank Rubino has also been recruited to the appeal team.

Dr Legwell said he would consult the international legal team for further advice before passing it on to "our Scottish defence team so they can adapt it to Scots law".

Referring to his client, Dr Legwell said: "He is suffering a lot because he knows he is innocent, but has been convicted. But he is optimistic and confident he will win his case."

[RB: Dr Legwell had been the Libyan lawyer originally appointed to represent Megrahi and Fhimah. He was sacked in September 1998 and replaced by Kamal Maghur: the circumstances are outlined here. Maghur died shortly after the Zeist trial ended with Megrahi’s conviction, and Legwell took up the reins once again.

Dr Legwell was always a great enthusiast for international advisory teams, though what they could usefully contribute to preparation for a Scottish trial seemed, to me at least, to be questionable. Here is something written by me about an earlier stage in the case:]
… it was indicated to me that the Libyan government was satisfied regarding the fairness of a criminal trial in Scotland but that since Libyan law prevented the extradition of nationals for trial overseas, the ultimate decision on surrender for trial would have to beone taken voluntarily by the accused persons themselves, in consultation with their independent legal advisers. For this purpose a meeting was convened in Tripoli in October 1993 of the international team of lawyers which had already been appointed to represent the accused. This team consisted of lawyers from Scotland, England, Malta, Switzerland and the United States and was chaired by the principal Libyan lawyer for the accused, Dr Ibrahim Legwell. The Libyan government asked me to be present in Tripoli while the team was meeting so that the government itself would have access to independent Scottish legal advice should the need arise.