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

Friday 11 August 2023

Death announced of Libyan Lockerbie lawyer Ibrahim Legwell

[The death in Cairo this morning of Dr Ibrahim Legwell at the age of 90 has just been announced. Dr Legwell, as a Libyan lawyer, was involved in the Lockerbie case from the time that Libyan citizens were first publicly accused by the United States and the United Kingdom of responsibility for the bombing. What follows is an item that was posted on this blog on 11 October 2015.]

The genesis of the neutral venue Lockerbie proposal

[It was on this date in 1993 that it was announced, following a “legal summit” held in Tripoli involving the international team of lawyers assembled by Dr Ibrahim Legwell to assist him in advising Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah, that the suspects were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. Those taking part from Scotland were Donald Macaulay QC and Alistair Duff.  I have previously described my own involvement as follows:]

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. 

It was apparent that the Libyan government expectation was that the outcome of the meeting of the defence team would be a decision by the two accused voluntarily to agree to stand trial in Scotland.  I am able personally to testify to how much of a surprise and embarrassment it was to the Libyan government when the outcome of the meeting of the defence team was an announcement that the accused were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland.  My meeting after the defence decision was revealed with the then Deputy Foreign Minister, Mousa Kousa (later head of external security and Foreign Minister) made this only too clear. 

In the course of a private meeting that I had a day later with Dr Legwell, he explained to me that the primary reason for the unwillingness of the accused to stand trial in Scotland was their belief that, because of unprecedented pre-trial publicity over the years, a Scottish jury could not possibly bring to their consideration of the evidence in this case the degree of impartiality and open-mindedness that accused persons are entitled to expect and that a fair trial demands.  A secondary consideration was the issue of the physical security of the accused if the trial were to be held in Scotland.  Not that it was being contended that ravening mobs of enraged Scottish citizens would storm Barlinnie prison, seize the accused and string them up from the nearest lamp posts.  Rather, the fear was that they might be snatched by special forces of the United States, removed to America and put on trial there (or, like Lee Harvey Oswald, suffer an unfortunate accident before being put on trial).

The Libyan government attitude remained, as it always had been, that they had no constitutional authority to hand their citizens over to the Scottish authorities for trial.  The question of voluntary surrender for trial was one for the accused and their legal advisers, and while the Libyan government would place no obstacles in the path of, and indeed would welcome, such a course of action, there was nothing that it could lawfully do to achieve it. (...)

Having mulled over the concerns expressed to me by Dr Legwell in October 1993, I returned to Tripoli and on 10 January 1994 presented a letter to him suggesting a means of resolving the impasse created by the insistence of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States that the accused be surrendered for trial in Scotland or America and the adamant refusal of the accused to submit themselves for trial by jury in either of these countries.  This was a detailed proposal, but in essence its principal elements were the following.

1. That a trial be held outside Scotland, ideally in the Netherlands, in which the governing law and procedure would be that followed in Scottish criminal trials on indictment but with this major alteration, namely that the jury of fifteen persons (not twelve, as in England) which is a feature of that procedure be replaced by a panel of judges -- ideally from states other than those principally affected by the disaster, but presided over by a Scottish judge -- who would have the responsibility of deciding not only questions of law but also the ultimate question of whether the guilt of the accused had been established on the evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

2.  That the prosecution be conducted by the Scottish public prosecutor, Lord Advocate, or his authorised representative.

3. That the defence of the accused persons be conducted by independent Scottish solicitors and counsel appointed by the accused.

4. That any appeals against conviction or sentence be heard and determined in Scotland by the High Court of Justiciary in its capacity as the Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal.

Although not expressly stated in the proposal, it was the clear implication (and this was understood by Dr Legwell) that in the event of the accused being convicted by the court, they would serve any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon them in a prison in Scotland.

In a letter to me dated 12 January 1994, Dr Legwell stated that he had consulted his clients, that this scheme was wholly acceptable to them and that if it were implemented by the government of the United Kingdom the suspects would voluntarily surrender themselves for trial before a tribunal so constituted.  By a letter of the same date, Deputy Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa stated that the Libyan government approved of the proposal and would place no obstacles in the path of its two citizens should they elect to submit to trial under this scheme.

[RB: Further information regarding Dr Legwell's involvement over the years in the case can be found in the blogposts collated here.]

Friday 8 September 2017

"We are not creating any obstacles"

[On this date in 1998 a lengthy interview with Dr Ibrahim Legwell, the then lawyer for the two Libyan Lockerbie suspects, was published on the website of the Dutch NRC Handelsblad newspaper. Google Translate provides a comprehensible English language version of the article. The following are the headline and first sub-heading, courtesy of Google Translate assisted by me:]

Lockerbie suspects’ Libyan lawyer: 'We are not creating any obstacles'

Libyan lawyer Ibrahim Legwell, who is representing the suspects in the Lockerbie attack, denies imposing any conditions for their trial in accordance with Scottish law in the Netherlands. However, the trial process must be rounded off with "legal guarantees" for a fair trial.
[RB:  Dr Legwell was replaced as the suspects’ lawyer shortly after this interview was published (though there was no connection). What follows is something written by me some years ago about this stage in journey towards a Lockerbie trial:]
Although the British proposal [for a Scottish non-jury court to sit in the Netherlands] was announced in late August 1998, it was not until 5 April 1999 that the two suspects actually arrived in the Netherlands for trial before the Scottish court.  Why the delay?  The answer is that some of the fine print in the two documents [that set out the details of the proposal] was capable of being interpreted, and was in fact interpreted, by the Libyan defence team (now chaired by Mr Kamel Hassan Maghur as successor to Dr Legwell) and the Libyan government as having been deliberately designed to create pitfalls to entrap them.  And since the governments of the United Kingdom and United States resolutely refused to have any direct contact with either the Libyan government or the Libyan defence lawyers -- their attitude being that the scheme had been advanced on a “take it or leave it basis” and that no negotiations would be entered in to -- these concerns could be dealt with only through an intermediary, namely the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (or, in practice, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Hans Corell).   This meant that issues that could have been thrashed out and settled in a matter of a few hours in a face-to-face meeting took weeks and months to resolve.  The US government, particularly the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, took every available opportunity to accuse the Libyan government and lawyers of stalling and trying to wriggle out of the assurances they had given over the years to support a “neutral venue” trial.  My own clear impression, however, through my continuing contacts with the Libyans, was that if anyone was looking for pretexts to avoid a trial ever taking place, it was the US and UK governments.

Between 20 and 22 September 1998, Dr Jim Swire and I were again in Tripoli and were able to provide to the Libyan government and the Libyan defence team a measure of reassurance regarding some of the points that concerned them.  However, it was we who had to inform the Libyan government that the chosen location in the Netherlands for trial was Kamp van Zeist, a former NATO base to which the air force of the United States still had extant treaty rights of access.  This information was faxed to me (in Dutch, which I can read  -- with difficulty -- through my knowledge of Afrikaans) at my hotel in Tripoli by a Dutch journalist who had developed an interest in Lockerbie and who had heard it from an official at The Hague.  Dr Swire and I discussed whether we should inform our Libyan government contacts of the intended venue and came to the conclusion that we should do so.  One compelling reason for doing so was to preserve the trust that the Libyan government appeared to have developed in us.  Another was our assumption – which may or may not have been justified -- that all our communications in Libya were monitored and that the Libyan authorities would have the information anyway as soon as they could arrange for a copy of the fax to be translated from Dutch into Arabic.

I anticipated that the news about the proposed location would cause the Libyans to renounce the "neutral venue" concept in high dudgeon and complain of the lack of good faith demonstrated by the British Government in selecting, or agreeing to, such a site.  But they did not do so.  When we raised the issue at our next meeting, the Libyan officials were remarkably relaxed about the matter.  This, more than anything else, convinced me that the Libyan government and the Libyan defence lawyers genuinely wished a trial to take place and that the concerns they had expressed regarding details of the scheme now on offer were genuine concerns, not merely a colourable pretext for evading their earlier commitment to such a solution.

On 22 September Dr Swire and I had a further meeting with the Leader of the Revolution.  On this occasion the meeting took place not in Tripoli but 400 kilometres to the east in a genuine (not reinforced concrete) Bedouin tent in a desert location inland from the town of Sirte. (...)

Surrounded by the sand dunes and by noisily ruminating camels, Colonel Gaddafi, Dr Swire and I discussed the details of the British scheme.  He accepted my assurance that at least some of the concerns that Libyan government lawyers had raised were unwarranted and that it would be worthwhile to continue to seek clarifications and reassurances through the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding the remaining issues. (...)

I returned to the UK after this visit to Libya reasonably confident that a trial would take place.  It was clear to me that the Libyan authorities at the highest level wanted it to happen and that the accused men wanted their families and themselves to be able to get on with their lives, something that could never happen, even within the boundaries of Libya, while the charges against them remained unresolved and UN sanctions remained in place.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Abu Nidal and Pan Am 103

[What follows is the text of an article published on the website of Al-Ahram Weekly on this date in 2002:]

Abu Nidal is reported to have said that his organisation was behind the Lockerbie bombing. The news emerged after a series of interviews with Atef Abu Bakr, a one-time aide to the terrorist mastermind, published by the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper last week. Abu Nidal was found dead in Baghdad last week. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

Abu Bakr is a former spokesman for the group and was one of Abu Nidal's closest aides between 1985 and 1989. He subsequently split with him over management of the organisation. "Abu Nidal said during an inner-circle meeting of the leadership of the Revolutionary Council, 'I will tell you something very important and serious, the reports which link the Lockerbie act to others are false reports. We are behind what happened,"' Abu Bakr was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Abu Nidal's organisation has been blamed for many terrorist attacks in the 70s and 80s, in which hundreds were killed or wounded.

Abu Nidal set up his organisation's headquarters in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 1987. He was put under house arrest when the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, came under pressure to crack down on militants after the Lockerbie bombing.

Abu Bakr's statements are shocking because, if true, they jeopardise the verdict given by a Scottish court, in the Netherlands, which sentenced Libyan Abdel-Basset Al-Megrahi to life in prison in 2000. Another Libyan suspect, Lamine Khalifa [Fhimah], was acquitted. In March this year, a Scottish appeals court upheld the murder conviction of Al- Megrahi.

Commenting on the new revelations, Tam Dalyell, the longest serving member of Britain's parliament, called on the government to investigate Abu Bakr's allegations "as a matter of the utmost urgency". He said that "if these allegations are true they blow everything relating to Lockerbie out of the water, including the trial in Holland."

If Abu Bakr's statements prove to be true, they would also demonstrate the unfairness of sanctions imposed on Libya, in 1992, for its failure to hand over its two suspects. The United Nations, supported by the US and Britain, imposed sanctions on air travel and arms sales to Libya in 1992. The sanctions were suspended, but not lifted, in 1999, when Gaddafi handed over Al-Megrahi and Khalifa.

Abu Bakr's accounts were surprising but not new. After the bombing took place on 21 December 1988, the US State Department said that an unidentified person had telephoned the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, on 5 December, saying there would be a bombing attempt within two weeks against a Pan Am aircraft flying from Frankfurt to the United States. The caller claimed to belong to the Abu Nidal group, the State Department said at the time.

Also in 1995, Youssef Shaaban, a Palestinian member of Abu Nidal's group confessed responsibility for the bombing before judicial authorities in Lebanon, where he stood trial for the assassination of a Jordanian diplomat in Beirut.

However, Shaaban's words were not taken seriously. The investigating magistrates did not document his confession. The US and Britain reacted by saying that they had clear evidence against the Libyan suspects. Even the Libyan suspects' defence team never made use of Shaaban's statements or the State Department's Helsinki evidence.

British MP, Dalyell, has long argued that the Libyans were not behind the attack and that it was carried out by Abu Nidal.

Accordingly, relatives of the Lockerbie victims have renewed their calls on Friday for an independent inquiry into the attack.

Indeed, many of the relatives and legal observers who attended the trial, echoed their dissatisfaction with its outcome. They claim that many questions remain unanswered.

Jim Swire, a spokesman for the families of British victims, said the reports bolstered calls for an independent inquiry into the bombing, lapses in airport security and why Britain had not acted on warnings that an attack might occur.

Swire added that Palestinian militant Abu Nidal's possible involvement was "one more of the many questions which we feel absolutely demand an independent inquiry into Lockerbie". Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, has long demanded an independent inquiry into Lockerbie to uncover how much British intelligence services knew about the attacks.

"We certainly have part, or all, of at least eight intelligence warnings, all of which were received in good time, some of them incredibly detailed. I think we have a right to know why these didn't lead to any form of special protection for our loved ones," he said.

The same view was echoed by Hans Koechler, one of five UN observers who followed the trial as part of the deal with Libya. He believes that Abu Bakr's comments underline the urgency of calls he has made for an independent public inquiry into the entire Lockerbie case.

"The fact that Libya had hired a defence team that grossly neglected its professional duties and chose not to use most of the legal means available to Al-Megrahi's defence requires an explanation," Koechler said in a statement released in Vienna this week.

Koechler also criticised the legal proceedings and documented his remarks. He argued in his report that in the aftermath of the original verdict, the trial did not proceed fairly and was not conducted in an objective manner.

Ibrahim Legwell, former head of the Libyan consortium of jurists, acknowledged the poor performance of the defence team. However, he urged them not to ignore the new evidence. "Al- Megrahi's defence team should investigate claims [by any member of Abu Nidal's group]. If they find new evidence they should demand that the Scottish crown refer the case to the Scottish case review commission."

However, Al-Megrahi's lawyer, Eddie MacKechnie, has a different view. He said he was applying to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge Al-Megrahi's life sentence.

According to him, the allegations about Abu Nidal's involvement offered little new evidence for his client's legal battle.

"I'm not aware of there being any usable evidence arising from this second-hand confession, although I do know that Abu Nidal was thought to have links to the Lockerbie bombing right from the very beginning," MacKechnie said.

Monday 12 June 2017

Donald Macaulay QC and Lockerbie

Lord Macaulay of Bragar QC died on this date in 2014.

After charges were brought in November 1991 against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah their Libyan lawyer, Dr Ibrahim Legwell, formed a team of lawyers from countries with an interest in the Lockerbie case, including Scotland and the United States, to advise and assist him. One of the Scottish lawyers on that team was Donald Macaulay QC. At a meeting held in Tripoli in October 1993 (referred to in the media as a "legal summit") this legal team advised Megrahi and Fhimah not to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. It was in response to this decision (which came as a considerable shock to the Libyan Government) that I formulated a scheme for a non-jury Scottish court to sit in the Netherlands. The story is told in more detail here.

I remain of the view that the advice given by the international legal team to Megrahi and Fhimah was unfortunate.  I am convinced that if the pair had been tried by an ordinary Scottish jury conscientiously following the standard instructions that juries are given about how to approach their decision-making and the assessment of the evidence led before them (including burden and standard of proof), both accused would have been acquitted.

Donald Macaulay was not a brilliant lawyer, but he was a quite magnificent jury advocate. Had I ever been charged with a serious crime, I would have wanted him to defend me. Head and shoulders above all of today's High Court "stars".

Saturday 29 April 2017

Parliamentary pressure to accept neutral venue trial

[On this date in 1998 Tam Dalyell MP secured his fourteenth adjournment debate on Lockerbie in the House of Commons. What follows is excerpted from his speech in that debate:]

Given the recent travels of Dr Jim Swire of the UK relatives group, accompanied by Professor Black, who had extensive meetings with the League of Arab States, the Organisation of African Unity, the Libyan leader and officials for the two accused, will the Government explain an almost total lack of willingness to communicate with the Libyan Government or to use some kind of communication to get out of the impasse?

I spoke last night to Robert Black, who is visiting Stellenbosch in South Africa. He said that the Libyan Government had stated previously that they would put “no obstacles in the way of their nationals going to trial”. The Libyan Government now say that they "positively welcome" their nationals going to trial in a third country. They have promised to
“facilitate those arrangements and to do everything to achieve that end”. I received a copy of a letter written today by Dr Swire to the Foreign Secretary—I have shown it to senior officials at the Foreign Office, and I apologise for the fact that I was not able to do so earlier. It states that present at the meetings were Mr Abdul Ati Obeidi, Secretary at the Foreign Office, Libya; Mr Zuwiy, Secretary of Justice, Libya; Mr Omar Dorda, the Libyan permanent representative at the United Nations; and, crucially, Dr Ibrahim Legwell, the lawyer representing the two Libyan suspects. The more important point is that they had an endorsing meeting with Colonel Gaddafi. Hitherto, it has been asked, "How do we know with what authority Libyan promises are made?" When the promise is made by Colonel Gaddafi himself, it is high time to accept Libya's assurances in good faith. (...)

Finally, I asked both Dr Swire and Professor Black, "Do you think in your heart of hearts that the Libyans did it or had anything to do with it?" Both replied separately and said, "In our heart of hearts, no, the Libyans were not involved." They are not naive people. That is also my view—and I do not think that I am being naive, either.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Gaddafi expresses support for neutral venue trial

[On this date in 1998 Dr Jim Swire and I had a meeting in Tripoli with Colonel Gaddafi. What follows is the text of a press release issued following our trip to Libya:]

A meeting to discuss issues arising out of the Lockerbie bombing was held in the premises of the Libyan Foreign Office in Tripoli on the evening of Saturday 18 April 1998.  Present were Mr Abdul Ati Obeidi, Under-Secretary of the Libyan foreign Office; Mr Mohammed Belqassem Zuwiy [Zwai], Secretary of Justice of Libya; Mr Abuzaid Omar Dorda, Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations; Dr Ibrahim Legwell, head of the defence team representing the two Libyan citizens suspected of the bombing; Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for the British relatives group UK Families-Flight 103; and Professor Robert Black QC, Professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh and currently a visiting professor in the Faculty of Law of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

At the meeting discussion focused upon the plan which had been formulated in January 1994 by Professor Black for the establishment of a court to try the suspects which would:
* operate under the criminal law and procedure of Scotland
* have in place of a jury an international panel of judges presided over by a senior Scottish judge
* sit not in Scotland but in a neutral country such as The Netherlands.

Among the issues discussed were possible methods of appointment of  the international panel of judges, and possible arrangements for the transfer of the suspects from Libya for trial and for ensuring their safety and security pending and during the trial.

Dr Legwell confirmed, as he had previously done in January 1994, that his clients agreed to stand trial before such a court if it were established.  The representatives of the Libyan Government stated, as they had done in 1994 and on numerous occasions since then, that they would welcome the setting up of such a court and that if it were instituted they would permit their two citizens to stand trial before it and would co-operate in facilitating arrangements for that purpose.

Dr Swire and Professor Black undertook to persist in their efforts to persuade the Government of the United Kingdom to join Libya in accepting this proposal.

On Sunday 19 April 1998, Professor Black met the South African ambassador to Libya and Tunisia, His Excellency Ebrahim M Saley, and discussed with him current developments regarding the Lockerbie bombing.  He also took the opportunity to inform the ambassador of how much President Mandela's comments on the Lockerbie affair at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1997 in Edinburgh had been appreciated.

On Monday 20 April, Dr Swire and Professor Black had a meeting a lasting some 40 minutes with the Leader of the Revolution, Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Also present were the Libyan Foreign Secretary, Mr Omar al-Montasser, and Mr Dorda.  The Leader was informed of the substance of the discussions held on Saturday 18 April, and expressed his full support for the conclusions reached.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Libyan acceptance of neutral venue trial reaffirmed

[What follows is an item headed Breaking of deadlock in Libya? posted on Safia Aoude’s The Pan Am 103 Crash Website and based largely on a report published by the Libyan Jana news agency on this date in 1998:]

Jim Swire held talks in Libya on Saturday with the justice minister about the trial for two suspects in the attack, Libya's official news agency reported on the 19th April. [Dr] Swire, and victims' legal adviser Robert Black met Justice Minister Mohammed Belgasim al-Zuwiy [more often anglicised as Zwai] after arriving in Tripoli.

They discussed suggestions by Swire and Black “concerning reaching ... a fair and just trial of the two suspects in a neutral country, Libya's official news agency, JANA, reported. Swire and Black drove 215 miles from Tunisia to the Libyan capital Saturday, Swire's spokesman, David Ben-Ariyeh [Ben-Aryeah], said in London. Swire told Ben-Ariyeh he was grateful for the “efficient and warm welcome they received.

Black and Swire held talks in Tripoli this week with [the suspects’ lawyer Ibrahim] Legwell and Libyan foreign affairs and justice officials. They also met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a bid to gain support for a trial plan formulated by Black. The most important meeting was held with the Libyan lawyer for Fhima and Megrahi in Tripoli, Dr Ibrahim Legwell.

Ibrahim Legwell said he told Scottish lawyer Robert Black and Jim Swire, that his two Libyan clients were ready to stand trial under Scottish law in a neutral country.

We agreed on several basic points and details,” Legwell told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Libyan capital Tripoli. “I confirmed to them, as I have done previously, that my clients would stand for trial before such a court, which will be set not in Scotland nor the United States, but in a neutral country,” he added. “We also agreed that it would be established with an international panel of judges to be agreed upon and presided over by a senior Scottish judge. The court would operate under the criminal law and procedures of Scotland,” he added as well.

We also are very concerned about how to ensure the safety, the security and the rights for our clients pending, during and after the trial,” he said.

Legwell said Libya's Justice Minister Mohamed Belgacem Zwai, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, and Libya's representative at the UN, Abouzid Omar Dourda [Dorda], attended part of his meetings with Black and Swire when these issues were discussed.

Zwai said he expected a settlement of the dispute over where to hold the trial. “We expect we will reach a solution that satisfies all parties before the World Court issues its decision,” he told reporters in Cairo late Monday. Black and Swire also met Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Omar Mustafa al-Montasser in Libya and then Gaddafi Monday at the end of their visit. The Libyan revolutionary leader had in the past said he would support whatever the suspects' lawyers accepted.

Black and Swire left Tripoli Monday for Cairo, where they were to submit their proposal and results of their talks in Tripoli to Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) chief, Salim Ahmed Salim, Legwell said. Zwai met Abdel-Meguid Tuesday, officials in Cairo said. Black and Swire also undertook to persist in their efforts to persuade the British government to join Libya in accepting the proposal, he added.

Legwell said the plan was that if Black's proposal was accepted by Britain, regional groupings such as the Arab League, the OAU and the European Union would submit to the Security Council a text approving the plan ahead of suspending the sanctions.

Jim Swire arrived in Cairo on the eve of the 21st April, and he told Reuters by phone, that Libya had agreed to surrender the two suspects to the Netherlands for trial. “I think the importance probably of what we've done is they (the Libyans) have renewed that undertaking and they have reinforced it, he said. “This (proposal) was given the blessing of the leader subsequently,” Swire said of his 40-minute meeting with Gaddafi.

The problem of course is, will the west set up the court that is required? I don't know what else the Libyan government can do to prove that they mean it when they say they would come.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2002:]

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 a practising lawyer in Tripoli. His academic appointments were honorary.]

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."

Saturday 24 September 2016

New legal team for Megrahi and Fhima

[On this date in 1998 there were media reports about a change in the Libyan legal team representing the Lockerbie accused, Megrahi and Fhima. What follows is taken from Asharq al-Awsat:]

Dr Ibrahim al-Ghuwayl [Legwell] lawyer of 'Abd-al-Basit al-Miqrahi and al-Amin Khalifah Fahimah, the two Libyans accused in connection with the Lockerbie case, has refused to join a new team formed by the Libyan Government to defend the two Libyans suspected of blowing up a PanAm plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.  In a statement to Al-Sharq al-Awsat yesterday Al-Ghuwayl attributed his refusal to disagreements over "strategy."

Dr al-Ghuwayl added that the new team is headed by Kamil Maqhur, a former foreign minister, and includes lawyers from a number of law practices in Libya.

Asked about the reasons for this official Libyan action, al-Ghuwayl said:  "I do not know the reasons; you should ask those who made the decision."  Dr al-Ghuwayl stressed that it was al-Miqrahi and Fahimah who chose him as a lawyer to defend them, "and I am still safeguarding their interests and will continue to do so until they decide otherwise." Al-Ghuwayl had objected to the US-British initiative for his clients to stand trial in the Netherlands.

[RB: A few days later a letter from me was published in The Scotsman in response to that newspaper’s report on the matter. The letter reads as follows:]

Your report  ("Lockerbie suspects' lawyers sacked", 24 September)  claims the new Libyan defence team had been appointed by the Libyan Government (or by Colonel Gaddafi). What evidence is there for this?

I met five members of the team in Tripoli last Monday. The chairman, Kamel Hassan Maghur, said he and his colleagues (who include the present President of the Tripoli Bar Association and the most senior past-President) had been appointed by the two suspects themselves; that their sole concern was with representing the interests of their clients;  that those interests did not necessarily coincide with the wishes or interests of the Libyan Government; and that if the Government sought to interfere in their work or to influence in any way the advice which the lawyers might render to their clients, they would not hesitate to publicise this fact in the international media.

Mr Maghur (who as well as being a former Foreign Minister, is also a retired Libyan Supreme Court judge) said nothing to indicate that his team wished to dispense with the services of Alistair Duff, the Edinburgh solicitor who for many years has represented the two suspects in Scotland: indeed, quite the reverse.

If, as you state, Dr Ibrahim Legwell is claiming (a) still to represent the suspects and (b) that the new team has been foisted on them without their consent, then this conflict should be speedily resolved by direct consultation with the accused themselves. I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, commitment and independence of the Libyan lawyers. If they do indeed now represent the suspects, I am convinced that their interests are in capable hands.

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.