Wednesday 6 April 2011

Libyan rebels deny offering Lockerbie compensation

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

Libya's revolutionary administration has denied a claim by a British lawyer representing victims of IRA attacks and the Lockerbie bombing that it has apologised for Libya's involvement and offered compensation.

Following a meeting with the rebel council's leadership in Benghazi, Jason McCue, head of the Libya Victims Initiative, read a statement which he said was an "unequivocal apology" for Libya's provision of Semtex used in IRA bombings and the blowing up of the Pan Am flight.

McCue said the revolutionary council had agreed to pay compensation along the lines paid out in a deal between Muammar Gaddafi and the US government which provided $10m for a death and $3m for a serious injury. He said there was also agreement to set up a trust for other victims.

McCue said the apology and offer of compensation was in the name of chairman of its interim governing council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

But Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, its deputy chairman, said McCue's claims were "not true".

"We didn't apologise ourselves. We regret what happened, the catastrophic event of Lockerbie, and we will do our best to reach the truth with the families of Lockerbie. Also for the IRA. We emphasised to the British government that we will work to overcome what has happened. But there was no apology. We are not responsible," he said.

Ghoga said that the council "didn't negotiate anything about compensation".

"We want to know the truth. We will help the families of the victims to get to the truth," he said.

However, separately, the council said that it would "co-operate fully" to establish what had happened in the Lockerbie attack "and the right of the victims' families for justice".

Mustafa Gheriani, a council spokesman, was equally clear in his denial that an apology was made. He said they council had expressed sorrow but that Gaddafi was responsible and that it is he who should apologise.

"When we say sorry it means we did it. But we did not do it. Gaddafi did it. It's sorrow not an apology," he said.

The council noted that if it wished to issue an apology in Jalil's name it would not ask a British lawyer to read it.

[A letter from Tom Minogue in today's edition of The Herald reads as follows:]

In Michael Settle’s article you quote Sir Menzies Campbell saying that, if any criminal proceedings in relation to the Lockerbie outrage are taken against any defectors, it must be clearly accepted that they are to be tried in the conventional court system, and there should be no repeat of the incongruities of Camp Zeist (“Scots police to question Koussa about Lockerbie”, The Herald, April 5).

This raises very important issues that have a bearing on the reputation of the Scottish legal system.

The previous incongruity of the special court at Camp Zeist in Holland to which Sir Menzies referred should not be repeated if there are further trials in this country. Some of the inappropriate events to emerge after the previous Lockerbie trial and appeals have been well documented, including:

l The US government promising and then rewarding a key witness and his brother with millions of dollars.

2 The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission being denied access to relevant documents protected by Public Interest Immunity Certificates, and Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi being denied his right to be in court to hear this evidence. [RB: The SCCRC did obtain access to the relevant documents, but only on condition that they would not be further disclosed. Indeed, at least one of the SCCRCs six grounds for holding that Megrahi's conviction might have been a miscarriage of justice related to the contents and non-disclosure of these documents. It was Megrahi and his legal team who were denied access to the documents for the purposes of the appeal that followed the SCCRC's report.]

I would agree with Sir Menzies that in the event of further Lockerbie trials a more conventional trial in Scotland according to normal legal practice would be desirable. It would perhaps help to restore the reputation of Scots justice.

[Posted on a flying visit to Middelpos from Gannaga Lodge.]

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