Tuesday 14 June 2011

Libyan cleared over Lockerbie may be retried under double jeopardy

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

Families of Lockerbie bombing victims hope an attempt by prosecutors to put Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's co- accused on trial again will shed new light on the atrocity.

The Crown Office is examining new evidence to establish whether it is strong enough to invoke the new double-jeopardy law, which allows prosecutors to try someone twice for the same offence.

Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 55, a former station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines, was acquitted of 270 counts of murder in 2001 after the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Victims' families are split on whether he or Megrahi, 59, who was convicted but released in 2009 on compassionate grounds, were behind the terror plot, but all want to see further investigations.

Jean Berkley, 80, from Northumberland, co-ordinator of the UK Families Flight 103 group, who lost her son, Alistair, 29, in the bombing, said: "We've always been told the investigation remains open, but it never occurred to us they would be coming back for Fhimah.

"Anything that sheds any light we would be interested in.

"Our concern has been that we were unconvinced by the trial or that the evidence was sufficient to find Megrahi guilty.

"However, we're glad to see anything that keeps Lockerbie in the public eye. There are too many questions that remain. Our aim is to get more of the truth."

The Rev John Mosey, from Cumbria, whose 19-year-old daughter Helga was killed, said: "Having sat through the trial, the first appeal and the second appeal - until it was aborted - I am 95 per cent certain that Megrahi was innocent. There was even less evidence against Fhimah. However, the more they look at it, the more possibility they will see that there's something very, very wrong here."

Susan Cohen, 73, from New Jersey in the United States, whose daughter Theo, 20, died in the attack, is convinced of Megrahi's guilt and would welcome a new prosecution. She said: "I think that's fine if they can do it and have the evidence to do it, although I can't say I have much faith in the Scottish legal system after Megrahi was released.

"If you look at Wikileaks, for example, there's no sign that Libya did not do it - that Megrahi was framed."

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, who was promoted to the role of Scotland's chief prosecutor after last month's elections, has set up a double-jeopardy unit to look at failed prosecutions. (...)

However, Fhimah is the unit's top priority.

Mr Mulholland has also said he would be willing to launch a prosecution against Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, and is keen to speak to former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, who has claimed to have evidence linking Gaddafi to Lockerbie.

But Mrs Cohen said she hoped Gaddafi would be killed, rather than face trial.

"As far as I'm concerned, any prosecution of Gaddafi would go before the international court," she said. "That's very slow. My preferred solution is that Gaddafi is killed - he is dangerous, he will kill again. He is the worst sort of tyrant and terrorist."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "As the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 remains live, and in order to preserve the integrity of that investigation, it would not be appropriate at this time to offer any further comment or the detail of ongoing inquiries.

"The Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson, has been asked by the Lord Advocate to review and prioritise cases which may be prosecuted anew under the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill. It is too early to say which cases would be considered."

[There will be no re-trial of Lamin Fhimah or any trial of Colonel Gaddafi for the bombing of Pan Am 103. The Crown Office is perfectly well aware that the evidence simply does not exist to make a conviction a realistic prospect; and that the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi on the evidence led at Zeist was a travesty perpetrated by a credulous court which has long since been exposed, by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission amongst many others.

A news item on the website of the Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm referring to The Scotsman report and my comments in the foregoing paragraph can be read here.

For the next six days, which include the South African Youth Day public holiday, Gannaga Lodge must take priority over servicing of this blog.]


  1. That noise we can hear is the bottom of barrel being scraped by the Crown Office.

    The smell however, is one of fear. Interesting.

  2. I think you must be right, Eddie, annoying though it all is of course. I note the Scotsman doesn't have comments enabled on that article either. (The Herald's version is a lot more low-key, just a paragraph buried in a small inside article about the double jeopardy situation, and nothing about "top priority" that I recall.)

    I wonder if it's just a coincidence that this guff is being perpetuated at the time other news outlets are reporting on the Aljazeera documentary?

    The entire situation regarding the abolition of the prohibition on double jeopardy is getting very alarming. I thought the law had been changed simply to allow new proceedings against people where significant new evidence had come to light - principally DNA evidence being recovered from material which couldn't have been analysed in that way 20 years ago. But the way they're now talking, it seems as if any acquittal the Powers that Be don't like is to be examined with a view to taking another bite at the cherry. How can that be right?

    The Fhimah thing is beyond scandalous. There was never a shred of evidence against the guy in the first place. Nevertheless they incarcerated him for two years in Holland. No more evidence has emerged in the ten years since then, certainly that I've heard about. This is looking increasingly like state persecution, and it's not pretty.

    Though as you say, it has more than a whiff of panic about it.

  3. Oh absolutely Rolfe, this is nothing more than a rather pathetic attempt to cloud any of the implications arising from the excellent Al Jazeera documentary and its damaging expose of the Rarde 'experts', but more pertinently for the Scottish Crown Office, the allegations made of the Scottish investigators and their methods.

    The documentary certainly lifted the lid on the investigation (and some other curious aspects of the case) more than I had thought possible.

    And after careful consideration of the facts, I've arrived at the conclusion that the Scottish Govt have chosen the new Lord Advocate and deputy in some desperation. Indeed, the more contrived and louder the distractions from the govt and Crown office, the more unsettling the Megrahi scandal is clearly becoming.

  4. Why is the Scottish Government still not announcing when they will begin the arrangements to get the SCCRC report published? Salmond stated categorically in February that if re - elected he would address the matter.

    So why has he said little more than nothing since?

    We had the new Lord Advocate claiming last week they would bring in Gaddafi and now this. They are looking to create more diversions. Why isn't Salmond reeling these idiots in and setting about getting that report published? For when it is published, when we get an Inquiry the Crown people will look like the corrupt, justice-obstructing crooks they really are.

  5. Why won't the press take them on? How many times do we need to ask that question?