Thursday 8 December 2011

Libya gives Lockerbie inquiry go-ahead

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of The Guardian.  It reads in part:]

Libya has given the green light for British police to visit the country to conduct investigations into the Lockerbie bombing and the assassination of PC Yvonne Fletcher, the British foreign minister Alistair Burt has said.

The governing National Transitional Council had stalled on earlier requests for officers to travel to Libya, but Burt said the new Libyan government, sworn in last weekend, would co-operate.

Libya's interior minister, Fawzy Abdel Aal, confirmed on Thursday morning he would agree to "the early return of the Dumfries and Galloway police in relation to Lockerbie", said Burt.

The minister, who is on a two-day visit to Tripoli, said Abdel Aal had made the same promise regarding the investigation into the killing of Fletcher, gunned down outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. "We are very keen that the Metropolitan police should return to continue their investigation," Burt said. "The Libyan government is aware of how important it is."

He said Libyan officials had given no dates for the visits, but expected it to happen soon, adding: "This is a new government, I think they have a lot on their plate." (...)

Scottish investigators want to interview Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, jailed for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but released on grounds of ill health by the Scottish government in August 2009. He currently lives in Tripoli, reportedly in ill-health. [RB: This the first suggestion that I have seen that the Scottish investigators wish to interview Megrahi. I suspect that even if he is in a condition to speak to them, he will tell the Scottish police (politely, for he is a polite person) to get lost.]

Burt told journalists the move was an important confidence-building measure between Libya's new government and the UK. He said Libya was being offered the chance for security training from the Metropolitan police and the army, and that British security and education consultants were being encouraged to bid for work in Libya.


  1. The later story on the Guardian site adds,

    "Some British officials believe Burt was speaking prematurely and that the deal has yet to be nailed down."

  2. They had ten years to interview the man. Then they let him go home.

    NOW they want to interview him? This is rapidly approaching cloud cuckoo land.

  3. RB: "This the first suggestion that I have seen that the Scottish investigators wish to interview Megrahi."


    Then, was there ever a formal request from the police to meet Megrahi, which was turned down? Or would it have been impossible for any good reason?

    As, I have never in my life heard about anyone going to trial without being questioned by the police first.

    The reasons are utterly trivial. It may save tremendous time for the police.
    Finding out who, what, where, when can be a huge detective work.
    The accused might just have the answers straight away, and even provide easy ways to confirm his statements.

    The interviews may uncover other areas of the crime itself, that only a man in the center of it all would be able to help with.

    Every day such interviews have the police dropping persons as suspects, as the accused has answers to questions that earlier raised suspicion, saving everybody the huge costs of a trial, and freeing up the police to look elsewhere.

    Or, if not innocent, the interview may provide valuable leads and ideas for the police, when the accused can not provide satisfactory answers.

    So, in the name of justice, the police is more than obliged to seek this dialogue.

    Can anyone imagine important questions like e.g. alibi not being raised to the accused before the trial starts?

    When a case is in court it is usually too late to investigate even the simplest thing. Matters that could have been trivially easy to clear beyond doubt, is suddenly left to what somebody states and what judges think they should believe in.

    - - -

    From the Verdict, [section 88]:

    "Had there been any innocent explanation for this visit [to Malta], obviously this inference [that he planted the bomb] could not be drawn. The only explanation that appeared in the evidence was contained in his interview with Mr Salinger, when he denied visiting Malta at that time and denied using the name Abdusamad or having
    had a passport in that name. Again, we do not accept his denial."

    So, as the police didn't ask, to uncover what reasons Megrahi had to be on Malta, all we have is a referral to an interview with some journalist?

    Was Megrahi, in the process of the policework, or the trial, asked this obvious question in a way so the answer would have been available to court?

    If he wasn't, stating that "there is nothing in the evidence" is a grave reversal of the burden of proof.

    - - -

    I am quite sure I must have misunderstood something.

    Clearly things can't be that blatantly contradictory to established fundamentals of justice. We are dealing with the finest legal minds in Scotland.
    So, again, a question similar to "What _did_ you actually do on Malta, Mr. Megrahi?" _must_ have been raised during the process, and some (unsatisfactory) answer from Megrahi must have been recorded. Where was that? Can somebody help here?

  4. The Anglo-American criminal justice system is adversarial, not inquisitorial. That means that an accused person cannot be obliged to speak to the police (and as a very distinguished Lord Justice General (Chief Justice) once said, he is usually wise if he does not). It is for the prosecution to prove guilt. There is no obligation on the suspect to cooperate (though, I have to say, Megrahi was never requested to do so). Had he been, his lawyers would, correctly, have advised him to decline.

  5. Thank you, Robert, for the reply.

    I am fully aware that it _may_ be a bad idea to speak to the police, and for this reason you can't conclude anything much about a person who refuses to do so.

    I have linked to this one earlier, very entertaining:
    Dont Talk to Police

    At the same time we are under some obligation to help our police during their investigations. For this reason I can't subscribe to the statement in the video "Never talk to a police officer." It is a too selfish and harmful _general_ attitude.

    - - -

    How Megrahi should have responded if he had gotten an invitation, is of course another matter. If the policemen you talk to are only in the business of finding something they can use against you, right, don't talk.

    - - -

    My point was that if Megrahi had not been asked the question "Why were you on Malta" at all, the statement:

    "Had there been any innocent explanation for this visit [to Malta], obviously this inference [that he planted the bomb] could not be drawn..."

    is a grave reversal of the burden of proof.