Saturday 7 June 2014

Megrahi "pressurised by governments" into dropping appeal

[Yesterday I reproduced the Associated Press news agency report about the application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for review of the conviction of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. What follows is the equivalent report from the Reuters news agency:]

Relatives of the late Libyan intelligence officer convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing have launched a bid to clear his name, their lawyer said on Thursday.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was the only person ever convicted over the attack on Pan Am flight 103 in which 270 people died.
His family say they have fresh evidence about the facts of the case and will renew claims that he was pressured by the British and Scottish governments into dropping an earlier appeal against his conviction.
Megrahi was jailed for life by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands after being found guilty of murder in 2001, but he was released by Scotland's government on compassionate grounds eight years later after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He died in Libya in 2012.
He had previously abandoned an appeal in the Scottish High Court in 2009 and ministers in both Edinburgh and London have always denied rumours that he did so as part of a deal for his release.
Scottish lawyer Aamer Anwar, representing the family - who have asked not be named because of the volatile situation in Libya - told Reuters those denials were untrue. He said Megrahi's dying wish was for his name to be cleared.
"To date both the British government and Scottish government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release," he said.
"However the evidence submitted ... today claims that this is fundamentally untrue. There is a huge cloud that has hung over this case ... that the truth has never been revealed," he added.
Most of the victims of the explosion over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland were Americans on their way home from Europe for Christmas.
Eleven people died on the ground as the New York-bound jet plunged from the sky after a bomb exploded in its hold some 40 minutes after leaving London's Heathrow airport.
The appeal against Megrahi's conviction has been submitted to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) by his family and a small group of the victims' relatives who do not believe he was involved.
They will claim that the bomb timer prosecutors said was used in the attack could not have been involved and that the bomb itself did not come from a feeder flight into Heathrow from Frankfurt, as was alleged at the original trial.
The SCCRC confirmed on Thursday that it had received the appeal and that the case would be sent to the Scottish Court of Appeal if it appeared that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place.
The Scottish government on Thursday repeated its denial that ministers had influenced Megrahi's decision to drop his appeal in 2009.
"That was entirely a matter for him and his legal team,” said a Scottish government spokesperson.
[The following paragraphs are taken from a report published yesterday on the website of the Maltese newspaper The Times:]
Among the evidence uncovered during the SCCRC hearings was confirmation that the star witness in the case, Sliema shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who positively identified Mr al-Megrahi as the bomber, was paid millions of dollars by the US State Department at the request of Scottish prosecutors.
Mr Gauci and his brother Paul received at least $3 million for their part in securing Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction.
The whole Lockerbie body of evidence has been severely questioned over the years, supporting the idea that Mr al-Megrahi may in fact have been innocent.
Malta has a stake in the process because even though successive governments have consistently rejected the idea that Malta played any part in the tragedy, the official version accepted at the 2001 trial is premised on the idea that the bomb that destroyed the plane left from Malta.
Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella has said he believes Mr al-Megrahi to be innocent.


  1. This is where I came in, literally.

    I had been following the case, and the progress of the appeal, but without any detailed knowledge of the circumstances. I had a naive notion that it would all be cleared up by the appeal and at the end of that we'd know what really happened.

    When the compassionate release was being mooted I could see that this was going to be the vehicle for sending Megrahi home and that Prisoner Transfer wasn't on MacAskill's agenda. I was pleased that this route allowed the appeal to continue and imagined that was what would happen.

    Then one evening, sitting where I'm sitting now and watching the BBC evening news, I heard an announcement (I think it was Huw Edwards but I can't be sure) that Megrahi would drop his appeal and then he would be granted compassionate release.

    It spoke clear as day to a quid pro quo. I was absolutely incensed, and would happily have throttled Kenny MacAskill right there and then. There has been a lot of backtracking and revisionism since, but the tone of that first announcement said it all. (And Maggie Scott also said in a TV interview not long afterwards that her client had been pressurised in some way.)

    So while a bunch of Yanks were shouting "how dare you release that mass murderer" I was shouting "how dare you force that poor man to give up his appeal!"

    I realised to my shame that I still didn't know very much about the circumstances of the case, and now the appeal process wasn't going to tell me anything more. So I started reading. I was startled by the sheer amount of material available, both solid fact, error, and mad conspiracy theorising.

    And it ended up with two questions. "What was in tray 8849 at Frankfurt?" and "Why was the case Bedford saw not the bomb?" I still don't know the answer to the first question, but the second one turned out not to be so hard after all, once the evidence the Zeist court wasn't shown was available.

  2. I am sick to death listening to criticisms of the Scottish Justice secretary on this topic. Does anyone seriously believe that the US government have not made it abundantly clear to the SG that any attempt to undermine the verdict that Libya were the culprits would result in the 'legions of hell' being let loose on Scotland. Some may regard that as cowardice - I regard it as realpolitik. An appeal was always going to happen. We just had to wait

  3. I don't know. I don't even know if it's true that Kenny put pressure on Megrahi to withdraw the appeal. I think he did but that's not quite the same thing.

    If he did that, I don't know why he did it. I'm not convinced that the US government would try to subvert the justice system of a friendly ally like that, and I'm not convinced the Scottish government would necessarily have rolled over for it.

    I don't know what happened and I'd like to find out. I'm also curious to know how all this will play out against the independence referendum.

  4. MISSION LIFE WITH THE LOCKERBIE AFFAIR, 2014 (google translation, german/english)

    According to Scottish law, it is for the so-called "compassionate release" does not necessary, that a convicted withdraws his appeal. This would have been necessary only if Megrahi would be returned on the basis of the British-Libyan agreement on prisoner transfer to Libya.
    Megrahi should therefore have waived his right for no reason ??? NO - NO- NO ! -

    Megrahi had always insisted, that he would leave Scotland only after an innocent explanation by the Scottish court !
    Maybe in the prison, Abdelbaset al Megrahi was intentionally not taught correctly, about of his legal situation.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication, Switzerland. Webpage:
    In German language:
    Nach schottischem Recht ist es für eine sog. "Begnadigung" ("compassionate release") nicht erforderlich, dass ein Verurteilter seine Berufung zurückzieht. Dies wäre nur notwendig gewesen, wenn Abdelbaset al Megrahi, auf der Grundlage des britisch-libyschen Abkommens über Gefangenentransfer, nach Libyen zurückgekehrt wäre.
    Megrahi sollte also ohne jeden Grund auf sein Recht verzichtet haben ??? - NEIN - NEIN - NEIN !
    Al Megrahi hatte immer darauf bestanden, dass er nur nach einer Freisprechung, durch ein neues Rekursverfahren, Scotland verlassen würde !
    Möglicherweise wurde er im Genfängnis über die Rechtslage vorsätzlich nicht korrekt belehrt.

  5. Plausible deniability and choreographed sophistry!

    Its unlikely MacAskill put pressure on Megrahi [directly] to drop his appeal.

    Instead the US itself and through its UK/SG agents put pressure on Libya to put pressure on Megrahi to drop his appeal.

    And the Libyans did so as part of the deal to remove sanctions and in the [forlorn] hope of normalising relations with the US.

    But whereas they publicly stated Megrahi was innocent when they handed him over as a hostage in the national interest, they would not want to admit they told him to drop the appeal in the national interest too.

    [Have any of those involved survived the destruction of Libya to tell the tale?]

    Not honourable, but the same realpolitik that explains the UK government’s refusal to hold a public enquiry into the crash and the Scottish government’s refusal to hold an enquiry into Megrahi’s conviction!

    And surely the US would only embark on such a colossal cover-up to protect its own national and economic interest from the [home] truth about Lockerbie!

  6. 'Pressure'?

    Why would a man claiming innocence drop his appeal, especially when he had everything to win?

    He was not without means. The success was overwhelmingly likely, and both himself, his counsellors and the Crown and Co would have known that.

    But Megrahi was dying in jail. No other pressure from anywhere will have been needed. His highest wish will have been to return home, to die there in freedom, with his loved ones.

    The trade, freedom vs. dropped appeal, is so obvious that it might have come from anywhere, friend or foe, and nobody nearby could have been against it.

    Megrahi would not have loved it - but he would even less so have had an academical interest in experiencing just how many more tricks the Crown & Co could play on him or just how long time he would have been dead before anything started to move.

  7. The Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) was not made to facilitate Megrahi’s transfer to Libya under the terms of the agreement.

    It was made to prepare the ground for his compassionate release from prison.

    This is because [if Megrahi was truly guilty] the PTA was an outrageous agreement that would have allowed [in practice] a mass-murderer a hero’s welcome and freedom with his family in Libya.

    This is because as far as Libya was concerned Megrahi was an innocent patriot who had sacrificed his freedom in the national interest [been held hostage by US] – and was now home!

    Thus clearly the PTA was not intended to be used, because it would have allowed [in practice] Megrahi his freedom and the ability to continue his appeal with the backing of the Libyan state [and allies] and a new defence team!

    Hence compassionate release that allowed the transfer to proceed [in the smokescreen of the PTA], but only after Megrahi [or those speaking in his name] had dropped the appeal!

    But even though compassionate release [if Megrahi was truly guilty] was even more outrageous than the [official reason] for the PTA, at least it could be spun by all those complicit in the cover-up as a noble act!

  8. I don't usually allow myself to be induced to respond when Dave posts nonsense on this blog. But this time I am succumbing.

    The PTA was certainly intended by the Libyans to be used: I have had long conversations with those who negotiated it. When I pointed out that the Blair Government had no power to grant prisoner transfer, but only the Scottish government, the chief Libyan negotiator said to me "You are always so pessimistic, Robert. Tony [Blair] and Nigel [Sheinwald] have promised us."

    Moreover, abandonment of the appeal was always a statutory requirement of prisoner transfer. It was not a statutory requirement of compassionate release. But it became a de facto requirement when Kenny MacAskill, quite wrongly and unnecessarily, insisted on dealing with the Libyan Government's prisoner transfer request and Megrahi's (later) compassionate release request simultaneously.

  9. "You are always so pessimistic, Robert. Tony [Blair] and Nigel [Sheinwald] have promised us."

    Amazing! Rare direct evidence about the power structure UK/Scotland.

    "But it" [dropping the appeal] "became a de facto requirement when Kenny MacAskill, quite wrongly and unnecessarily, insisted on dealing with the Libyan Government's prisoner transfer request and Megrahi's (later) compassionate release request simultaneously."

    But would there have been any alternatives?

    Megrahi will have wanted to go. The whole Evil Empire wanted that damned appeal to be dropped.

    Megrahi dropping the appeal is to be regarded as sincere as much as a signature from a man on a torture table. We do not expect to see executioners who just let the victim walk for free.

    The signature - or dropping of the appeal - is worthless unless followed by:
    1. A confession (just as a formality)
    2. The confessor's release of details that proved that he indeed was guilty.

    It is unlikely that there is more to discuss, and those with contacts to the press should be aware of getting into details, which would obfuscate and add legitimacy to a childishly simple matter.

  10. Blair could promise that, then. Because the First Minister of Scotland was Jack McConnell who was Labour and who would do as he was told.

    But on 5th May 2007 the SNP won the Scottish election and Blair could no longer dictate to the Scottish government.