Saturday 4 July 2015

Lockerbie families lose bid to appeal al-Megrahi verdict

[What follows is excerpted from a report in today’s edition of The National. It provides further details about the arguments advanced during yesterday’s hearing on the SCCRC’s Megrahi petition:]

An attempt to appeal the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi by families of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing has failed.

Judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh said legally the bid had to be rejected as the families could not be considered to have a “legitimate interest” in the appeal. (...)

Yesterday’s hearing came about after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which is looking at Megrahi’s conviction, asked the Appeal Court in Edinburgh for guidance on whether members of the victims’ families can take forward an appeal.

Previous rulings mean a post mortem appeal can only be requested by the executor of a dead person’s estate or their next of kin.

The panel of three judges had heard legal arguments from Ailsa Carmichael QC on behalf of the SCCRC and Gordon Jackson QC for the relatives.

Carmichael told the court the SCCRC needed to determine at an early stage if relatives of victims were considered to be a “person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal”.

This, Carmichael said, was necessary to know before the SCCRC could decide to refer the case back to the High Court for a third appeal.

She said: “It would be a waste of public funds for the [SCCRC] to move into a full consideration of whether to make a reference and carry out all the investigations that would be required in order to take that decision if they have a reasonable apprehension as to whether there will be anybody to pick up an appeal in the event a reference was made.”

Jackson said it wrong to worry about the public funds given all the work that has already gone into the case.

He said: “If [the families] believe, as they do, that a miscarriage of justice has happened and there has been a wrongful conviction, as they do believe, in the case of the death of their relative then that in my submission is a legitimate interest.”

Delivering his report yesterday, the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Brodie and Lady Dorrian said the law was “not designed to give relatives of victims a right to proceed in an appeal for their own or the public interest” and the relatives of those who died could not be considered to have a “legitimate interest”.

Dr Jim Swire and the Reverend John Mosey, who both lost relatives in the Lockerbie bombing stood with Aamer Anwar, the solicitor for the Megrahi family and 26 British relatives of Lockerbie victims, to deliver a statement outside the court.

Anwar said: “It is regularly claimed that we place victims at the heart of our justice system.

“So why should the families of murder victims not have a legitimate interest in seeking to overturn the wrongful conviction of a person convicted of the murder of their loved ones? Justice does not die with the accused in this case Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

“Despite 26 long years since the Lockerbie bombing the families will not give up their fight for justice and the truth.”

Anwar said that the legal battle was not concluded, as he remains instructed by the family of al-Megrahi who seek to overturn the conviction. (...)

It was the first time in UK legal history relatives of murdered victims have united with the relatives of a convicted deceased in such a way.

However, the SCCRC previously said that they have struggled to get proof from al-Megrahi’s family members of their wish to be involved in any appeal. 

[RB: Unlike the SCCRC, apparently, I have no doubt that Aamer Anwar is instructed by the Megrahi family (including the son who is the equivalent of Abdelbaset’s executor under Libyan law) to pursue a further appeal. I have seen the relevant documents and have had contact, through Facebook, with members of the family.]

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