Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The mess that litters the Lockerbie case

[A lengthy (2,500 words) and devastating review by John Ashton of Kenny MacAskill’s The Lockerbie Bombing appears in today’s edition of the Scottish Review. It absolutely must be read by anyone with an interest in the Lockerbie case. The following are the final few paragraphs:]

The book’s greatest omission is its failure to acknowledge the very Scottish scandal that lies at the heart of the Megrahi case, namely the Crown’s failure to disclose multiple items of exculpatory evidence. We shouldn’t be surprised, because the Scottish Government that he served amplified the scandal by failing to order an inquiry into the Crown’s conduct. (He repeats the government-spun fiction that any inquiry would need to be multi-jurisdictional.) To make matters worse, when the Justice for Megrahi campaign committee sent to him in confidence allegations of criminal misconduct and requested that he appoint an independent investigator to examine them, without consulting them he passed them to the Crown Office, which immediately – and outrageously – dismissed them. Thankfully, Police Scotland took a different view and is now in the third year of a major investigation of the allegations.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by Mr MacAskill’s sidestepping of inconvenient facts – he is a lawyer and politician, and that’s what lawyers and politicians do. Far more surprising is his reliance upon hand-me-down hearsay and pure speculation. There are pages of the stuff. For example, he tells it is 'certain’ that Lamin Fhimah arrived at Malta’s Luqa airport with Megrahi on the morning of the bombing. There is simply no evidence for this. None.
Most jaw dropping is his account of the evidence of the CIA’s Libyan supergrass Majid Giaka, who was the only witness to implicate Fhimah in the bombing, and who was exposed at trial as a money-grabbing fantasist. Among Majid’s baseless claims, made two-and-a-half years after Lockerbie, was that Megrahi had arrived at Luqa airport with a Samsonite suitcase like the one used for the bombing. Having acknowledged that Majid’s evidence was dismissed by the judges, Mr MacAskill counters with: 'Majid is clearly tainted, but some of his evidence has the ring of truth about it'. In the very next sentence, the ring of truth has been forged into cast iron fact: 'Megrahi came in [to Malta] with the Samsonite suitcase and Fhimah accompanied him to escort him through the airport'. What has the greater ring of truth, I would suggest, is the manifest truth from the Air Malta flight that Megrahi took to Malta, which indicates that neither he nor Fhimah had a suitcase. But why let the facts get in the way of a convenient fiction?
Allow me to round off with a little MacAskillesque guesswork. His Megrahi-wasn’t-the-clothes-buyer-but-did-it-anyway line has such a bloke-in-the-pub-told-me feel to it that I would not be surprised if it had been fed to him by a police officer or prosecutor. Some of those responsible for the conviction must accept that Megrahi probably wasn’t the clothes purchaser. They have had years to construct an alternative narrative that salvages their honour by keeping him in the frame. Maybe one of them was happy to share it with the ex-justice minister – it would have saved him the bother of having to do proper research (which clearly he didn’t).
I don’t doubt that Mr MacAskill is a decent man, who tried to do his best in near-impossible circumstances. It’s a pity that his tartan-tinted spectacles blinded him to much of the mess that litters the Lockerbie case. Still he will, at least, now be remembered, not only as the man who freed Megrahi, but also as the first member of the Scottish establishment to break rank on Megrahi’s conviction. For that we should be grateful.

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