Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lockerbie relatives cautiously welcome review

[This is the headline over a report that was published in The Herald on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 killed, said yesterday a desktop review of the criminal inquiry has always been the excuse to block a full investigation into how Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21 1988. [RB: Such a review had just been announced by the Crown Office.]
In a letter in today’s Herald, Dr Swire states: "The ‘ongoing criminal investigation’ has been repeatedly used as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth, to which we are entitled under human rights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005."
He also told reporters yesterday: "I think if they are really going to have a meaningful investigation then that is all well and good and long overdue. But if it is just a dodge to prevent an investigation into why the lives of those killed were not protected then I would be livid."
Dr Swire is among many who do not believe that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan agent convicted of the bombing in 2001 and released in August on compassionate grounds, was guilty of the atrocity. Days before his release Megrahi, who has inoperable cancer, dropped his second appeal against his conviction, although he has always protested his innocence.
Eleven relatives of the victims went to Downing Street on Friday to hand a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for a public inquiry into the bombing. The UK Government has always resisted demands for an independent inquiry and insists that Mr Megrahi’s conviction still stands despite his release.
[RB: The letter by Dr Swire does not appear on the newspaper’s website. As submitted it read as follows:]
After more than 20 years, the Crown Office has just announced that the Lockerbie Criminal Investigation is to re-examine the available evidence and assess new channels of investigation. Their announcement coincides to the day with the public announcement by the UK Lockerbie families group 'UK Families-Flight 103' that they are yet again demanding (this time of Gordon Brown), a full inquiry into the failure to protect their loved ones and the identity of the perpetrators.
The 'ongoing criminal investigation' has been repeatedly used as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth as to why our families were not protected back in 1988, to which we are entitled under Human Rights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005.
If further serious meaningful investigation really is to be pursued by the police and Crown Office (CO) as to who elsemay have contributed to the ruthless murder of our families back in 1988 I would be the first to applaud it. Abu Talb, a potential incriminee has now been released from jail and according to the Crown Office itself was not granted immunity against prosecution over Lockerbie, though appearing as a witness at Zeist. That might be no bad place to start looking for the truth. Trouble is, if he bought 'the clothes from Gaucis’ shop' then Megrahi clearly didn't. Honest further investigation is almost bound to embarrass the Zeist verdict, on which the CO's reputation, and that of its members past and present heavily depends.
'Who else' I write. Interested parties should go to the website of the London Review of Books (lrb.co.uk) and read the article by Gareth Peirce, one of England's foremost miscarriage of justice and human rights lawyers. Her article is titled 'The framing of Al Megrahi'. There they will find an erudite critism of the trial.
After that they might like to consider the words of the UN's specially appointed International Observer at the Lockerbie trial, Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna, who found the verdict against Megrahi 'incomprehensible' and a 'travesty of justice'. He was also forthright enough to say that the verdict could not have been reached without 'deliberate malpractice on the part of Scotland's Crown Office'.
That is a weighty charge, which the CO has not publicly contested, nor have Scottish or UK politicians.
Then interested parties might like to press for the public UK showing of Lockerbie Revisited, a brilliant documentary film by Gideon Levy of the Netherlands which has just won a major international prize, yet which no one in the UK has yet had the guts to screen outside the privilege of the Scottish Parliament, under the redoubtable wing of Christine Grahame MSP.
Forgive me, if for now the jury is out as to what the Crown Office are really up to. Let us not forget that very serious issues still surround the conduct of the Crown Office throughout this case, and the verdict against Al Megrahi in particular.

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