Friday 20 January 2017

The verdict is vulnerable

[What follows is the text of a report that was published in The Times on this date in 2012. It reads as follows:]

The doctor who lost his daughter in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing has reaffirmed his belief that the Libyan man convicted of the attack is innocent.

Jim Swire said he was convinced that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, despite the belief of the new Libyan governement that al-Megrahi is guilty of the mass murder of the 270 passengers.

Dr Swire was speaking last night after an ITV documentary in which he was shown visiting al-Megrahi, who is dying of cancer. He also consulted representatives of the Libyan leadership that toppled the dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi last year.

In one exchange Ashour Shamis, an adviser to Abdurrahim al-Keib, the Libyan Prime Minister, told Dr Swire: “As far as the Libyans are concerned, the Gaddafi regime, Gaddafi personally, are involved in planning and executing the atrocity. There is no doubt about it. They are involved, the regime are involved.”

Mr Shamis added that al-Megrahi was involved in the bombing, if “only a small player”. He went on: “Megrahi is an employee of Libyan security there is no doubt about it — of Libyan security. And if he was told to do something, he would have done it.”

Dr Swire said he had not accepted that argument. Mr Shamis, along with the rest of new government, had simply not had time to consider the case with any thoroughness.

“I found Tripoli percolated with the desire to pin everything imaginable under the sun on the defunct Gaddafi regime, because the people are so delighted to have got rid of him,” said Dr Swire. “Mr Shamis certainly believes al-Megrahi was guilty. I tried to make plain that if you look at the evidence that it is not at all likely.”

Dr Swire added that he hoped the documentary would re-awaken interest in al-Megrahi’s conviction, in a Scottish court at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, in 2001. The Libyan was released from Greenock prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 because he is suffering from terminal cancer.

“The verdict is vulnerable and would be repealed if there were a full inquiry into it,” said Dr Swire. “The Scottish public should understand what’s going on in their name: the support of an unsupportable verdict.”

A petition calling for a review of the al-Megrahi case has been lodged with Holyrood’s Justice Committee and will be debated in the Scottish Parliament next month.

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