Sunday, 23 July 2017

The conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was a farce

[The following are letters published in The Guardian on this date in 2010:]

I support President Obama's call for "all the facts to be laid out" regarding the Lockerbie affair (Cameron tells Obama he will release Lockerbie files, 21 July). He should be reminded that the Montreal convention of 1971, enacted under the UN-linked International Civil Aviation Organisation, was the proper legal instrument to address the terrorist bombing of flight PA 103 over Lockerbie.

The US, resenting the convention provision that the two suspects could be tried in Libya, orchestrated UN sanctions in an attempt to force their surrender to an American or British court. The sanctions caused the deaths of most of 15,750 Libyans suffering from serious medical conditions because they could not be evacuated by air for treatment abroad. In addition, more than 780 Libyans died in ambulances en route to neighbouring countries. It was judged that there had been 1,135 stillbirths and 514 maternal deaths caused by the shortage of medicines, serums and vaccines blocked by the sanctions. A UN report in 1998 confirmed the impact of sanctions on Libya.

The conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was a farce. Even Lord Sutherland, presiding over the arbitrarily contrived Scottish court in Holland, emphasised the "uncertainties and qualifications" in the case, referred to parts of the "conflicting" evidence "which might not fit" and to a conclusion "which is not really justified". The US ignored international law, imposed sanctions on Libya which resulted in 16,000 deaths, and orchestrated a blatant miscarriage of justice.

As politicians in both Britain and the US queue up to comment on the release of Megrahi, they remain silent about the need for an inquiry into the atrocity itself. To deny the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie an investigation into this gross act of terrorism is an international disgrace, and the failure to seek to identify those responsible encourages more acts of terrorism.

I have a personal concern about the failure to hold an inquiry as I was with Bernt Carlsson, the UN assistant secretary general, shortly before he checked in on Pan Am Flight 103. As president of the development committee of the European parliament I had invited him to Brussels, where he spoke about his hopes for an independent Namibia and the end of apartheid to a packed meeting of MEPs.

David Cameron should call for an independent inquiry led by the UN to find out the truth about Pan Am Flight 103.
Former MEP for Leeds (1984-99)

In all the hype about releasing Megrahi, one crucial fact seems to have got submerged. He was about to appeal with new evidence, and very likely win, when "persuaded" to abandon the appeal and be sent home "on compassionate grounds". Cynics might think this was to avoid the embarrassment of the court deciding that all along they had the wrong man. A case where two wrongs make a right?

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