Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Alistair Duff. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Alistair Duff. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday 11 August 2023

Death announced of Libyan Lockerbie lawyer Ibrahim Legwell

[The death in Cairo this morning of Dr Ibrahim Legwell at the age of 90 has just been announced. Dr Legwell, as a Libyan lawyer, was involved in the Lockerbie case from the time that Libyan citizens were first publicly accused by the United States and the United Kingdom of responsibility for the bombing. What follows is an item that was posted on this blog on 11 October 2015.]

The genesis of the neutral venue Lockerbie proposal

[It was on this date in 1993 that it was announced, following a “legal summit” held in Tripoli involving the international team of lawyers assembled by Dr Ibrahim Legwell to assist him in advising Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah, that the suspects were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. Those taking part from Scotland were Donald Macaulay QC and Alistair Duff.  I have previously described my own involvement as follows:]

The Libyan government asked me to be present in Tripoli while the team was meeting so that the government itself would have access to independent Scottish legal advice should the need arise. 

It was apparent that the Libyan government expectation was that the outcome of the meeting of the defence team would be a decision by the two accused voluntarily to agree to stand trial in Scotland.  I am able personally to testify to how much of a surprise and embarrassment it was to the Libyan government when the outcome of the meeting of the defence team was an announcement that the accused were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland.  My meeting after the defence decision was revealed with the then Deputy Foreign Minister, Mousa Kousa (later head of external security and Foreign Minister) made this only too clear. 

In the course of a private meeting that I had a day later with Dr Legwell, he explained to me that the primary reason for the unwillingness of the accused to stand trial in Scotland was their belief that, because of unprecedented pre-trial publicity over the years, a Scottish jury could not possibly bring to their consideration of the evidence in this case the degree of impartiality and open-mindedness that accused persons are entitled to expect and that a fair trial demands.  A secondary consideration was the issue of the physical security of the accused if the trial were to be held in Scotland.  Not that it was being contended that ravening mobs of enraged Scottish citizens would storm Barlinnie prison, seize the accused and string them up from the nearest lamp posts.  Rather, the fear was that they might be snatched by special forces of the United States, removed to America and put on trial there (or, like Lee Harvey Oswald, suffer an unfortunate accident before being put on trial).

The Libyan government attitude remained, as it always had been, that they had no constitutional authority to hand their citizens over to the Scottish authorities for trial.  The question of voluntary surrender for trial was one for the accused and their legal advisers, and while the Libyan government would place no obstacles in the path of, and indeed would welcome, such a course of action, there was nothing that it could lawfully do to achieve it. (...)

Having mulled over the concerns expressed to me by Dr Legwell in October 1993, I returned to Tripoli and on 10 January 1994 presented a letter to him suggesting a means of resolving the impasse created by the insistence of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States that the accused be surrendered for trial in Scotland or America and the adamant refusal of the accused to submit themselves for trial by jury in either of these countries.  This was a detailed proposal, but in essence its principal elements were the following.

1. That a trial be held outside Scotland, ideally in the Netherlands, in which the governing law and procedure would be that followed in Scottish criminal trials on indictment but with this major alteration, namely that the jury of fifteen persons (not twelve, as in England) which is a feature of that procedure be replaced by a panel of judges -- ideally from states other than those principally affected by the disaster, but presided over by a Scottish judge -- who would have the responsibility of deciding not only questions of law but also the ultimate question of whether the guilt of the accused had been established on the evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

2.  That the prosecution be conducted by the Scottish public prosecutor, Lord Advocate, or his authorised representative.

3. That the defence of the accused persons be conducted by independent Scottish solicitors and counsel appointed by the accused.

4. That any appeals against conviction or sentence be heard and determined in Scotland by the High Court of Justiciary in its capacity as the Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal.

Although not expressly stated in the proposal, it was the clear implication (and this was understood by Dr Legwell) that in the event of the accused being convicted by the court, they would serve any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon them in a prison in Scotland.

In a letter to me dated 12 January 1994, Dr Legwell stated that he had consulted his clients, that this scheme was wholly acceptable to them and that if it were implemented by the government of the United Kingdom the suspects would voluntarily surrender themselves for trial before a tribunal so constituted.  By a letter of the same date, Deputy Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa stated that the Libyan government approved of the proposal and would place no obstacles in the path of its two citizens should they elect to submit to trial under this scheme.

[RB: Further information regarding Dr Legwell's involvement over the years in the case can be found in the blogposts collated here.]

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Abu Nidal group member claims responsibility for Lockerbie

[What follows is the text of a report published in the Los Angeles Times on this date in 1994:]

An accused Palestinian assassin confessed Monday to the murder of 270 people, stunning a Beirut courtroom with an unsubstantiated claim that in 1988, he personally blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Lebanese prosecutors said they will investigate Youssef Shaaban's claim but stressed that they doubted his confession. It reportedly came after the 29-year-old follower of terrorist leader Abu Nidal denied charges that he shot and killed a Jordanian diplomat near the diplomat's Beirut home in January.
The Lockerbie bombing, one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in recent years, remains a major international political issue. The American and British governments initially blamed Iran for the crime, then Syria, and finally insisted that two suspected senior Libyan intelligence agents were behind the bombing. They persuaded the UN Security Council to punish Libya with international sanctions in an attempt to force it to turn over the two men to stand trial in the United States or Britain.
On Monday, the lawyer for the two Libyan suspects -- Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah -- applauded Shaaban's confession in Beirut, asserting it proved his clients' innocence. But British and American officials insisted that Libya still bears the blame for a bombing that stunned the world.
American counterterrorism officials said Monday that they had never ruled out a role by others besides the Libyans. "We're going to follow up very hard on all leads, including this one, just to make sure we've left nothing unturned," a senior official said.

But counterterrorism experts, public and private, expressed deep suspicions. "There are enough inconsistencies to make us doubt him," a senior US official said.

Shaaban would have been only 23 at the time of the 1988 bombing. "That's fairly young to have put together a complicated bomb and such a complicated operation all by himself," the official added.

Also, Shaaban's claim does not conform with Abu Nidal's usual tactics. "He never went in for aviation terrorism, especially anything as sophisticated as this," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at the RAND Corp.

American officials and terrorism specialists suggest that Shaaban's claim may be part of a Libyan campaign to shift the blame from the two Libyans indicted by the United States and Scotland and, in turn, to get painful international economic sanctions lifted.

"It's part of an operation. It's deliberately exploiting the use of someone already going down for another crime -- in this case the assassination of a Jordanian diplomat -- to accept responsibility for something that he could not possibly have done," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA terrorism specialist.

Relatives of the bombing victims were skeptical as well.

Jim Swire -- chief spokesman and activist for families of British passengers killed when the Pan Am Boeing 747 exploded en route to New York over the Scottish village, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 more on the ground -- said Shaaban's assertion "should be regarded with grave suspicion."

"It could be that he is seeking to attract what terrorists might regard as kudos for the Abu Nidal organization," Swire said, referring to the Revolutionary Council of Fatah founded by the Palestinian activist.

Shaaban's remarks--which the judge ordered stricken as irrelevant to the case, according to Reuters news service--reportedly came after Shaaban denied gunning down Jordan's second-ranking diplomat in Beirut on Jan 29. Shaaban's public trial has become the centerpiece of a Lebanese government campaign to prove that Beirut's decades of lawlessness are at an end.

[RB: The following comments are taken from The Herald’s coverage of this story:]

Yesterday, Mr Alistair Duff, the Edinburgh lawyer who is a member of the Libyans' international defence team headed by Tripoli advocate Dr Ibrahim Legwell, said: ''This is obviously an interesting development. It will be a matter for discussion with Dr Legwell and the rest of the legal team and we will be doing our utmost to investigate the man's claims.

''Once we have discussed it within the legal team then we will see what can be done about interviewing this man. We will obviously be interested in having him properly interviewed. That may mean a member of the legal team from Malta or, perhaps, Germany, travelling to Beirut to see him,'' he added.

However, in the UK, official sources were treating Shaaban's confession with care. A spokesman for the Crown Office in Edinburgh said: ''The Lord Advocate has not seen any evidence relating to the alleged involvement of Youssef Shaaban in the Lockerbie investigation.

''If anyone has any evidence relating to the case they should make it available to the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. The investigation remains open and we will of course look into anything relevant to the case but we cannot comment on any investigative steps which may be taken.''

A spokesman at the Foreign Office in London said: ''As we have said many times in the past, we believe there is a case to be answered in a court in Scotland or the United States by the two Libyans. If anyone has further information which implicates anyone else, this could be brought to the attention of the Lord Advocate in Scotland or the US authorities.''

Monday 26 November 2007

From Terrorism blog

Here are links to two posts, dated 07 September and 11 October 2007 respectively, that I have just discovered on the Terrorism blog. Both contain matter directly or indirectly relevant to Lockerbie.


As far as the information contained in the second item is concerned, it should be noted that Bill Taylor QC has not become a sheriff, but Alistair Duff has.

Friday 29 July 2016

Sheriffs involved in the Lockerbie case

[What follows is excerpted from an article that was published in The Herald on this date in 1993:]

One of Scotland's most distinguished legal figures is retiring.
Sheriff Principal John Mowat, QC, of South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, will be succeeded by Sheriff Graham Cox, at present a Sheriff at Dundee.
The appointment of Sheriff Cox, 59, by the Queen on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Scotland, will take effect from October 1, the Scottish Courts Administration said yesterday.
Among Mr Mowat's duties in recent years was the task of conducting the fatal accident inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster in which 270 people died.
During the £3m hearing he heard millions of words of evidence over a 61-day period.
He was born in Manchester 70 years ago and educated at Glasgow High School and Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh before graduating at Glasgow University.
[RB: The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the 270 deaths resulting from the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie opened in Easterbrook Hall, Crichton Royal Hospital, Dumfries on 1 October 1990. The Sheriff Principal’s 47-page findings were issued on 18 March 1991 and can be read here. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the evidence related to the positioning of the bomb suitcase in luggage container AVE4041. By the time of the trial at Camp Zeist the Crown’s stance (and its evidence) had altered significantly. For further details, see Dr Morag Kerr’s Adequately Explained by Stupidity? Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies.
John Mowat’s successor as Sheriff Principal, Graham Cox QC, presided at Camp Zeist on 6 April 1999 at the first appearance of Megrahi and Fhimah before a Scottish court.
Abdelbaset Megrahi’s Scottish solicitor up to and including the first appeal, Alistair Duff, is now a sheriff and is currently Director of the Judicial Institute for Scotland. Norman McFadyen who was the procurator fiscal in charge of the Lockerbie case (and was one of the two members of the prosecution team who viewed the infamous CIA Giaka cables) is now a sheriff in Edinburgh.]