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

Sunday 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 was 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.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Steps on the path towards Zeist

[What follows is a short excerpt from an article written by me some years ago:]

Although the British proposal [for a trial in the Netherlands] was announced in late August 1998, it was not until 5 April 1999 that the two suspects actually arrived in the Netherlands for trial before the Scottish court.  Why the delay?  The answer is that some of the fine print in the two documents* was capable of being interpreted, and was in fact interpreted, by the Libyan defence team (now chaired by Mr Kamel Hassan Maghur as successor to Dr [Ibrahim] Legwell) and the Libyan government as having been deliberately designed to create pitfalls to entrap them.  And since the governments of the United Kingdom and United States resolutely refused to have any direct contact with either the Libyan government or the Libyan defence lawyers -- their attitude being that the scheme had been advanced on a “take it or leave it basis” and that no negotiations would be entered in to -- these concerns could be dealt with only through an intermediary, namely the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (or, in practice, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Hans Corell).   This meant that issues that could have been thrashed out and settled in a matter of a few hours in a face-to-face meeting took weeks and months to resolve.  The US government, particularly the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, took every available opportunity to accuse the Libyan government and lawyers of stalling and trying to wriggle out of the assurances they had given over the years to support a “neutral venue” trial.  My own clear impression, however, through my continuing contacts with the Libyans, was that if anyone was looking for pretexts to avoid a trial ever taking place, it was the US and UK governments.

Between 20 and 22 September 1998, Dr Jim Swire and I were again in Tripoli and were able to provide to the Libyan government and the Libyan defence team a measure of reassurance regarding some of the points that concerned them.  However, it was we who had to inform the Libyan government that the chosen location in the Netherlands for trial was Kamp van Zeist, a former NATO base to which the air force of the United States still had extant treaty rights of access.  This information was faxed to me (in Dutch, which I can read  -- with difficulty -- through my knowledge of Afrikaans) at my hotel in Tripoli by a Dutch journalist who had developed an interest in Lockerbie and who had heard it from an official at The Hague.  Dr Swire and I discussed whether we should inform our Libyan government contacts of the intended venue and came to the conclusion that we should do so.  One compelling reason for doing so was to preserve the trust that the Libyan government appeared to have developed in us.  Another was our assumption – which may or may not have been justified -- that all our communications in Libya were monitored and that the Libyan authorities would have the information anyway as soon as they could arrange for a copy of the fax to be translated from Dutch into Arabic.

I anticipated that the news about the proposed location would cause the Libyans to renounce the "neutral venue" concept in high dudgeon and complain of the lack of good faith demonstrated by the British Government in selecting, or agreeing to, such a site.  But they did not do so.  When we raised the issue at our next meeting, the Libyan officials were remarkably relaxed about the matter.  This, more than anything else, convinced me that the Libyan government and the Libyan defence lawyers genuinely wished a trial to take place and that the concerns they had expressed regarding details of the scheme now on offer were genuine concerns, not merely a colourable pretext for evading their earlier commitment to such a solution.

*(1) Order in Council (SI 1998 No 2251), made on 16 September 1998, conferring the necessary legal authority for Scottish criminal proceedings against the two Libyan suspects to be conducted in the Netherlands, and (2) an international agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of the United Kingdom, concluded on 18 September 1998, making the diplomatic arrangements necessary for the "neutral venue" trial to take place.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Libyan agreement to neutral venue trial confirmed

[What follows is an article headlined Lockerbie trial agreement published in The Herald on this date in 1998:]

The two men suspected of causing the Lockerbie bombing could soon be handed over for trial in a neutral country, reports claimed yesterday after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi met British representatives, writes Ron MacKenna.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 who died in the disaster a decade ago, and Professor Robert Black, from Edinburgh University, had a 40-minute meeting with the Libyan leader in Tripoli on Monday. They said the talks were "of some substance" but refused to elaborate. However, Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted Ibrahim el-Ghoweily [RB: normally anglicised as “Legwell”], a lawyer for the suspects, as saying the two sides had agreed "to hold the trial in a third country with a panel of judges headed by a Scottish judge and in light of Scottish law".

The talks indicate movement towards ending the seemingly intractable problems over having the two men accused of the outrage tried. Both Britain and the United States both want to try the men but Libya has so far refused to surrender them to either country, saying they will not get a fair trial. El-Ghoweily said Dr Swire and other representatives of British relatives will "work to convince" Britain and the United States "that the trial should be held in a third country".

Libyan officials have apparently indicated they are prepared to compromise, allowing a trial before an international panel headed by a Scottish judge. British relatives would prefer the trial to be held in Scotland but many have indicated they would agree to it being held in a neutral country, possibly the Netherlands. El-Ghoweily said both sides had agreed on Monday on "the importance of avoiding prejudiced jurors and any country in which the media or other factors would influence the trial", and wanted the hearing to take place "as soon as possible".

The British and American governments argue that the accused men should not be allowed to dictate conditions for their trial and they are concerned that there will be no jury.

[A press release issued at the end of the visit to Libya by Dr Swire and me between 18 and 20 April 1998 reads as follows:]

A meeting to discuss issues arising out of the Lockerbie bombing was held in the premises of the Libyan Foreign Office in Tripoli on the evening of Saturday 18 April 1998.  Present were Mr Abdul Ati Obeidi, Under-Secretary of the Libyan foreign Office; Mr Mohammed Belqassem Zuwiy, Secretary of Justice of Libya; Mr Abuzaid Omar Dorda, Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations; Dr Ibrahim Legwell, head of the defence team representing the two Libyan citizens suspected of the bombing; Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for the British relatives group UK Families-Flight 103; and Professor Robert Black QC, Professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh and currently a visiting professor in the Faculty of Law of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

At the meeting discussion focused upon the plan which had been formulated in January 1994 by Professor Black for the establishment of a court to try the suspects which would:
* operate under the criminal law and procedure of Scotland
* have in place of a jury an international panel of judges presided over by a senior Scottish judge
* sit not in Scotland but in a neutral country such as The Netherlands.

Among the issues discussed were possible methods of appointment of  the international panel of judges, and possible arrangements for the transfer of the suspects from Libya for trial and for ensuring their safety and security pending and during the trial.

Dr Legwell confirmed, as he had previously done in January 1994, that his clients agreed to stand trial before such a court if it were established.  The representatives of the Libyan Government stated, as they had done in 1994 and on numerous occasions since then, that they would welcome the setting up of such a court and that if it were instituted they would permit their two citizens to stand trial before it and would co-operate in facilitating arrangements for that purpose.

Dr Swire and Professor Black undertook to persist in their efforts to persuade the Government of the United Kingdom to join Libya in accepting this proposal.

On Sunday 19 April 1998, Professor Black met the South African ambassador to Libya and Tunisia, His Excellency Ebrahim M Saley, and discussed with him current developments regarding the Lockerbie bombing.  He also took the opportunity to inform the ambassador of how much President Mandela's comments on the Lockerbie affair at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1997 in Edinburgh had been appreciated.

On Monday 20 April, Dr Swire and Professor Black had a meeting a lasting some 40 minutes with the Leader of the Revolution, Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Also present were the Libyan Foreign Secretary, Mr Omar al-Montasser, and Mr Dorda.  The Leader was informed of the substance of the discussions held on Saturday 18 April, and expressed his full support for the conclusions reached.

Sunday 19 April 2015

"A fair and just trial ... in a neutral country"

[What follows is excerpted from an article on The Pan Am 103 Crash Website, which is itself based partly on a report from this date in 1998 by the Libyan news agency JANA:]

Jim Swire held talks in Libya on Saturday with the justice minister about the trial for two suspects in the attack, Libya's official news agency reported on the 19th April. J[im] Swire, and victims' legal adviser Robert Black met Justice Minister Mohammed Belqasim al-Zuwiy [or Zwai] after arriving in Tripoli.

They discussed suggestions by Swire and Black “concerning reaching ... a fair and just trial of the two suspects in a neutral country,” Libya's official news agency, JANA, reported. Swire and Black drove 215 miles from Tunisia to the Libyan capital Saturday, Swire's spokesman, David Ben-Aryeah, said in London. Swire told Ben-Aryeah he was grateful for the “efficient and warm welcome” they received.

Black and Swire held talks in Tripoli this week with Legwell and Libyan foreign affairs and justice officials.

The most important meeting was held with the Libyan lawyer for Fhima and Megrahi in Tripoli, Dr Ibrahim Legwell. Ibrahim Legwell said he told Scottish lawyer Robert Black and Jim Swire, that his two Libyan clients were ready to stand trial under Scottish law in a neutral country.

“We agreed on several basic points and details,” Legwell told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Libyan capital Tripoli. “I confirmed to them, as I have done previously, that my clients would stand for trial before such a court, which will be set not in Scotland nor the United States, but in a neutral country,” he added. “We also agreed that it would be established with an international panel of judges to be agreed upon and presided over by a senior Scottish judge. The court would operate under the criminal law and procedures of Scotland,” he added as well.

“We also are very concerned about how to ensure the safety, the security and the rights for our clients pending, during and after the trial,” he said. Legwell said Libya's Justice Minister Mohamed Belqasem Zwai, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, and Libya's representative at the UN, Abouzid Omar Dorda, attended part of his meetings with Black and Swire when these issues were discussed.

Zwai said he expected a settlement of the dispute over where to hold the trial. ”We expect we will reach a solution that satisfies all parties before the World Court issues its decision,” he told reporters in Cairo late Monday.

Friday 17 April 2015

'The whole truth..'?

[This is the headline over a report in Al-Ahram Weekly Online from this week in 2001:]

A conference on Lockerbie organised by the Arab League this week concluded that the verdict was politically motivated, reports Gamal Nkrumah

Last Saturday, a two-day international conference on the trial at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands of two Libyan nationals accused of bombing a PanAm flight over the Scottish village of Lockerbie began at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo. Several luminaries, including a former Algerian president, attended the conference, which condemned the Scottish court's decision to convict former Libyan intelligence agent Abdel-Basset Al-Megrahi and acquit his co-defendant Amin Khalifa Fhima. A UN trial observer from Austria, also at the conference, denounced the trial as unfair and the verdict as irrational.

"Lockerbie was a sham trial. The whole purpose of that farcical but tragic exercise in legal acrobatics was to punish the Libyan regime. The United States and the United Kingdom wanted to make an example of Libya. They want to deter other Third World countries from daring to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden and dispossessed," Dr Said Hafyana, Libya's assistant secretary for legal affairs, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

"To this day, US sanctions have not been lifted," Hafyana said. "The trial was simply a means to penalise Libya and cripple the Libyan government by forcing it to pay hefty compensation fines to the families of the victims," Hafyana argued. "It was mainly a political trial," he added.

The conference on Lockerbie was officially opened by Dr Esmat Abdel-Meguid, the outgoing secretary-general of the Arab League. Abdel-Meguid emphasised in his keynote address that the Arab world and the international community have an obligation to lift completely the sanctions against Libya. He also reminded his audience that the United Nations security council resolution, which imposed sanctions against Libya in 1992, linked ending the sanctions to the extradition of the two suspects. The resolution did not stipulate other conditions. But after the two suspects were extradited to the Netherlands, the Security Council only suspended sanctions, leaving open the door for the US to set more conditions before total withdrawal of the sanctions. The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, the independent sanctions regime unilaterally imposed by the US outside the authority of the UN, is still in force, though due to expire in August. Washington now insists that Libya accept full responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and compensate the families of the victims before it will lifts its sanctions. Official Libyan sources say that sanctions have cost Libya over $26 billion to date.

Former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella was one of the conference guests. Ben Bella has been an outspoken critic of the Lockerbie trial and a tireless champion of the Libyan cause. He joined with former South African President Nelson Mandela to lead the international campaign to lift sanctions from Libya.

Ibrahim Legwell, Al-Megrahi's Libyan lawyer when the case first started, was also present in Cairo. "Historically, there have always been miscarriages of justice," he said. "But there have been no precedents to such a case by which proceedings can be compared and evaluated," he added. "Al-Megrahi insists that this is a case of mistaken identity and that he has been falsely accused. He says that he is innocent and cannot accept a situation where the families of the victims believe him to be the murderer," Legwell said.

Farouk Abou-Eissa, head of the Cairo-based Arab Lawyers Union was a panelist at the opening session. With the results of the appeal process still pending, Abou-Eissa appealed to the judges not to give in to the whims of world powers.

Some of the most damning criticisms of the trial came from Dr Hans Köchler, an official UN observer at Kamp van Zeist. Köchler told the Weekly that British and especially American pressure and political influence was brought to bear on the judges and that the trial was unfair. Köchler, a member of the International Progress Organisation, was nominated to his post by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1192. He is a professor at Innsbruck University in Austria.

Köchler upbraided the court for holding the suspects for an unseemly length of time. "The extraordinary length of detention of the two suspects from their time of arrival in the Netherlands until the beginning of the trial in May 2000 is a serious problem in regard to their basic human rights under European standards, in particular those of the European Convention on Human Rights," he said. The two Libyans were indicted in 1999.

Köchler also ridiculed the prosecution's grip on legal procedure. He noted the curious role played by the Libyan double agent Abdul-Majid Giaka. "The serious problem of process at Kamp van Zeist became evident when it transpired that CIA cables concerning one of the Crown's key witnesses, Giaka, were initially dismissed by the prosecution as 'not relevant.' Only later were they partially released thanks to pressure from the defence. Such incidents seriously damaged the integrity of the entire procedure. In the end, only a select few of the cables sent by the CIA to Giaka were released. Most were never made available," Köchler said. He also claimed that politics intruded into the court. The presence of government representatives of both sides in the courtroom gave the trial a highly political aura. But the official reporting of the court failed to declare this. "The presence of foreign nationals on the side of the defence team was not mentioned in any of the Scottish Court Service's official briefing documents," Köchler said.

Köchler was also concerned by the prosecution's witnesses. According to him, virtually everyone presented by the prosecution as a key witness lacked credibility, some having openly lied to the Court. Köchler was also worried about which information was released. It was officially stated by the Lord Advocate that substantial new information was received from an unnamed foreign government relating to the defence's case. But the content of this information was never revealed. "Foreign governments or secret government agencies may have been allowed, albeit indirectly, to determine which evidence was made available to the Court," Köchler said.

Many questions are still unanswered. It is unclear, for example, why the defence team suddenly dropped its "special defence" and cancelled the appearance of nearly all defence witnesses. Köchler says that defence lawyers were unavailable for comment on this crucial matter. Summing up his views of the trial, Köchler said, "The verdict was based on circumstantial evidence and on a series of highly problematic inferences. There is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime." Finally, Köchler called the court's decision that Al-Megrahi was guilty, "arbitrary and irrational." In conclusion Köchler had grave misgivings about the trial. He thought that it was unfair; that it was not conducted objectively; that the legal process was opaque and that evidence may have been withheld for political reasons.

Saturday 4 April 2015

UK and US isolated in rejecting neutral venue trial proposal

[What follows is excerpted from a report by the Associated Press news agency published on this date in 1996:]

Lawyers representing the two Libyan men suspected of planting the Lockerbie bomb say they're ready to face trial -- but it must be in a neutral country.

And they say the suspects will appear voluntarily, without the need for extradition.

But so far it's a proposal which hasn't been taken up by any of the key players in the international investigation into Flight 103. (...)

The man leading the defence team for the two men is on a rare trip to London.

He says if the investigating countries -- the US, the UK and Scotland -- agree to a trial somewhere like The Hague, the suspects will turn up of their own free will.

Dr Ibrahim Legwell: “What we are proposing that the venue can be changed for a neutral country and that instead of the jury we have a panel of judges and what is going to come from our side is that I will come with them to stand for the trial voluntary, not as an extradition.”

Those representing the families of Lockerbie victims have backed the call for such a trial, saying at least the evidence would be brought out into the open.

The legal team acting for the men includes lawyers from each country involved in the events leading up to the explosion.

English lawyer Stephen Mitchell says the UK and the US are now isolated in rejecting the trial proposal.

Stephen Mitchell: “It will be accepted or rejected on the basis of political wills. When somebody wants to solve this problem it will be solved, is my view.”

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Being economical with the truth over a Lockerbie trial

[What follows is an exchange during Scottish questions in the House of Commons on this date in 1998:]

4. Mr [Tam] Dalyell:  If he will make a statement on the recent findings of the international court relating to the (a) venue and (b) jurisdiction of the trial of those suspected of the Lockerbie bombing. [33158]
The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr Henry McLeish):  The International Court of Justice made no findings in relation to the venue or jurisdiction for the trial of those accused of the Lockerbie bombing, but has held that it cannot determine, as a preliminary issue, the effect of the Security Council's resolutions on Libya's claims under the Montreal convention.
Mr Dalyell:  Is it really more important that a trial should take place in Scotland than that any trial should take place at all?
Mr McLeish:  Those accused of acts of terrorism should not be able to dictate the venue or composition of the court before which they are to be tried. Scotland and the United States have exercised jurisdiction in that case, and Libya should now surrender the two accused persons for trial in either of those two countries, as it is required to do under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Ms Roseanna Cunningham:  Does the Minister accept that, once a Scottish Parliament is up and running, given the devolution of powers over the legal system, a future Scottish Administration could decide to allow the Lockerbie trial to be held outwith Scotland? Does he accept that, if that happens, Westminster must not attempt to interfere with the decision?
Mr McLeish:  It is worth re-emphasising that both the United States and this country are sticking by an important principle: the solution to that problem lies in Libya, and it is vital that Libya abides by Security Council resolutions and delivers the two accused persons for a proper trial.
Mr Russell Brown:  I whole-heartedly agree with my hon Friend the Minister. There is great pressure on him to consider holding a trial in a neutral country, but, even if the Government were to consider doing so, must not the Libyan Government first give a clear guarantee that they would hand over the two suspects?
Mr McLeish:  Such a guarantee has not, to date, been forthcoming from the Libyans. It is important to repeat that the suspects should be given up. There must be a fair trial, and one has been offered within the jurisdiction of the United States or of Scotland. That is the best way forward. We expect the Libyans to abide by Security Council resolutions, and that is the simple matter on which the case rests at the moment.
[RB: On 12 January 1994 the chief defence lawyer for the two Libyan suspects, Dr Ibrahim Legwell, stated in writing (in response to a letter from me dated 10 January) that his clients were prepared to surrender themselves for trial before a tribunal operating under Scots law but sitting in a neutral country; on the same date, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya, Moussa Koussa, stated in writing that the Libyan Government approved of this solution. Further details can be found here.
In October 1997, during President Nelson Mandela’s stopover in Tripoli, en route to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh, Colonel Gaddafi confirmed that this remained the stance of the Libyan Government. On 15 January 1998 in the course of the television programme Words with Wark (in which I participated) Alistair Duff, the Scottish solicitor who represented the two accused men, reaffirmed that his clients wished to stand trial before a Scottish tribunal in a neutral venue, such as I had proposed in January 1994.
I therefore completely fail to comprehend what further “guarantee” the minister and those who supported him could have honestly expected from “the Libyans”.]

Sunday 1 March 2015

Arab reaction to World Court Lockerbie judgement in favour of Libya

[The following are two items dated 1 March 1998, taken from The Pan Am 103 Crash Website which was edited by Safia Aoude:]

Cairo, 1 March 1998: The head of the Arab League on Saturday welcomed the International Court of Justice decision that it had jurisdiction in Libya's dispute with Britain and the United States over a 1988 airliner bombing. "This declaration from the court affirms the sound Arab position that calls for the trial to be in a neutral country,'' said a statement by Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid. Separately, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters that the procedural move was an "important step.''

The Libyan foreign minister, Umar Mustafa al-Muntassir, held talks in Cairo on Sunday with Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid to discuss what action to take within the United Nations Security Council on the Lockerbie crisis after the International Court of Justice judgment that it could decide where the two Lockerbie suspects should be tried (...)

Meguid said the meeting would be followed "by intensive consultations and meetings until the type of future action towards the settlement of this international crisis is defined."

"Legally speaking, the ICJ ruling pronouncing its jurisdiction to hear Libyan complaints against Britain is a major development," Meguid was quoted as saying. "It means that the Libyan request was honoured, while the British and US rejection was turned down."

Al Muntasir said the meeting was aimed at coordinating the Arab League-Libya stand over recent developments. "A comprehensive Libyan plan was amended to conform to these developments," he said, adding that he had discussed the amendments with the secretary general. He expressed the hope that Libya's coordination with the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) would help achieve a unified international stand against "the injustices Libya was suffering within the UN Security Council as well as outside it."
Tripoli, 1 March 1998: The lawyer of the two Libyan suspects wanted in the Lockerbie bombing said Saturday he still backed a trial in a neutral country even though a ruling by the International Court of Justice was a step toward confirming Libya's jurisdiction. "It is a ruling in the right direction...and I am almost certain that the final ruling will be in line with the 1971 Montreal convention which means that Libya's judiciary is competent to hear the case and is right to refuse to hand over the suspects,'' Ibrahim Legwell, lawyer of the two suspects, told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli.

"It is our interest and that of the families of the bombing victims that there be a trial. That's why we support a neutral venue,'' he said. “We had rejected to hand over the two suspects to the United States or Britain because it was unlawful and also we were certain that they wouldn't get a fair trial there. We know that a trial in Libya would also be suspect. The reasonable solution is a trial in a neutral country,” he said.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Megrahi's 2001 appeal

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2001:]

Tne appeal of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi has been plagued by bitter in-fighting because members of his defence team have not been paid for their services.

The Scotsman has learned that Megrahi’s Libyan backers owe tens of thousands of pounds to the lawyers and spin doctors hired to bolster his case. Two members of the defence team have already resigned from the organising committee and one has even served a writ on Megrahi’s UK representative, claiming £30,000 in unpaid fees.

Megrahi was found guilty a year ago of mass murder for bombing New York-bound Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky in December 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people in Lockerbie.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years.

His co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was cleared. Megrahi’s appeal is due to start on Wednesday [23 January 2001].

Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading American civil rights lawyer and one of the main legal brains behind the appeal, has admitted technical specialists and lawyers gathering vital evidence for the case have yet to be paid by the Libyans.

He said: "I’ve been a consultant to the law firm and (I know) some people have not been paid. Some of the experts have not been paid as well. Some of the people that have been retained to do some of the scientific research on the case have not been paid."

Professor Dershowitz’s comments came after David Wynn Morgan and Patrick Robertson, the London-based PR experts brought in to publicise the appeal, resigned from their posts over financial disputes.

Mr Robertson has served a writ on Stephen Mitchell, the representative for Needleman Treon, Megrahi’s London-based solicitors, for almost £30,000.

Last night, Mr Robertson, who has represented former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, confirmed he had served a writ on Mr Mitchell. He said: "I was forced to resign from the committee because I was not paid the agreed sum in my contract to assist the team. I was brought in to inform the media on the case, set up a website on the appeal and organise a seminar for the committee and I had agreed a sum to carry out these functions.

"Unfortunately I have been forced to issue a writ to retrieve the money owed to me, that is now public knowledge and it is a position I would rather not be in."

It has also emerged that Mr Wynn Morgan resigned from the appeal committee by sending an e-mail to his colleagues, stating he was no longer in a position to carry out his duties. The disagreement is said to have come to a head after a five-figure cheque paid to Mr Wynn Morgan’s PR firm was allegedly stopped by representatives acting for the Libyans. A source close to Mr Wynn Morgan said: "David did resign from the appeal committee and it is fair to suggest there was a financial disagreement but we are in a tricky position at the moment.

"All we can say is this ‘disagreement’ has since been resolved and we hope to contribute more to the team in the future, but it was the basis for our withdrawal from the appeal team."

An appeal team insider suggested the timing for the dispute could not be worse and the growing financial cloud hanging over the committee could undermine the Libyan’s case.

He said: "There is a growing unease in the team and many of the lawyers and specialists who have contributed to the appeal feel they have been used by the Libyans."

Megrahi’s appeal is being financed and co-ordinated by a consortium of Libyan lawyers headed by Tripoli-based academic Dr Ibrahim Legwell. [RB: Dr Legwell was not an academic (save for an honorary professorship) but a practising lawyer.]

In a bid to bolster the appeal case, the Libyan lawyers raised funds to recruit the services of some of the world’s leading legal minds and PR men.

The appeal is to be heard by Scotland’s highest-ranking judge, Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice-General, sitting with Lords Kirkwood, Osborne, Macfadyen and Nimmo Smith.

Professor Robert Black, QC, of Edinburgh University, who helped to pave the way for the Lockerbie trial to be held in a neutral country, believes that Megrahi should win his appeal.

He added: "I did not believe either of the accused should have been convicted, and it is pretty plain my view is that the appeal should succeed, simply because Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place on the evidence that was led.

"I believe that conclusions drawn by the court, that Megrahi bought clothing on Malta on a day when he was known to be on the island, went against the weight of the evidence.

"These conclusions were absolutely vital to his conviction. But it is very difficult for five judges to turn round and say, ‘Our three very senior colleagues at the trial got it wrong and they were not entitled to convict.’ I’m not oozing confidence that my view will turn out to be correct."

RB: My lack of confidence in the outcome of the appeal was regrettably justified. The reasons for its failure are set out here, in the section headed “The Appeal”. My view that the trial court’s conclusion, that the clothes that surrounded the bomb were bought in Malta on a day when Megrahi was present on the island, was contrary to the weight of the evidence is shared by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:

“… the Commission formed the view that there is no reasonable basis in the trial court's judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items from Mary's House took place on 7 December 1988. Although it was proved that the applicant was in Malta on several occasions in December 1988, in terms of the evidence 7 December was the only date on which he would have had the opportunity to purchase the items. The finding as to the date of purchase was therefore important to the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser. Likewise, the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser was important to the verdict against him. Because of these factors the Commission has reached the view that the requirements of the legal test [RB: that no reasonable court could have reached that conclusion on the evidence] may be satisfied in the applicant's case.”