Having been online accepting signatures for only thirteen complete days at the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Site, the Justice for Megrahi petition has suffered a technical glitch. Just as the petition was about to break through the 1,500 mark, possibly a record for the parliamentary site, the system crashed today.
As yet no explanation has been forthcoming from BT, however, it may simply be down to a system overload or suchlike. In the meantime a solution to the problem is available via e-mail (see details at the end of this piece). The petition has attracted huge support in the short period that it has been up and running despite the almost non-existent press coverage, particularly over the border.
The following are personal statements from members of the Justice for Megrahi Committee on why this petition is so important over 10 years since the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and a year after his release. Who better to provide an introduction to a case which has been described as “a spectacular miscarriage of Justice” * than one of Scotland’s most celebrated ‘thieves’, who freely admits to his ‘offence’ but got away with it: Mr Ian Hamilton QC:
“I don’t think there’s a lawyer in Scotland who now believes Mr Megrahi was justly convicted. The Americans were out for vengeance. Anyone with a darker skin would do. With their barrow loads of money to buy witnesses, aided by our police and prosecution, they hoodwinked our courts.”
The Bereaved Parent
It is imperative that the Scottish Government open an inquiry under its own auspices to deal with the corrosive and deeply damaging effects ‘The Lockerbie Case’ has had upon the Scottish criminal justice system. It is abundantly clear that if the SCCRC found there to be a sufficiency of evidence falling under Scottish jurisdiction from which they could conclude that Mr al-Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, these same grounds for appeal ought now to be placed, along with any other pertinent material which falls under Scottish jurisdiction, before an inquiry. Only in such a manner can Scotland demonstrate that it is making a sincere attempt to resolve this highly contentious issue.
Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
The Police Officer
I have had some interesting discussions with family members and friends who understandably feel, not knowing the full background, that they cannot fault the Megrahi conviction. It is very hard for them to accept that cover-up and corruption might be integral to the police investigation and eventual conviction. Others suffer from ‘Lockerbie fatigue’ and feel that the cost of an inquiry with cutbacks in the offing is a step too far.
As an ex-police officer this has also been hard for me to cope with and it has taken years of enquiry, (and the suffering of my daughter Shirley Mckie), to satisfy myself that from beginning to end the whole affair was overshadowed by incompetence and political and other interests intent on ensuring that the truth was never known. My answer to the doubters is, I suppose, it is a question of how highly we value justice? For me one resolvable injustice is the mark of a country in decline. I continue to believe that if, as a society, we accept injustice on the Lockerbie scale then we had better all watch our backs.
My involvement with the JFM committee is driven by a need to know that the investigative and prosecution process that led our judges to their conclusion that Mr. Megrahi was guilty of destroying the lives of 270 victims and their families was right and just. No, the UK and American governments will not want this and will do everything but co-operate but I firmly believe that a Scottish based inquiry will satisfy my hopes and aspirations for our Scottish justice system.
Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
At the end of June 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s conviction of the Lockerbie bombing back to the High Court of Justiciary for a further appeal. The case had been under consideration by the SCCRC since September 2003 and its statement of reasons (available only to Megrahi, the Crown and the High Court) extends to more than 800 pages, accompanied by 13 volumes of appendices. The commission, in the published summary of its findings, indicated there were six grounds on which it had concluded a miscarriage of justice might have occurred. Strangely, only four of these grounds are enumerated in the summary. They are:
1 That there was no reasonable basis for the trial court’s conclusion that the date of purchase of the clothes which surrounded the bomb was 7 December 1988, the only date on which Megrahi was proved to have been on Malta and so could have purchased them. The finding that he was the purchaser was “important to the verdict against him”.
2 That evidence not heard at the trial about the date on which Christmas lights were switched on in Malta further undermined the trial court’s conclusion that the date of purchase was as late as 7 December.
3 That evidence was not made available to the defence that four days before the shopkeeper made a tentative identification of Megrahi at an ID parade he had seen a magazine article containing a photograph of Megrahi, linking him to the bombing.
4 That other evidence which undermined the shopkeeper’s identification of Megrahi and the finding as to the date of purchase was not made available to the defence.
The reasons given by the commission for finding that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in this case are not limited to the effect of new evidence which has become available since the date of the original trial (such as the payment to a key prosecution witness of $2m), and the non-disclosure by the police and prosecution of evidence helpful to the defence. The prima facie miscarriage of justice identified by the commission includes the trial court’s finding in fact on the evidence heard at the trial that the clothes which surrounded the bomb were purchased in Malta on 7 December 1988 and that Megrahi was the purchaser. This was the cornerstone of the Crown’s case against him. If, as suggested, that finding had no reasonable basis in the evidence, then there is no legal justification for his conviction.
I have always contended that no reasonable tribunal could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led. Here is one example of the trial court’s idiosyncratic approach to the evidence. Many more could be provided.
A vitally important issue was the date on which the goods that surrounded the bomb were purchased in Malta. There were only two live possibilities: 7 December 1988, a date when Megrahi was proved to be on Malta, and 23 November 1988, when he was not. In an attempt to establish just which of these dates was correct, the weather conditions in Sliema on those two days were explored. Shopkeeper Tony Gauci’s evidence was that when the purchaser left his shop it was beginning to rain, heavily enough for his customer to think it advisable to buy an umbrella to protect himself while he went in search of a taxi. The unchallenged meteorological evidence led by the defence established that, while it had rained on 23 November at the relevant time, it was unlikely to have rained at all on 7 December and, if there had been any rain, it would have been at most a few drops, insufficient to wet the ground. On this material, the judges found in fact that the clothes were purchased on 7 December.
On evidence as weak as this, how was it possible for the trial court to find him guilty? And how was it possible for the appeal court in 2002 to fail to overturn the Conviction? The Criminal Appeal Court dismissed Megrahi’s appeal on the most technical of technical legal grounds: it did not consider the justifiability of the trial court’s factual findings at all. Indeed, it is clear from their interventions during the Crown submissions in the appeal that at least some of the judges were only too well aware of how shaky certain crucial findings were and how contrary to the weight of the evidence.
I contend that at least part of the answer lies in the history of the Scottish legal and judicial system. For centuries courts have accorded a specially privileged status to the Lord Advocate. It has been unquestioningly accepted that, though a political appointee and the UK government’s (now the Scottish Executive’s) chief Scots law adviser, he (now she) would at all times, in his capacity as head of the prosecution system, act independently, without concern for political considerations, and would always place the public interest in a fair trial above the narrow interest of the prosecution in gaining a conviction. This vision of the role of the Lord Advocate was reinforced by the fact that, until the Scottish Judicial Appointments Board commenced operations in 2002, all Scottish High Court Judges (and lower court judges) were nominated for appointment to the Bench by the Lord Advocate of the day. This meant that, in all criminal proceedings, the presiding judge owed his position to the person (or one of his predecessors in office) who was ultimately responsible for bringing the case before him, and for its conduct while in his court.
I believe that, subconsciously at least, the judges were reluctant to reach a verdict acquitting both accused because of the humiliation that this would entail for the office of Lord Advocate in the most high profile prosecution ever brought in the Scottish courts.
Megrahi launched an appeal based on the SCCRC findings, but abandoned it in 2009 in order to maximise his prospects of repatriation to Libya when terminal metastatic prostate cancer was diagnosed. So what can now be done to address the concerns about the safety of his conviction?
Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
Justice is the banner which unites us all
The Justice for Megrahi organisation (JFM), which is composed of the JFM Committee and the JFM Signatories, has been campaigning on the issue of the Kamp van Zeist verdict for two years. It is the contention of JFM that the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in 2001 for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was a gross miscarriage of justice on the basis of the evidence laid before the court. JFM deals in matters of fact as they are applied to and by the law, and the organisation’s position is that Mr al-Megrahi is not guilty as charged based on the Crown’s evidence. This perverse judgement not only resulted in the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi, but maligned Germany, Libya, Malta and the UK. It has also raised questions which lie at the very heart of JFM’s campaign; regarding what justice is, what it means, whom it exists to serve and what role it plays in our society.
JFM is currently lodging an e-Petition with the Scottish Parliament, “calling on the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.” If you believe, as we do, that the banner which unites us should no longer be flying at half-mast, help hoist it back to its rightful place by signing up to the JFM petition.
Details concerning the petition and a profile of JFM can be found at this link:
http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=417 Please note that the petition closes for signatures on 28th October 2010.
Signatures may be added directly at the link above, or an e-signature may be added by texting ‘417’ and your name to 07537 400395 (with UK prefix if calling from overseas). Texts are charged at your standard network rate. Text signatures will not appear instantly. Finally, Justice for Megrahi also has a Facebook page which may be of interest: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=161241207237021
During the current glitch being experienced at the Scottish Parliament’s Petition site, an alternative e-mail method of signing up can be used here:
Mr Robert Forrester (Justice for Megrahi Secretary)
Dr Morag Kerr (Justice for Megrahi Secretary Depute)
The Justice For Megrahi committee members:
Professor Robert Black QC
Mr Robert Forrester
Father Pat Keegans
Dr Morag Kerr
Mr Iain McKie
Doctor Jim Swire
The Justice For Megrahi signatories:
- Ms Kate Adie (Former Chief News Correspondent for BBC News).
- Mr John Ashton (Co- author of: ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
- Mr David Benson (Actor/author of the play ‘Lockerbie: Unfinished Business’).
- Mrs Jean Berkley (Mother of Alistair Berkley: victim of Pan Am 103).
- Mr Peter Biddulph (Lockerbie tragedy researcher).
- Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
- Mr Paul Bull (Close friend of Bill Cadman: killed on Pan Am 103).
- Professor Noam Chomsky (Human rights, social and political commentator).
- Mr Tam Dalyell (UK MP: 1962-2005. Father of the House: 2001-2005).
- Mr Ian Ferguson (Co- author of: ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
- Dr David Fieldhouse (Police surgeon present at the Pan Am 103 crash site).
- Mr Robert Forrester (Justice for Megrahi Committee).
- Ms Christine Grahame MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).
- Mr Ian Hislop (Editor of ‘Private Eye’).
- Fr Pat Keegans (Lockerbie parish priest on 21st December 1988).
- Ms A L Kennedy (Author).
- Dr Morag Kerr (Lockerbie commentator).
- Mr Andrew Killgore (Former US Ambassador to Qatar).
- Mr Adam Larson (Editor and proprietor of ‘The Lockerbie Divide’).
- Mr Aonghas MacNeacail (Poet and journalist).
- Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
- Mr Marcello Mega (Journalist covering the Lockerbie incident).
- Ms Heather Mills (Reporter for ‘Private Eye’).
- Rev’d John F Mosey (Father of Helga Mosey: victim of Pan Am 103).
- Mr Charles Norrie (Brother of Tony Norrie: victim of UT 772).
- Mr Denis Phipps (Aviation security expert).
- Mr John Pilger (Campaigning human rights journalist).
- Mr Steven Raeburn (Editor of ‘The Firm’).
- Dr Tessa Ransford OBE (Poetry Practitioner and Adviser).
- Mr James Robertson (Author).
- Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
- Sir Teddy Taylor (UK MP: 1964-2005. Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
* Professor Dr Hans Kochler (UN appointed International Observer at Zeist)