Megrahi conviction called into question by MSPs

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Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee has claimed that there are “too many unresolved issues” surrounding the conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the man convicted of planting the bomb that downed Pan Am 103.
 
The committee agreed to allow a petition, lodged by the campaign group Justice For Megrahi (JFM), calling for an inquiry into the conviction.  The petition attracted the support of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The JFM group headed by Robert Black QC and including Dr Jim Swire whose daughter Flora was one of the victims of the atrocity, have repeatedly called for a full public inquiry into the conviction of the Libyan who was released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

Another long term campaigner SNP MSP Christine Grahame described the issue as “unresolved” and said: “The Megrahi-Lockerbie issue remains unresolved and highly unsatisfactory to many people.”
 
Ms Grahame questioned the desire to re-investigate the events and argued that there must have been others involved.

She said: “The words ‘the criminal investigation remains open’ with one police officer would seem to me more like, to put it bluntly, file management than a serious and funded investigation to find those responsible.
 
“If you remember Mr Megrahi’s conviction relates to him being involved in the placing of a device within a suitcase.  It is known that, even if he is guilty as convicted, there must have been others.”
 
Ms Grahame suggested the situation in Libya might compel the committee to continue and also expressed a desire to explore the role of the Scottish judiciary in the conviction.
 
She added: “Given also the flux with regards to Libya, and indeed the position of Megrahi himself within Libya regarding his physical state, I would hope to persuade the committee to continue this to see what happens after the election and see what an incoming administration might do, and also to see what happens way beyond these shores with regard to Mr Megrahi and Gaddafi.
 
“There are so many conspiracy theories around now that I think it’s time that we had a clean, clear look at the role of Scottish justice in this.
 
“The issue is not whether Libya, or any other country, was guilty. The issue is was Mr Al Megrahi rightly convicted, and we have not heard the answer to that yet.”

There is a growing body of opinion both in Scotland and beyond who question the original trial verdict.  The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission also found that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place.  The Scottish Government has publicly confirmed that it would co-operate with a full public inquiry, however it has declined requests for one to be held under its auspices arguing that it does not have the power to compel witnesses to attend.

Al Megrahi was release on compassionate grounds in August 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The decision provoked furious debate at the time and Labour MSPs were vociferous in their condemnation of the decision arguing that the Libyan should have been left to die in prison.  The party’s leader at Holyrood, Iain Gray, called on Kenny MacAskill to resign and claimed that the release had damaged Scotland’s reputation.

However last month documents released by the UK government revealed that Labour Ministers in the last UK government had been secretly trying to facilitate the release of Megrahi and were helping the Libyans.  The documents revealed that ex Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy had attended meetings and was himself aware of his party’s negotiations with the Libyans.