Monday, 16 October 2017

Iran Air 655 and Pan Am 103

The Turkish website Kokpit.aero has just published a long article about attacks on aircraft that resulted in passenger deaths. The Iran Air 655 tragedy and the Lockerbie case feature extensively. The English language version produced by Google Translate is reasonably comprehensible.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Sir Brian Barder and Lockerbie

Today’s edition of The Times contains an obituary of retired British ambassador Sir Brian Barder KCMG who died on 19 September 2017 aged 83. Sir Brian in his retirement wrote extensively and perceptively about Lockerbie and the Megrahi case. Blogposts about, and links to, these writings can be found here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

“The case against him was just laughable”

[What follows is excerpted from an article published today on the website of the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National:]

Irish film director Jim Sheridan has a pointed message for aspiring Arab film makers: stop chasing Hollywood. “Every director I’ve met in the Arab cinema world wants to go to Hollywood and make a Hollywood movie, because that’s how you pass the test apparently,” he says when I catch him on the sidelines of this year’s Dublin Arabic Film Festival, where he acts as president and curator. “It’s nonsense. Every time I go to America to make a Hollywood movie, I realise I didn’t grow up in America. I didn’t go to school there. I don’t know their system.” (...)

The director, who was a judge at Dubai International Film Festival in 2013, speaks from a position of some experience when it comes to making films outside the Hollywood mainstream. While his European films, including the multi-Oscar-nominated, and winning, My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, have gathered accolades that most directors can only dream of, his most famous Hollywood effort was the critically derided 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. (...)

Sheridan’s own next project looks set to have a regional theme too. He is currently in the early stages of developing a film about the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the imprisoned Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
“Megrahi’s story is so interesting. If he’d been European, or even just a bit whiter, he’d have been out a long time ago. The case against him was just laughable, but three judges found him guilty. These were the same people that were involved in convicting the Guildford Four,” the director explains. Sheridan’s seven-time Oscar nominated 1994 film, In the Name of the Father, was a biopic of the four men who were wrongly imprisoned as IRA terrorists.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lockerbie film in development

[What follows is excerpted from a report in today’s edition of The Scotsman:]

As Monday morning meetings go, the setting was hard to beat as the sun rose over the distant hills of Knoydart. It was my second visit in a year to the base of Young Films in Sleat, the “Garden of Skye,” as it is promoted. But in that time, the company masterminded by producer Chris Young has stepped up its activity. Perhaps most importantly, it has finally secured a production deal with BBC Alba to ensure the Gaelic drama Bannan will continue for the next four years.

Its creation was the catalyst for Young to base his company in Skye in 2012 after he had finished work on The Inbetweeners TV series and films. Young was keen for me to see how a new generation of actors, directors, writers, editors and technicians were being trained up while working on the drama series, which is based at Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

The funding for Bannan not only ensures future work for many of those involved in Bannan, but it also allows Young Films to accelerate a number of other projects. One of these is a feature film on the conspiracies surrounding the Lockerbie disaster, which Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and award-winning playwright David Harrower are both working on, and a big-screen adaptation of The Silver Darlings, the classic Neil Gunn novel.

What would have been argued had Megrahi appeal not been abandoned

What follows is the text of an item published on this blog on this date in 2009:

More Megrahi materials released


A second batch of materials has been released on Abdelbaset Megrahi’s website. These take the form of Grounds of Appeal numbers 3.1 to 3.3 (which would have been argued at the second stage of the – now abandoned – appeal that had been due to start on 2 November 2009) along with two expert reports and the US Department of Justice publication Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement.

These materials relate principally to the evidence emanating from Malta.

1. The credibility and reliability of the evidence of “identification” of Megrahi by Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, is challenged by reference to (a) new evidence about the circumstances in which Gauci’s various “resemblance” statements came to be made, including improper conduct by investigators; (b) failure by the Crown to disclose to the defence statements by Gauci that undermined or contradicted his “identification”; (c) failure to disclose to the defence the existence of, and a police statement by, a witness who may have been present when the purchase of the clothes in Gauci’s shop took place; (d) the expectation of money from US official sources on the part of Tony Gauci and his brother, Paul, and its subsequent payment to them; (e) evidence from two leading psychologists and experts on facial recognition of the unreliability of Gauci’s “identification” of Megrahi.

2. The Lockerbie court’s acceptance of 7 December 1988 as the date of purchase of the clothes and other items in Tony Gauci’s shop is challenged. Even on the material before the court at Zeist, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had concluded that it was strongly arguable that no reasonable court could have reached the conclusion that this was the date. The materials released today disclose the existence of new evidence that confirms that the date of purchase was not 7 December 1988 (and hence that the purchaser was not Abdelbaset Megrahi).

The importance of this is, of course, that if the court at Zeist had not decided that Mr Megrahi was the purchaser of the clothes in Malta, they would not in law have been entitled to convict him.

A further matter expected to be adverted to in today’s materials, but which does not seem to be, is the SCCRC ground of referral based on documents in respect of which the UK Foreign Secretary has claimed public interest immunity and to which Mr Megrahi’s legal team still have not had access. Had the appeal continued, Megrahi’s lawyers would have argued that, without the information on which the SCCRC had referred the case back to the appeal court, he could not exercise his right of appeal and would accordingly have been denied fairness, contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Chuck McKee theory revived

[The following are two items posted yesterday on The Lifeboat News website:]

Posted by Sinister Burt on September 30, 2017, 8:52 pm
Few new bits in the latest Lobster. Quotes a new book about lockerbie that gives a version i hadn't heard before (i wasn't paying attention that closely):


Quoting Dr. Roger Cottrell, 'Ashes in the Fall: Iran-Contra, the godfather of terror and the bombing of Pan Am 103' (forthcoming from Red Door)

"In this book, we set out to prove that the actual target of the bombing was Green Beret Captain Charles “Chuck” McKee (attached to the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency), Martin Gannon, the Deputy Head of CIA Station in Beirut and a young Lebanese man called Khaled Jaafar, whom they had accompanied from Frankfurt on Pan Am 103A to place into witness protection in the United States. Two Security Officers from the US Embassy in Beirut were also part of the group. Jaafar, aged just 22, was a member of a powerful drug producing clan in the Be’eqa Valley, who wanted to be free to marry his cousin. He could provide supportive testimony to the 200 page dossier that McKee was also taking back to the US to present as testimony to the Kerry Commission. This was why he was killed The second purpose of the Lockerbie bombing was to destroy or recover McKee’s file."

Posted by Gerardon September 30, 2017, 10:14 pm, in reply to "Lobster: Mentions new book about lockerbie"
"FOR THREE YEARS, I've had a feeling that if Chuck hadn't been on that plane, it wouldn't have been bombed," says Beulah McKee, 75. Her bitterness has still not subsided. But seated in the parlor of her house in Trafford, Pennsylvania, the house where her son was born 43 years ago, she struggles to speak serenely. "I know that's not what our President wants me to say," she admits.

George Bush's letter of condolence, written almost four months after the shattered remains of Pan Am Flight 103 fell on Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, expressed the usual "my heart goes out to you" sorrow. "No action by this government can restore the loss you have suffered," he concluded. But deep inside, Mrs. McKee suspects it was a government action gone horribly awry that indirectly led to her only son's death. "I've never been satisfied at ( all by what the people in Washington told me," she says.

Today, as the U.S. spearheads the U.N.-sanctioned embargo against Libya for not handing over two suspects in the bombing, Mrs. McKee wonders if Chuck's background contains the secret of why this plane was targeted. If her suspicions are correct, Washington may not be telling the entire story. Major Charles Dennis McKee, called "Tiny" by his Army intelligence friends, was a burly giant and a superstar in just about every kind of commando training offered to American military personnel. He completed the rugged Airborne and Ranger schools, graduated first in his class from the Special Forces qualification course, and served with the Green Berets. In Beirut he was identified merely as a military attache assigned to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). But his hulking physique didn't fit such a low- profile diplomatic post. Friends there remember him as a "walking arsenal" of guns and knives. His real assignment reportedly was to work with the CIA in reconnoitering the American hostages in Lebanon and then, if feasible, to lead a daring raid that would rescue them.

McKee's thick, 37-page Army dossier contains so many blacked-out words that it's hard to glean the danger he faced. Surviving the censor's ink was his title, "Team Chief." Under "Evaluation," it was written that he "performs constantly in the highest-stress environment with clear operational judgment and demeanor . . . Especially strong in accomplishing the mission with minimal guidance and supervision . . . Continues to perform one of the most hazardous and demanding jobs in the Army."

For Beulah McKee the mystery deepened six months after Chuck's death, when she received a letter from another U.S. agent in Beirut. It was signed "John Carpenter," a name the Pentagon says it can't further identify. Although the letter claimed that Chuck's presence on the Pan Am plane was unrelated to the bombing, Carpenter's message only stirred her suspicions. "I cannot comment on Chuck's work," he wrote, "because his work lives on. God willing, in time his labors will bear fruit and you will learn the true story of his heroism and courage."" From: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,159523,00.html 2001...

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Lockerbie bombing: story of a fake conviction

[This is the headline over an article published today on the Top Conspiracies website. It reads in part:]

Pan Am Flight 103 was a scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Detroit. In December 1988 the plane was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers.The explosion took place over Scotland after taking off from London, and thus Europe had jurisdiction over the explosion. In 1999 Two Lybian nationals were handed over by General Gadaffi (the then leader/dictator of Lybia) for trial in a Scottish court in the Netherlands. The bomb was said to have been made out of Semtex plastic. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was jailed for life in connection with the bombing, released by the Scottish government in 2009 on compassionate grounds due to a diagnosis of prostate cancer. There was a significant lack of protest in the wake of his release, suggesting that many of the family of the victims do not believe him to be behind the bombing. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi died in 2012.

Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the other Libyan handed over for the case, was found not guilty. Gadaffi accepted responsibility for the bombings in 2003. The CIA and the FBI worked with intelligence officers in Europe when processing the case. Over 15,000 people were questioned in over 30 countries. The explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 is also known as the Lockerbie bombing.
It is almost certain that the Libyan convicted had little to do with the Lockerbie bombing and that the real players are unknown. Just about only thing that remains uncontested is that a bomb went off in a suitcase and killed 243 passengers and 16 crew members. In a Report on and evaluation of the Lockerbie trial conducted by the Special Scottish Court in the Netherlandat Kamp Van Zeist, Dr Hans Köchler, University Professor, International Observer of the International Progress Organization stated that:
“ It was a consistent pattern during the whole trial that – as an apparent result of political interests and considerations – efforts were undertaken to withhold substantial information from the Court. “
The Opinion of the Court is exclusively based on circumstantial evidence and on a series of highly problematic inferences. As to the undersigned knowledge, there is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime.
On the basis of the above observations and evaluation, the undersigned has – to his great dismay – reached the conclusion that the trial, seen in its entirety, was not fair and was not conducted in an objective manner. Indeed, there are many more questions and doubts at the end of the trial than there were at its beginning”

Conspiracy Theory #1 – Revenge
One theory contends that it was an act of revenge stemming from Iran. Over 290 passengers were killed when US forces shot down an Iran Airbus over the Strait of Hormuz, including over 66 children. This was less than 6 months before Pan Am Flight 103. Investigative reporter Paul Foot believes that this is the most likely scenario and that Libya was actually framed by the British and Americans, with political factors coming into play: Libya openly backed Saddam Hussein and Iran were needed during the first Gulf War. A number of journalists have drawn attention to the fact that Margaret Thatcher dismissed the idea in her memoirs that the Lockerbie bombing an act of Iranian revenge.
Conspiracy Theory #2 – CIA drug smuggling cover up
Not the first and most definitely not the last link between the U.S Central Intelligence Agency and illegal substances. This theory is backed up through Lester Coleman, a former member of the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Allegedly there was a route of drug smuggling between the US and Europe through Syrian drug dealers, who were allowed keep the ring going in return for CIA intelligence. The agency managed to ensure that the suitcases were not checked so the regime could continue; however, the scheme backfired when a bomb was put into the suitcase instead of the narcotics. In the 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross, it was suggested that the CIA agents were to blame for turning a blind eye to the drug smuggling ring between Europe and the US in return for information.
Conspiracy Theory #3 – Abu Nidal on behalf of Gadaffi
Abu Nidal was an internationally renowned terrorist around the time of the Lockerbie bombing. US bombings in 1986 killed large numbers of Libyan civilians and Gadaffi’s response was to engage the services of Abu Nidal. Nidal moved his organization to Libya in 1987. It is also contended that Abu Nidal warned US intelligence that a flight on route to Detroit would be blown up. Abu Nidal allegedly confessed to the bombing on his deathbed. The former head of Iranian intelligence was reported to have told German intelligence that Iran asked Libya/Gaddafi and Abu Nidal for help in bombing the American airline. Part of that report states:
The mission was to blow up a Pan Am flight 103 that was to be almost entirely booked by US military personnel on Christmas leave. The flight was supposed to be a direct flight from Frankfurt, GE, to New York, not Pan Am Flight 103 which was routed through London, UK. The suitcase containing the bomb was labeled with the name of one of the US passengers on the plane and was inadvertently placed on the wrong plane possibly by airport ground crew members in Frankfurt. The terrorist who last handled the bomb was not a passenger on the flight.
Conspiracy Theory #4 – PFLP-GC & Pan Am Flight 103
In the aftermath of the bombing, the prime suspects in the Lockerbie bombing were the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command. These were a warlike revolutionary group led by a former Syrian military officer. Mohammed Abu Talb was the head of the Swedish cell of the PFLP-GC and was one of a number of suspects before the focus shifted to Al Megrahi. PFLP-GC had a bomb maker at their disposal who was meant to be investigated by Scottish police until the FBI persuaded them to call off the warrant for the purposes of intelligence information. Khreesat was a Jordanian intelligence officer unknown to the PFLP-GC and relayed intelligence back to HQ, which relayed it to Western Intelligence. Allegedly, Khreesat relayed information that there would be a bomb planted on a Pan Am flight in October 1988, around 6 months before the actual crash. German intelligence raided the PFLP-GC acting on this information but did not progress further with regard to the bombing. (...)

Conclusion to the Pan Am Flight 103 Explosion
It is certain at this stage that the official story of a lone Libyan civilian conducting the bombing is false. He did not bring down Pan Am Flight 103 alone. However, no-one is any the wiser to what actually happened. There are simply too many conflicting theories, too many intelligence agencies, too many countries involved and too many variables to construct a credible theory as to what went on. Even the theories listed above tend to blend and mix together with different variants. It is possible that the PFLP-GC, Gadaffi and Abu Nidal all had a role in some fashion, but separating what happened exactly and who is responsible is just impossible. One theory is that Iran asked Libya/Gadaffi and Abu Nidal to bomb Pan Am 103 in revenge, a mixing of two theories. It gets more complex the more that it is investigated with all the difference information from the intelligence agencies and reports from investigative journalists.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Editorial policy change

For just over three years now I have each day posted on this blog an item from the long history of the Lockerbie case, as well as noting any current developments, such as the progress of Justice for Megrahi’s petition in the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee and the state of play in Police Scotland’s Operation Sandwood investigation. Some readers have found the historical posts tiresome and, after three years, it has become increasingly difficult to find in the archives items that I have not previously resurrected. Therefore, on the occasion of my departure from Edinburgh for the wilds of the Roggeveld Karoo, I have decided that in future I shall normally post only items of current news, though I may continue to mark particularly significant anniversaries. Any reader who needs a daily Lockerbie fix can consult the blog’s entries for an equivalent day of the month between 1 August 2014 and 25 September 2017.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Criminality allegations submitted to Justice Secretary

[What follows is excerpted from a report published on the website of The Scotsman on this date in 2012:]

Lockerbie campaigners have lodged “fresh allegations” with justice secretary Kenny MacAskill about the conduct of the Scottish authorities at the trial 11 years ago.

Demands for a fresh inquiry into the bombing of the Pan Am jet in 1988 will come before MSPs on Holyrood’s justice committee today. The Justice for Megrahi (JfM) campaign has compared the “cover-up” surrounding the trial to the recent Hillsborough revelations. But the claims were branded “false and deliberately misleading” by Scotland’s Crown Office yesterday.

In a submission to the committee, the JfM group states: “The outcome of the Hillsborough inquiry has undoubtedly shone a light on the inner workings of a justice system that purported to keep its citizens safe and secure.

“Now we can see that protection of the system and the wrongdoers within it took precedence over protection of the individual citizen. If Hillsborough was England’s shame, then Lockerbie is Scotland’s, and much of the indifference and arrogance identified within the former can be identified in the latter.”

The campaign submitted a letter to Mr MacAskill which lodges “serious formal allegations” relating to the conduct of the investigation and the Kamp van Zeist trial.

[RB: JfM’s letter to Kenny MacAskill, with names of individuals removed, reads as follows:]

The Committee of Justice for Megrahi hereby formally lodge with you complaints alleging criminal wrongdoing in the investigation and prosecution of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah for the murder of 270 people in the downing of Pan Am 103 on 21 December 1988.

These complaints are directed against the persons and bodies named below whom, for the reasons given, we believe may be guilty of the criminal offences specified.

1.  On 22 August 2000 the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, communicated to the judges of the Scottish Court in the Netherlands information about the contents of CIA cables relating to the Crown witness Abdul Majid Giaka that was known to members of the prosecution team [A B and C D] who had scrutinised the cables, to be false. The Lord Advocate did so after consulting these members of the prosecution team. It is submitted that this constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

2.  Members of the Lockerbie prosecution team, including but not limited to [C D], devised and presented or allowed to be presented to the trial court a scenario regarding the placement of items in luggage container AVE4041 which was known to be false, in order to obfuscate and conceal compelling evidence that the bomb suitcase was introduced by a terrorist infiltration at Heathrow airport. It is submitted that this constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

3.  Dumfries and Galloway Police, and those individuals employed by that force responsible for the recording, prioritising and submission to the Crown Office of evidence gathered in the investigation into the downing of Pan Am Flight 103, and the Crown Office, and those individuals in that organisation responsible for the analysis of said evidence and identifying what material required to be passed on to those acting for Megrahi and Fhimah, concealed the witness statement relating to the break-in to Heathrow airside giving access to the luggage loading shed used by Pan Am 103 in the early hours of 21st December 1988 which was provided by Heathrow Security Officer Raymond Manly to the Metropolitan Police shortly after Mr Manly’s discovery of the break-in. It is submitted that the concealment of this witness statement, which was or ought to have been known to Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Crown Office to be of the highest possible significance to the defence, constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

4.  [In the course of his testimony at Camp Zeist, witness E F] told the Court that the materials and tracking analysis of fragment PT/35b, the sliver of printed circuit board said to have originated from a circuit board contained in one of the 20 MST-13 digital timer instruments supplied by MEBO AG to Libya (the boards for all these timers having been custom-made for MEBO by Thuring AG), were “similar in all respects” to the control samples of MST-13 circuit boards. [E F] consistently used this form of words to describe analyses of items which were identical or of common origin. This statement was false. While the tracking pattern was indeed identical, [E F] was aware that the coating on the circuitry of the control boards was the standard alloy of 70% tin and 30% lead, while the coating on the circuitry of fragment PT/35b (most unusually) lacked the 30% lead content. It is submitted that his statement to the Court was a deliberate falsehood designed to conceal a significant and material difference between the evidential fragment and the control items, and thus constituted both perjury and an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

5.  The Lockerbie investigation, and in particular [police officer G H], knew by 1990 that the coating on the circuitry of fragment PT/35b was composed of pure tin, and that this composition was highly unusual, being described as “by far the most interesting feature” of the fragment by all the experts who were consulted, “without exception”. By early 1992 [G H]  and those in the Crown Office to whom he reported also knew that the metallurgy testing on the control MST-13 circuit boards showed the circuitry on these boards to be coated with the standard 70% tin / 30% lead alloy. [G H] and those in the Crown Office to whom he reported
either failed to inquire with the manufacturer Thuring AG whether they had supplied any MST-13 timer boards with the unusual lead-free coating, or did make such inquiries and failed to disclose the results of these inquiries to the defence. It was discovered by the defence team in 2008 that Thuring AG did not manufacture printed circuit boards with a lead-free coating, and indeed lacked the manufacturing capacity to do so. If [G H] and/or those in the Crown Office to whom he reported failed to make the relevant inquiries with Thuring AG, it is submitted that this omission was grossly negligent. If [G H] and/or those in the Crown Office to whom he reported made such inquiries and failed to disclose the results to the defence, it is submitted that this failure constitutes an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

6.  From our assessment of the ‘SCCRC Statement of Reasons’, relating to its referral of Mr Megrahi’s case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2007, and the ‘Grounds of Appeal 1 and 2' documents prepared by his legal team in furtherance of that appeal, it is clear that a number of questions have been raised in relation to the process which led to the identification of Mr Megrahi by witness Mr Anthony Gauci. These include doubts about the legitimacy of the process by which Mr Gauci’s identification evidence was obtained, assessed and delivered, and what prompted significant failures by the Crown to disclose related material information. From these documents it appears that [police officer I J] and other police officers who were involved in this identification process might well have been aware that a number of the aspects of the process they were following were flawed and did not accord with guidelines extant at the time or with any general principles of fairness to the accused. It is submitted that the omissions and failings referred to in the relevant reports indicate that [I J] and others have important questions to answer in connection with the identification process, and we believe, taken as a whole, that their conduct constitutes an attempt to pervert the course of justice and a breach of section 44 (2) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (violation of duty by a constable).

The above numbered complaints simply constitute the basic allegations. Documents containing detailed supporting material have been prepared and will be made available to the investigating authorities as and when requested by them.

You above all will realise the seriousness of these allegations which strike at the very heart of the Lockerbie investigation past and present. Effectively, we are complaining about the actions of Crown Office officials, the prosecution and investigating authorities including the police, and certain other agencies and individuals. Given the controversy surrounding this whole affair we request that you give serious thought to the independence of any investigating authority you appoint. As a group we believe that you should appoint someone outwith Scotland who has no previous direct or indirect association with Lockerbie or its ramifications.

You will be aware of the disquiet we feel about the delay and obfuscation which have surrounded this whole affair since 1988. Nevertheless we understand you will require reasonable time to inquire into these allegations and decide how you wish to proceed. We therefore propose to keep these matters private and confidential for a period of thirty days from the date of this letter to allow you to carry out the necessary enquiries, decide how you wish the matter to be investigated, and respond to us. We thereafter reserve the right to make the above matters public as and when we feel appropriate and reasonable. Furthermore, on the grounds that PE1370 is due for consideration on 25th September, we also reserve the right to inform the Justice Committee of the fact that we have lodged this document with yourself, making reference (in general terms only) to the fact that it contains serious allegations relating to the Lockerbie/Zeist case.

In passing we would also note the recent publicity given to the perceived lack of independence in Scotland between the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government by Mr Andrew Tickell. (http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-unpolitical-snps-pied-lord-advocate.html)
We also share this concern and would hope, for reasons that must be obvious from the foregoing, that your response to this letter will be free from Crown Office influence of any kind.

We thank you for your time and attention in this matter and look forward to an acknowledgment of receipt by return.

[RB: Three additional allegations were added by JfM at a later date. These nine allegations remain under investigation in Police Scotland’s Operation Sandwood.]

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Megrahi submits application to SCCRC

[What follows is the text of a report that appeared on the BBC News website on this date in 2003:]

The Lockerbie bomber has lodged a fresh appeal against his conviction for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 atrocity.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has been asked to investigate the case of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, who was jailed for the bombing in 2001.

The commission is an independent body charged with investigating possible miscarriages of justice.

It received an application from solicitors acting on behalf of Megrahi, requesting that it review his conviction.

Libyan secret agent Megrahi was sentenced to life in jail in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

He has been held in a special unit in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow since March 2002 when his appeal against conviction was thrown out by a special Scottish court sitting at a former airbase in the Netherlands.

The appeal comes just weeks after the United Nations Security Council voted to lift more than a decade of sanctions against Libya.

It followed Libya's acceptance of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and its agreement to pay up to $10m to each of the families of the victims.

Al Megrahi's solicitor, Eddie MacKechnie, said there was new evidence never mentioned before included in the team's case, but he refused to give details.

"I do not consider it to be appropriate to publicise, in advance of the Commission's deliberations, any precise details of the case now presented," he said.

"All I can say is that the case contains detailed legal arguments not previously presented, including allegations of unfairness, abuse of process, insufficiency of evidence, errors in law, non-disclosure of evidence and defective representation."

Mr MacKechnie said: "In addition, there is new information and potential new evidence never revealed before supporting Mr Megrahi's consistent plea of innocence and, in certain respects, pointing the finger of blame at those most likely to bear responsibility for the most dreadful mass murder in British history."

[RB: The SCCRC did -- eventually -- find that there might have been a miscarriage of justice and referred the case back to the High Court of Justiciary. The delays that occurred throughout the whole process were utterly outrageous and would have been so even in the case of someone not suffering from terminal cancer.]

Friday, 22 September 2017

Law and Politics in the Lockerbie Case

[This is the heading over a press release issued on this date in 2008 by the International Progress Organization. It reads in part:]

The UN-appointed international observer at the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands, Dr Hans Koechler, revealed in an interview with the BBC's Reevel Alderson on 17 September  that the judges dealing with the new appeal of the only convicted suspect in the Lockerbie case, the Libyan citizen Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, have ruled that special counsel should be appointed for the Appellant in regard to the material covered by the Foreign Secretary's Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate. This was communicated in a letter to a member of the House of Commons, dated 4 September 2008 and signed on behalf of the Minister of State Kim Howells. The respective paragraph at the end of the letter reads as follows:
The UK government has made clear its commitment to work closely with the Court to ensure that Mr. Megrahi receives a fair trial and that sensitive material is handled appropriately. To this end the court ruled on 19 August that special counsel should be appointed to assist the court and safeguard Mr Megrahi's interests in relation to this issue. Once appointed, the special counsel will be provided with a confidential summary of the submissions made by the Advocate General at the last hearing. The UK government supports this ruling in the interests of ensuring the trial is fair.
It is to be noted that the above letter was in reply to a letter the member of the House of Commons had written earlier (13 August 2008) to the Foreign Secretary, stating that he was "deeply concerned if the statement by Dr Koechler in the attached letter is correct and vital 'exculpatory material' is being withheld from Mr Al-Megrahi's defence team." The member of the House of Commons refers to a letter by Dr Koechler, dated 21 July 2008, to the Foreign Secretary. It is further to be noted that Dr Koechler received an almost identical letter of reply from the Foreign Office (dated 27 August) - with the exception of the three sentences marked in bold in the above quotation.
The UN-appointed international observer has visited Scotland from 11 to 19 September on a fact-finding mission aimed at assessing the reasons for the long delay of the new Lockerbie appeal. (In June 2007, after investigations that lasted several years, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had referred the convicted Libyan national's case back to the High Court of Justiciary.)
In the course of his visit, Dr Koechler has participated in consultations held on 15/16 September at Greshornish House on the Isle of Skye. The meeting was convened at the invitation of the Lockerbie Justice Group, headed by Robbie the Pict, and included Prof Robert Black, the "architect" of the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands. Under the motto Quid nunc, Scotia? the participants were asked to consider questions in regard to the fairness and impartiality of the Lockerbie proceedings in the Netherlands and eventual new appeal proceedings in Scotland and to reflect on the lessons to be learned for the handling of any such case in the future.
Dr Koechler further held consultations with Mr Tam Dalyell, former member of the British Parliament and Father of the House of Commons; with Mr Alex Neil MSP and Mr Ian McKie, father of policewoman Shirley McKie, at the Scottish Parliament; and with members of the Lockerbie Justice Group on the Isle of Skye, in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  On 18 September he delivered a keynote speech on "The Lockerbie Trial and the Rule of Law" at the Law Awards of Scotland 2008, organized by The Firm magazine in association with Registers of Scotland at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel. In a reference to the Public Interest Immunity claimed by the UK government, Dr Koechler said:
Whether those in public office like it or not, the Lockerbie trial has become a test case for the criminal justice system of Scotland. At the same time, it has become an exemplary case on a global scale - its handling will demonstrate whether a domestic system of criminal justice can resist the dictates of international power politics or simply becomes dysfunctional as soon as "supreme state interests" interfere with the imperatives of justice. (...) The fairness of judicial proceedings is undoubtedly a supreme and permanent public interest. If the rule of law is to be upheld, the requirements of the administration of justice may have to take precedence over public interests of a secondary order - such as a state's momentary foreign policy considerations or commercial and trade interests. The internal stability and international legitimacy of a polity in the long term depend on whether it is able to ensure the supremacy of the law over considerations of power and convenience.
Dr Koechler's address was followed by enthusiastic applause from an audience of over 600 attendants representing Scotland's legal profession and was commented on by the subsequent keynote speaker, Sir Menzies Campbell CBE QC, former Leader of the United Kingdom's Liberal Democrats.
In an exclusive interview for the German-French TV channel ARTE, conducted in Edinburgh, and in all public meetings and consultations in Scotland Dr Koechler reiterated his call for a full public inquiry into the causes of the mid-air explosion of PanAm flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie and the handling of the case by the Scottish judiciary and the Scottish as well as the British executive.