Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The culprit has swayed with the immediate need for a villain

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Robert Mueller's Questionable Past that appeared yesterday on the American Free Press website:]

During his tenure with the Justice Department under President George H W Bush, Mueller supervised the prosecutions of Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, the Lockerbie bombing (Pan Am Flight 103) case, and Gambino crime boss John Gotti. In the Noriega case, Mueller ignored the ties to the Bush family that Victor Thorn illustrated in Hillary (and Bill): The Drugs Volume: Part Two of the Clinton Trilogy. Noriega had long been associated with CIA operations that involved drug smuggling, money laundering, and arms running. Thorn significantly links Noriega to Bush family involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Regarding Pan Am Flight 103, the culprit has swayed with the immediate need for a villain. Pro-Palestinian activists, Libyans, and Iranians have all officially been blamed when US intelligence and the mainstream mass media needed to paint each as the antagonist to American freedom. Mueller toed the line, publicly ignoring rumors that agents onboard were said to have learned that a CIA drug-smuggling operation was afoot in conjunction with Pan Am flights. According to the theory, the agents were going to take their questions to Congress upon landing. The flight blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Police inquiry into Lockerbie bombing claims coming to conclusion

[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

Campaigners for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing believe a long-running police investigation is finally nearing its end. 

Police Scotland is examining allegations made by the Justice for Megrahi (JFM) group about the prosecution of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. (...)

Officers started a probe – Operation Sandwood – in February 2014 after JFM made a number of complaints against prosecutors, police and forensic officials, alleging attempts to pervert the course of justice ahead of Megrahi’s trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands 18 years ago. 

The completed police report will be passed to independent legal counsel before it goes to the Crown Office. 

Iain McKie, a member of JFM, said he expected the police report to be concluded in the next few months. 

He said: “The more information Police Scotland got during the course of the inquiry, the more long and involved the investigation became. All credit to them, they have followed where that took them. 

“It would appear as if the report is very near to completion. I can well understand why it’s late. As an ex-cop myself, I know that some inquiries can grow arms and legs.” 

Last year Megrahi’s family lodged a new appeal against his conviction with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). 

It is believed the appeal is based on concerns over the evidence used to convict the Libyan, including that given by Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who died in 2016. 

Mr McKie added: “[Operation Sandwood] is going to be the definitive inquiry because it’s going to be used by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in looking at the current appeal from the Megrahi family and also to underpin our call for a public inquiry. 

“This is an extremely important report – it’s probably the last time the people of Scotland will get the chance to look behind the muck that covers Lockerbie.

“There’s no pressure from us about the time it takes. It’s the quality of the report we’re interested in.” 

It is not the first time hopes have been raised about the long-running police investigation coming to an end. In 2015, police said the inquiry was in its “final stages”. 

Last year former First Minister Alex Salmond used his show on Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT to claim Megrahi may have been “wrongly convicted”

Mr Salmond, who was first minister at the time of Megrahi’s release, said the evidence used to convict him was “open to question”. 

The former SNP leader said he believed it was possible for someone to be guilty, but also wrongly convicted. 

Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone said: “The investigation has reached its concluding phase and the full report will follow with a submission process through the deputy chief constable to the independent QC appointed by Police Scotland, prior to submission to the Crown.”

[RB: Following the sad death of Robert Forrester on 22 March 2018, Iain McKie has assumed the mantle of secretary of the Justice for Megrahi campaign group.]

Saturday, 7 April 2018

MSP pushes for Sandwood conclusion

[This is the headline over a report published yesterday in The Southern Reporter. It reads as follows:]

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame this week called for Holyrood’s justice committee to press for progress on Police Scotland’s Operation Sandwood Enquiry, which is investigating possible police criminality in the enquiry into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. 

The atrocity claimed 270 lives and resulted in the conviction in 2001 of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi, but this conviction has been a source of deep controversy. 

Operation Sandwood was set up in February 2014 with the Justice Committee told in March 2016 by Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone it was in its “final stage”, however no further indication has been given that it is near a conclusion. 

The ongoing nature of the enquiry poses an obstacle to the family of the late Al-Megrahi as the application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) likely cannot progress until it is concluded. 

Ms Grahame said: “I have a longstanding interest in this matter and I do believe the case as to whether Megrahi was rightly convicted or not needs to be concluded. 

“The process for this is for the SCCRC to consider the application by Al-Megrahi’s family to have his conviction appealed and for that to happen Operation Sandwood must conclude and report to the Crown Office. 

“This cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely –nearly 30 years have now passed since this atrocity and we find ourselves in the position where there are victims’ families who may die without knowing the truth about Lockerbie, whatever it turns out to be.” 

The committee agreed to Ms Grahame’s request. 

We asked Police Scotland when the Sandwood report is likely to be concluded. Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone said: “The investigation has reached its concluding phase and the full report will follow with a submission process through the Deputy Chief Constable to the independent QC appointed by Police Scotland, prior to submission to the Crown.”

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Official Report of Justice Committee discussion of Megrahi petition

The Official Report (Hansard) of the Justice Committee meeting held on 27 March 2018 is now available here on the Scottish Parliament website. The discussion of Justice for Megrahi's petition can be found at columns 28 to 35.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Consideration of Megrahi petition by Justice Committee

The proceedings at today's session of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee can be viewed here. The discussion of Justice for Megrahi's petition starts at around 11.29.05.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Alex Salmond must answer for Lockerbie comments, say campaigners

[This is the headline over a report just published on the website of The National. It reads as follows:]

Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill should be called before the Justice Committee to answer ten key questions on the Lockerbie bombing, campaigners claim.

In a petition to the cross-party Holyrood panel, the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) pressure group says the ex-politicians, who served together as First Minister and Justice Minister, must account for public statements relating to the 1988 atrocity.

These include expressions of doubt over the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who died in 2012 more than two years after being released from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds.

JfM triggered a major probe into the conduct of prosecutors, police and forensic officials involved in the investigation and legal actions relating to Megrahi's conviction after making nine allegations of wrongdoing.

Titled Operation Sandwood, it was launched in February 2014 and is yet to conclude.

The petition, due to be heard tomorrow, calls for Salmond – who said evidence used to convict Megrahi was "open to question" – and MacAskill to explain whether or not confidential information was "misused" in comments made in the media and for the basis behind claims made by MacAskill in his 2016 book on the case.

These include the assertion that Megrahi, the only person ever convicted over the terror attack, did not buy clothes found in the suitcase that contained the bomb from the Malta shop of witness Tony Gauci.

In a statement, JfM said such a move is "long overdue". The group, whose members include Dr Jim Swire – whose daughter Flora was amongst the 270 killed, stated: "Since leaving office Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill have not only cast doubts on the safety of Abelbaset al Megrahi’s conviction for the 1988 atrocity that killed 270 people but implied possible interference in the political and legal process and raised questions about the possible misuse of confidential information.

"As Police Scotland prepares to submit its report to Crown Office on a four-year enquiry into JfM’s nine allegations of criminality against police and officials involved in the investigation and trial of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, JfM believes it is vital that the committee investigates the possibility of mistakes or malpractice in the Lockerbie related political decisions that have been made.”

[RB: The report in The National has now been updated to include a response from Alex Salmond.]

Justice for Megrahi written submission to Justice Committee

Justice for Megrahi's written submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee for its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, 27 March) is now available on the Parliament website. It reads as follows:]

Ex-Scottish Government Ministers: Political Consequences of Public Statements

On 28th June 2011 the Public Petitions Committee referred the Justice for Megrahi (JfM ) petition PE1370 to the Justice Committee for consideration. Its terms were as follows.

‘Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge 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.’ 

The petition was first heard by the Justice Committee on 8th November 2011. On 6th June, 2013, as part of its consideration, the Justice Committee wrote to Kenny MacAskill MSP, then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, asking for the Government’s comments on our request for a public enquiry.

In his reply of 24th June 2013, while acknowledging, that under the Inquiries Act 2005, the Scottish Ministers had the power to establish an inquiry, he concluded:

‘Any conclusions reached by an inquiry would not have any effect on either upholding or overturning the conviction as it is appropriately a court of law that has this power. In addition to the matters noted above, we would also note that Lockerbie remains a live on-going criminal investigation. In light of the above, the Scottish Government has no plans to institute an independent inquiry into the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.’ 

At this time Alex Salmond was the First Minister and with Mr MacAskill was intimately involved in the release of Mr Megrahi on 20th August 2009, a decision which caused worldwide controversy.

Members will be aware that since leaving office both Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond have commented publicly on the Megrahi conviction indicating that their opinions on the guilt of Mr Megrahi and the findings of the court might have changed somewhat since they left office.

A selection of these statements is shown in the attached appendix ‘A’.

Certain of these statements refer to pressures that were placed on the Scottish Government by outside governments and agencies which have until now been hidden, and which had the potential to affect their decisions.

They also raise important political issues which will not be the subject of the ongoing police investigation and eventual consideration by Crown Office.

It is not clear for instance how many of the issues raised in these public pronouncements were known to Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond at the time of Mr Megrahi’s compassionate release on 20th August 2009 and whether, and how, that information impacted on what was stated at the time to be purely a compassionate release.

Questions arise as to whether any of their statements came from confidential information gleaned while they were serving ministers and had the potential to materially affect the ongoing criminal investigation and any potential appeal submission by the Megrahi family to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Rather than adding clarity to the situation they have only served to raise further important questions in respect of the guilt or otherwise of Mr Megrahi and the safety of his conviction and raised doubts about the political decisions which were made in respect of issues like our enquiry request and Mr Megrahi’s compassionate release.

We believe that aside from the relevance to any criminal investigation and possible appeal, which should be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, they raise wider political issues which can only be resolved within the Scottish Parliament.

• Was any confidential information misused in making these statements?
• What is the legal and political position of former senior ministers making public statements containing information, confidential or otherwise, obtained while serving in the Scottish Government and which relate to ongoing police and Crown Office criminal enquiries?
• Was the decision to grant compassionate release to Mr Megrahi based on internal and external pressures on the Government not admitted at the time?
• Did the facts and opinions now being revealed adversely affect JfM’s petition for a public enquiry when the request was initially turned down and should that decision be reconsidered in light of them?

A summary of other relevant questions is shown at Appendix ‘B’ to this submission.

Such political enquiry will not of course affect the ongoing criminal investigations but might cast more light on the political background to them and assist in an overall assessment of the whole Lockerbie question.

As things stand these public statements, about matters relevant to the Scottish Government's decision on an inquiry and the wider need for openness and accountability by ministers past and present particularly where confidential information is involved, are unchallenged.

JfM greatly values the committee’s continuing critical political oversight, which we believe is very much in the public interest, of matters related to our petition. These latest pronouncements by two senior politicians have undoubted relevance to our petition for an enquiry and to wider political matters related to Lockerbie.

We believe that in the interest of accountability and openness the Justice Committee should request, as a matter of urgency, that Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill appear before it to account for their statements, in order to explore related matters affecting our petition and to serve the wider interests of Parliament and public.

The political issues raised by these interventions will not be the subject of police or Crown Office enquiry but have a direct relevance to the original rejection of our petition by the Scottish Government. They also highlight the political culture in which Lockerbie related decisions were being made.

It is our sincere belief that such a political intervention is long overdue. It is not good enough for the committee to decide to defer these matters until Crown Office has considered the Operation Sandwood report or the SCCRC has made a decision re the Megrahi family submission for a further appeal.

It should be noted that we are not asking the committee to intervene in issues directly related to the investigation and prosecution of crime or any appeal process. We are asking for complementary action purely in respect of the public statements made by Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill which have impacted, and continue to impact, on Government and parliamentary decision making in relation to all Lockerbie matters past and present, including our petition.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Justice for Megrahi's suggested issues for Scottish Parliament Justice Committee

[The following document outlines some of the issues that Justice for Megrahi considers arise out of its submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee for consideration at its meeting on Tuesday 27 March 2018. It is expected that the submission itself will appear on the Scottish Parliament website on Monday:]

APPENDIX ‘A’: Justice Committee Brief: MacAskill/Salmond Public Statements and Relevant Questions.

(NB: While quotations have been checked and are believed to be accurate please check against references before use.)

FROM THE MEDIA:

The Times: 15th May 2016

‘Trade deal link to Lockerbie bomber release’

‘In a dramatic new book, serialised exclusively in The Sunday Times, former justice minister Kenny MacAskill also admits his decision to free one of the world’s most notorious terrorists was partly motivated by a fear of violent reprisals against Scots if the killer died in Scottish custody.
His account divulges:
•Ministers refused to travel with MacAskill amid threats to his life;
•The SNP sought concessions from Westminster in exchange for Megrahi’s possible return.’


ITV News Website Monday 23 May 2016

‘Megrahi conviction "probably unsafe" says MacAskill’

‘Scotland's former Justice Secretary has told ITV Border there are doubts about the conviction of the only man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing.

“I do think there are now doubts upon the conviction and I tend to think that it probably would result in it being found unsafe.”


The Times: 25th May 2016

‘MacAskill ‘has destroyed the Lockerbie conviction’’

‘Robert Black, QC, said that Kenny MacAskill’s contention in his new book that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi had not bought the clothes wrapped around the explosive device that destroyed an airliner amounted to “the end of the conviction”…………
“If that were now the official Scottish government position, that is the end of the conviction,” Professor Black said. In a statement, the Crown Office said it remained certain of al-Megrahi’s guilt.’


Sunday Herald 29th May 2016

Book Review by John Ashton: ‘The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice’ by Kenny MacAskill

‘The unravelling of Kenny MacAskill ... and the case against Megrahi’

‘Overshadowing these revelations, however, is a single sentence buried among the book’s 322 pages, which reads: “Clothes in the suitcase that carried the bomb were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi.” ……………….As the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission noted when it referred Megrahi’s conviction to the appeal court in 2007, the assumption that Megrahi was the clothes purchaser was critical. Without it, there was insufficient evidence to convict him.’

‘The weaknesses in the identification evidence were well known to the Scottish government when MacAskill, as Justice Secretary, was claiming that the conviction was safe,’ says JfM’s Iain McKie, a former police superintendent who spent 15 years battling the police and Crown Office to clear the name of his daughter Shirley McKie.’

Scotsman: 5th July 2017.

‘Kenny MacAskill: Lockerbie conspiracy theories ‘absurd’

‘The case is complex. It could only ever be thus given who was involved, how it was carried out and where the bomb detonated. That there was a trial at all is down to the remarkable investigation carried out by Scottish officers and colleagues from many forces in the UK and beyond. The planning of the atrocity was global with several countries and organisations involved, and the debris was scattered from the Solway Firth to the Kielder Forest. As a consequence, the evidence could never be the clearest or most compelling.’


The Herald 30th November 2017

‘Alex Salmond casts doubt on Lockerbie bomber conviction’

‘Alex Salmond has cast doubt on the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber, suggesting it was based on evidence that was “open to question”.

The former First Minister – who was in office when Abdelbaset al Megrahi was controversially freed from prison on compassionate grounds – said it was possible “for someone to be guilty, yet wrongly convicted”……………..
However, his conviction was not just based on the strength of that evidence but on identification evidence which is to say the least open to question.”



The National 30th November 2017
‘US and UK were ‘double-dealing’ on Megrahi release’

‘In a special St Andrew’s Day edition of the Alex Salmond Show on RT today, MacAskill makes the explosive claim that Scotland was “slapped about mercilessly” by the British and American governments, who he accuses of “double dealing”.

Salmond himself says the identification evidence which helped convict Megrahi is “open to question” and berates the “total cynicism” of those who attacked the Scottish Government  over the decision to send the Libyan home on compassionate grounds because he had terminal prostate cancer. He says the UK Government wanted Megrahi sent home to secure an oil deal. (…)’


The Times: 1st December 2017

‘Salmond condemned after casting doubt on Lockerbie conviction’

‘Alex Salmond has provoked criticism for claiming that the only man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing was wrongly convicted.

The former first minister said he believed that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was guilty of playing a part in the terrorist attack that killed 270 people in December 1988, but that the court was wrong to convict him.’

The Cable Magazine: 9th January 2018

‘Kenny MacAskill: Reflecting on Lockerbie’

‘Megrahi was released by me in 2009, on compassionate grounds, when I was Justice Secretary. In many ways, the trial has overshadowed both the events leading up to it, and actions subsequent to it. For some, it has become a cause célèbre and for others, simply the culmination of the tragedy………….Perhaps there should have been more wariness all those years ago, when an Italian air force plane in UN markings collected Megrahi and his co-accused – Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah – from Tripoli, to take them to the Netherlands for trial. For though this was to be a trial held under Scots law (albeit convened in a former Dutch air force base), the major ground rules had already been set. However, the Scottish judges presiding over the trials has not yet been notified of those rules.Vested financial interests should perhaps also have been discerned. The first Scots lawyers to visit Gadhafi travelled on a plane provided by Babcock and Wilcox. Others later returned on the private jet of Tiny Rowland.’


The Herald: 2nd September 2016

‘Kenny MacAskill: Gauci and the benefit of doubt on Lockerbie’

‘The issue with the continued trial of the Scottish justice system is that it lets the major security and commercial interests off the hook. The Scottish police did outstanding work both at the crash scene and in the subsequent investigation, along with law enforcement colleagues globally. Prosecution and judicial authorities acted diligently and honourably. Yet they have been traduced by some, which is a calumny upon them.
The criminal investigation into Lockerbie was overshadowed by commercial and security deals that were ongoing for decades and in which Scotland had no involvement.’



The Herald: 21st August 2016

‘Lockerbie bomber release saw Scotland take rap, says Kenny MacAskill’

‘Scotland was set up to "take the rap" for the release of the Lockerbie bomber, according to former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Mr MacAskill likened the SNP government's involvement to "flotsam and jetsam, the same as the bags that fell upon the poor town of Lockerbie and the people there".
Mr MacAskill insisted the Scottish Government had not been complicit in any prisoner transfer deals for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity, and had "no control and little influence".
The decision to return Megrahi to Libya in 2009 was taken by Mr MacAskill on compassionate grounds.’

……………………………………………………………………………………

FROM ‘KENNY MACASKILL: THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING’ - (Biteback Publishing, 2016):

Alex Salmond: back cover quotation.

‘It ends with the most credible explanation yet published of who was really responsible for the downing of Pan Am flight 103.’

Kenny MacAskill, in the book itself:

1. p.137: ‘The court itself commented on the lack of evidence of the Samsonite case with the bomb being placed on board the Air Malta flight. It certainly seems that is where it all started and that Megrahi was at the airport at the time with a pass** that allowed him access. But, beyond that, there is really is no evidence other than that he was there. It’s understandable how once loaded at Malta it would work its way through the system unchecked and with only cursory checks at Frankfurt and Heathrow. But there is no direct evidence that Megrahi placed the bag on board.’

2. p.138: ‘Would a jury have convicted the accused? Most certainly they would have.…They would have almost certainly been swayed by views that had already been formed in the court of public opinion before the trial at Camp Zeist convened.’

3. p.139: ‘This [the trial at Camp Zeist] was more than the trial of the accused; so much more. Prospects for peace and trade depended on it; as much as the closure for some victims’ families and vengeance for others… The thaw in international tensions would have receded and fast, and the hoped-for lifting of sanctions and resumption of trade would have faltered and  evaporated. Both Libya and the West both wanted and needed it. The world would have become a less certain and less secured place. The die was cast when the trial was established.…It’s hard to imagine how there could have been any other verdict in the circumstances. In many ways, as with Megrahi and Fhimah, Scots law and its judges were simply actors in the theatre that had been created to circumvent and solve both as diplomatic impasse and political problem. Scots law convened the trial, and yet found itself on trial.’

4. p.305: ‘The clothes were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi. The identification is suspect. The attempts to make the purchase fit the two possible dates when Megrahi was there are problematic indeed. The final selection of 7 December to tie in with the big European football fixture fails to take account of the meteorological evidence of there being no rain. Given the importance placed on Gauci recalling an umbrella having been bought, all that seems rather implausible.’

5. pp.305-307: But if Megrahi didn’t buy the clothes, he was certainly involved.…Megrahi flew in to Malta with the suitcase that was to transport the bomb…Megrahi had been to Malta the month before, which was probably preparatory for the scheme and involved discussions on the logistics of clothes, the suitcase and the bomb equipment. He may even have brought the timers in with him. He would meet with others in the embassy to discuss and build plans already developed by the PFLP-GC − hence the interlining with a flight through Frankfurt in Germany. Though Megrahi had been involved in the acquisition of timers, and even witnessed their use in tests in Libya, he would not be the bomb maker. That would have been prepared in the Libyan People’s Bureau…’

6. pp.312-315: ‘Megrahi took the case to the airport, but it was Fhimah who would get it airside and beyond security.… Fhimah was familiar both with the procedures and to the staff who worked there. Placing a bag behind and into the system was a relatively simple task given the accreditation and access Fhimah had.…
‘It will probably never be known just how the security measures were breached, but no doubt that was why the plot involved those with accreditation, access and knowledge of the airport. If anyone would know how to do it, then Fhimah would.’

7. p.316: ‘There are also aspects of the case that could not be sustained in a court of law with the high standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt required and specific rules on evidence needed. There are equally aspects of this case that may not have seen a criminal conviction sustained on appeal. But, this account of how the bombing was carried out and by whom is based on information gathered meticulously by police and prosecutors from the US, Scotland and elsewhere. It’s also founded on intelligence and sources not available for a court or that have only come to light thereafter.’

** But see item 6, in which KM contradicts himself, as he specifically states that it was Fhimah who had the knowledge and accreditation to get a bag through the security system at Luqa and who did so, even though KM’s explanation of how this happened is entirely speculative.

APPENDIX ‘B’:    Justice Committee Brief: Relevant Questions

In addition to the four central  questions contained in the main submission JfM believes the following ones relevant to any JC consideration.

  1. Why do Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond both now express doubts about the safeness of Megrahi’s conviction was unsafe when their government said that it did not doubt the safety of the conviction?
  2. MacAskill and Salmond must have known that Mr Megrahi’s family might one day resurrect his appeal. Did they not appreciate that, in stating that it did not doubt the safety of Megrahi’s conviction, their government was making a public judgement on a process that was supposed to free from political influence?
  3. When they were in government, to what extent were their own and their government’s public statements shaped by the Crown Office? In asking this question we note that after the publication of the SCCRC report by the Sunday Herald, the Crown Office and Salmond put a remarkably similar spin on the Commission’s findings:
Crown Office statement, 23 March 2012:
‘In the Megrahi case, the Commission was asked to look at more than 40 possible grounds for a referral to the Appeal Court. The Commission rejected the vast majority of these and referred the case to the Appeal Court on six grounds, many of which were inter-related.*
Alex Salmond 24.3.12: ‘While the [SCCRC] report shows that there were six grounds on which it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, it also rejected 45 of the 48 grounds submitted by Megrahi, and in particular it upheld the forensic basis of the case leading to Malta and to Libyan involvement’**
*Scottish government spokesman quoted in the Herald, 21 May 2012 http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13058872.Lockerbie_families_vow_to_force_public_inquiry/.
**Alex Salmond quoted in the Mail Online 25.3.12 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120243/Calls-probe-conviction-Lockerbie-bomber-al-Megrahi-grounds-appeal-leaked-internet.html

  1. Was MacAskill briefed by the Crown Office and/or the police when writing his book? On what basis did he state that Megrahi did not buy the clothes for the bomb suitcase from Tony Gauci’s shop?
  2. MacAskill is aware that a major police investigation, Operation Sandwood, is ongoing in to the JfM allegations of criminality against some of the Lockerbie investigators. In his recent article for Cable, MacAskill states that investigators have been "denigrated for alleged falsities” and that "At the trial stage, both prosecutors and judges acted professionally in dealing with the facts then before them.” Did he not consider that this was publicly undermining the investigation?
  3. Why did MacAskill pass the JfM committee’s confidential allegations on to the Crown Office when he knew that the allegations were against Crown Officials?
  4. Why did he insist that the committee must take the complaint to Dumfries and Galloway police, even though its Lockerbie investigation was the subject of the complaints?
  5. Why did he not appoint an independent investigator to examine the allegations, as he was empowered to do under the 2005 Inquiries Act?
  6. Having been given a summary of the JfM committee’s allegations by MacAskill, the Crown Office immediately issued a statement claiming that the allegations were: ‘without exception, defamatory and entirely unfounded’? Do MacAskill and Salmond believe that was an appropriate comment for the CO to make? If not, why did they not rebuke the Crown Office?
  7. Why did MacAskill tell the Scottish Parliament that primary legislation was needed to remove the requirement that all those who had supplied information to the SCCRC must consent to the release of the SCCRC report when in fact all that was necessary under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 was another statutory instrument? And why did also state in the same parliamentary answer that publication would be subject to data protection restrictions?

Friday, 23 March 2018

R I P Robert Forrester

Robert Forrester, secretary of Justice for Megrahi, died yesterday after a short illness. It is immensely sad that he did not live to see the disgraceful conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi overturned, a cause for which he worked unstintingly over many years. In the words of James Robertson, "Robert was a man whose intellect I admired and whose personality I liked immensely. I very much doubt he anticipated watching over us from another place, but I sincerely hope that if and when we achieve a result in the cause of justice Robert will somehow be alongside us in spirit, revelling in the success."

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Justice for Megrahi petition on agenda for next Justice Committee meeting

[Justice for Megrahi’s petition (PE1370) is once again on the agenda
for the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee to be
held on Tuesday 27 March 2018 starting at 10.00 in Holyrood
Committee Room 2. What follows is excerpted from the
meeting papers:]

Options available to Committees considering petitions
5. Once a petition has been referred to a subject Committee it is for the Committee
to decide how, or if, it wishes to take the petition forward. Among options open to
the Committee are to:  
*Keep the petition open and write to the Scottish Government or other
stakeholders seeking their views on what the petition is calling for, or views
on further information to have emerged over the course of considering the petition;
*Keep the petition open and take oral evidence from the petitioner, from relevant
stakeholders or from the Scottish Government;
*Keep the petition open and await the outcome of a specific piece of work, such as
a consultation or piece of legislation before deciding what to do next;  
*Close the petition on the grounds that the Scottish Government has made its
position clear, or that the Scottish Government has made some or all of the
changes requested by the petition, or that the Committee, after due consideration,
has decided it does not support the petition;  
*Close the petition on the grounds that a current consultation, call for evidence or
inquiry gives the petitioner the opportunity to contribute to the policy process.

PE1370: Independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction
Terms of the petition
PE1370 (lodged 1 November 2010):
The petition on behalf of Justice for Megrahi (JFM), calls on the Scottish Parliament
to urge 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.

Current consideration
7. At its meeting on 19 December 2017 the Committee agreed, as it had at its
meetings on 5 September 2017, 2 May 2017 and 24 January 2017, to keep the
petition open pending completion of Operation Sandwood. This is the operational
name for Police Scotland‟s investigation into the nine allegations of criminality
levelled by Justice for Megrahi at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service,
the police, and forensic officials involved in the investigation and legal processes
relating to Megrahi‟s conviction. The allegations range from perverting the course
of justice to perjury.

8. The clerks understand from Police Scotland that the operation is in its concluding
stage. Once Police Scotland‟s report is completed, it will be submitted for
consideration by an independently appointed Queen‟s Counsel appointed by
Police Scotland, before going to the Crown Office. Following submission of the
report, there will be discussion with the Crown Office as to what information, if any,
can be made public.

9. On 4 July 2017, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC)
confirmed it had received an application to review the conviction. The SCCRC
may refer a case to the High Court if it believes that a miscarriage of justice may
have occurred and that it is in the interests of justice that a reference should be
made. The SCCRC stated that it will give careful consideration to this new
application, but that it will not make any further comment at this time. No further
information is available.

10. The Committee is asked to consider and agree what action it wishes to take
in relation to the petition (see paragraph 5 for possible options).