Lockerbie – Part 3

The Scottish Government has issued an order under the Criminal Procedure Act 1995 that will allow the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to release some of the details of the review of the al-Megrahi case. The SCCRC cannot reveal all of the details as the law requires the consent of all the parties involved.Following on from my explanation re the constitutional and political context; the Scottish Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament has invited the Scottish First Minister (Head of the Scottish Government), Alex Salmond, the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, Sir John Elvidge, and the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, to give evidence on the state of cooperation between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. The hearing will take place on 11 January. Inevitably, Lockerbie will be a particular focus.Meanwhile, a BBC investigation has cast doubt on a key piece of evidence used to convict al-Megrahi. The programme conducted tests to replicate the explosion. The result was that the tiny fragment identified as part of the bomb timer, and which was used to link al-Megrahi to the attack, could not have survived the mid-air explosion. It casts doubt on the forensics used to identify the fragment as part of the circuit board. This fragment had been found three weeks after the bombing. This was nonetheless ignored for months before being used by the prosecution as a central plank in the case against al-Megrahi. It was embedded in a piece of clothing, labelled “made in Malta”. This piece of evidence led to an investigation as to who had purchased the clothing. Years later, a Maltese shopkeeper identified the purchaser as al-Megrahi. However, this was after he had seen him pictured in a magazine as a suspect in the case.Al-Megrahi has placed hundreds of documents on a website stating, “I will do everything in my power to persuade the public, and in particular the Scottish public, of my innocence”. The Scottish Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, has condemned this saying that it is a selective view of the evidence and that a court is the only place to determine al-Megrahi’s guilt or innocence. His defence lawyers say that this is the only way of continuing to protest his innocence given that he had to abandon his appeal in order to be considered for compassionate release.There have been calls for the UN to establish an inquiry into the Lockerbie case. This is supported by Hans Koechler, the UN observer at the original trial. It is also supported by Professor Robert Black, Emeritus Professor of Law at Edinburgh University. Professor Black was born in Lockerbie and attended Lockerbie Academy. Needless to say, he took a keen interest in the case. As holder of the Chair in Scots Law at Edinburgh University. Professor Black has been described as the architect of the legal framework enabling the case to take place in the Netherlands under Scots Law but without the usual jury of 15 persons.Professor Black has expressed disbelief that the three judges convicted al-Megrahi on the evidence before them. In an interview with The Scotsman on 1 November 2005 Professor Black said Megrahi’s conviction was “the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years.” In addition to the failure to disclose the secret document, referred to in my previous account, questions about the forensics and the way evidence was handled, there are major concerms about the Maltese shopkeeper witness.Professor Black regrets having proposed the special procedure that provided for a non-jury trial at Camp Zeist. He has stated: “If they had been tried by an ordinary Scottish jury of 15, who were given standard instructions about how they must approach the evidence, standard instructions about reasonable doubt and what must happen if there is a reasonable doubt about the evidence, no Scottish jury could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led at the trial.”

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