Friday, 3 July 2015

Scottish judges refuse permission for third appeal.

Relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing will not be allowed to pursue an appeal on behalf of the only man convicted of the crime, Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi.

Families of those killed argued that they were legitimate persons to carry forward the miscarriage of justice appeal for Mr Megrahi, who died three years ago.

But three judges at the Appeal court in Edinburgh have ruled that this is not possible under Scots Law.

Mr Megrahi's own family still have the right to appeal on his behalf, but their lawyers have said that the situation in Libya makes this difficult

Judges to hear relatives' bid for third and final Lockerbie appeal

We are grateful to Professor Robert Black for the following report.

[This is the headline over a Press Association news agency report published today on the Yahoo! News website.  It reads as follows:]

A hearing will take place today to decide whether relatives of Lockerbie bombing victims could pursue an appeal on behalf of the only man convicted of the atrocity.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

A group of British relatives maintain they have a ''legitimate interest'' in trying to get the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi back before a court for a full appeal.

They believe the Libyan, who died protesting his innocence in his home country in 2012, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and say his conviction should be overturned.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which is once again looking at Megrahi's conviction, has petitioned the High Court asking for guidance on whether members of the victims' families can take forward such an appeal on the convicted man's behalf.

A hearing on the issue will take place before three judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh today.

Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the south of Scotland on December 21 1988 in which 270 people were killed.

He died after abandoning his second appeal, which itself came after the SCCRC referred the case back to senior High Court judges in 2007.

Since June last year, the SCCRC has been considering a fresh, joint application from members of Megrahi's family and the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, which includes relatives of British victims of the bombing, to review the conviction.

Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the Megrahi family and 26 relatives of Lockerbie victims, said: "On June 5 2014, the Commission received an application for a further review of Mr Al-Megrahi's conviction from my office.
Jim Swire & Aamer Anwar 

"This application was lodged on behalf of two separate groups: Family members of the deceased victims of the Lockerbie bombing and members of Mr Al-Megrahi's family.

"Our legal team will argue today that the Commission is premature with their petition, as the role of the SCCRC is to investigate whether there has been a miscarriage of justice.

"When Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, 270 people from 21 countries perished. It remains the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the UK but the consequences are still being felt 26 years later.

"The family members of the Lockerbie victims instructing us maintain that they have as much a right to pursue an appeal as the Megrahi family because they also believe the wrong person was convicted.

"The families hope this matter can be resolved as finality in the Megrahi case is unlikely ever to be achieved unless a referral is made to the Appeal Court."

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Miraculous bomb fragment

(With grateful thanks to Professor Robert Black and friends)

[It was on this date twenty-five years ago that the FBI’s James ‘Tom’ Thurman, so he says, identified the fragment of circuit board PT/35b as coming from a MST-13 timer manufactured by the Swiss company MEBO. 
 The circumstances are narrated in chapter 4 of John Ashton’s , Book Megrahi: You are my Jury especially at pages 62 to 66. The account that follows is taken from a long article entitled Thurman's Photo Quest on Caustic Logic’s blog The Lockerbie Divide:]

What we have in Thurman's case, with or without the actual piece of evidence, was the crucial identification. And one point that's consistent throughout is that he held a photo only when he found the match. The question at hand is how long it took him to find it and to determine its meaning vis-a-vis who carried out the bombing. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From Birmingham to Lockerbie?

Jim Swire and relatives of some of the Lockerbie victims are pursuing a posthumous third appeal on behalf of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. They believe that he suffered a miscarriage of justice.
Baset Al-Megrahi

In June 2014 - almost one year ago - they requested that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ask the Scottish appeal court to rule on whether it is authorised to continue an investigation into the trial findings. The SCCRC requires a ruling on whether the relatives have “a legitimate interest”.

While in prison Al-Megrahi was visited by many well-wishers. In John Ashton's 2012 book "Megrahi: You are my Jury" Al-Megrahi tells of visits by Paddy Joe Hill, one of the "Birmingham Six" wrongly convicted for the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. He says of Hill, "He was the visitor who best understood my plight".
Paddy Hill. 17 years in jail.

Megrahi explains: "Hill knew better than anyone the innate reluctance of the criminal justice system to right its wrongs. Following their first unsuccessful appeal, the Six attempted to press charges against the West Midlands Police. The case eventually reached the High Court and was rejected by a panel of three judges led by England's most senior civil judge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning."

"In one of the most notorious judgements of recent times he opined: 'Just consider the course of events if their [the Six's] action were to proceed to trial... If they failed it would mean that much time, money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose'"
Lord Denning (Photo PA)

"'If they won ... [it would mean] that the convictions were eroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend that they be pardonned or to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. That [would be] such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say "It cannot be right that these actions should go any further."'"

Baset Al-Megrahi continues: "By the time I was convicted 21 years later, no judge would dare so nakedly place the reputation of the justice system before the interests of justice. But the common ancestry of judicial myopia was all too obvious."

Let us hope that Mr Al-Megrahi is correct and that the sentiments expressed by Lord Denning will never be allowed to influence the current application for a third, posthumous appeal.

John Aston's book Megrahi: You are my Jury. The Lockerbie Evidence. Birlinn Publishing. 2012.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jim Swire to speak at Major Incident Conference

Jim Swire is to speak at a national conference Major Incidents and Beyond at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on Wednesday 20th May. He will open his address with a short extract from our book "Lockerbie".
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

The event will address topics surrounding acute trust involvement during a major incident such as recovery-phase post incident, personal accounts and psychological effects following an incident, security arrangements, and first-hand accounts of inquests and public inquiries.
This is a full day event for all those involved in emergency planning, working in emergency departments and those with a particular interest in major incidents.

In addition to Jim Swire, five NHS and industry experts will share their personal experiences:-

Alastair Wilson OBE, Senior Emergency Department Consultant at the Royal Hospital London on the day of the London bombing attacks of 7th July 2005. In  a series of  coordinated suicide attacks, civilians were targeted using the public transport system during the morning rush hour.

Gary Hardacre QAM
Gary Hardacre QAM, responsible for the Scottish Ambulance Service during the Ebola outbreak, the Glasgow helicopter and bin lorry collisions.

Det. Supt Derek Forest
Detective Superintendent Derek Forest, posted to Thailand for 16 months following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 which killed over 270,000 people where he held the position of International IMC Commander. He shared responsibility for the strategic management of the international response, and the management of law enforcement and forensic staff from 31 different nations around the world.

Grant Moss
Grant Moss, Head of Security University Hospital Birmingham. Formerly Counter-terrorism adviser at West Midlands Police.

Dr Sarah Davidson
Dr Sarah Davidson MBE.University of East London. Specialist in the psychology of bereavement on families and children.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Torture and a British Foreign Secretary

In 2012 former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his head of MI6 Counter-terrorism Sir Mark Allen were revealed to be implicated in secret deals with Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, his head of security Moussa Koussa, and the CIA, for the illegal apprehension and rendition for torture and interrogation of selected Libyan dissidents and their families.

It remains a poisonous aspect of British foreign policy which our so-called democratic governments are desperate to conceal from press and public. 
Moussa Koussa

After two years of delaying tactics by Straw's lawyers, two cases finally reached the public domain: Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife, and that of Sami al-Saadi with his wife and four children.

 On the 30th October 2014 the Court of Appeal ruled that Belhaj had a right to sue Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen and the British government and others for their part in the rendition of himself and his wife. 

Jack Straw argued that everything he had done was in accordance with British law. When challenged,  Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister at the time of the renditions, claimed that he could not remember the event.
Tony Blair

Three appeal judges demanded that a light be shone into dark corners of the state's work - and not for the first time. 

Time and again the Court of Appeal has maintained that allegations of wrongdoing linked to security and intelligence must be examined if the rule of law is to be upheld. 

Yet sadly for our so-called "democracy" successive governments persist with a wall of secrecy. [1]
By their actions the role of Britain as an intelligence underling of the USA continues and is strengthened. [2]

[1] On 8th November 2014 former Foreign Secretary and chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee Sir Malcolm Rifkind warned that an ISC inquiry into rendition and torture would not be concluded before the general election of May 2015.  He added: “Apart from that, we can’t even start on the Libyan stuff because of the police inquiries.”
[2] UK government can be sued over rendition claims. BBC News:

Friday, 1 May 2015

Julian Assange and the intended assassination of Al-Megrahi

Julian Assange and Wikileaks have been pilloried by many as traitorous to Western interests.

Yet those who maintain that Baset Al-Megrahi was convicted due to false evidence, concealed police diaries and other misrepresented evidence have cause to be grateful to Assange and those who support and assist him.

In December 2011, six weeks after the end of the Libyan maelstrom of war and bloody death, with its brutal killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Jim Swire secretly travelled to Tripoli for his final meeting with Baset Al-Megrahi, a man shortly to die of cancer.

The NATO bombing campaign was over, and the conflict had reduced to sporadic outbreaks of firing and killing in several outlying parts of the country. Tripoli seemed at peace and the quiet streets offered no hint of the evil that had rampaged across the nation over the previous ten months.

Unknown to Jim Swire, American intelligence and some within the American administration had three months previously been discussing the illegal rendition and assassination of Baset Al-Megrahi. 

Stratfor is a Texas headquartered global intelligence supplier to large corporations such as the Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. 

The company’s Vice President is Fred Burton, a man much respected by those who see all foreigners as inferior to Americans. A contributor to US chat shows and Fox News, Burton has written several books and is a welcome speaker at Republican and right-wing gatherings. 

On August 19th 2011, in a widely circulated email, Brian Genchur of Stratfor wrote: "I would like to kill the terrorist [Al-Megrahi] myself. I'm hunting for him on my own thru a few channels. If he can be found, I'll have him whacked." [1]

We can be sure that if Genchur and friends had carried out an assassination they would have killed any witnesses including members of the Megrahi family who were continually at Baset’s bedside.

 Five days later on August 24th CEO Fred Burton added a further statement: “While the world is focusing on the chaos in Libya counterterrorism agents could take advantage of this window of opportunity to capture [Al-Megrahi]. The symbolism of grabbing [him] and bringing him back to stand trial in a U.S. court would resonate around the world.” [2]

The Genchur and Burton emails were revealed solely through the brave actions of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Those who believe in the freedoms of an informed democracy should have cause to be grateful.