The following report is from an announcement by Sky Studios and Peacock Streaming Services.
Sky and Peacock announce new drama based on Lockerbie disaster
WESTERN MEDIA IGNORE DESMOND TUTU'S SUPPORT FOR LOCKERBIE CAMPAIGNERS.
Declassified documents: US and UK governments finally exposed: Megrahi accusations based on unreliable witnesses and evidence.
[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]
Prosecutors in Edinburgh and Washington feared the case against the Lockerbie bomber would collapse if their concerns over the integrity of the star witness were made public, declassified documents have revealed.
The papers show that senior Scottish and US officials privately raised doubts over his reliability and are set to trigger fresh claims of a miscarriage of justice.
The new information, disclosed last night, on the 33rd anniversary of the terrorist attack, has renewed calls for an appeal against al-Megrahi’s conviction.
Hans Koechler, who served as the UN’s independent observer at his trial, said: “I am even more convinced that a miscarriage of justice occurred.”
A report of a meeting between Alan Rodger, then Scotland’s lord advocate, and Robert Mueller, US assistant attorney-general, in Washington in 1992, states: “If it became known we or the US were sending people to check on the soundness of Gauci’s identification that would signal that we did not have a case on which we could confidently go to trial. The US Department of Justice maintained that they could not go to trial on the present identification.”
Gauci was the sole witness to link al-Megrahi directly to the bombing of Pan Am 103, over the town of Lockerbie.
In 2000 he told a panel of judges that al-Megrahi “resembled a lot” a man who bought clothes from his shop. But in 1992 a letter from the Crown Office to Mueller raised doubt. “Further inquiries concerning the identification made by the shopkeeper Gauci could be seized upon by those in Malta, Libya and elsewhere hostile to the conclusions of the investigation.” In 2007 it emerged that the US had paid $2 million to Gauci.
Robert Black, professor emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, who masterminded the trial, said: “It is now more obvious than ever that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. An independent inquiry should be instituted into the case by the Scottish government, the UK government or both.”
The Crown Office said it would be inappropriate to comment further while leave to appeal (by al-Megrahi’s son Ali) is being considered by the UK Supreme Court. Police Scotland have confirmed that their investigation remains live. (...)
The confidential documents also show that British officials threatened to veto Malta’s application to join the EU if they did not back their demands over the Lockerbie bombing.
The UK and US insisted that the bomb which exploded over Scotland 33 years ago was loaded on to Air Malta flight KM-180, which left the island for Frankfurt on December 21. They contended it was then taken to London and transferred to Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives. The Maltese authorities strongly disputed this version of events, insisting it was technically impossible.
Their stance provoked considerable anxiety. A March 1992 memo to the Foreign Office from diplomatic staff in New York states: “We understand that the Maltese government is considering stating publicly that the allegation that the bomb was planted in Malta was not proven and instructed their ambassador to the UN to explain this to non-aligned members of the Security Council. We hope the Maltese government will think carefully on this and reconsider its position. The US embassy here have told us that their embassy in Valletta has been instructed to take action at the highest level.”
The Maltese were then told the UK would not support their attempt to join the European Community (EC), the precursor to the EU. (...)
The following month British officials noted with satisfaction: “Malta will now comply with mandatory sanctions, while not agreeing with them.”
Guido de Marco, Malta’s justice minister at the time of the bombing, wrote in 2010 shortly before his death that there had been “so much room for error” in the British version of events.
Officials ordered to monitor ‘troublesome’ relatives of victims
An independent investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity launched by bereaved family members posed “great potential for trouble” and should be carefully monitored, government officials were told. (...)
In 2018 relatives of the Lockerbie bomb victims told The Times they had been repeatedly bugged by the security services after official documents suggested that they needed “careful watching”.
The Rev John Mosey, a church minister who lost his teenage daughter, Helga, in the bombing, said that after speaking publicly his phone calls were often disrupted and documents relating to the bombing had gone missing from his computer.
Jim Swire, a GP who became the public face of the campaign to secure an independent inquiry into the atrocity, reported similar intrusions and deliberately included false information in private correspondence, only for it to appear in the press days later.
[Note: Peter Biddulph, co-author of Jim Swire's current Book) suffered the same intrusion. Just days after his first interview with Jim Swire late in the year 2000, unknown persons accessed his computer and all his files and notes.]
Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, said: “I cannot believe that a supposedly decent country could behave in such a way towards grieving people whose only crime was to seek the truth.”
[RB: It is no surprise that those at the top of the Lockerbie prosecution team in both Scotland and the United States were gravely concerned about the quality of the evidence that Tony Gauci would give at Camp Zeist. What is surprising is that the prosecution was prepared to proceed to trial in reliance on that evidence, and that the judges at the trial found that Gauci's evidence amounted to an identification of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and that it was credible and reliable. Had they not done so, there was insufficient evidence in law for Megrahi to be convicted.
The most rigorous analysis of Gauci's statements before and during the trial has been provided by Dr Kevin Bannon: https://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-centrepiece-of-case-against-megrahi.html. Here is part of what he found:
"The development of Tony Gauci’s statements from his first police interviews in September 1989 through to his testimony in court, reveal his recollections systematically developing in favour of the Crown narrative, in increasing contradiction of all his freshest recollections.
"... it is not merely the case (as has often been stated) that Gauci’s evidence was contradictory, but that in every aspect, it changed in favour of the Crown narrative, in some instances quite drastically. Gauci’s original, freshest recollections about the appearance of the Libyan purchaser and the time of his visit, would have, and should have, categorically eliminated al-Megrahi from suspicion.
"Gauci’s testimony, the centrepiece of the case against al-Megrahi and, by implication, the principal Libyan connection to the crime, simply has no integrity whatsoever - nevertheless he was given a substantial financial reward for his latter evidence. These discrepancies render the entire case against al-Megrahi invalid."
Had the newly released documents been available before the most recent appeal, it is possible that the Megrahi family's lawyers could have made use of them in their case. But I see no realistic prospect of a further posthumous appeal. It is now more than ever obvious that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. What should now happen is that an independent inquiry should be instituted into the Lockerbie case by the Scottish Government, the UK Government or both in tandem. There is much evidence now available that has not been considered in any of the Scottish Lockerbie appeals, in part because of the highly restrictive rules governing what material can be made use of in Scottish criminal appeals. Only with an independent inquiry is there a possibility that the false narrative supported by the shameful conviction of Megrahi can be rectified.]
BOOK LAUNCH 6TH MAY, FOLLOWED BY GLASGOW'S LITERARY FESTIVAL AYE WRITE.
The full programme will be announced shortly, and includes an interview with the BBC's former Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie on the evening of 21st May.
From the blogsite of Professor Robert Black QC.
On 29 January 2021 the lawyers for the Megrahi family lodged with the High Court of Justiciary an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. They have until 8 February to lodge written submissions supporting these grounds. The Crown and the Advocate General for Scotland (representing the UK Government) then have until 22 February to lodge their responses in writing. The High Court may consider the matter based on written arguments, or it may call for a hearing. If the High Court refuses permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, the appellants can ask the Supreme Court itself to agree to consider the appeal.
In Scottish criminal appeal cases the UK Supreme Court cannot simply overturn a decision of the Scottish court; it only has jurisdiction to decide whether there might have been a breach of the appellant's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. A decision that there had been such a breach would not by itself overturn the conviction but would result in the case being sent back to the Scottish court for it to consider the issue and apply the right test under the European Convention, which might or might not result in a different decision being reached in relation to the conviction.
Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court will be granted only if the case raises an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court.
The grounds of appeal which the Megrahi legal team wish the Supreme Court to consider can be summarised as follows:
1. The decision of the High Court not to allow all of the original grounds of appeal to form part of the appeal for the reasons it gave was in breach of Article 6 of the ECHR, the right to a fair trial. In August 2020 the High Court limited the grounds of appeal to the matters referred by the SCCRC in their 2020 referral (unreasonable verdict and non-disclosure of material relating to rewards and identification evidence) and also allowed in the issue of disclosure of the cables relating to the Crown witness Majid Giaka. The court expressly rejected the ground of appeal which argued that there was a systemic failure by the Crown to disclose material and also the particular instances of non-disclosure which the appellants argued demonstrated this systemic failure. The appellants contend that this is a matter which must be considered by the Supreme Court as it relates to the application of Article 6 and was wrongly decided.
2. The decision of the High Court not to overturn the Public Interest Immunity Certificate and order disclosure of the Protectively Marked Documents, and not to allow the non-disclosure of the documents to form a ground of appeal, also constituted a breach of Article 6. The appellants submit that these documents related to the special defence of incrimination put forward at trial and so in order for the appellant to receive a fair trial they should have been disclosed, and that this should have formed part of the grounds of appeal the court allowed to be argued.
3. As regards matters which did form part of the appeal and were argued at the full appeal hearing, the appellants' position is that the High Court erred in its decision to refuse Ground of Appeal 2, which related to non-disclosure of rewards material and non-disclosure of documents relating to Crown witness Tony Gauci’s identification evidence. They contend that the court applied the appropriate test wrongly and too narrowly and therefore breached the appellant’s right to a fair trial. In relation to Ground of Appeal 1, unreasonable verdict, they submit that the High Court’s decision to refuse this ground of appeal was also wrong, in that they took into account evidence which the trial court had ruled out, namely the evidence of the former co-accused Fhimah’s diaries. They contend that the High Court erred in substituting its own assessment of whether the diaries were admissible, as this meant they were not considering the case on the same evidence as the trial court did; and by so doing the appeal court has not returned a reasoned judgment on the verdict of the trial court and therefore again the appellant’s article 6 right has been breached.
The Megrahi legal team conclude by submitting that all three points raised are of general public importance and therefore meet the test for an application to appeal to the Supreme Court.
SUNDAY 31ST JANUARY 2021.
[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of Scotland on Sunday. It reads as follows:]
The trial of the only man ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has had a “catastrophic” effect on the Scottish criminal justice system, with the damage intensified by authorities’ “continuing avoidance” of a reexamination of the entirety of the evidence, according to the father of one of the victims.
Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died in the atrocity, said that steps were required to ensure the better administration of justice of Scotland, but warned that such an overhaul would “have to be propelled by a force outwith Scotland.”
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the conviction of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of mass murder unanimously at a specially-convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.
Two weeks ago, judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal rejected a third appeal on behalf of the Libyan national, who died in 2012.
However, his family and numerous campaigners, Swire included, have long maintained he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Now, Swire has told Scotland on Sunday that the biggest mass murder trial in British history continues to cast a long shadow over Scotland’s judiciary.
Swire sat throughout the trial at Camp Zeist, and collapsed in court after the verdict was read out. It was held before three Scottish judges - Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean - with no jury. The trial’s architect, Professor Robert Black QC, initially proposed it should have involved an international panel of judges, presided over and chaired by a Scottish judge.
Asked if he thought Megrahi would have been convicted on the evidence presented under such an arrangement, Swire said: “Answers about questions based on ‘what if’ carry little weight, but from what I know now, this would seem to have been a far safer solution than that allowed at Zeist.
“Nelson Mandela himself warned me that ‘No one country should be complainant, prosecutor, and judge’. History, to my sorrow, has proved him right, for Scotland became all three at Zeist.”
Swire, now 84, said the past two decades had been “torturous,” and accused the Crown Office and “certain leaders” in Scotland’s legal profession of following a “readily visible course” based on the premise that the Netherlands court was infallible.
“Appeals have managed to avoid or ignore many of the aspects of the Zeist evidence in which failures are self evident, and have never fully addressed some of the further pieces of evidence which have emerged since,” he added.
“From a layman’s point of view, this seems to have been skilfully achieved. If I were asked to answer, ‘Why would they do that?’, I would have to reply that the impression given to me a layman is that they wish to conceal the profound failings within their system and its dangerous opacity to criticism, in order that damage to its reputation shall be minimised.”
Asked to respond to Swire’s criticisms, a Crown Office spokesman said: “The conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the murder of 270 people at Lockerbie in 1988 has been reviewed and appealed twice in accordance with the law over twenty years.
“His conviction stands and the investigation by Scottish prosecutors and police officers into the involvement of others with him in the plot to attack an American aircraft continues.”