Wednesday, 29 October 2014

How goes Scottish Justice?


Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died two and a half years ago on the 20th May 2012. 


Here are extracts from the statement that Justice For Megrahi issued on that occasion:



Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has now died without having been able to clear his name of the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 on the 21st of December 1988 during his lifetime. Now all those politicians and Megrahi-guilt apologists who regard compassion as being a weakling's alternative to vengeance, who boast of their skills at remote medical diagnosis, and who persistently refuse to address the uncomfortable facts of the case, will doubtless fall silent. Finally, the ‘evil terrorist’ has been called to account for himself before a “Higher Power”.

The prosecution case against him held water like a sieve. We are expected to believe the fantastic tale of the Luqa-Frankfurt-Heathrow transfer of an invisible, unaccompanied suitcase which miraculously found itself situated in the perfect position in the hold of 103 to create maximum destructive effect having eluded no fewer than three separate security regimes. There is no evidence for any such luggage ever having left the ground in either Malta or Germany, it is mere surmise.
Not only that but we have accusations of the key Crown witness having been bribed for testimony; a multitude of serious question marks over material evidence, including the very real possibility of the crucial fragment of PCB having been fabricated; discredited forensic scientists testifying for the prosecution; and, most worryingly, allegations of the Crown’s non-disclosure of evidence which could have been key to the defence. Added to which, evidence supporting the alternative and infinitely more logical ingestion of the bomb directly at Heathrow was either dismissed at the trial or withheld from the court until after the verdict of guilty had been returned.

 The Crown and successive governments have, for years, acted to obstruct any attempts to investigate how the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi came about. Some in the legal and political establishments may well be breathing a sigh of relief now that Mr al-Megrahi has died. This would be a mistake. Many unfortunates who fell foul of outrageous miscarriages of justice in the past have had their names cleared posthumously.

However long it takes, the campaign seeking to have Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction quashed will continue unabated not only in his name and that of his family, who must still bear the stigma of being related to the ‘Lockerbie Bomber’, but, above all, it will carry on in the name of justice. A justice which is still being sought by and denied to many of the bereaved resultant from the Lockerbie tragedy.

 This case has now become emblematic of an issue which affects each and every one of us and poses some profoundly basic questions which we ignore at our peril, namely: what do we perceive justice to be, what role ought it to play in our society and whom should it exist to serve? Our laws and how we apply them to our society are the most fundamental descriptor of how we function as a cohesive and coherent entity. They are effectively a portrait of our identity as a people. 

If, through complacency, we permit cosy, established authority to dictate the terms and to brush under the carpet concerns over how justice is defined and dispensed for the sake of convenience, expediency and reputation, we will only have ourselves to blame for the consequences.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, says that “Scotland's Criminal Justice system is a cornerstone of our society, and it is paramount that there is total public confidence in it.”

Scotland’s independent and professional arbiter in the matter of referrals to the Court of Appeal, the SCCRC, believe that, on no fewer than six grounds, Mr al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice at Zeist.

Whether or not the courts are the right and proper platform to deal with this case, the conviction has been in the hands of the High Court of Justiciary since 2001 producing no resolution whatsoever and, moreover, how amenable are the courts now likely to be towards sanctioning another appeal given that they have been invested with new powers which allow them to reject applications which question their own judgements? Fine words are not enough. Action is required. 

If Scotland wishes to see its criminal justice system reinstated to the position of respect that it once held rather than its languishing as the mangled wreck it has become because of this perverse judgement, it is imperative that its government act by endorsing an independent inquiry into this entire affair. As a nation which aspires to independence, Scotland must have the courage to look itself in the mirror.

Signed:
Ms Kate Adie (Former Chief News Correspondent for BBC News).
Mr John Ashton (Author of ‘Megrahi: You are my Jury’ and co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Mr David Benson (Actor/author of the play ‘Lockerbie: Unfinished Business’).
Mrs Jean Berkley (Mother of Alistair Berkley: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Peter Biddulph (Lockerbie tragedy researcher).
Mr Benedict Birnberg (Retired senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners).
Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
Mr Paul Bull (Close friend of Bill Cadman: killed on Pan Am 103).
Professor Noam Chomsky (Human rights, social and political commentator).
Mr Tam Dalyell (UK MP: 1962-2005. Father of the House: 2001-2005).
Mr Ian Ferguson (Co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Dr David Fieldhouse (Police surgeon present at the Pan Am 103 crash site).
Mr Robert Forrester (Secretary of Justice for Megrahi).
Ms Christine Grahame MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).
Mr Ian Hamilton QC (Advocate, author and former university rector).
Mr Ian Hislop (Editor of ‘Private Eye’).
Fr Pat Keegans (Lockerbie parish priest on 21st December 1988).
Ms A L Kennedy (Author).
Dr Morag Kerr (Secretary Depute of Justice for Megrahi).
Mr Andrew Killgore (Former US Ambassador to Qatar).
Mr Moses Kungu (Lockerbie councillor on the 21st of December 1988).
Mr Adam Larson (Editor and proprietor of ‘The Lockerbie Divide’).
Mr Aonghas MacNeacail (Poet and journalist).
Mr Eddie McDaid (Lockerbie commentator).
Mr Rik McHarg (Communications hub coordinator: Lockerbie crash sites).
Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
Mr Marcello Mega (Journalist covering the Lockerbie incident).
Ms Heather Mills (Reporter for ‘Private Eye’).
Rev’d John F Mosey (Father of Helga Mosey: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Len Murray (Retired solicitor).
Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church).
Mr Denis Phipps (Aviation security expert).
Mr John Pilger (Campaigning human rights journalist).
Mr Steven Raeburn (Editor of ‘The Firm’).
Dr Tessa Ransford OBE  (Poetry Practitioner and Adviser).
Mr James Robertson (Author).
Mr Kenneth Roy (Editor of ‘The Scottish Review’).
Dr David Stevenson (Retired medical specialist and Lockerbie commentator).
Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
Sir Teddy Taylor (UK MP: 1964-2005. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
Mr Terry Waite CBE (Former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and hostage negotiator).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gerry Conlon, Ann Maguire, Dr Thomas Hayes and Lockerbie

It is today reported that Gerard Conlon has died.

In 1974 the alleged IRA bomber Paul Hill, three of his colleagues (Gerard Conlon, Patrick Armstrong, Carole Richardson), plus all seven of the family of Ann Maguire were found guilty of the bombing, or association with the bombing, of an army barracks in Guildford. All served fifteen years imprisonment for their crimes.Gerard Conlon's father Guiseppe died in prison.

The public hue and cry for revenge appeared satisfied. Fortunately for the eleven convicted men and women, several public campaigns conducted before and during the trial to bring back hanging proved unsuccessful .

What Britain had experienced was yet another phase of legal history where public prejudice, legal stupidity or laziness, and sleight of hand by the police and their forensic services merged to a "group think" of public hysteria based on uninformed prejudice.

After serving fifteen years in prison, some in solitary confinement, the remaining ten were released on appeal. At the opening of the appeal, the prosecution lawyers were deeply embarrassed to have to admit that their prosecution case at the trial had been totally without foundation. 

Sadly for all eleven convicted, all was too late; their families had been destroyed and lives ruined by a corrupt and inadequate system of justice.

In today's BBC report concerning Gerard Conlon, which can be read here, the BBC says blandly "They were convicted and jailed for handling explosives, based on scientific evidence which was later entirely discredited".  

Few people today are aware that that "scientific" evidence was in part provided by Dr Thomas Hayes, a Higher Scientific Officer at the Royal Armaments and Research Defence Establishment (RARDE). 

Hayes was never disciplined for his actions. Indeed, he was soon to be promoted to head of department. His career would in time merge into the Lockerbie investigation and trial. Here is part of an account of his appearance at Kamp Zeist, alongside his colleague Allan Feraday:

THE LOCKERBIE TRIAL.
Day 15: June 5th 2000

Dr Thomas Hayes was formerly head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at the British Royal Armaments Research and Defence Establishment (RARDE). He would prove a central figure in the prosecution case.
 
At the time of the trial he was aged fifty three, having retired from his RARDE post ten years earlier just as the joint Scottish police and FBI investigation into the Lockerbie attack was reaching its climax. 

As a bachelor of science honours in chemistry, a master of science in the faculty of forensic science, a doctor of philosophy in the faculty of forensic science, a chartered chemist, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we might expect an outstanding memory. 

And yet he seemed reluctant to tell the court when he'd resigned in order to commence a radically new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead? "In July 1974." And when did he leave? “The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990." 

He actually resigned in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to the Lockerbie trial, most significant. For he possessed an uncomfortable history in relation to another major terrorist event, namely the alleged IRA bombing involving members of the Maguire family - The Maguire Seven

In that trial Hayes and two of his colleagues were aware of evidence consistent with the innocence of the accused, decided among themselves that this evidence be not declared, and did not mention it during the trial. 

The first of the three was Douglas Higgs, Principal Scientific Officer and head of department; second was Walter Elliott, a Senior Scientific Officer; and the third was Hayes, at that time a Higher Scientific Officer.

During the trial, results of tests for traces of nitro-glycerine on skin and fingernails of the Maguire family were firmly maintained by the three scientists to be positive and decisive. Unknown to the court, however, the three had performed a second set of tests plus a series of experiments. Both tests and experiments indicated a negative result and an innocent means of contamination, and this information was recorded in their forensic notebooks. 

It was only through a Parliamentary inquiry by a senior judge, Sir John May, beginning in September 1989 and concluding in July 1990 that the matter was exposed.  

Sir John discovered that the notebooks of the three scientists had been deliberately concealed from the court, and cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution therefore severely hampered. 

His main conclusions include the statement: "...  the whole scientific basis upon which the prosecution [of Ann Maguire and six members of her family] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the convictions." [1]  (Wikipedia summary)




[1] Rt Hon. Sir John May, Interim Report on the Maguire Case, 12th July 1990, and Second Report on the Maguire Case, 3rd December 1992. http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc8990/hc05/0556/0556.pdf


 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lockerbie victims' relatives join with Megrahi family in seeking review of his conviction

[What follows is the text of a press briefing issued by Aamer Anwar, lawyer for the relatives and the Megrahi family, following a press conference held in Glasgow today, 5th June 2014:]


When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, 270 people from 21 countries perished and it remains the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the UK.
Its consequences continue to reverberate round the world and yet after a quarter of a century, the truth remains elusive.
The application lodged this morning with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) seeks to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for murder.
The application is submitted on behalf of:-
i) Dr Jim Swire, Rev’d John F Mosey and 22 other British relatives of passengers who died on board Pan Am Flight 103.
ii) I can also advise that the six immediate family members of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi have also instructed me to make the application.
The Commission has been requested not to release the names of the Megrahi family given serious concerns for their safety in the current highly volatile situation in Libya.
British family members apart from Dr Jim Swire and Rev John F. Mosey have also requested that their details are not released into the public domain.
The Commission determined on the 28th June 2007 that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice in relation to his conviction and identified six grounds for referring the case to the High Court. We have asked the Commission to reconfirm these six grounds.  
We have also requested the Commission add the Grounds of Appeal and supporting documentation already submitted to the High Court in connection with the second appeal (See http://www.megrahimystory.net/)
We have also requested that the Commission consider referring the case:
(a) On the ground of the Crown’s non-disclosure to the defence of evidence relating to the difference in metallurgical composition between the fragment of circuit board PT35b and the circuit boards in the timers supplied by MEBO to Libya. Put simply the timer claimed by the Crown to be responsible for the bombing cannot be possible.
(b) On the ground of the evidence uncovered which demonstrates that the bomb suitcase was already in Pan Am 103 luggage container AVE4041 before the feeder flight from Frankfurt arrived at Heathrow with, as the Crown contended and the trial court accepted, a suitcase from Malta which contained the bomb.

Special circumstances

The Commission have been asked to address the issue of whether it is in the interests of justice to refer the case to the High Court for a further appeal.
Despite the hysteria that greeted the release of Mr al-Megrahi many were unaware that the case had been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the SCCRC in 2007.
Its chairman Graham Forbes at the time said:-
"The Commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."
The case of Abdelbasset Al- Megrahi has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.A reversal of the verdict would mean that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would stand exposed as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years and having imprisoned a man they knew to be innocent for ten years.


The Appeal was commenced but following the diagnosis of terminal cancer it was suddenly abandoned in 2009. The application being lodged this morning deals with the circumstances that lead to Mr Megrahi abandoning his appeal:
i) To date both the British Government and Scottish Government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. However the evidence submitted to the Commission today claims that this is fundamentally untrue.
ii) It is submitted that there is evidence which will show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft.
iii) Mr Megrahi was convicted on the word of a Maltese shop owner (Mr Tony Gauci) who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in multiple statements and failed to recognise him in the courtroom.
iv) New evidence claims that the fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, "discovered" in the Scottish countryside could not have been responsible for the bombing.
v) New evidence claims the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was ‘transferred’ through two airports undetected to Pan Am Flight 103.
vi) There is a multitude of serious question marks over material evidence, and most worryingly, allegations of the Crown’s non-disclosure of evidence which could have been key to the defence.
vii) The fundamental question for the Commission is whether it regards it as in the interests of justice to refer a case back to the High Court where the convicted person himself had commenced an appeal on a SCCRC reference and then chosen to abandon it.
The answer might depend on the precise circumstances in which the appellant came to abandon his appeal:- Mr Megrahi's terminal illness; the fact that prisoner transfer was not open while the appeal was ongoing; and whether Mr Megrahi had no way of knowing that Kenny MacAskill would ultimately opt for compassionate release rather than prisoner transfer, or - as is alleged - that he was led to believe that he would not be released unless he dropped his appeal.
viii) Documents have claimed that Scottish police officers and FBI agents had discussed as early as September 1989 an offer of "unlimited money" to the Maltese shop keeper Tony Gauci. If it is unacceptable to offer bribes, inducements or rewards to any witness in a routine murder trial in Glasgow then it should have been unacceptable to have done it in the biggest case of mass murder ever carried out in Europe.
Gauci was central to Megrahi’s conviction because the clothes recovered from the suitcase that carried the bomb onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, bound for New York, were traced back to his shop.
Various reports have claimed that Tony Gauci received more than $2m and his brother more than $1m in reward money.
It is important to note that this is the first time in legal history in the UK that relatives of murdered victims have united with the relatives of a ‘convicted’ deceased to seek justice by means of a referral to the Appeal Court.
I also wish to quote the following:-
“We the family of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi will keep fighting for justice to find out who was responsible for 271 victims of the Lockerbie disaster.” (They of course include Mr Megrahi as its 271st victim)
The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill has said that “Scotland's Criminal Justice system is a cornerstone of our society, and it is paramount that there is total public confidence in it.”
Fine words indeed but the reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system has suffered badly both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the justifiability of the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.
It is in the interests of justice and of restoring confidence in our criminal justice system and its administration that these doubts be addressed. This can best be done by allowing the Appeal Court to consider the SCCRC's reasons for believing that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in a fresh appeal challenging the original verdict.


END OF STATEMENT - AAMER ANWAR
PARTS OF STATEMENT ISSUED THIS MORNING TO THE SCCRC BY DR JIM SWIRE
I am Dr Jim Swire, father of Flora Swire who, one day before her 24th birthday, was brutally murdered along with 269 others in the Lockerbie disaster. It has always been and remains my intent to see those responsible for her death brought to justice and steps taken to ensure a coherent preventive system against terrorism in the future.(...)
So by 1990 I was appalled by what I already knew concerning what appeared to me to be the betrayal of the trust which we should be able to place in our Government to protect us. Moreover there is no denying that the policies of Governments largely decide the targets which international terrorism is likely to choose. In no sphere nowadays is Government responsibility more important than in the protection of citizens against such attacks.(...)


As for me Jim Swire, father of Flora, I still ache for her, what might have been the grandchildren she would have had, the love she always gave us and the glowing medical career ? For me this case is about two families, mine and Baset’s, but behind them now are seen to lie the needs of 25 other families in applying for a further appeal 25 years after the event itself. (...) We need the truth and Scotland’s management of this case produced a verdict perfectly tailored for use by those who would seek to ensure that the full truth remains hidden.


If it is true that this man, Baset, and his country were not the perpetrators, then who really were? If the verdict is unjustified then the extraordinary delay experienced thus far in redressing it has protected the real perpetrators from the probing of international justice. (...) It has also protected the systems which failed to protect our families. The review of the evidence and verdict still lie with us in Scotland. We still have the option of re-examining this case in Scotland, if we do not do so it will pass to others to examine, and Scotland, her people and her law would be the losers.