Friday, 27 March 2015

Final appeal delayed further

We are grateful to Professor Robert Black for this summary of today's hearing in Edinburgh. 

A procedural hearing before Lady Dorrian on the petition to the High Court of Justiciary by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (seeking guidance on whether relatives of Lockerbie victims would have a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi) took place this morning.
The court today ordered that a full hearing be held on a date to be fixed once the diaries of all the judges and counsel involved have been consulted. It is anticipated that the hearing will be before three very senior judges.
The hearing will cover both the merits, ie whether relatives of murder victims have a legitimate interest to conduct an appeal against the conviction of the alleged culprit and the prior question of whether this is a matter that has been competently raised by the SCCRC’s petition, the argument being that since the issue of who is entitled to conduct the appeal on behalf of a deceased convict arises only if the SCCRC actually refers the conviction back to the High Court, it is only at that point that a decision falls to be made. 
In other words, the question of “legitimate interest” to conduct an appeal is not one that is, or should be, in law of any concern to the SCCRC in its task of deciding whether there might have been a miscarriage of justice.
(For more information, please click here. )

We remain confident that in the end justice will be done and seen to be done. In 2012, the Scottish Justice Secretary in his statement to the Scottish Parliament said: "It remains open for relatives of Mr al Megrahi, or others, to ask the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to refer the case back to the court for a further posthumous appeal which Ministers would be entirely comfortable with."

From Yemen to Lockerbie: A lesson from history.

This is an edited extract from an extensive unpublished manuscript from which our book "Lockerbie" has been created. 


CIA senior agent and administrator Vincent Cannistraro was the head of the CIA's Lockerbie investigation team. He and his colleagues operated quietly in the background. In the words of the Scottish Lord Advocate Peter Fraser, Cannistraro and his team's activities were "very subtle".

In the trial of the Libyan suspects Fhimah and Al-Megrahi, evidence given by DEA agent Louis Sherrow would prove that at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, the CIA had in their possession at least one identical MST-13 timer brought from Africa. 

Furthermore, the 1995 publication of a set of declassified White House Emails would reveal Cannistraro’s long list of covert activities in the case of Iran-Contra campaigns. He would also be proved to have worked alongside colleagues for whom the creation of false trails and even the manufacture of evidence was an understood tactic. 
An example of this is contained in an email written on 30th January 1986 by career navy officer James Stark, at that time attached to the National Security Council, and a working colleague of Cannistraro. The email was addressed to Admiral John Poindexter and to Howard Teicher, also working colleagues of Cannistraro.  

Stark looked at opportunities that had popped up in connection with destabilising the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY).  The subject of the memo was "PDRY Opportunities". 

First, the objective should be to deter those Middle Eastern states who might be willing to run with the Soviet Union and give them cause to think again.  "The Soviet role in the PDRY coup attempt and subsequent fighting has given us an excellent opportunity to play up and exploit heightened awareness of the dangers of involvement with the Soviet Union among a number of Middle Eastern States."   

This might be done, explained Stark, by "A straight propaganda effort to trumpet Soviet duplicity and its attempts to undermine efforts of states friendly to Hassani trying to provide him assistance." 

If this was not appropriate, then, "a carefully managed disinformation campaign to convince PDRY's neighbours that the Soviets knew of and promoted the rebels from the beginning.  This could be combined with indications of similar ominous Soviet activities in each of the target states.  Given the nature of the Soviets, we ought to be able to find a great deal of actual evidence, which can simply be artfully exploited, and may thus completely avoid the more dangerous course of altering or manufacturing evidence." [1] Thus the truth: we don't need altered or manufactured evidence on this occasion. But if we have to, we will. 

And then the final touch, reminiscent of the meetings of the Chicago Mafia at the height of the mayhem of the 1930s: a question to Howard Teicher: "Howard, are you aware of any effort by State [the State Department], USIA [US Intelligence Agency] or CIA to focus on this? If not, I think JMP [John Poindexter] ought to raise it at a family group luncheon."

[1] White House Email. 1995. Published by National Security Archive of America, Ed. Tom Blanton. 


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Campaign for the acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi and an official inquiry into Lockerbie

A petition requesting that the Scottish authorities undertake a comprehensive inquiry into Lockerbie is supported and signed by many people, including the the following world renowned personalities. All support the campaign for acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi, who was in 2000 convicted for the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103.

The petition list is now closed, but you can offer your support by going to the Facebook site Justice for Megrahi 

Kate Adie was chief news correspondent for the BBC, covering several war zones on risky assignments. Currently hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme From Our Own Correspondent.

Professor Noam Chomsky has spent most of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is currently Professor Emeritus, and has authored over 100 books. In a 2005 poll was voted the "world's top public intellectual".

Tam Dalyell, former Member of British Parliament and Father of the House. An eminent speaker who throughout his career refused to be prevented from speaking the truth to powerful administrations. 

Ms Christine Grahame, member of the Scottish Parliament. Determined advocate of the Lockerbie campaign and courageous supporter of Dr Jim Swire.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye Magazine. A man never afraid to speak truth to power, repeatedly mocking the hypocrisy prevalent in certain sections of British society.

Father Pat Keegans, Lockerbie catholic parish priest. Was one of the first on the scene following the Lockerbie bombing and crash of Pan Am 103 in December 1988. A strong supporter of the need for an inquiry into the many disturbing aspects of the Lockerbie event and subsequent investigation and trial of two Libyan suspects.

 Mr Andrew Killgore, former US Ambassador to Qatar. Widely experienced in Middle Eastern politics. Knows first hand the political and intelligence background to the campaign to vilify and eventually destroy the Libyan regime. Runs the influential Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs and founded The American Educational Trust.

John Pilger, former war correspondent, now a campaigning journalist and film maker. Wide experience in the brutality caused by war and uninformed foreign policies of the West and other nations.

Dr Jim Swire.

Sir Teddy Taylor MP, a British Conservative Party politician, was a Member of Parliament from 1964 to 1979. He was a leading member and Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club.

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa. A dedicated human rights activist. Received many awards including the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Terry Waite. In the 1980s, as an envoy for the church of England, travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. He was himself kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991. President of Y Care International, patron of AbleChildAfrica and Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, president of Emmaus UK, a charity for formerly homeless people.

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).

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Police insider: Lockerbie case was flawed

A report in today's Scottish Sun on Sunday claims that Scottish police have discovered that the evidence provided by prosecutors in the Lockerbie trial was in part false and that the investigation of the Lockerbie bombing was 'botched'.

in 2012 Dr Jim Swire and members of the campaigning  group Justice For Megrahi submitted a report containing nine claims of wrongdoing and error in witness evidence provided to the Lockerbie trial judges.

 The Sun states:-

"Now a police dossier is expected to prove several key points. A source said yesterday [14th February 2015] "Investigators set about testing them. It seems that some are broadly true but were the result of incompetence and could not be said to be criminal. But that does not seem to be the case across the board.""

The Sun adds: "This report could uphold accusations that false evidence was given in Megrahi's trial."

Friday, 23 January 2015

Third Appeal in the balance

A Scottish High Court judge, Lady Dorrian, has today been asked if families of some of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing are entitled to launch an appeal on behalf of Baset Al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity.

She has ordered that a hearing should take place on the 27th March 2015.
Jim Swire and Aamer Anwar
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is seeking guidance on the legal status of the relatives of those who lost their lives in the atrocity.

Al-Megrahi died three years ago, having abandoned his second appeal. The SCCRC is considering a joint application from members of Megrahi's family and the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, which includes relatives of British victims of the bombing.

Until now the SCCRC has expressed the view that, despite repeated requests, members of Megrahi's family had failed to provide appropriate evidence supporting their involvement in the application. The SCCRC therefore concluded that the application is being actively supported only by the members of the victims' families.

The SCCRC wants to determine if a member of the victims' families - such as Dr Jim Swire - might be classed as a person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal if the case is referred back to the High Court.

Dr Swire and Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the Megrahi family, were among those at court for the latest hearing.

Immediately following the hearing Mr Anwar said: "We would submit that the commission are wrong and that we remain instructed by members of the Megrahi family as well as the British relatives.

"We have been in communication with the Megrahi family, both via intermediaries and directly. Communication is hampered by an extremely dangerous situation in Libya. Finality and certainty in the Megrahi case is unlikely ever to be achieved unless a referral is made to the Appeal Court."

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Mulholland tries to re-write history

Scottish Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC yesterday welcomed the opportunity to speak to the BBC, following a well publicised Times article by Magnus Linklater. 

Mulholland speaks to a public many of whom were not born at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, which took place on this day twenty six years ago. 

Journalists too are, many of them,unaware of the complexities of the case, and accept without challenge statements designed to sweep away the truth.

Mulholland stated, without challenge, that there is no doubt whatever about the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.

But he knows full well that there are serious doubts, spoken and written by many in the legal establishment in Scotland and elsewhere. 

To these doubts must be added the six reasons given by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, who spent three years scrupulously examining the evidence supplied by the Scottish Crown Office, of which Mulholland is now the controlling officer. 

Those six reasons led the Commission to conclude that "there may well have been a miscarriage of justice."

We reproduce below an article from Professor Robert Black's blogsite THE LOCKERBIE CASE. 

The four elephants in the room which suggest the Lord Advocate is wrong

[This is the headline over an article by John Ashton published in today’s edition of the Sunday Herald. It reads as follows:]

The Crown Office has used the 26th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing to proclaim the safety of the conviction of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the only man so far convicted of the bombing.

The department briefed yesterday that a review of the case had "confirmed beyond doubt" the Libyan's guilt, while today its head, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, has personally reaffirmed that guilt.

Mulholland has been unusually vigorous in denouncing Megrahi's supporters, who include relatives of the Lockerbie dead, branding them "conspiracy theorists" two years ago. It is hard to imagine his opposite number in England and Wales, the director of public prosecutions, taking to the media to defend a conviction and take on critics. But while this strident tone has raised eyebrows, Mulholland's statements are more notable for ignoring four large elephants in the middle of his legal chambers.

The first is the ongoing review of the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), the statutory body that has the power to refer convictions to the appeal court. As Mulholland well knows, a previous review by the commission referred the case on no fewer than six grounds. The terminally ill Megrahi abandoned the resulting appeal to improve his chances of being granted compassionate release, but was confident that his name would one day be cleared. Remarkably, one of the six grounds was that the three Scottish law lords who convicted him had made a fundamental error of judgment when they found that the clothes incriminating Megrahi had been bought on December 7. In doing so, the commission, in the eyes of some, came as close as it legally could to saying that the guilty verdict was itself wrong.

More seriously for the Crown Office, four of the other grounds concerned its failure to disclose important evidence to Megrahi's defence team. This included evidence that the Crown's star witness, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, had expressed an interest in receiving a substantial reward and was under the strong influence of his brother Paul, who regularly nagged the police about being rewarded. The SCCRC discovered Gauci was later secretly paid $2 million by the US Department of Justice, and his brother Paul $1m.

When, in 2012, this ­newspaper published a leaked copy of the SCCRC's 800-page review, the Crown Office went into panic mode, anonymously briefing a Scottish tabloid that Megrahi's case had "more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese" then issuing a press statement that significantly downplayed the commission's findings.

The second elephant is the two-year-old police investigation, led by Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, into criminal allegations made against some of those originally involved in the inquiry by the committee of the Justice for Megrahi group.

When the allegations were first made to the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, the Crown Office immediately denounced them as groundless, despite not having seen the detailed dossier of evidence assembled by the committee. Many were shocked by the intervention, believing it might compromise the police inquiry and that it raised serious questions about Mulholland's independence as the chief public prosecutor.
Unfortunately for the Crown Office, the police clearly do not share its contempt for the allegations. If the investigation concludes there was no criminal misconduct, the Crown Office still has to explain why it failed to disclose so much important evidence. In the view of its critics, notably Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing, the matter must be addressed in a public inquiry - something successive Scottish governments have been reluctant to grant.

The third elephant is forensic evidence concerning a small fragment of electronic circuit board, recovered from an item of clothing that was supposedly in the same suitcase as the bomb. According to the prosecution, it matched boards in timers supplied to Libya by a Swiss firm called Mebo, which shared offices with a Libyan company part-owned by Megrahi.

Evidence uncovered prior to Megrahi's abandoned appeal demonstrated that the fragment could not have originated from one of the Libyan timer boards. The discovery has fuelled claims the fragment was a plant, which has in turn encouraged the Crown Office to call its opponents conspiracy theorists. However, as Mulholland must be aware, the breaking of the link between the fragment and the Libyan timers leaves the prosecution case in shreds, regardless of whether it was planted.

The fourth elephant is the lack of evidence from Libya to implicate either Megrahi or the Gaddafi regime in the bombing. During the country's 2011 revolution, senior officials, keen to curry favour with the West, lined up to accuse the regime of sponsoring the attack.

The best known of them, the head of the National Transitional Council and former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, claimed to have proof that Gaddafi ordered the bombing.

All this must have been music to the Crown Office's ears, but, when pushed to reveal his proof of the regime's guilt, the best Jalil could offer was that it had funded ­Megrahi's legal case.

Sadly, Libya has become too dangerous for the Scottish police to conduct investigations there. Even if it were not, they would likely find the cupboard was bare. In the four years since the revolution, ­nothing has emerged publicly from the ruins of the old regime to affirm Megrahi's guilt, let alone Libya's.

No doubt Mulholland's public declarations will continue to ignore the four elephants in his legal chambers, but he must knows that their ever-fiercer stamping may one day bring Megrahi's conviction crashing around his ears.

John Ashton is the author of the authorised ­biography of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, Megrahi: You are my Jury, (Birlinn, 2012) and Scotland's Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters (Birlinn, 2014). From 2006-09, he worked as a researcher with Megrahi's legal team. 

[Here are links to some other reports in the media:

Megrahi was innocent of Lockerbie bombing, insists victim's father
Lockerbie victim's father criticises prosecutor's comments
Lockerbie bombing: Prosecutor's comments about al-Megrahi 'unfortunate'
Remember Lockerbie as crimes of intelligence services are exposed
Lockerbie: Lord Advocate to track down accomplices]