Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, Baird cartoon, Baird cartoons, BP Lockerbie bomber, Kenny MacAskill, Lockerbie, Lockerbie Case, Lockerbie trial, Pan Am 103, Professor Robert Black, Robert Black, Scotish bar, Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, Scottish Justice Minister
Nae wonder Kenny looks sae glum,
he’ll hae naewhere safe tae pit his bum
A year has now passed since I first wrote about Lockerbie, and followed it up with two further posts. Here and here.It is a case which has implications not only for Scotland, but also America, and warrants a revisit today.
In case this story passed you by, the essentials are these: On 21st December 1988 an American airline was blown up by a bomb above the small Scottish town of Lockerbie killing all those on board and several on the ground: since this happened in Scotland it fell to this small, cosy, parochial, and in this respect utterly inexperienced jurisdiction to deal with a major mass murder investigation with huge security interests, whilst doing this under the beady glare of International scrutiny. Its deficiencies were clear from the start: the case eventually called in a specially convened Court in the Netherlands made Scottish soil for the case: the defendant Abdul Al-Megrahi was found guilty and imprisoned.
Doubts existed from the get go, and if you want the full fat version you simply have to go to Professor Robert Black’s wonderful blog on the subject.
The guilty man raised various appeals against the conviction which rumbled through the courts until finally they were reviewed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission who found six separate probable miscarriages of justice. An appeal seemed certain, and if it had called, well who knew what interesting details might fall out into the public domain.
At the same time Al-Megrahi fell ill with, we were told, terminal prostate cancer. In an extraordinary move the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, whilst publically stating his continuing belief that Al-Megrahi remained guilty of the bombing, took the unprecedented step of visiting a guilty man in prison for some kind of “talks”, releasing him the next week on compassionate grounds.
If Kenny MacAskill did not previously believe in the old Roman legal adage “Let Justice be done though the heavens fall” he would be forgiven in believing that the sky had collapsed in on him, such was the reaction.
Let us move to today.
Ten days ago the Scottish National Party won an election in Scotland making it the majority party in the devolved administration.
Alex Salmond, the leader of the party has chosen now to announce that he is set to publish the secret report that might prove that Al-Megrahi was, in fact, innocent of the bombing.
Four years ago the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission ruled that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in this case. Remember they suggested that Al-Megrahi had six separate grounds for appeal, any one of which might ensure his acquittal and freedom. And Kenny MacAskill the Justice Minister confirms he will be bringing this back “In early course”.
Suddenly the rabbits are running everywhere.
Obama was saying last year, at a time when he particularly wanted to blacken the name of BP, and simply for good measure the British in general, that the whole deal to release Al-Megrahi was to allow oil drilling concessions by BP in Libya or something similar. This was denied by the British, but it didn’t move Obama! Senators in an overt show of pressure sent actually investigators over in the Autumn for discussions with their counterparts in the Scottish Executive!
America might be fearing that release of the grounds for any successful appeal may reveal arguments about her withholding of evidence, ampering with evidence and witnesses, interference with the investigation, and bribery. That America is part of a cover-up in the investigation of murder of her own citizens cannot be expected to play well back in America, especially two years out from election.
The Scottish Government though held firm to the line that Al-Megrahi was realised for compassionate grounds due to his imminent demise from prostate cancer. Scottish compassion you see. Not that this is a commodity usually found in large amounts in Scottish legal circles He was, we were told, being given only a few weeks to live. A couple of months at the outside, the doctors were reported to have said. Megrahi is actually still alive today so we can take that as we find it.
So, if it wasn’t pressure from the foul English for trade concessions, and we can rule out compassion, what could it be that brought a justice minister into the cell of a convicted mass murderer to talk turkey about a swift release? Well my suspicion has been that the report showed the original trial in Camp Zeist in Holland, to have been conducted in such a hopeless manner, all in the glare of the world that the forthcoming re-trial/ hearings would be a publicity disaster for the profession. I suggested that the profession shoved Kenny into the breach to try desperately to sort something, anything out.
Now Salmond is going to make this report public
Labour MSP Richard Baker, the Labour party Justice spokesman, has been reported as saying “We need to know what Kenny MacAskill’s
reason for this change in the law is. He always understood that Megrahi was properly convicted by a Scottish Court, and that he had no reason to doubt his guilt.” Indeed, that was certainly Kenny’s position. Remember it was all about compassion? “Now” continued Ricky, “he
appears to be casting doubts on his own assertion.” You catch on real quick Ricky. As rider to all this Ricky then added a bit about the need for releasing Al-Megrahi’s medical reports. Now Ricky, entertaining as those reports might be, illuminating perhaps, even as a Labour legal spokesman you really ought to know that such release is illegal.
What does this mean?
Armed with his majority, Alex Salmond is behoven to none. He does not need to support the Americans or Westminster. Worse, since all this happened under the Labour party’s previous administration, he is not likely now to feel any political backdraft from revealing the truth. Rather the reverse, Nationalist brooms sweeping cleanest.
Add to this MacAskill’s desire for legal reforms in the structure of the legal landscape of Scotland, to which one might suggest his deserved feeling of having been used by the legal establishment, and a lot of people might become unhappy. He might relish the opportunity to scour clean their Augean stables. The revelations implicit in the heads of appeal should provide him with his prima facia case for a red-out of the whole Scottish legal establishment. That thought alone is enough to earn him any number of clever enemies.
Salmond might consider any damage to the legal establishment will not reflect on him, lawyers in Scotland have long been seen as Anglicised (this is an insult), snobbish toffs, who are grossly overpaid, inefficient, corrupt and vote for the establishment over the interests of the people – be that establishment Conservative or Labour.
The British government shown as being complicit in the trial of an innocent man, and party to a cover up, will I am certain be used to show her as a perfidious untrustworthy partner in the run up to a possible referendum on Independence.
Deliberately making the Legal establishment of Scotland, The British and American Governments all turn their considerable guns on you takes a certain chutzpah. It promises to be a rocky ride ahead for MacAskill.
Copyright David Macadam 2011