Leaders: Death of Megrahi does not close Lockerbie case
FOR the relatives of the 270 who were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 descended in a ball of fire over Lockerbie in December 1988, the death of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi brings the end of a chapter, but not full closure.
How could there be, after what was the worst terrorist atrocity committed on British soil and an outrage which left so many questions unanswered?
Not only was it impossible for al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, to have worked alone, but the sanctioning of this terrorism also extended to the top of a despotic Libyan regime. This appalling event and the subsequent behaviour of Holyrood in sanctioning his early release – point to so many unresolved questions that this will long remain the subject of investigation and controversy.
Al-Megrahi and another Libyan, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, were indicted by the Scottish and US courts in November 1991. In 1999, after protracted negotiations, Libya handed the two men over for trial, under Scottish law but on neutral ground – the former US airbase at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. This unique and complex trial, held in 2001, pointed to the difficulties in achieving a full and lasting resolution. A total of 230 witnesses gave testimony over 84 days. After seven tortuous months, al-Megrahi was found guilty of mass murder and jailed for a minimum of 27 years.
But after just eight years – and subsequent to his abandoning an appeal against his conviction – he was released on compassionate grounds in 2009, because cancer had left him with just three months to live. In the event, al-Megrahi outlived this medical assessment by three years. Opinion in America, home to 189 of the victims, was outraged at his release. The hero’s welcome given to al-Megrahi on his arrival at Tripoli Airport – greeted with crowds waving the Saltire – was an embarrassment for Scotland and the SNP administration. Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated the widespread view that he should never have been released.
“Closure” is the first word many would now wish to reach for. But there is one compelling reason why it is not appropriate. The circumstances of this atrocity – its planning, sanction and perpetration – is still the subject of a live investigation. And while few share the belief of Dr Jim Swire that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted, there are serious questions over the testimony of the Maltese shopkeeper that was instrumental in his conviction.
At the very least, as First Minister Alex Salmond reminded us, Scottish prosecutors had never believed al-Megrahi was the only person responsible. That view is shared by many Libyans, who suspect he was used as a scapegoat by the former regime. If the circumstances of the Pan-Am bombing have divided legal and political opinion for more than 20 years, there is little likelihood that the death of the one person convicted will – or should – bring any end to the questioning.
German pay rise may profit all
A PAY deal to provoke further social division in Europe? Or one that kick-starts a rebalancing within the eurozone that should help its weakest members?
Analysts are divided over the impact of a record-breaking 4.3 per cent pay deal in Germany, giving car and engineering industry workers their biggest wage rise in two decades.
The fear is that it will intensify tensions between Europe’s largest economy and those in the southern eurozone countries suffering record unemployment and pay cuts. Germany, say critics, will be seen to be profiting while millions elsewhere suffer. Others fret over its potential inflationary implications.
But what in an earlier era would have been seen as a threat to German competitiveness may have benign consequences. First, and most obviously, it strengthens the spending power of German households, giving a boost to domestic demand. This cannot be other than good news for companies in other eurozone countries exporting into Germany. It should also work to reduce the competitive imbalances that lie at the heart of the eurozone crisis.
That’s not the way that many elsewhere in the eurozone may immediately see it. But it is a fact that this deal is the result of labour market reforms put in place during the Gerhard Schroder era, and prolonged below-inflation pay awards that have helped bring greater job security in Germany and an outstanding performance by its car-makers in export markets.
While the rebalancing will take time to work, it is certainly better news than its opposite: wage cuts and higher unemployment at the heart of Europe that would benefit no-one.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
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Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
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