Lockerbie campaigners hold out hope for independent inquiry
AN OFFICIAL Scottish inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing could still be held after MSPs today agreed to continue with campaigners’ demands for a formal probe.
• Campaigners call for Lockerbie inquiry at Holyrood justice committee
• Letter with ‘serious formal allegations’ sent to Kenny MacAskill
• Dr Jim Swire wants First Minister to call independent inquiry
Holyrood’s justice committee heard that the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could still launch an appeal into his conviction for the 1988 bombing, which killed 270 people, while the authorities have also re-opened a criminal investigation into the atrocity.
Megrahi was the only person convicted over the bombing at a special court in the Netherlands in 2001. He died at home in Libya this year, having been freed from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds after a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Campaigners with the Justice For Megrahi (JFM) group, including Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy, have a petition lodged at Holyrood demanding a full inquiry and MSPs today agreed to keep it running.
Nationalist Rod Campbell, himself an advocate, said it was a “comparatively short time” since Megrahi had died.
“We have no information as to what his intentions are in respect of a possible appeal,” he said.
“The proper place is in the criminal courts until we’re satisfied that no further criminal proceedings will be forthcoming.”
Former police officer John Finnie of the SNP said the current Libyan regime was unlikely to result in the family “receiving encouragement” to pursue an appeal.
Justice committee convenor Christine Grahame, herself a member of the JFM group said a letter has also been sent to justice secretary Kenny MacAskill with “serious formal allegations” about the conduct of the inquiry.
The cabinet secretary has been given 30 days grace to respond to this.
Ms Grahame added: “We would like to see that and the cabinet secretary’s response before we decide anything.
“I accept that the court case is one way forward, but there is also - and I just put this as a possibility – there is a possibility under the inquiries act for the Government to conduct an inquiry wholly within its remit. The operation of the police and Crown Office is within the remit of the Scottish Government.
“There are certain powers that Governments do have whether or not they are used.”
Dr Swire said afterwards major scientific doubts had been cast on the crucial evidence surrounding the bomb’s circuit board, which he believes undermined the verdict.
But he said: “The petition is for an independent inquiry and that would be my number one preference because there are very serious allegations over the Crown Office’s conduct in this case and it’s hard to see how an appeal would do anything other than raise the verdict against Megrahi who is no longer with us. ”
“Alex Salmond has the power to call such an inquiry if he so decides.”
The Crown Office has branded the allegations “defamatory and entirely unfounded”.
A spokesman added that one of the allegations had been investigated by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SSCRC) which found no basis for appeal, adding that if “any evidence of wrongdoing” was discovered in the Commission’s investigation, it would have featured as a ground for appeal.
“It is a matter of the greatest concern that deliberately false and misleading allegations have been made in this way,” he added. The Lockerbie conviction has already been upheld by five appeal court judges, while Megrahi abandoned a second appeal.
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