JUDGES have ruled that relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing should not be allowed to pursue an appeal on behalf of the only man convicted of the atrocity.
A group of British relatives argued that they had a “legitimate interest’’ in trying to get the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi back before a court for a full appeal.
They believe the Libyan, who died protesting his innocence in his home country in 2012, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and want his conviction overturned.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which is once again looking at Megrahi’s conviction, asked the Appeal Court in Edinburgh for guidance on whether members of the victims’ families can take forward an appeal.
Previous court decisions have meant that only the executor of a dead person’s estate or their next of kin could proceed with such a posthumous application.
A hearing took place at the court yesterday before the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Brodie and Lady Dorrian.
The family members of the Lockerbie victims instructing us maintain that they have as much a right to pursue an appeal as the Megrahi family because they also believe the wrong person was convictedAamer Anwar
Delivering their judgment, Lord Carloway said that the law was “not designed to give relatives of victims a right to proceed in an appeal for their own or the public interest”. Two of the relatives of victims involved in the action – Dr Jim Swire and Rev John Moseley – were present in court for the hearing.
After the decision, they joined Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the Megrahi family and 26 British relatives of Lockerbie victims, to deliver a statement outside the court, saying the fight would continue.
Mr Anwar said: “It is regularly claimed that we place victims at the heart of the justice system, so why should the families of murder victims not have a legitimate interest in seeking to overturn the wrongful conviction of the person convicted of the murder of their loved ones?
“Justice does not die with the accused, in this case Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
“Despite 26 long years since the Lockerbie bombing, the families will not give up their fight for justice and the truth.
“The matter is not concluded as we remain instructed by al-Megrahi’s family.”
The panel of three judges had heard legal arguments from Ailsa Carmichael QC on behalf of the SCCRC and Gordon Jackson QC for the relatives.
Ms Carmichael told the court the SCCRC wanted to determine at an early stage whether relatives of victims might be classed as a “person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal’’ in the event that it decided to refer the case back to the High Court for a third appeal.
She said: “It would be a waste of public funds for the petitioners (the SCCRC) to move into a full consideration and carry out all the investigations that would be required in order to take that decision.”
However, Mr Jackson dismissed the public funds issue as “not all that relevant”, given all the work that has already gone into the case.
He said: “If they (the families) believe as they do that a miscarriage of justice has happened and there has been a wrongful conviction, as they do believe in the case of the death of their relative, then that in my submission is a legitimate interest.”
Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the south of Scotland on 21 December 1988, in which 270 people were killed.