UK relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie disaster intend to make another appeal against the conviction of the Libyan agent found guilty of murdering 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up 25 years ago this week.
Jim Swire, the Lockerbie campaigner who lost his eldest daughter in the tragedy, has revealed that relatives intend to apply to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in the new year in an attempt to challenge the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
Should their application to the SCCRC be successful, it would be the third time that Megrahi’s conviction has been the subject of an appeal.
Writing in today’s Scotsman, Dr Swire restates his long-held belief that the Lockerbie investigation and subsequent trial in the Netherlands resulted in the wrong man being jailed for the worst mass-murder in British legal history.
Dr Swire’s view is not shared by many US relatives, who are convinced that the Kamp van Zeist trial overseen by three Scottish judges and conducted under Scots law saw the rightful conviction of Megrahi.
Dr Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was on her way to meet her American boyfriend when she boarded the flight, believes that the bomb was put in baggage taken onboard while the aircraft was at Heathrow.
Megrahi’s trial heard that the bomb was loaded by Megrahi in Malta to connect to a feeder flight from Frankfurt to London.
In the past, Dr Swire has hinted that an attempt to secure another appeal could be explored by relatives who believe in Megrahi’s innocence.
In his article, Dr Swire confirms that such a bid will go ahead.
“We relatives need the truth about who murdered our families and article 2 of the human rights legislation guarantees our right to have it. Remember, while that truth is hidden, the true perpetrators are protected,” Dr Swire argues.
“Early next year, in face of the blank refusal of governments to mount any meaningful inquiry, certain relatives will apply to the SCCRC for a further appeal against the Megrahi verdict. It is likely that some of us will also pursue other routes to force an honest inquiry out of obdurate governments. Twenty-five years is too long, and we should not be opposed by our own elected governments.”
He adds: “If you look at terrible UK disasters – Northern Ireland and the IRA trials, the Hillsborough disaster and also Lockerbie, it is the denial of truth to the victims that is the common thread. So, indeed, there is a thread and the thread is truth.”
After Megrahi received his life sentence in 2001, he appealed the verdict. The following year, five judges threw out his appeal.
In 2003, Megrahi attempted to appeal once more and his case was reviewed by the SCCRC. In 2007, the SCCRC referred Megrahi’s case back to the High Court on six grounds, suggesting that there “may have been a miscarriage of justice” and it was “in the interests of justice” to look at the case again.
In 2009, Megrahi, who was by then suffering from terminal prostate cancer, dropped his second appeal.
The legal action was discontinued in the knowledge that he would be unable to go home to Libya under a prisoner transfer agreement if he had live legal proceedings in Scotland.
Shortly after dropping his appeal, he was granted release on compassionate grounds from Greenock Prison by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
The prognosis at the time that he had just three months to live proved inaccurate, and Megrahi died in May last year.
The SCCRC declined to comment on Dr Swire’s article yesterday. But the SCCRC can accept applications for review of a dead person’s case.
If a person or group wishing to do so is not a close relative or executor of the deceased, the SCCRC will seek views of the family and consider whether the applicants have a “legitimate interest in the case”.
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