Five judges turn down appeal to clear the name of Lockerbie bomber Megrahi
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York on December 21 1988, killed 270 people in Britain's largest terrorist atrocity. It claimed the lives of 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground in the Dumfries-shire town.
Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years - the only person convicted of the attack – equivalent to one year for every ten victims.
A third appeal against his conviction was heard in November at the High Court in Edinburgh, before a panel of five judges sitting as the Court of Appeal. Judges have now rejected both grounds of appeal, meaning his conviction stands.
The family of Megrahi – who moved to Scotland while he was serving his prison sentence – said they are "heartbroken" at the decision, and plan to appeal against it at the UK Supreme Court.
Megrahi was released from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds while terminally ill with cancer, and died in Libya in 2012. He had to wear body armour under a white shell-suit as he boarded his flight amid concerns of an attempt on his life.
The latest appeal against his conviction was lodged after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred the case to the High Court in March 2020, ruling a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
Judges then granted his son, Ali al-Megrahi, permission to proceed with the appeal in relation to the argument "no reasonable jury" could have returned the verdict the court did, and on the grounds of non-disclosure of documents by the Crown.
In a statement released through their lawyer Aamer Anwar after the ruling was published on Friday, the family said: "Ali Al-Megrahi, the son of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, said his family were left heartbroken by the decision of the Scottish courts, he maintained his father's innocence and is determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name and that of Libya.
"All the Megrahi family want for Scotland is peace and justice, but as Ali stated today their journey is not over, Libya has suffered enough, as has the family for the crime of Lockerbie, they remain determined to fight for justice."
Megrahi's original trial was held at a special Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.
During the appeal hearing in November, advocate depute Ronald Clancy QC, for the Crown, said trial court judges were fully entitled to infer Megrahi was involved in the Lockerbie bombing.
He said Megrahi's use of a false passport to travel to Malta - from where the plane carrying the bomb left just before the atrocity - taken along with other evidence, combined to form a pattern that suggested his involvement.
Claire Mitchell QC, representing the Megrahi family, said evidence in relation to identification was of "poor quality" and the dock identification, when shopkeeper Tony Gauci said Megrahi resembled the man who bought the clothing later found in a suitcase containing the bomb, was "virtually of no value".
Mr Clancy said that ignores the "important point" that the dock identification was "simply the last of a series of consistent resemblance identifications going back to February 1991".
Megrahi's first appeal against his conviction was refused by the High Court in 2002 and was referred back five years later after an SCCRC review.
He abandoned this second appeal in 2009, shortly before his release from prison on compassionate grounds.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department charged a "third conspirator" in connection with the bombing on the 32nd anniversary of the atrocity last month.
The US alleges Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi was the bombmaker and has charged him with terrorism-related crimes.
A second suspect, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, stood trial with Megrahi but was acquitted.
Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said the investigation into the atrocity continues and there remain suspects under active investigation.
He said: "For 32 years the families of the 270 people murdered on the night of 21 December 1988 have shown dignity in the face of the loss they have suffered. Our thoughts are with them again today.
"The bombing of Pan Am 103 is, to this day, the deadliest terrorist attack on UK soil and the largest homicide case Scotland's prosecutors have ever encountered in terms of scale and of complexity.
"The evidence gathered by Scottish, US and international law enforcement agencies has again been tested in the Appeal Court; and the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi stands.”
He continued: "After Megrahi was convicted in 2001 my predecessor as Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that the investigation into the involvement of others in this terrible crime would continue. I reiterate that commitment today.
"For almost 20 years since that date Scottish police and prosecutors have continued the search for evidence. This work will continue; and there remain suspects under active investigation."
Megrahi served time in Glasgow’s Barlinnie and Greenock’s Gateside prisons before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He spent his time in Barlinnie in a specially constructed mini-jail, dubbed the ‘Gaddafi Cafe’ by staff and fellow inmates.
During his time in Gateside prison he became its resident DJ and operated a recording studio behind bars.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.