Leaders: New Lockerbie inquiry musn’t be pre-judged

The fight for justice for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing continues. Picture: Getty ImagesThe fight for justice for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing continues. Picture: Getty Images
The fight for justice for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing continues. Picture: Getty Images
IT IS 14 years since Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life after being found guilty of carrying out the Lockerbie bombing.

Yet for some campaigners, including those who lost loved ones in the 1988 attack, the fight for justice goes on. According to those behind Justice for Megrahi, the Libyan suffered a grave miscarriage of justice.

The group has made nine allegations against prosecutors, police and forensic officials, which are now being investigated by Police Scotland as part of Operation Sandwood.

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Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has confirmed that counsel independent of the Crown has been instructed to deal with the case.

When the police report is completed later this year, it will be up to that unnamed figure to decide whether prosecutions should be brought.

But that is not enough for campaigners who want to see the appointment of an overseas prosecutor from a country with no involvement in the Lockerbie story.

In the decades since the tragedy, the downing of Pan Am flight 103 has rarely been out of the spotlight.

Most recently, former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009 threatened to start a diplomatic incident between the UK and the United States.

Campaigners such as Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, have remained dignified throughout as they strive for the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

But those campaigners should not pre-judge this latest investigation, which should be allowed to run its course.

By ensuring that independent counsel has been appointed, the Lord Advocate has rightly sought to pre-empt any allegations of impropriety.

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Earlier this year, relatives of some of the victims failed to pursue an appeal on behalf of Megrahi’s family after applying to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

While Megrahi’s own family could yet mount an appeal against his conviction, judges ruled it was not possible for others to do it on their behalf.

For now, hopes rest with Operation Sandwood and a petition lodged in the Scottish Parliament calling for the opening of an inquiry into Megrahi’s conviction at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands all those years ago.

It should also be noted that there are many who lost relatives, particularly in the United States, who believe Megrahi is guilty and were furious at his release in 2009.

As the years pass by, many believe the likelihood of knowing the full extent of what led to the deaths of 270 people in the skies above southern Scotland become ever more remote.

But this latest investigation is not a fait accompli, and should not be treated as such.

Sporting legend from another time

In an age before round-the-clock TV coverage and big-money endorsements, Sir Peter Heatly was the epitome of sporting ambition.

The champion diver, who has died at the age of 91, is the only Scottish athlete to have won a gold medal at three consecutive Commonwealth Games, and the only Scot to have won a medal in diving.

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He won medals for the 10m highboard and 3m springboard, and was Scottish captain in 1958.

Born in Leith in 1924, he began his career at Portobello Amateur Swimming Club. He played a key role in bringing the Commonwealth Games to Edinburgh in 1970 and was chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation when the event returned to the capital in 1986. He also served as chairman of the Scottish Sports Council from 1975 to 1987, and was chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation from 1982 to 1990.

He came out of retirement to break six Scottish age-group records in the over-75 category at the Glasgow International Masters Championship in 1999.

Those who knew him said one of his proudest moments had been watching his grandson James compete with the Scotland diving team in last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Inducted into the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Scottish Swimming Hall of Fame five years ago, he rightly belongs in the pantheon of Scottish sporting greats alongside Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray.

In the world of sport, where the word “legend” is horribly overused, Sir Peter is one worthy of the epitaph.