Sunday, July 15, 2007

SCCRC order appeal into Lockerbie Bomber's conviction at Camp Zeist

More From A Diary of Injustice in Scotland

Lockerbie Trial - appeal granted as SCCRC report suffers inevitable claims of whitewash

A whitewash in the Scottish justice system ? Hardly surprising considering the levels of whitewash we have been used to in the past but what could one expect from a Review Committee in dire need of reform, accountability & a greater degree of independence from the very same legal system it seeks to review & pick fault with.

With no sign yet of the SNP Executive taking up calls for a fully independent inquiry into the engrained culture of injustice in Scotland emanating from the legal system and those who serve it, the long awaited report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (hardly an advertisement for independence itself) on the Lockerbie bombing case, recommends, grudgingly it seems, that the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi be given a fresh appeal - although this will take about a year to get to court - perhaps an injhustice in itself on what many believe to be a fit up using Scots Law as a toy in global politics for not so honourable ends ..

It could be said, after reading the SCCRC summary of their report, that it giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other - the report follows in the tradition of all inquires then, nothing new on that.

No signs of fabricated evidence says the SCCRC ... but many seem to feel otherwise and we've heard this before ...

Well, we all know this never happens in Scots Law of course ... from the Edinburgh Gun Shop siege of the 80's & it's revelations on the Police & how documents were fabricated on destroyed firearms while they were actually sold to the owner of the Gunshop ... to the Shirley McKie case & many more, of course we know evidence is never fabricated .. or perhaps it is ? and if the SCCRC were ever independent enough or brave enough to come to such a conclusion there were problems with the evidence , there would then be some really serious questions on many a case of the past ...

Perhaps look at it this way - the way the not so independent SCCRC has handled this report, among others, is a good advertisement to reform it's mode of operation, membership and also have a review of it's handling of cases of the past, where accountability has as usual been somewhat lacking.

"First Minister Alex Salmond said it was "in the interests of justice" that the case go back to court for another appeal"

Well, then, get on with a review of the Justice system, Mr Salmond & Mr MacAskill - not only in the interests of justice, but also in the public interest too .. and end this engrained culture of injustice we have had to suffer for so long, just because the judiciary and the legal profession want to keep running the legal system for themselves & keep a power base of political influence over public life in Scotland, which they definitely do not deserve.

Links from the Scotsman follow :

Lockerbie: Scottish justice in the dock

THE Libyan jailed for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie was yesterday granted a fresh appeal after a review body uncovered new evidence that cast serious doubt over his conviction.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) announced it was referring the case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi back to the appeal court, seven years after he was convicted of the murder of 259 passengers and crew on board the plane, and 11 town residents.

Relatives, politicians and legal experts last night demanded a full independent inquiry into how the case was handled after the commission revealed that potentially devastating evidence was not made available to Megrahi's defence team. The commission said it had identified six grounds, among dozens submitted by Megrahi's defence team, where it believed "a miscarriage of justice may have occurred".

One of those related to the day that clothes, believed to have been wrapped around the bomb, were purchased from a shop in Malta. The court had accepted the Crown's position that the clothes were bought on 7 December 1988, when there was evidence that Megrahi had been on the island. But the commission found there was "no reasonable basis" for the judges to reach this conclusion.

Crucially, it also said new evidence not heard at the trial, together with the testimony of the shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, indicated the items were purchased before 6 December. "In other words, it indicates that the purchase took place at a time when there was no evidence at trial that the applicant was in Malta," the commission said.

The commission also concluded that the reliability of Mr Gauci's identification of Megrahi was undermined by new evidence showing that, four days before he picked the Libyan out in an identity parade, the witness saw a photograph of the accused in a magazine article linking him to the bombing.

Following a three-and-a-half year review, costing £1.1 million, the commission's chairman, the Very Reverend Dr Graham Forbes, said the SCCRC was "of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice".

The commission rejected 48 grounds for review, including apparently "sensitive" information provided by a senior police officer, codenamed "The Golfer", who claimed evidence had been fabricated to lay a trail to the Libyan.

The former detective sergeant was interviewed, but the commission found his statements to contain a "vast array of inconsistencies and contradiction".

The commission stressed it had not leaked any documents or findings following widespread speculation and press reports surrounding the case in recent weeks. It added: "The commission has found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies."

But Professor Robert Black, who was instrumental in bringing Megrahi and co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah to trial at a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, said the revelation that crucial evidence was not presented to the defence, coupled with apparent criticism within the commission's report of the trial judges on an important aspect of the case, threatened the integrity of Scotland's legal system.

"It's not just that new evidence casts doubt over the original verdict - it's far more serious than that." He said an independent public inquiry, led by foreign experts, was needed. "Something needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the prosecution system and the judicial system."

Tam Dalyell, the former Linlithgow MP who has long believed Megrahi, who is serving life in Greenock, is innocent, said yesterday's ruling left the Scottish justice system's reputation "in tatters". He added: "If it is self-righting, that is to the credit of the legal system. A decision on whether to have an inquiry must be taken immediately following the appeal."

Juval Aviv, who headed up Pan Am's investigation into the bombing, said: "It is of the utmost importance that a comprehensive investigation be launched into what we now know to be the blatant effort to hide the truth from the public. Perhaps through such an open and public inquiry the real truth about this cover-up will come to light... we owe it to the families of the victims."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, said he could not "achieve closure" until he was sure who was responsible. "It's no good trying to have closure on false foundations if they are false. A house built on sand cannot stand."

He added: "If today's SCCRC decision does indeed lead to the overturning of the verdict, we hope that, at that point, an immediate, independent and fully empowered inquiry into how the judicial failure came about would be launched and relentlessly pursued."

SNP MSP Alex Neil said there needed to be "a full investigation into all the circumstances surrounding Lockerbie".

Megrahi, 55, welcomed the decision in a statement issued through his solicitor, Tony Kelly. He said: "I was never in any doubt that a truly independent review of my case would have this outcome. I reiterate today what I have been saying since I was first indicted in 1991: I was not involved in the Lockerbie bombing in any way whatsoever."

Mr Kelly said if it was possible he would apply for bail, but any decision on that was months away. He said doubt over the date the clothes were bought could prove "fatal" to the prosecution case. "If the date is held not to be 7 December, 1988, Mr Megrahi cannot stand convicted of this crime," he said.

He also said that they now had "a blank sheet" upon which to write a new set of grounds for appeal. The appeal, he said, would touch upon "every single circumstantial aspect of the case", and would include indications as to who they believed to be responsible for the bombing".

The decision to reopen the case was welcomed by many relatives of Lockerbie victims.

First Minister Alex Salmond said it was "in the interests of justice" that the case go back to court for another appeal.

Scotland's Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC, said the prosecutors at the Crown Office and Procurator-Fiscal Service would respond to the decision and appeal "with the same commitment and independence as was shown during the trial and first appeal".

No sign of fabricated evidence, report finds

THE commission's report is interesting for the complaints it has rejected as much as for those it has found to carry substance.

Some 45 grounds on which it was argued the commission should send Megrahi's case back to the appeal court were rejected, and much criticism was heaped on the media for "inaccurate and incorrect" speculation about the three-and-a-half year, £1.1 million investigation.

"In particular, the commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies," it stated.

The commission summarised some of the rejected grounds as follows:

• A former detective sergeant, termed "the golfer", made several allegations about the conduct of the police investigation. However, the commission found "a vast array of inconsistencies and contradictions between, and sometimes within, his statements" and considered some of his claims to be implausible when looked at alongside other evidence.

"The commission has serious misgivings as to the credibility and reliability of this witness and was not prepared to accept his allegations."

• Underlying a complaint about the discovery of a piece of circuit board from the bomb's timer had been the allegation that the evidence had been fabricated to implicate Libya. "The commission undertook extensive inquiries, but found nothing to support the allegation."

• Some convictions had been overturned in England, after doubt was cast on the evidence of forensic scientist Allan Feraday, a witness in the Lockerbie trial. "The commission is satisfied that the evidence on those occasions was different in nature from that given at (Megrahi's) trial."

• Many claims had been made about Megrahi's legal team at his trial and his first appeal. The commission "did not consider the allegations to be well-founded".

• Another former policeman was said to have found a "CIA badge" in the crash debris, but had been told such items were not to be recorded as evidence.

"The commission's inquiries established nothing that might support the claims."

• Had items found at the crash site, belonging to the passenger Major Charles McKee, been "spirited away" during "unofficial CIA involvement"?

The commission found nothing to say anyone other than the Scottish police had come into contact with Major McKee's suitcase, or that it had been cut open to allow access to the contents.

Since the bombing, suspicions have been raised about Khaled Jaafar, who flew from Frankfurt to London and joined Pan Am flight 103.

"The results of the commission's inquiries provide no support for the claim that Mr Jaafar was involved, wittingly or unwittingly, in the bombing."

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