Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lockerbie Trial : Victims families demand new inquiry over 'politically motivated' trial

In the ongoing saga of the Lockerbie case and the appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi against his conviction for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, families of the victims are pressing for a fresh inquiry into the events surrounding the bombing of the airliner and the prosecution of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, whose second appeal against his conviction is currently being heard in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Herald reports :

Fresh demands for new inquiry into Lockerbie

LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter April 24 2009

Families of the victims of the Lockerbie tragedy are applying pressure to politicians and calling for a fresh inquiry, days before the appeal of the man convicted of the bombing is due to begin.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy, has written to other relatives to explain his belief that they have been "pawns in a political scenario which had nothing to do with truth".

On the day that a new film about Lockerbie that was expected to raise serious questions about the prosecution was screened in the Scottish Parliament, Dr Swire also wrote to The Herald to express his concerns about the case and call for a new inquest into the bombing that killed 270 people in December 1988.

The film, which was shown to MSPs and relatives last night, is expected to undermine part of the forensics case put by the prosecution.

Dr Swire's letter comes just days after campaign group UK Families Flight 103 issued a statement accusing Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, of backtracking on his earlier sympathy for the bereaved.

They accused Mr Straw of hypocrisy over moves to clear the way for the man convicted of the bombing to return home.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, currently serving 27 years in Greenock Prison, could be transferred home to Libya under an agreement being rushed through parliament by the UK Justice Secretary.

The Herald revealed last week that the relatives had received an e-mail from the Crown Office seen as a tacit warning that the man convicted of the killings is likely to be granted a transfer under a new agreement between the UK and the African nation that is likely to be ratified early next week.

Megrahi, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, is due to begin appeal proceedings at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh on April 28.

Prisoners still engaged in criminal proceedings would not be eligible for repatriation under the terms of the agreement, and he would have to drop the appeal in order to apply for a transfer.

The Westminster Joint Select Committee on Human Rights called last month for the ratification of the agreement to be delayed until at least the end of April, pending investigation into concerns over the content of the treaty. However, Mr Straw insisted earlier this month that the treaty must go ahead early.

In his letter, Dr Swire raises serious concerns about the validity of the original trial and the Fatal Accident Inquiry - particularly in light of evidence that came to light after they concluded, which indicated there had been a break-in at Heathrow airport the night before the tragedy.

He also told The Herald: "For me, the passive attitude displayed by Heathrow in not making a realistic response to the break-in, with its terrible implications, remains inexcusable.

"However, we also have a right to know who was behind the suppression of this material, which has undermined the trial as well as our Fatal Accident Inquiry.

"It would appear that orders must have come from the very top, and you will remember that Thatcher was never prepared to meet us to discuss an objective inquiry, but later 1993 claimed in her book The Downing Street Years that the USAF bombing of Tripoli in 1986 had prevented further terrorist outrages by Libya.

"We were, I believe, right from the earliest days, pawns in a political scenario which had nothing to do with truth, and whose parameters also conveniently concealed the appalling irresponsibility of the Heathrow authorities."

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