Monday, June 16, 2008

UN Special Observer to Lockerbie Trial compares recent Megrahi appeal to intelligence operation.

As with anything involving Scots justice these days, scandals are easily pointed out being so visible and obvious even the most uninterested Scot can see a lack of justice, common sense, even perhaps .. honesty ? in the process ...

So, bearing that in mind, Dr Hans Köchler, the UN special observer in the Lockerbie trial has criticised the recent appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in the Scottish Courts, equating events to something more akin to an "intelligence operation" than a judicial process ...

Dr Köchler .. it happens so often in Scots law these days, many people have lost count !

Scotland on Sunday reports :

UN observer slams Megrahi appeal process

By Murdo MacLeod

A UNITED Nations observer has condemned UK and Scottish politicians for the "totalitarian" appeal process in the Lockerbie bombing case.

Dr Hans Köchler, the UN-appointed special observer to the Lockerbie trial, said the appeal by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi had more in common with an "intelligence operation" than a judicial process.

Köchler, in a letter to a legal magazine, also argued that Megrahi's current appeal should be held outside Scotland, as was the original trial.

The Lockerbie disaster, on December 21, 1988, claimed the lives of 270 people, both in the aircraft and on the ground.

Megrahi was found guilty in January 2001 after a three-month trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands and lost an appeal the following year.

But a team of lawyers and investigators has continued working on the case and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred it back to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

In his letter, which was sent to the Scottish legal magazine The Firm, Köchler attacked the UK Government for refusing to hand over documents which the defence claims are vital to their case.

The documents were provided by a foreign country and potentially undermine the prosecution case that the bomb timer was only provided to Libyans. The Government has claimed the handover of the documents could potentially damage national security.

Köchler wrote: "A fair trial requires the availability of evidence to both the prosecution and defence. Only in a totalitarian system would the executive power interfere in court proceedings and order the withholding of evidence and/or replace defence lawyers by approved lawyers."

He added: "The fact that the new appeal proceedings take place in Scotland is not in conformity with the original intergovernmental agreement on the Lockerbie trial, which provided extraterritorial arrangements, with the presence of UN-appointed observers, also for the appeal.

"Under the present circumstances, there is a total lack of transparency of the proceedings. The entire procedure, with the Public Interest Immunity as core issue of the appeal, looks more like an intelligence operation than a genuine undertaking of criminal justice."

Köchler also criticised Scottish parliamentarians, civic society and the Scottish media for failing to challenge the verdict of the court.

Former MP and veteran Lockerbie campaigner Tam Dalyell backed Köchler.

Dalyell said: "Hans Köchler is a good man and he is absolutely right with his criticisms. The behaviour of the Crown in this case has been disgusting and a disgrace to Scotland. I personally feel very responsible because I was one of those, along with others, who helped persuade the Libyans to hand over one of their nationals for trial."

But former Lord Advocate Lord Peter Fraser hit back at the criticisms of Scots Law.

Fraser, who originally indicted Megrahi, said: "I think that Scots Law is the fairest and most rigorous system in Europe. There was a trial and an appeal and a second appeal – that is one indication of how fair and open a system we have."

The criminal justice authorities in Scotland declined to say anything in reply to Köchler. Spokesmen for the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and the Advocate General for Scotland – who is acting for the Government in blocking the release of key documents – all refused to comment.

Megrahi's defence team also declined to comment.

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