Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Scottish Judges to decide on Lockerbie papers

The long running saga of the Lockerbie appeal and disclosure remains a point of interest for many as the battle to release documents held by the Crown Office which may clear Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi continues :

The Herald reports :

Judges to rule on Lockerbie papers

LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter August 20 2008

Scottish judges were sitting behind closed doors yesterday to decide the next move in a long-running row over top-secret documents linked to the Lockerbie bombing.

In an unprecedented move, the defence was banned from attending the hearing which will consider whether or not the two documents should be made public.

One of the documents, which originated in an unknown foreign country, is thought to contain vital information about the electronic timer which detonated the bomb that killed 270 people in the skies over Lockerbie in 1988.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has already said the document should remain confidential.

However, the defence team for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the bombing, believes the failure to disclose the document calls into question the ultimate right to a fair appeal.

The document was uncovered during the three-year investigation of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which resulted in the case being referred back to the courts for a new appeal last summer. The commission concluded the failure during the original trial to disclose the document could constitute a miscarriage of justice.

Although the Crown allowed the commission to see the material, it has refused to disclose it to Megrahi's defence team.

Mr Miliband says that to hand over the documents to defence lawyers would put national security at risk.

Lord Hamilton, the Lord President and Scotland's top judge, was sitting with Lords Kingarth and Eassie yesterday to decide whether Megrahi can still get a fair appeal hearing without access to the secret papers.

Lord Davidson of Clova, QC, the Advocate General, who represents the UK Government on legal matters in Scotland, has previously asked to put the Foreign Secretary's case behind closed doors.

The public interest immunity argument has been lodged by Lord Davidson - not the Crown Office in Scotland.

It is the first time that Scottish courts have needed to deal with such a question in closed court.

There will be another hearing today on the breadth of the appeal and whether to grant the defence team access to the original forensics evidence.

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