Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Scottish law officer 'deplores' Lockerbie bomber bid to clear his name

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi

Scotland's top law officer last night fiercely criticised a move by the Lockerbie bomber to proclaim his innocence.

Hundreds of pages of documents relating to the abandoned appeal by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi were published yesterday on a new website.

And Megrahi declared: "I will do everything in my power to persuade the public, and in particular the Scottish public, of my innocence."

But the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, said she "deplored" his attempt to challenge his conviction though "selective publication of his view of the evidence in the media" after he had abandoned his appeal.

"The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court," said Ms Angiolini, who is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland.

"Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an Appeal Court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge.

"Mr Megrahi remains convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in UK history."

She said the Crown had been "ready, willing and able" to argue the case for his conviction in the appeal which Megrahi had abandoned.

"As he and his legal team have made clear, the decision to discontinue the appeal proceedings was taken voluntarily by Mr Megrahi himself," she said.

"Having done so, he now seeks to retry his case in the media and criticise the evidence against him."

She said the Libyan had also been silent at his trial, where the only evidence heard by the judges was a TV interview Megrahi had given to journalist Pierre Salinger.

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was freed early on compassionate grounds last month from the life term he was serving at Greenock prison for the bombing.

Before his release, he dropped his second appeal against conviction.

His Scottish lawyers, Taylor & Kelly, said the documents published today on a new website - www.megrahimystory.net - related to that appeal.

Megrahi said in a statement: "I have returned to Tripoli with my unjust conviction still in place.

"As a result of the abandonment of my appeal, I have been deprived of the opportunity to clear my name through the formal appeal process.

"I have vowed to continue my attempts to clear my name."

Megrahi was serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years after being convicted in 2001 of bombing Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, killing 270 people.

His release by Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill triggered an international controversy, sparking outrage among the relatives of US victims.

But there has been a long-running campaign, supported by some British relatives of victims, to have his conviction overturned.

Megrahi was convicted of the bombing in January 2001 by a three-judge Scottish court specially convened in the Netherlands.

He appealed unsuccessfully the following year but in 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, sent his case for a second appeal.

That process got under way earlier this year, but has now been left in legal limbo by Megrahi's decision to drop the appeal.

The documents published today relate to the grounds of appeal which were argued at the appeal court in Edinburgh between April 28 and May 19.

The website said other documents, to be published at a later date, related to arguments which would have been made in court from November had the appeal continued.

The appeal was lodged on several grounds.

The first two grounds, which have already been argued in court, were that Megrahi's conviction was unreasonable and based on insufficient evidence.

A third set of grounds gave some of the reasons why the SCCRC referred the case to the Appeal Court, along with additional arguments.

These include the way in which identification evidence was obtained from a Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci.

They also include what the defence papers published today describe as "significant failures" by the Crown to disclose information about the identification evidence and about Mr Gauci.

Mr Gauci picked out Megrahi as the man who bought clothes later found in the suitcase that contained the bomb.

The third set of appeal grounds also relate - according to today's documents - to undisclosed information for which the UK Government had sought public interest immunity from disclosure.

"The SCCRC considered that failure to disclose this information, of itself, may have resulted in a miscarriage of justice and this was one of the reasons for referring the case back to the Appeal Court," said the documents.

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