A full review of the case of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is to be carried out to decide whether a fresh appeal against conviction can be made.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) said it believes Megrahi abandoned a previous appeal “as he held a genuine and reasonable belief that such a course of action would result in him being able to return home to Libya” when he was suffering from terminal cancer.
Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the 1988 atrocity which killed 270 people. He was jailed for 27 years but died of prostate cancer aged 60 in 2012 after being released on compassionate grounds in 2009.
He lost an appeal against his conviction in 2002, with the SCCRC recommending in 2007 that he should be granted a second appeal.
He dropped the second attempt to overturn his conviction in 2009, ahead of his return to Libya, but his family lodged a new posthumous appeal last year.
SCCRC chief executive Gerard Sinclair said: “In any application where an applicant has previously chosen to abandon an appeal against conviction, the commission will, at the first stage of its process, look carefully at the reasons why the appeal was abandoned and consider whether it is in the interests of justice to allow a further review of the conviction.
“The commission has now investigated this particular matter and interviewed the key personnel who were involved in the process at the time the previous appeal was abandoned in 2009.
“The commission has also sought access to the relevant materials and has recovered the vast majority of these, including the defence papers which were not provided during its previous review.
“Having considered all the available evidence, the commission believes that Mr Megrahi, in abandoning his appeal, did so as he held a genuine and reasonable belief that such a course of action would result in him being able to return home to Libya, at a time when he was suffering from terminal cancer.
“On that basis, the commission has decided that it is in the interests of justice to accept the current application for a full review of his conviction.”
A statement issued on behalf of the Megrahi family by solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “We welcome the news that today that the SCCRC having considered all the available evidence have confirmed that they believe then when Mr Megrahi abandoned his appeal, he did so as he believed he held a genuine and reasonable belief that such a course of action would result in him being able to return home to Libya, at a time when he was suffering from terminal cancer.
“The reputation of the Scottish law has suffered both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi.
“It is in the interests of justice and restoring confidence in our criminal justice system that these doubts can be addressed, however the only place to determine whether a miscarriage of justice did occur is in the appeal court, where the evidence can be subjected to rigorous scrutiny.”