A miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing, a review has found.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has referred his case to the High Court, paving the way for a posthumous appeal.
It ruled the review of Megrahi’s conviction met two statutory tests for referral – it may have been a miscarriage of justice and it is in the interests of justice to refer it back to the court.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar made the SCCRC application on behalf of Megrahi’s family, supported by some families of those who died in the 1988 disaster.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York on December 21, 1988, killed 259 people on board.
A further 11 people in the Dumfries and Galloway town died when the plane crashed into their homes in Britain’s largest terrorist atrocity.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi was the only person convicted of the bombing, having been found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years.
The SCCRC said it now believes a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in Megrahi’s case on two of the six grounds considered in the review – unreasonable verdict and non-disclosure.
On the issue of unreasonable verdict, the commission said a miscarriage of justice may have occurred because no reasonable trial court, relying on the evidence led at trial, could have held the case against Megrahi was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
On the issue of non-disclosure, it said the Crown ought to have disclosed certain information to the defence and also its failure to disclose information about reward money bolsters the conclusion he was denied a fair trial.
Bill Matthews, SCCRC chairman, said: “This is the second time that the commission has carried out what I believe has been a rigorous and independent review of this particular conviction, and we note that since our last review further information has become available, including within the public domain, which the commission has now been able to consider and assess.
“As the chair of the SCCRC in 2007 said when the case was originally referred, our function is not to decide upon the guilt or innocence of an applicant.
“Our function is to examine the grounds of review identified and to decide whether any of the grounds meet the statutory test for a potential miscarriage.”
Megrahi died in 2012 after being released from prison early on compassionate grounds.
Mr Anwar said he was instructed by the family of Megrahi and also supported by Dr Jim Swire, father of 23-year-old bombing victim Flora Swire, and Rev John Mosey whose daughter Helga Mosey, 19, was also killed.
At a press conference in Glasgow, Mr Anwar said Dr Swire told him he “still aches” for his daughter, adding: “For me this case is about two families, mine and Abdelbasset’s, but behind them now are seen to lie the needs of 25 other families in applying for a further appeal 31 years after the event itself. We need the truth.”
He also quoted Megrahi’s son Ali: “Finally my family has hope that our father’s name will be cleared, I am grateful to all those who have supported my family in their long struggle for justice.”
Mr Anwar criticised redactions in the SCCRC statement of reasons, which he said were due to the Scottish, UK, German and US Governments refusing consent to disclose.
“What are you trying to hide?” he asked, as he demanded the lord advocate reveal the information.
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The decision to refer Mr Al-Megrahi’s case back to court was entirely a matter for the independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to make.”
He added: “My thoughts continue to be with all those who lost loved ones on that terrible evening more than 30 years ago.”
Megrahi’s first appeal against his conviction was refused by the High Court in 2002 and referred back five years later following an SCCRC review.
He abandoned this appeal in 2009, shortly before his release from prison.
In 2014, a new application to the SCCRC was made on Megrahi’s behalf but the following year the commission decided it was not in the interests of justice to proceed with a review of Megrahi’s conviction, citing difficulties accessing defence documents.
The latest application to the SCCRC was lodged in 2017.