The case of the only man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, Britain’s biggest terrorist outrage that killed 270 people, could be reopened after fresh evidence that his conviction was based on unreliable evidence.
If the appeal is successful, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi could walk free.
Senior legal and intelligence officials have told The Observer that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission will conclude that the conviction of al-Megrahi is unsafe and that he may have been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.
The commission’s verdict follows a three-year inquiry that examined new evidence submitted by Megrahi’s legal team. They registered concern over the testimony of expert witnesses, contradictory forensic evidence and vital material not aired at the trial.
They say in their 500-page report that the new evidence casts reasonable doubt on the verdict that Megrahi was responsible for the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 four days before Christmas 1988.
Sources close to the commission, an independent body made up of senior police and legal figures set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice, said ‘hundreds’ of inconsistencies have been uncovered in the crown’s case. Megrahi, 54, received a life sentence in 2001 for plotting and carrying out what was then the world’s worst terrorist atrocity following a trial costing £80m at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. Megrahi has always insisted he was innocent. The development suggests that the perpetrators responsible for blowing up the airliner over Lockerbie might remain free almost 20 years after the attack.
So, who was truly responsible for the Lockerbie outrage? Leading investigative reporter Paul Foot explained in 2004:
It is that the Lockerbie bombing was carried out not by Libyans at all but by terrorists based in Syria and hired by Iran to avenge the shooting down in the summer of 1988 of an Iranian civil airliner by a US warship. This was the line followed by both British and US police and intelligence investigators after Lockerbie. Through favoured newspapers like the Sunday Times, the investigators named the suspects – some of whom had been found with home-made bombs similar to the one used at Lockerbie.
This line of inquiry persisted until April 1989, when a phone call from President Bush senior to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned her not to proceed with it. A year later, British and US armed forces prepared for an attack on Saddam Hussein’s occupying forces in Kuwait. Their coalition desperately needed troops from an Arab country. These were supplied by Syria, which promptly dropped out of the frame of Lockerbie suspects. Libya, not Syria or Iran, mysteriously became the suspect country, and in 1991 the US drew up an indictment against two Libyan suspects. The indictment was based on the “evidence” of a Libyan “defector”, handsomely paid by the CIA. His story was such a fantastic farrago of lies and fantasies that it was thrown out by the Scottish judges.
In Britain, meanwhile, Thatcher, John Major and Blair obstinately turned down the bereaved families’ requests for a full public inquiry into the worst mass murder in British history.
It follows from this explanation that Megrahi is innocent of the Lockerbie bombing and his conviction is the last in the long line of British judges’ miscarriages of criminal justice. This explanation is also a terrible indictment of the cynicism, hypocrisy and deceit of the British and US governments and their intelligence services. Which is probably why it has been so consistently and haughtily ignored.