The Lockerbie Injustice

To those victims’ relatives who can bear to hear me say this: they continue to have my sincere sympathy for the unimaginable loss that they have suffered.

To those who bear me ill will, I do not return that to you.
Abdul Ali al-Megrahi

Today, Abdul Ali al-Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate grounds.  I rejoice at that decision.  Ever since he was named as the Lockerbie bomber I have had exceedingly strong doubts that he was even so much as implicated, let alone the bomb-builder.  I would like to share my thoughts about this.

There was a time when the British justice system was the best in the world bar none.  In 1553, when what we now call science was very much in its infancy it was only in the British courts that any attempt was made to establish legal truth by the application of scientific principles.

If matters arise in our law which concern other sciences or faculties, we commonly apply for the aid of that science or faculty which it concerns.  Which is an honourable and commendable thing in our law. For thereby it appears that we do not despise all other sciences but our own, but we approve of them and encourage them as things worthy of commendation.
Justice Saunders, 1553, Buckley v Rice-Thomas (1554) 1 Plowd 118, at 124.

Over the course of the centuries improvements were made in the British legal system, but it remained severely flawed.  Until the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907 there was no procedure by which a person wrongly convicted could have the matter reheard.  That court was established following the notorious injustice done to Adolf Beck.

Adolf Beck was twice convicted for crimes which he could not possibly have committed, being in South America at the time.  Under the rules of evidence and procedure then in operation, evidence from South American government officials that Adolf Beck was in Buenos Aires on the dates in question was witheld.  That evidence could have established Adolf Beck's innocence beyond all reasonable doubt.  The simple facts leading to his conviction are these: the courts were overly keen to believe the evidence of police officers and were distrustful of the evidence of foreigners.

Eventually, and purely by a stroke of luck, the true criminal and Adolph Beck were discovered to be held at the same prison under the same name: John Smith.  This led eventually to a full inquiry and Adolf Beck was exonerated.  It is a little known fact that Adolph Beck is the only convicted person in modern British legal history ever to be officially declared innocent.

To this day there is no venue available in British law wherein a person may establish their innocence.  The UK is signatory to an International Convention which stipulates that a convicted person must be compensated on proof of innocence, but without a venue that convention is a worthless piece of paper.  The Court of Criminal Appeals has consistently refused to deal with questions of innocence, ruling only on whether or not a conviction is 'unsafe'.

The problem with the whole Lockerbie trial saga is that much of the expert evidence came from members of the security services.  It is a notorious fact that members of the security services are trained to tell lies as an essential part of what they do.  I, as a juror, would give little if any weight to anything said by such a person.  But then, there was no jury at the Lockerbie trial.

The key piece of evidence was fragments from a timer.  The fragments were found by an un-named police officer in a T-shirt found by an un-named Scot.  The T-shirt had a label showing it came from Sliema in Malta.  The timer fragments were initially identified by Edwin Bollier  from a photograph as being part of a timer made by his company.  The circuit board design had been previously published as a DIY design, so anybody at all with simple photo-etching skills could have made such a timer.  Edwin Bollier claimed that he declined an FBI offer of $4 million to testify that the fragments were from a timer supplied by his company to Libya.  Ulrich Lumpert who gave evidence about the timer at the trial has withdrawn that evidence, stating that he lied to the court.   The FBI agent who gave evidence central to the claim of Libyan responsibility for the crime was later charged with manipulating evidence in other cases and left the bureau.

There is much, much more evidence in the public domain tending to point to a desire by the British government to have someone, anyone, convicted of the Lockerbie bombing so that relations between Britain and Libya could be normalised.  Whilst being by no means a conspiracy theorist I would give much weight to the fact of Libya as an ally in the Gulf war and the fact of a renewed British presence in the Libyan oil industry.

I am very proud of my Scottish heritage.  On the day that I saw the news about Pan Am flight 103 I wanted to see those responsible brought to trial.  I am still waiting.

It appears to be the case that Abdul al-Megrahi was pressured into dropping his appeal as a condition of his release.  That appeal must go ahead.  The injustice of a wrongful conviction is a double injustice: it is an indisputable fact that for every innocent person in prison, a guilty one is walking free.

As an ordinary citizen I have only one way of requesting that the appeal goes ahead or that a public inquiry be made into the whole Lockerbie affair: a petition.  One of the pleasures of the internet is the knowledge that any ordinary citizen can write a petition and have it instantly displayed to the world at large on the official web site of the Prime Minister.  This means that public attention can instantly be drawn to an injustice for speedy remedy.
Notice: Submission of new petitions will be closed until 7th September while the Prime Minister is away from Number 10.

This, then, is the great injustice of the whole Lockerbie tragedy: a dying man who is most probably innocent is being denied the last chance to clear his name.

To Abdul Ali al-Megrahi: peace.

To the relatives and friends of the victims of the as yet un-named Lockerbie bombers: peace.

Further reading:
If you never read anything again about the Lockerbie tragedy, please read this newspaper article and the readers' letters which followed it.
I Was At Lockerbie
we are civilised and compassionate

Enter Lockerbie in the search box for a concise set of articles about the Lockerbie trial.

Related Reading:
Law And Science : The Injustice Of Confessions
Law and Science : #2 The Chicken Little Mentality
The Buzzword Blog #3 : Justice