Borders MSP fails in bid to have Lockerbie bombing case reopened

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Borders SNP MSP Christine Grahame has failed in a bid to get the Scottish Government to reconsider its position on the safety of the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the 1988 Lockerbie aeroplane bombing.

In the Scottish Parliament last week, the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP, a long-time supporter of the Justice for Megrahi campaign, cited the recent publication of a book on the atrocity by former Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill.

In his book, Mr MacAskill says the conviction, by a special Scottish court in the Netherlands in 2001 and upheld on appeal the following year, was probably unsafe.

Mr MacAskill, who controversially allowed Mr Megrahi to be released on compassionate grounds in August 2009, further states: “Clothes in the suitcase that carried the bomb were acquired in Malta, but not by Megrahi.”

That is a reference to key evidence at the trial in which a Maltese shopkeeper testified that Mr Megrahi resembled the man who bought the clothes packed into the suitcase.

In the months before Mr Megrahi, a cancer sufferer, dropped his appeal and was released after over eight years in prison, Ms Grahame, then a South of Scotland list MSP, twice visited him in Greenock Prison, declaring afterwards: “I am absolutely convinced more than ever there has been a miscarriage of justice”.

After his release, she said: “His hands are clean over Lockerbie.”

The crash left 243 passengers and 16 crew on Pan Am Flight 103 from Germany to the US dead, along with a further 11 people on the ground, scattering debris all the way across the Borders as it plummeted to earth in Dumfries and Galloway.

On Thursday, Ms Grahame asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “Given that the former justice secretary and the former first minister now both state that Megrahi was not the purchaser of clothes in Malta, and having regard to the finding of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that, if Megrahi was not the purchaser, there was insufficient evidence to convict him, I ask the Government to reconsider its position that there is no reason to doubt the safety of the conviction. Surely there definitely is now?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “It is not for me, any first minister or any member of the Government to decide that a conviction is unsafe. That is a matter for the courts of the land. That is the position in this case, as it is in any other criminal matter.

“The situation is clear. It remains open for close relatives of Mr Megrahi to ask the commission to refer the case again to the appeal court.

“Ministers have repeatedly made it clear that they would be comfortable if that were to happen, but that is the process that must be undertaken if the case were to be looked at by the appeal court.

“Convictions are determined in courts. Convictions can only be upheld or overturned in courts. That is how we do things in this country. It is the right way to do them.”

Earlier, responding to a question from Conservative MSP Douglas Ross, Ms Sturgeon stated: “The Lockerbie conviction stands. I say again – as the crown office has said in the past – that there is confidence in the safety of the conviction, and for the conviction to be overturned, there would require to be a successful appeal. That was the situation before the book was published, and it remains the situation today.”

Megrahi died in Libya on May 20, 2012, aged 60.