By Severin Carrell
The family of the Libyan convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, are lodging an appeal to the UK supreme court after Scottish judges threw out a miscarriage of justice case.
The court of appeal in Edinburgh ruled on Friday that Megrahi was properly convicted of bombing Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 passengers, crew and townspeople.
The court, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, rejected both grounds of appeal from Megrahi’s family, lodged after the Scottish criminal cases review commission, an official body which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice, returned the case to court.
“On the evidence at trial, a reasonable jury, properly directed, would have been entitled to return a guilty verdict,” its ruling said. Megrahi died at home in Tripoli in 2012 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Aamer Anwar, the family’s lawyer, said they would now take their case to the supreme court in London and would continue pressing for the UK government to release a secret document thought to implicate Iran and a Palestinian terror group.
It emerged in November that the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, had upheld a public interest immunity certificate withholding documents, thought to have been sent by the then king of Jordan, which alleged a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), called Marwan Khreesat, made the bomb.
Anwar said: “Ali al-Megrahi, the son of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, said his family were left heartbroken by the decision of the Scottish courts. He maintained his father’s innocence and is determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name and that of Libya.”
The significance of the Megrahi appeal increased in December after William Barr, the outgoing US attorney general, announced he was indicting another Libyan, Mohammed Abouagela Masud, for allegedly building the bomb used against Pan Am 103.
Masud is thought to be in a Libyan jail, and had been named as an associate of Megrahi’s on the original indictment against Megrahi but never formally implicated in the bombing.
Lord Wolffe, the lord advocate and head of Scotland’s prosecution service, welcomed the appeal court decision. He did not refer directly to the US decision to indict Masud but confirmed that other suspects were under “active investigation”.
He said the Lockerbie remained “the deadliest terrorist attack on UK soil and the largest homicide case Scotland’s prosecutors have ever encountered in terms of scale and of complexity”.
So far no other suspects have been formally identified by Scottish police or prosecutors but it is understood Masud is also very high on the Scottish list of names.
Wolffe said a pledge to the Scottish parliament by the then lord advocate, Lord Boyd, to continue searching for other culprits after Megrahi’s conviction in 2001 was being honoured.
“For almost 20 years since that date, Scottish police and prosecutors have continued the search for evidence. This work will continue; and there remain suspects under active investigation,” Wolffe said.
The latest appeal centred on two grounds. The first was that no reasonable jury would have convicted Megrahi on the evidence offered in court, particularly on the circumstantial evidence of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed he sold clothes to Megrahi which were placed in the suitcase bomb.
It also said the conviction was unsafe because the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence which raised strong doubts about reliability of Gauci’s evidence and information contained in CIA cables.
On the opening day of the appeal, heard in November, Megrahi’s legal team accused the judges who convicted Megrahi at a special trial held without a jury 20 years ago of “cherrypicking” evidence.
Severin Carrell is the Guardian’s Scotland editor.
Scottish Court Upholds Libyan Lockerbie Bomber’s Conviction
By Michael Holden
A Scottish court rejected on Friday an appeal to overturn the conviction of a now-deceased Libyan man found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing which killed 270 people.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, an intelligence officer who died in 2012, was jailed for life in 2001 for the murder of 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of the Scottish town in the deadliest militant attack in British history.
In March, an independent Scottish review ruled that his family could launch a third appeal due to a possible miscarriage of justice. But on Friday, five judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland rejected that.
“The bombing of Pan Am 103 is, to this day, the deadliest terrorist attack on UK soil and the largest homicide case Scotland’s prosecutors have ever encountered in terms of scale and of complexity,” said Lord Advocate James Wolffe, Scotland’s chief legal officer.
“The evidence gathered by Scottish, U.S. and international law enforcement agencies has again been tested in the Appeal Court and the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi stands.”
Megrahi’s son Ali said the family were heartbroken and planned to appeal to the UK Supreme Court, their lawyer Aamer Anwar said. “He maintained his father’s innocence and is determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name and that of Libya,” Anwar said.
Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in December 1988 en route from London to New York, carrying mostly Americans on their way home for Christmas.
After years of wrangling and sanctions against Libya, Megrahi and a second man Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima went on trial before Scottish judges at a special court in the Netherlands.
Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum 27 years, while Fahima was found not guilty.
Megrahi, who denied involvement in the attack, died in Libya in 2012 after being released three years earlier by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds due to prostate cancer.
Former leader Muammar Gaddafi accepted Libya’s responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and paid compensation to families, but did not admit personally ordering it.
However, Megrahi’s family and some relatives of the Scottish victims have always doubted his guilt and Libya’s responsibility, and say the truth has yet to come out.
At hearings in November, the family’s lawyers argued his conviction had rested on flawed evidence, saying prosecutors had failed to prove a link between clothing in the suitcase carrying the bomb and Megrahi.
Last month, the United States unsealed criminal charges against a third alleged conspirator Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, a former senior Libyan intelligence official currently in Libyan custody.
The Justice Department accuses Masud of carrying the bomb from Libya to Malta in a suitcase and setting its timer.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by William James and Andrew Cawthorne)