‘Justice delayed’: UK law official insists Libyan Megrahi guilty of Lockerbie bombing, relatives skeptical
While Frank Mulholland QC, Scotland’s Lord Advocate, admitted there would be “difficulties” investigating the attack, he said that meeting with the FBI’s James Comey made him “hopeful that progress would be made,” and that those responsible would be brought to justice.
To date only one Libyan, Abdul Bast Ali al-Megrahi, has been convicted of the bombing of transatlantic passenger jet Pan Am 103 in the southern Scottish town, despite years of campaigning and public inquiries.
The plane was traveling from London to New York when it exploded over Scotland, killing all 259 passengers on board, as well as 11 residents of Lockerbie.
Investigating the attack, prosecutors said Megrahi, allegedly a Libyan intelligence officer close to the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, had planted a bomb on the plane in Malta.
“We had one trial, two appeals, 13 judges involved, and at the end of that process Megrahi remains a convicted person,” Mulholland said.
“Also, and highly significant in my view, Megrahi abandoned his second appeal knowing that the effect of that abandonment was that he would remain guilty of the Lockerbie bombing.”
Mulholland’s statements came as he met relatives of the Lockerbie victims in Washington, on the 26th anniversary of the attack. The Lord Advocate was among a delegation of Scottish lawyers attending the ceremony.
“You know more than anyone else that justice has often been delayed in this case,” Mulholland told the relatives.
“If I can give you a message today, and it is one I wanted to give you all in person, it is to urge you not to give up hope that others will eventually be brought to justice. We investigators and prosecutors both sides of the Atlantic are as committed to this quest for justice as we have ever been.”
The Lord Advocate also said he would continue to track down accomplices of Megrahi, and claimed to be in talks with the UK’s ambassador to Libya, who is currently residing in Tunisia.
Megrahi was jailed for life, after being found guilty of mass murder in 2001, despite a number of appeals against his conviction. However, he was released by the Scottish government in 2009 on “compassionate grounds” after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
He died in Libya in 2012, protesting his innocence. His family called his conviction the “worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.”
The statements follow Mulholland’s claim that no Crown Office investigator or prosecutor had raised concerns about the evidence convicting Megrahi, despite a number of claims questioning the Libyan’s involvement in the attack.
Supporters of Megrahi’s claim of innocence, which include some relatives of Lockerbie victims, claim Scottish prosecutors ignored evidence that the bomb was put on the plane at Heathrow Airport rather than in Malta, and that he was “framed.”
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, told the BBC he still believed Megrahi was innocent.
“How was it that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Committee spent three years looking at the case and came up with six pieces of evidence to challenge Mr Megrahi’s conviction?” he said.
“I think you have to look further than the superficial comments made by the Lord Advocate.”
Swire also suggested responsibility for the attack may be directed at the CIA, who, following the recent Senate report on US torture techniques, showed they had “little respect for the requirements of the law of their own country.”
Additionally, other campaigners to clear Megrahi’s name claim prosecutors may have ignored evidence that would implicate Syria or Iran in the attack.