Families 'have nothing to fear from Lockerbie investigation'

A priest has made a direct appeal to American families of the Lockerbie bombing, saying they have nothing to fear from an inquiry.

Father Pat Keegans, who lived in the Dumfries and Galloway town, wrote an open letter to families of US victims seeking their support for a fresh probe into the 1988 terror attack on Pan Am flight 103.

The letter follows a petition at the Scottish Parliament urging a new investigation into the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the only man found guilty of the atrocity.

Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds last year split opinion and caused anger in America where most victims' families live.

Father Keegan's letter calls on families to "show your concern" for views held by those who dissent from the verdict, the Herald newspaper reported.

The letter added: "Your certainty in the validity of the trial and conviction should allow you accept that such an inquiry would vindicate your belief and you should have nothing to fear from it."

It continued: "There has been a conviction which is not universally accepted but has been questioned by many. A full, public, independent inquiry into all aspects of the bombing would assist us in finding truth and justice."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, asked MSPs on Holyrood's Petitions Committee to push for an inquiry earlier this month.

He backed Father Pat Keegans' attempts, hoping for an "objective look" at the evidence.

Dr Swire said: "I think in the long term, some degree of truth is going to come out.

"I agree with what Pat Keegans has been saying but there will be some risk. The longer the truth takes to come out, the harder it will be for some people."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, backed the petitioners' campaign.

He has said that without such a probe the "web of mystery" surrounding the "horrible" bombing may never be resolved.

About 1,500 people signed the petition from the Justice For Megrahi pressure group.