Kim Sengupta: There are clear reasons why many believe the Lockerbie trial was a miscarriage of justice

Analysis: The prosection evidence was circumstantial and the testimony of a key witness was shaky

Share
Related Topics

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, his face skeletal, could barely move. He was attached to a drip, his face covered by an oxygen mask, drifting in and out of consciousness. The medicine needed for his treatment had been plundered by looters; the doctors had fled.

That was how I found the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in Tripoli last Autumn, the reminder of the controversy surrounding an atrocity 24 years ago. His brother Abdelnasser asked "Why do they want so much to drag him back to suffer in prison? You are looking at a man who is very close to dying."

The vengeful pursuit of Megrahi, the feeling that he has somehow escaped justice by not actually dying in a cell, is the result of a genuine belief by some that he was guilty, allied to anger that his release was part of the many dodgy deals between the British government and Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Yet there are cogent reasons why so many others, including members of bereaved families such as Dr Jim Swire who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, have been convinced that Megrahi's conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

Soon after the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 American and British officials were busy laying the blame on the Iran Syria axis. However, after Iran and Syria joined the US-led coalition against Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War the same officials switched the blame to Libya, at the time very much a pariah state.

The trial of Megrahi and his fellow Libyan defendant Lamin Khalifa Fhimah at a specially constituted Scotttish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands came under criticism from international jurists. The two men were effectively charged with joint enterprise, yet only Megrahi was found guilty. The prosecution evidence was circumstantial; details of the bomb timer on the plane contradictory and the testimony of a key witness, a Maltese shopkeeper, shaky under cross-examination.

The evidence of a supposedly prime "CIA intelligence asset", codenamed "Puzzle Piece" who turned up in a Shirley Bassey wig, was widely viewed as risible. It emerged later that important evidence had not been passed on to the defence lawyers.

Professor Hans Kochler, a UN appointed legal observer, described the proceedings and a subsequent failed appeal by Megrahi as "inconsistent, arbitrary and a spectacular miscarriage of justice".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Alan Titchmarsh MP?  

Alan Titchmarsh MP? His independent manifesto gets my vote

Jane Merrick
 

I’ll support England’s women, but it’s not like men’s football – and that’s a good thing

Matthew Norman
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue