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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?