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Megrahi’s son joins campaign to clear his father’s name

Aamer Anwar with Dr Jim Swire

THE SON of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has joined a Facebook group protesting his father’s innocence to help dispel the notion that an application for a posthumous appeal is not backed by his family.

Khaled El Megrahi has joined the Friends of Justice for Megrahi group and has been welcomed warmly by the other 180 members committed to clearing his father’s name.

They include British relatives of the 270 victims who perished 26 years ago, Professor Robert Black, the architect of the trial under Scots Law in a neutral country, and prominent figures like James Robertson, one of Scotland’s greatest novelists. Robertson’s acclaimed novel, The Professor of Truth, was based loosely on the Lockerbie atrocity which killed 270 people in December 1988.

Shortly before El Megrahi joined the group, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had expressed doubts about continuing the investigation that could lead to a fresh attempt to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

The commission had asked the High Court to decide whether it could continue with the application, submitted earlier this year by Aamer Anwar, the Scottish solicitor acting for the Megrahi family and other supporters.

Scots Law allows for posthumous appeals to be pursued by the executor of the deceased, and leaves it open to others with an irrefutable interest to pursue justice, but their right is not enshrined in the same way as the executor’s.

The SCCRC is seeking clarification about whether the victims’ families alone could pursue a fresh appeal without the support of Megrahi’s executor.

The confusion has arisen because the SCCRC insists it must have the original document confirming El Megrahi as his father’s executor.

Mr Anwar said that the current climate in Libya made it extremely unlikely the legal team could travel there soon to obtain the necessary documentation, nor would they ask the Megrahi family to put their lives at risk.

He added: “With regards to the rights of the victims’ families to pursue an appeal, we would submit that there is a fundamental duty on the state to protect the rights of victims of crime, which includes responsibility for the administration of justice.”

Without the original executry documents, other Megrahi family members and “outsiders” like the British relatives of the victims, including Dr Jim Swire and the Rev John Mosey, would have to persuade the High Court of the legitimacy of their interest.

Given the stakes for the Scottish criminal justice system, there are fears that the judges who decide on the SCCRC’s submission will not be easily convinced to encourage further close scrutiny of crucial aspects of the case, most notably the conduct of police, prosecutors and expert witnesses.

El Megrahi’s public support for his father, therefore, could be very significant.

The SCCRC in 2007 referred the case back to the appeal court for what would have been a second appeal on six grounds that suggested there might have been a miscarriage of justice.

Since then, the case for an appeal has been strengthened by fresh scientific evidence showing that a fragment said to be from the timer that detonated the bomb was not a match for a type of device that the court accepted had been used and had been sold only to Libya.

Megrahi died on 20 May 2012, some 33 months after his release on compassionate grounds as he was dying from cancer.

He abandoned his appeal believing it would help secure his compassionate release, and although the Scottish Government has always denied a deal was done, his controversial release was confirmed soon after.

El Megrahi was welcomed to the Facebook group by Prof Black, who said: “I hope that 2015 will be the year when the injustice to your father, and your family, will begin to be rectified.”

The sentiment was echoed later by other members, and El Megrahi later posted short messages thanking supporters, expressing hope for progress, and offering best wishes and a happy new year to all members.