Jim Swire: authorities ‘connived in a case that clearly was bolstered by false evidence’

By John Davison | 27 January 2014

Lockerbie victims’ relatives to appeal over ‘wrongful conviction’Families of some victims of the Lockerbie bombing are to apply for a fresh appeal against the only conviction for the terrorist attack.

One option under consideration is to launch a joint appeal with the family of the convicted man, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Some victims’ relatives are liaising with members of his family in Libya, who are separately studying legal papers with the intention of mounting their own appeal to clear al-Megrahi’s name.

Meanwhile, victims’ families are also seeking legal advice about trying to force an independent inquiry into Lockerbie.

Since the 25th anniversary of the attack last month, relatives have redoubled their efforts to uncover the truth about who was responsible for the death of their loved ones.

Just before the anniversary, Exaro revealed secret documents that showed how US intelligence privately believed that Iran was behind the Lockerbie bombing even after the police investigation publicly switched focus to Libya’s alleged role.

Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died aged 23 in the attack, told Exaro: “Since the 25th anniversary, we have realised that we are not going to get anywhere unless we take fairly brutal action against those who are obstructing us in obtaining the truth about the murder of our families.”

“This means that we have to go to law because, short of doing that, no one is prepared to provide us with the truth.”

Pan Am’s Flight 103 crashed onto the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 after a bomb hidden in the luggage hold exploded. All 259 passengers and crew on the Boeing 747 were killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

Al-Megrahi was jailed in 2001 after being convicted of carrying out the bombing on behalf of the Libyan regime of Muammar Gadaffi.

Exaro also revealed last month how a confidential report on an investigation led by a former senior prosecutor from America said that police were “directed off course” in their investigation into the Lockerbie bombing by government interference.

It also suggested that an Egyptian terrorist – Mohammed Abu Talb – was the real Lockerbie bomber.

Al-Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and died in Libya in 2012. His release triggered a storm of protest from those convinced of his guilt, including relatives of American victims.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) had given al-Megrahi permission to mount a second appeal. But al-Megrahi abandoned the appeal on release from prison, before key evidence was heard.

That evidence, together with the results of further research that has been carried out since, will form the basis of a new appeal.

Under Scottish law, the SCCRC can allow relatives of victims or al-Megrahi to mount a new appeal. Relatives of either are deemed to have “locus”.

Swire said: “One way or another, there is going to be an application to the SCCRC in the near future for a further appeal.”

Campaigners have already lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament, seeking an inquiry into the Lockerbie case.

Swire said that any new request for an inquiry would be backed by European human-rights legislation. This obliges governments to tell the relatives of people who have been murdered all that they know about who killed them, and why those lives were not protected.

“On both counts, the British government is compromised hook, line and sinker,” said Swire.

But he saves his strongest criticism for Scotland’s legal system, speaking of the “lies and denials” in response to previous attempts to question the official version of events at Lockerbie.

“I am incensed by the way people in Scotland have behaved over this,” he said.

He is keen to see the verdict overturned in court because, he said, the authorities had repeatedly used that conviction against campaigners.

“They say, ‘We got one of the bastards,’” said Swire. “Oh no, you did not. You connived in a case that clearly was bolstered by false evidence. You owe us an explanation for that too.”

Swire has a reputation for steely determination, but has also been seen as almost mild-mannered. “There is a fairly belligerent kind of Swire this year,” he said.

Update 5 June 2014: Six members of al-Megrahi’s family today joined forces with 24 relatives of Lockerbie victims to launch a fresh attempt to overturn his conviction.

They lodged an application with the SCCRC. They also claim that ministers pressured al-Megrahi to drop his earlier appeal as a condition of his release.

John Davison reported from Lockerbie on the night of the attack for The Sunday Times.

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