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 Tam Dalyell: 'Issue is not only Megrahi, but integrity of Scottish legal system … this case does not cease simply because of death'

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Location : Glasgow
Registration date : 2008-09-03

PostSubject: Tam Dalyell: 'Issue is not only Megrahi, but integrity of Scottish legal system … this case does not cease simply because of death'   Fri Oct 24, 2008 4:37 pm

ALLOW me to wonder what is going through the minds of Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean, the judges at the historic trial at Camp Zeist.
Unease? Consternation? Sheer, incandescent anger?

For the unchallenged facts have now emerged as to the extent to which the Crown Office withheld information from the judges, quite apart from failing in their duty to make available crucial information to the defence. This was sheer deceit.

In particular, that heavyweight and distinguished lawyer, John, Lord Coulsfield, specifically asked the Crown if they were completely confident about their key witness, Tony Gauci, the shopkeeper of Mary's House in Valetta, Malta. Yes, the Crown Office assured the judiciary – they had complete confidence.

Years later, the Lord Advocate of the day, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, says in public that Gauci "was not the full shilling".

Were I the judges, albeit retired, I would confound precedent and write in stern terms to the Lord Advocate, saying that surely she had an obligation to move speedily in the appeal.

Not the full shilling! How could they have in good faith proceeded further against Mr Megrahi?

In my opinion, it is guilt and embarrassment over their own dreadful performance that has led the Crown Office to procrastinate and obfuscate at every turn in the past two decades over the attempts by Mr Megrahi's lawyers and some of the British relatives – Martin Cadman, the Rev John Mosley and Dr Jim Swire, in particular – to obtain truth and justice.

For the honour of the Scottish judicial system, everything should be done to expedite the appeal.

I know that this may be more easily said than done since the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission went to 700 pages in allowing the appeal and the solicitor, Tony Kelly, has responded with some 317 pages; moreover, the judges have (rightly in my view) allowed maximum scope for the range of subjects legitimately put forward during an appeal.

When, a few months ago, I went to see Mr Megrahi for the last time at Greenock Prison – I had visited him at Barlinnie – he told me movingly: "Of course I am desperate to go back to Tripoli; I have my wife and I want to see my five children growing up. But, I want to go back an innocent man and this means going through the appeal."

If I thought there was any scintilla of possibility that he was guilty of mass murder, I might agree with Ruth Cohen, the intransigent American relative, who says she has no pity. But the American relatives, intent on vengeance, should understand that the United States scapegoated Libya, a country which had nothing whatever to do with the Lockerbie crime, at a time when they wanted to blame someone, small and unpopular, in order not to have trouble with Iran and Syria, who harboured the real perpetrators, before the planned invasion of Iraq.

The dreadful question has to be asked – if Mr Megrahi's illness is as terminal as is indicated in medical bulletins, what happens now? Do we just sweep it under the carpet; do we allow it to evaporate or go away? Certainly not, say some of us. The issue is not only Mr Megrahi, but the integrity and good name of the Scottish legal system.

Last month, Dr Hans Koechler, the distinguished Austrian international jurist who was appointed by the United Nations Secretary- General as his representative at the Lockerbie trial and who attended Camp Zeist, highlighted in The Scotsman the shortcomings from an international point of view of what had happened – as he has done in The Scotsman over the years.

I, and others, regardless of politics, care very deeply for the good name of the legal system of our country (I am the son-in-law of a former Lord Justice Clerk, John Wheatley, whom I admired very much). I do not want to see our justice system held up to international ridicule and for that reason alone, the Lockerbie case does not cease simply because of death.

• Tam Dalyell is a former MP for Linlithgow.
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Tam Dalyell: 'Issue is not only Megrahi, but integrity of Scottish legal system … this case does not cease simply because of death'
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