Saturday, September 19, 2009

Megrahi: I'll persuade Scots I'm not guilty

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi: ‘I will do everything in my power to persuade the public of my innocence’.

Published Date: 19 September 2009
By Gerri Peev
SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate and relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims have condemned the "media campaign" by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to prove his innocence.
Megrahi, who was convicted of the atrocity which claimed 270 lives, released more than 300 page of evidence yesterday in a bid to clear his name.

He was freed on compassionate grounds after doctors gave him three months to live, but his decision to abandon his appeal fuelled controversy.

Yesterday, Megrahi insisted he still wanted to prove his innocence in the eyes of Scots.

"I will do everything in my power to persuade the public, in particular the Scottish public, of my innocence. I have returned to Tripoli with my unjust conviction still in place," he said.

"As a result of the abandonment of my appeal, I have been deprived of the opportunity to clear my name through the formal appeal process. I have vowed to continue my attempts to clear my name."

The release of the papers will be seen as an act of revenge on the Scottish legal system, and its top officer yesterday retaliated.

The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, said she deplored his attempt to challenge his conviction by "selective publication of his view of the evidence in the media".

"The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court," said Ms Angiolini.

"Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an appeal court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge."

She said the Crown had been "ready, willing and able" to argue the case for his conviction in the appeal Megrahi had dropped.

"As he and his legal team have made clear, the decision to discontinue the appeal proceedings was taken voluntarily by Mr Megrahi himself," she said.

"He now seeks to retry his case in the media and criticise the evidence against him."

American relatives of the victims also condemned the move.

Rosemary Wolfe, president of Justice for Pan Am 103 group, said: "If he wanted to prove his innocence he should have kept his appeal going. It's almost as if he thinks that if he says it long enough, it will become true."

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said:

"He remains, in the eyes of Scottish justice, the murderer of 270 people. The release of these files does not change that fact."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it supported the conviction and had released as much relevant information as possible.

But lawyers for Megrahi, Taylor & Kelly, set out more than 300 pages of evidence on the website, megrahimystory.net, which they claim showed the judgment reached was unreasonable and based on insufficient evidence.

The papers were based on arguments presented to the appeal court between April and May this year, before the appeal was abandoned.

Lawyers argued there was a failure to pinpoint the date he was meant to have bought clothes from a Maltese shop that were later found in the suitcase containing the bomb.

The dossier also questions the evidence for the bomb being planted at Luqa airport in Malta, and argues there was no motive for Libya to carry out the attack.

Doubts are also cast on the way in which identification evidence was obtained from the Maltese shopkeeper.

More documents are expected to be issued in the weeks ahead.

IRA VICTIMS STUNNED BY REVELATION OF POLICE AID TO LIBYA

VICTIMS of IRA violence last night expressed disbelief at the revelation that a senior Northern Ireland police officer had been sent to Tripoli to train Libyan police.

Unionist politicians were also incensed.

William Frazer of victims' group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives said:

"Here we have the police out training the people who trained the IRA and supplied the weapons to murder their colleagues, it's just unbelievable."

With Libya facing demands for compensation for relatives of IRA victims, some members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board said they were stunned. But the board later said it had backed the three-week trip by a superintendent in January this year and that board and Stormont Assembly member Ian Paisley jnr (right) had approved it.

Mr Paisley was chairman of the board's human resources committee when the request came in last December.

A board spokesman said because it was not due to meet again until February this year, procedure was followed and the secondment to Libya approved by Mr Paisley and two other board members. It was then rubber-stamped by Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward.

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