Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lockerbie evidence 'misunderstood'

[This is the headline over a report that appeared on the BBC News website on this date in 2002. It reads in part:]

The Lockerbie appeal has heard that the trial judges who convicted a Libyan man of the bombing misunderstood and misinterpreted crucial evidence.

The claim was made by the lead lawyer representing Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who was found guilty in January 2001 of murdering 270 people.

He was jailed for life with the minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Lawyers for the Libyan are attempting to overturn the verdict and are focussing during the second day of the appeal on legal precedents to support their case that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

Bill Taylor QC, for al-Megrahi, told the court on Thursday that new evidence had emerged in recent months that could "tear holes" in the trial judges' ruling.

A BBC correspondent at the court described the second day's proceedings as "pretty dry stuff". (...)

Al-Megrahi's team has lodged a nine-page document with the court, setting out the grounds for the appeal.

Mr Taylor raised the evidence given by Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who identified al-Megrahi as the man who bought clothes from his shop on 7 December 1988.

He pointed out that Mr Gauci only saw the Libyan once and 12 years went by before he gave evidence at the trial.

Mr Taylor said that although Mr Gauci had been a credible witness and done his best to tell the truth, the question of how reliable he was, was a "different matter".

He said the trial judges had wrongly used evidence which showed al-Megrahi was staying in a hotel near Mr Gauci's shop at the time to infer that he was the buyer of the clothes.

The only other identification came when Mr Gauci pointed out al-Megrahi in court as being "similar" to the man who he had seen in his shop and when he was shown photographs of him taken from newspapers.

Mr Taylor pointed out that there was "considerable publicity" by that time connecting his client with the investigation into the bombing.

He also rebutted suggestions by the Crown that the question of what date al-Megrahi was in Malta was irrelevant to the issue of identification.

Mr Taylor said on Wednesday he wanted to introduce new evidence relating to a security guard who says there was a break-in at a baggage area at Heathrow Airport on 21 December 1988, the day Pan Am Flight 103 took off for America.

The prosecution says the suitcase carrying the bomb which blew up the plane was loaded onto a plane in Malta.

From there it was transported via Frankfurt to Heathrow, where it was loaded onto Pan Am flight 103.

Al-Megrahi's defence team insists the case was more likely to have been placed on board the plane at Heathrow.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Lockerbie judges “misdirected themselves”

[What follows is the text of a report that was published on the website of The Guardian on this date in 2002:]

The Libyan jailed for the Lockerbie bombing today launched his appeal against his conviction.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was found guilty of carrying out the 1988 atrocity in a lengthy trial at a specially-convened Scottish court in Holland last year.

But Megrahi's lawyers say that fresh evidence has since emerged which casts doubt on the guilt of the Libyan, who was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison.

The defence team opened its case this morning at the beginning of the appeal hearing, at the same special Scottish Court at Camp Zeist in Holland were he was convicted.

Megrahi, 49, who has been held in prison at the camp, a former US air base, since being sentenced last January, was granted leave to appeal in August.

A panel of five judges, headed by Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice General, was selected last week to hear the appeal, which is expected to last about three weeks.

Megrahi's lawyers issued a nine-page submission at the start of today's hearing, detailing their grounds for appeal.

The defence will launch a new attack on the evidence of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who identified Megrahi as a man who had bought clothing at his store a few weeks before the bombing. The clothing was packed in the same suitcase as the bomb.

Defence lawyers at the trial had questioned the reliability of Mr Gauci's evidence, and the panel of judges admitted he had not made an "absolutely positive" identification of Megrahi either in court or from photographs. There was no jury, and the judges decided the verdict in the case.

According to the prosecution's version of events, which was accepted by the judges in the trial, the suitcase carrying the bomb was loaded on to a plane in Malta. From there it was taken via Frankfurt to Heathrow, where it was loaded onto Pan Am flight 103.

Megrahi's defence team has always insisted the bomb suitcase was more likely to have been placed on board the plane at Heathrow and wants to introduce new evidence to support that claim.

The defence has fresh testimony from Heathrow security guard Ray Manly, who has claimed there was a break-in at the baggage area at the airport on December 21 1988, the same day Pan Am flight 103 took off from there bound for America.

William Taylor QC said that with the exception of the new evidence, the grounds of appeal constituted criticisms of the findings of the judges in their 82-page opinion, which was issued at the end of the original trial.

Mr Taylor said: "A judgment of this sort has never in modern times been issued in a criminal trial in this country." He added that he intended to show that the three judges had effectively misdirected themselves as jurors and led to a miscarriage of justice.

He said that a reasonable jury in an ordinary trial could not have reached that verdict if it was given proper directions by the judge.

Alan Turnbull QC, for the Crown, argued that the evidence was not sufficient to justify being heard in the appeal.

All 259 passengers and crew on Pan Am 103, as well as 11 people on the ground, were killed when the plane was blown out of the sky over the Dumfries and Galloway town in December 1988.

Megrahi's co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, a former station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines, was acquitted at the end of the original trial after the judges ruled there was no evidence he had helped plant the bomb.

Today's hearing made legal history as its opening scenes were shown live on television and the Internet, although broadcasters will be subject to a number of restrictions, including a ban on televising evidence from witnesses.

Yesterday the Foreign Office said US, British and Libyan government officials had met earlier this month to discuss compensation for the victims of the bombing. A spokesman said the talks, on January 10, had been held in a "constructive atmosphere".

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Official Report of Justice Committee consideration of Megrahi petition

[What follows is the text of the Official Report (Hansard) of the discussion of Justice for Megrahi’s petition at the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on 17 January 2017:]

Justice for Megrahi (PE1370)

I propose to defer to next week discussion of the three sets of petitions that are on the agenda, apart from the petition on an independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction, in deference to the fact that we have people in the public gallery who have sat through all of the meeting to hear about that issue.
PE1370 is discussed on page 4 of the clerk’s paper 3 and annex F provides an update from Justice for Megrahi. The committee agreed to keep the petition open pending the completion of operation Sandwood, which we understood was to be completed by the end of 2016. However, according to the clerk’s recent update, the operation is still on-going and we do not have a completion date for it.
I ask the committee to consider and agree on what, if any, action it wishes to take in relation to the petition.
The petitioners, in their letter to us, conclude by asking the committee to allow the petition to remain open until the conclusions of operation Sandwood have been announced. That is a reasonable request, to which we should accede.
I would have made the point that Stewart Stevenson just made if he had not made it, so I am grateful to him for making it.
In that case, the petition remains open.

UN Security Council requires Libya to comply with US/UK demands

[On this date in 1992 the United Nations Security Council passed its first resolution concerning Libya and the destruction of Pan Am 103 (UNSC Res 731). It reads as follows:]

The Security Council,

Deeply disturbed by the world-wide persistence of acts of international terrorism in all its forms, including those in which States are directly or indirectly involved, which endanger or take innocent lives, have a deleterious effect on international relations and jeopardize the security of States,
Deeply concerned by all activities directed against international civil aviation and affirming the right of all States, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and relevant principles of international law, to protect their nationals from acts of international terrorism that constitute threats to international peace and security,
Reaffirming its resolution 286 (1970) in which it called on States to take all possible legal steps to prevent any interference with international civil air travel,
Reaffirming also its resolution 635 (1989) in which it condemned all acts of unlawful interference against the security of civil aviation and called upon all States to cooperate in devising and implementing measures to prevent all acts of terrorism, including those involving explosives,
Recalling the statement made on 30 December 1988 by the President of the Council on behalf of the members of the Council strongly condemning the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 and calling on all States to assist in the apprehension and prosecution of those responsible for this criminal act,
Deeply concerned over results of investigations which implicate officials of the Libyan Government and which are contained in Security Council documents that include the requests addressed to the Libyan authorities by France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America in connection with the legal procedures related to the attacks carried out against Pan Am flight 103 and UTA flight 772 (S/23306, S/23307, S/23308, S/23309, S/23317),
Determined to eliminate international terrorism,
1. Condemns the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 and UTA flight 772 and the resultant loss of hundreds of lives;
2. Strongly deplores the fact that the Libyan Government has not yet responded effectively to the above requests to cooperate fully in establishing responsibility for the terrorist acts referred to above against Pan Am flight 103 and UTA flight 772;
3. Urges the Libyan Government immediately to provide a full and effective response to those requests so as to contribute to the elimination of international terrorism;
4. Requests the Secretary-General to seek the cooperation of the Libyan Government to provide a full and effective response to those requests;
5. Urges all States individually and collectively to encourage the Libyan Government to respond fully and effectively to those requests;
6. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
[RB: Libya’s failure to comply led in March 1992 to a further Security Council Resolution imposing sanctions.]

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2002:]

Megrahi’s appeal is being financed and co-ordinated by a consortium of Libyan lawyers headed by Tripoli-based academic Dr Ibrahim Legwell. [RB: Dr Legwell was a practising lawyer in Tripoli. His academic appointments were honorary.]

In a bid to bolster the appeal case, the Libyan lawyers raised funds to recruit the services of some of the world’s leading legal minds and PR men.

The appeal is to be heard by Scotland’s highest-ranking judge, Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice-General, sitting with Lords Kirkwood, Osborne, Macfadyen and Nimmo Smith.

Professor Robert Black, QC, of Edinburgh University, who helped to pave the way for the Lockerbie trial to be held in a neutral country, believes that Megrahi should win his appeal.

He added: "I did not believe either of the accused should have been convicted, and it is pretty plain my view is that the appeal should succeed, simply because Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place on the evidence that was led.

"I believe that conclusions drawn by the court, that Megrahi bought clothing on Malta on a day when he was known to be on the island, went against the weight of the evidence.

"These conclusions were absolutely vital to his conviction. But it is very difficult for five judges to turn round and say, ‘Our three very senior colleagues at the trial got it wrong and they were not entitled to convict.’ I’m not oozing confidence that my view will turn out to be correct."

Friday, 20 January 2017

The verdict is vulnerable

[What follows is the text of a report that was published in The Times on this date in 2012. It reads as follows:]

The doctor who lost his daughter in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing has reaffirmed his belief that the Libyan man convicted of the attack is innocent.

Jim Swire said he was convinced that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, despite the belief of the new Libyan governement that al-Megrahi is guilty of the mass murder of the 270 passengers.

Dr Swire was speaking last night after an ITV documentary in which he was shown visiting al-Megrahi, who is dying of cancer. He also consulted representatives of the Libyan leadership that toppled the dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi last year.

In one exchange Ashour Shamis, an adviser to Abdurrahim al-Keib, the Libyan Prime Minister, told Dr Swire: “As far as the Libyans are concerned, the Gaddafi regime, Gaddafi personally, are involved in planning and executing the atrocity. There is no doubt about it. They are involved, the regime are involved.”

Mr Shamis added that al-Megrahi was involved in the bombing, if “only a small player”. He went on: “Megrahi is an employee of Libyan security there is no doubt about it — of Libyan security. And if he was told to do something, he would have done it.”

Dr Swire said he had not accepted that argument. Mr Shamis, along with the rest of new government, had simply not had time to consider the case with any thoroughness.

“I found Tripoli percolated with the desire to pin everything imaginable under the sun on the defunct Gaddafi regime, because the people are so delighted to have got rid of him,” said Dr Swire. “Mr Shamis certainly believes al-Megrahi was guilty. I tried to make plain that if you look at the evidence that it is not at all likely.”

Dr Swire added that he hoped the documentary would re-awaken interest in al-Megrahi’s conviction, in a Scottish court at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, in 2001. The Libyan was released from Greenock prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 because he is suffering from terminal cancer.

“The verdict is vulnerable and would be repealed if there were a full inquiry into it,” said Dr Swire. “The Scottish public should understand what’s going on in their name: the support of an unsupportable verdict.”

A petition calling for a review of the al-Megrahi case has been lodged with Holyrood’s Justice Committee and will be debated in the Scottish Parliament next month.

Judges for Megrahi Zeist appeal named

Since my return to South Africa I have, until today, been in areas without internet connection. Here is what I would have posted on Thursday, 19 January had it been possible.

[What follows is a snippet from the Libya: News and Views website on this date in 2002:]

The five judges who will hear the appeal by the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing were named yesterday. The bench is to be headed by Scotland’s senior judge, Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice-General. He will sit with Lords Kirkwood, Osborne, Macfadyen and Nimmo Smith. The appeal is due to start next Wednesday at the Scottish court in the Netherlands. A year ago, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, 49, was found guilty of murdering the 270 people who died when Pan-am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky above Lockerbie in December 1988. Lawyers for al-Megrahi will insist at the appeal that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. [The Scotsman]

Inference upon inference upon inference

Since my return to South Africa I have, until today, been in areas without internet connection. Here is what I would have posted on Wednesday, 18 January had it been possible.

[What follows is excerpted from a report published on the BBC News website on 18 January 2001:]

The Lockerbie trial has been adjourned until Tuesday 30 January while the judges consider their verdict after hearing 84 days of evidence. (...)

The trial itself lasted eight months but was persistently held up by procedural problems.

Defence counsel for the two Libyans accused of the bombing in which 270 died completed their closing arguments on Thursday and called on the judges to deliver not guilty verdicts.

They urged the three judges - Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord Maclean - to find their clients not guilty of the murder of 270 people in December 1988.

The trial is taking place at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands and is thought to have cost about £50m.

On the last day of evidence they heard Richard Keen, QC, representing Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, systematically atttempt to dismiss the Crown's claims by challenging the quality of the testimony.

He said: "We have inference upon inference upon inference, leading to an inference."

Mr Keen said the fact that Mr Fhimah had been, prior to the bombing, station chief for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta did not mean he had the know-how to slip an unaccompanied suitcase bomb onto an outgoing flight.

"Even if Al-Amin Fhimah had possessed the expertise that the Crown attributes to him," Mr Keen said, "the evidence does not suggest that Libyan intelligence services would have looked to him for the furtherance of their alleged plot."

Mr Keen suggested Fhimah could have been duped into supplying baggage tags, and that an entry in his diary about "getting tags - OK" proved nothing.

He added that Libya's JSO intelligence agency had its own agent at the airport, Abdul Majid Giaka, who later defected to the United States and, in September, testified as the prosecution's star witness.

Like William Taylor, QC, who is representing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, Mr Keen challenged Mr Giaka's evidence in an attempt to convince the bench that the case against the accused is not watertight.

On several points, Mr Keen said, Giaka was "unreliable, and at some times simply incredible".

He urged the judges to look back at his testimony with "conspicuous care".

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Origin of bomb suitcase questioned

[What follows is an item from the Libya: News and Views website on this date in 2001:]

The defence in the Lockerbie trial used closing submissions on Tuesday to cast doubt on a point prosecutors must prove for conviction: the origin of the suitcase holding the bomb that killed 270 in 1988. Counsel for defendant Libyan Abdel Basset al-Megrahi summed up on the 82nd day of the trial by exposing flawed security at Frankfurt airport, in a bid to show the bomb bag could have been introduced there and not in Malta as the prosecution contends. Al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Fahima deny responsibility for the explosion that blew New York-bound Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky over the Scots town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. Prosecutors maintain the two defendants were behind the planting of a suitcase containing the makeshift bomb on a Frankfurt-bound flight at Malta's Luqa airport. [Reuters]

[RB: Readers are reminded that Justice for Megrahi’s petition calling for an independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction (PE1370) is up for consideration at the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee that will start at 10.00 today in Holyrood Committee Room 2. The committee’s proceedings can be viewed on Parliament TV.]

Monday, 16 January 2017

Closing submissions for Megrahi at Lockerbie trial

[What follows is the text of a report that was published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

The bomb on board Pan Am flight 103 could have been put there by a "dupe", a defence lawyer has told the Lockerbie trial.

William Taylor, QC, suggested that an unwitting passenger may have been used by a terrorist group to put the device on the plane.

And he also suggested that it could have been planted at London's Heathrow Airport.

The defence advocate, who is acting on behalf of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was continuing his final arguments at the Scottish court in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

He said that a passenger could have been duped into taking the bag containing the bomb on board.

"The most obvious way for any suitcase to get on board is by passenger check-in," he said.

"The Crown have not proved that the improvised explosive device was not introduced by a passenger."

Mr Taylor said that Khaled Jaffar, one of the passengers who died in the disaster, was nervous and constantly looking around him at Frankfurt Airport prior to the flight.

"His demeanour could have been because he was given another bag to introduce at Frankfurt," he added.

Mr Taylor also dismissed the Crown's theory that an unaccompanied suitcase containing the bomb was placed on board an Air Malta flight at Luqa airport in Malta.

He said the suitcase had ended up in a luggage container close to the skin of the aircraft.

"The only airport where such control could be exercised was Heathrow," he said.

"The improvised explosive device did end up in the optimum position - either it was introduced at Heathrow or the position of the device was achieved by extraordinary chance."

Mr Taylor said a dramatic increase in security staff at Heathrow Airport in the wake of the disaster was testament to the "inadequacy of security" there before it happened.

The QC said three areas of Heathrow Airport could have been breached - an interline shed, the baggage build-up area and an area alongside Pan Am 103.

The court had heard that on the day of the disaster, some bags destined for Flight 103 were placed into the luggage container in the interline shed which stored bags from connecting flights.

This was left unattended at the baggage build-up area.

It was later taken to the tarmac where bags from Flight 103 from Frankfurt were loaded and the container was placed on the connecting aircraft bound for New York.

Mr Taylor described security at the interline shed as "inadequate" and said somebody could have placed a bag onto a conveyer belt which ran into the shed from the outside.

It was also left open and unattended overnight.

He said: "In the case of the interline area there was scope for a case to go into a container in error.

"This would make it easier for a case to be placed deliberately in a container such as AVE 4041 the container which held the case containing the bomb."

Mr Taylor also pointed out that the container was left unattended outside an office in the baggage build-up area for 40 minutes that day.

He said a label indicated the container's destination and flight number.

Mr Taylor described the identification of Mr Al Megrahi as the person who bought clothing, which was in the bomb suitcase, from a shop in Malta as unreliable.

Charred fragments of clothing found in the plane wreckage were traced back to witness Tony Gauci's shop.

Mr Taylor described his evidence as "utterly unreliable" and said talk of "resemblance" was worthless.

The judges are expected to adjourn the trial once the defence's closing submissons are completed and announce a date when they will deliver their verdict.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Megrahi dilemma

[This is the headline over an editorial that appeared in The Herald on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]
Between a rock and a hard place. That is the uncomfortable territory Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan serving 27 years for the Lockerbie bombing, now appears to inhabit. As The Herald reveals today, secret talks have been held involving officials from the Westminster, Holyrood and Libyan governments that could lead to Megrahi being freed from Greenock prison and returned to his homeland. Not much of a predicament in that scenario to exercise Megrahi's mind, it might appear. But there is a catch. For Megrahi to be considered for repatriation, he must first abandon the appeal against his conviction.
Should he opt to be returned under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between Libya and Britain (subject to parliamentary ratification in both countries in March), the final decision on repatriation will rest with Kenny MacAskill, the Holyrood Justice Secretary. He could reject the appeal but the diplomatic choreography suggests the process is likely to conclude with Megrahi boarding a flight for Tripoli, an outcome that would seem to be at odds with Alex Salmond's statement in April last year. The First Minister said then that Megrahi would serve his full sentence in Scotland and that he would defend the integrity of the Scottish judicial system.
Ministers can point to Megrahi's subsequent diagnosis with terminal prostate cancer as adding to the complexity of the appeal process. There is some truth in this. The Appeal Court has, correctly in our view, rejected his request for release on bail pending the hearing of his complex appeal. It is due to begin in some three months and could take one year. There are more than 1000 pages of submissions from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which concluded the conviction may have been unsafe, and from Megrahi's legal team.
Megrahi's return home under the PTA might seem a neat solution but it ignores several factors. Megrahi continues to plead innocence and wants to clear his name (the main witness against him has been largely discredited). Testing all the evidence, including the secret document, in an appeal hearing offers the best hope of establishing the truth about the Lockerbie bombing. The opportunity will be gone if there is no appeal. The prospect of securing any subsequent convictions, should that be a possibility, would be remote as the world has moved on and relations with the countries suspected of involvement, including Libya, Iran and Syria, have changed. If, however, the integrity and independence of the Scottish judicial system is paramount, the appeal process should be allowed to run its course and make a final determination. Justice should be blind, not thwarted by political or diplomatic convenience.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Last days of the lockerbie trial

[This is the headline over an article by Neil Mackay that appeared in the Sunday Herald on this date in 2001. It reads in part:]

When the Lockerbie trial finally limps towards its end this week it will be with a whimper rather than a bang. Somehow or other, the dying days of a court case about mass murder and international terrorism have been muted to the point of anti-climax.

In the opening months of 2000 this was being hailed as the trial of the century. Just over six months later, the courtroom at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands is less than a quarter full. Only a handful of reporters from agencies such as Associated Press and Reuters are present to watch the proceedings.

On Wednesday there was a farcical moment of excitement among the press when two unknown faces walked into the court. They turned out to be a local mother and her teenage son from the town of Soesterberg who had nothing to do so decided to spend a day rubbernecking at alleged terrorists.

Even the defence team last week sent the trial into its endgame by deciding to put forward no defence as they believed there was nothing really to defend or disprove. There are few insiders and Lockerbie watchers who believe the two accused, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, will be found guilty of the murder of 270 people over Scotland in December 1988.

That is hardly a criticism of the prosecution team, led by Colin Boyd, Scotland's Lord Advocate. They are, after all, trying to shine a light into a world that even British and American intelligence find impenetrable. (...)

The rumour mill also got a little over-heated earlier in the week when two of the three charges against the Libyans were dropped by the prosecution. The Crown abandoned charges of conspiracy and a breach of aviation laws to concentrate solely on the murder charge. There were claims that this showed just how confident the prosecution was in securing a guilty verdict on the murder charge.

In fact it shows nothing of the sort. Even in the most anodyne of murder cases it is a recognised tactic of prosecutors to add additional charges in order to be able to present as much damaging evidence as possible to the court. These additional charges are often dropped at the last moment so a jury can concentrate on convicting a defendant on the most serious charge before them - murder.

There is a feeling of despair and inevitability around the court. On Thursday there were little more than 10 British and American relatives of the Lockerbie dead in the court. On the first day of the trial there were probably more than 100 family members there. Many have lost heart. Few of the American relatives see the case as more than a show trial. Many never wanted to see Megrahi and Fhimah on trial by themselves. They wanted their bosses, and their bosses' bosses, and everyone in the chain of command right up to Colonel Gadaffi himself in the dock.

Then there is Dr Jim Swire, the most prominent of the British family members, who never really believed that Libya was behind the bombing in the first place. Since the beginning of the trial he has been a daily fixture in the court and now, ever the diplomat, he is hinting heavily that the Libyan theory was far from rock-solid. While the defence insisted in its summing up that a Palestinian terrorist organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), was actually behind the Lockerbie bombing, Swire said: "Everything that has been said in court until now pales into insignificance in comparison to these claims. If what is being put forward is true, it would have the gravest of consequences for the prosecution."

Another member of the delegation of British families, the Rev John Mosey, said: "I think we are just hearing now that there is more to this case than meets the eye."

The only frustrating problem is that the defence decision to put on no defence robs us of the detail of why the PFLP-GC may have been the bombers. Defence now believes it has only to destroy the prosecution's case to get the two defendants off the hook, so the legal team didn't take the gamble of calling witnesses to the stand who, although they may have proved the PFLP-GC theory, might also have been damaging to Fhimah and Megrahi.

There was nobody in court during the week who had not reached the conclusion that the Lockerbie trial is serving a purpose beyond that of attempting to seek justice. Throughout the week Hamed El Houden, Libya's ambassador to the Benelux countries, sat at the back of the courtroom in one of the boxed-off VIP and observer areas. He hinted, during a short recess, that the trial's real success was bringing Libya, that one-time rogue state and haven for the West's bogeymen, in from the cold, opening the way for lots of rich oil investment in his country by the UK and USA.

"Without question, this trial has significantly improved relations between my country and yours - and America," said El Houden. "I do not envisage these relations deteriorating again. One should also say that there has been nothing said in this court that confirms that my country had anything to do with the bombing. I have every confidence in this court in recognising that fact." (...)

The fear is that if the relatives of the dead do not get the verdict they want they will need a whipping boy on whom to vent their anger - and that whipping boy comes in the shape of Scottish justice. For those who believe the Libyans did it - and that is nearly all the American families - Scottish justice will be seen as failing them, of being inadequate and cowardly, if Megrahi and Fhimah walk free from court. The fall-out will be even worse should the not proven verdict be called into play. In that case the US families will say that the law in Scotland is indeed an ass. In their eyes the country will have spent tens of millions of pounds on this case in order to reach no conclusion.

Families like the Cohens are already beginning to sharpen their knives for the assault on Scots law. Dan and Susan Cohen, who lost their young daughter Theo in the bombing, are starting to remind those who will listen that America helped finance the trial. They have also begun claiming that Britain was without the money or investigative ability to either stage such a murder inquiry or prosecute the case. (...)

Bob Black says: "If we do get a not guilty verdict, the outburst of fury from the US families will be spectacular - but their pain will have been made worse if the Department of Justice is currently preparing them for success."

Many of Scotland's best lawyers are already saying that if a guilty verdict does come in then there is no way it will stand up under appeal. This is fuelling the guessing game. Some reckon that the chance of the appeal succeeding will play heavily on the judges' minds. No judge wants their finding overturned in the appeal court.

Perhaps one indicator of whether this tortuous case will reach a guilty or not guilty verdict comes from a man with so much to lose - Megrahi's brother, Mohammed. There is something of an acceptance around the court that Fhimah will be freed, as little of substance has been said about him at all throughout the trial, but no-one is making a firm call on Megrahi.

Last May, his brother Mohammed was a nervous wreck. As he smoked tar-packed Arabian cigarette after cigarette, he constantly wiped tears from his eyes. There was a real and desperate fear in him that his baby brother - as he calls Megrahi - was going to go to jail in Scotland forever. This time around, he is not so despondent. "There is a God in the world, and God is just. Justice is part of God," he says. "Only the devil can now keep my brother in jail. I see in my mind's eye a month from now, my brother beside me and both of us beside our mother. That will be justice - and I know it is coming."