Sunday, 5 February 2017

A very, very weak circumstantial case

[What follows is excerpted from a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is due to reveal fresh evidence on Monday, which he says will clear the Libyan agent convicted last week of the Lockerbie bombing.

Colonel Gaddafi says the evidence will prove that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is innocent of the 1988 bombing in which 270 people died.

Libya's defence of Al Megrahi - a former Libyan intelligence agent who received a life sentence for the bombing of the Pan-Am aircraft over Lockerbie - received a boost after a Scottish legal expert said the verdict was obtained on "very, very weak" evidence.

A Libyan official said the opinion showed that the case was a "racist pretext" to prolong nine years of sanctions against the country.

The three Scottish judges who heard the case found Al Megrahi's alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, not guilty.

Colonel Gaddafi said last week that the judges had three options - to acquit Al Megrahi, resign or commit suicide.

Libyans flocked to public meetings on Monday in anticipation of Colonel Gaddafi's statement, leaving the country at an almost complete standstill. (...)

Correspondents say two possible scenarios are being discussed in Tripoli:
  • Colonel Gaddafi could produce evidence that Washington put pressure on the Scottish judges to convict Al Megrahi
  • Or he could produce evidence that another non-Libyan perpetrator carried out the bombing.

However, there is scepticism outside the country that hard evidence will emerge at this late stage.

Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, was quoted on Sunday as saying he was "absolutely astounded" that Al Megrahi had been found guilty.

Mr Black said he believed the prosecution had "a very, very weak circumstantial case" and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would "convict anyone, even a Libyan" on such evidence.

The view, published in British newspapers, echoes that of some of the families of UK victims of the Lockerbie bombing, who are calling for a public inquiry to find "the truth of who was responsible and what the motive was".

Wednesday's verdict sparked angry protests in Libya on Saturday, as Washington and London demanded the Libyan Government accept responsibility for the atrocity and pay compensation to the victims' families.

The protesters condemned what they called a "CIA-dictated" verdict and demanded compensation for the victims of the 1986 US air raids on Tripoli and Benghazi.

Al Megrahi's 15-year old son, Khaled, took part in a demonstration on Saturday, holding a placard reading: "My father is innocent."

The opposing camps - Washington and London on the one hand and Libya and its supporters on the other - have become increasing polarised since the Lockerbie verdict was issued.

London and Washington are demanding that Libya accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and pay compensation to the families of the victims before sanctions can be lifted. (...)

A BBC correspondent in Tripoli, Frank Gardner, says Libya is on tenterhooks, waiting to learn what the new evidence Colonel Gaddafi has promised to reveal could be. [RB: As far as I am aware this fresh evidence was never produced.]

The Libya press has continued to attack last week's verdict. The Libyan daily, Al Fatah, accuses the judges of yielding to political pressure from the United States. It says the judges were stricken with political Alzheimer's Disease.

In another paper, the Green March, the editorial referred to what it called Britain's history of imperialism, aggression and human suffering. The paper accused British newspapers of carrying out an organised campaign to harm Libya. It blamed what it called disturbed writers without loyalty to Britain, who were influenced, it says, by Zionist circles.

But in a note of conciliation, the Libyan editorial added that Anglo-Libyan relations were recovering. It said it felt sincerely that the British government was keen to reinforce those relations.


  1. The following comment is from SM:
    SM has left a new comment on your post "A very, very weak circumstantial case":

    "Colonel Gaddafi said last week that the judges had three options - to acquit Al Megrahi, resign or commit suicide."

    Amusing, but he should of course have anticipated the most obvious option: simply to keep claiming that everything they did was correct, that the conviction was safe etc.

    Judges are protected by the system they work in - "infallible because they are final".

    The protection mechanisms only work when they are allowed to.

    Some important requirements are not there. Time limits is one example. There seems to be no limitations on how long things may be allowed to take. Or how little - self-protective legislation can be completed overnight.

    In all my life I can't recall hearing about one single Danish judge who was even reprimanded as a result of a verdict. It is like a single class of people beyond criticism.

    In Thailand it is a criminal offense to openly dispute a court verdict.

    Football referees on top levels are evaluated all the time, and degraded for bad performances, but evaluating a judge? Unthinkable. Only in cases where the judge commits direct crimes (Mark Ciavarella), or borders the insane (Roy L. Pearson) something seems to happen.

    We should not be surprised, as judges are among the very few people who can not claim skills in what they do - deciding in what is the truth - as the reason for reaching their position.

    1. SM, I have omitted the last sentence of your comment for fear of legal repercussions. The Scottish judiciary follow this blog and some of them can be very touchy!

    2. It is always a great comfort to me to know that you're moderating these comments with that sort of concern in mind!

    3. Most delighted to finally have been moderated!
      I always worried if I might be way too toothless and overcautious.