The following article by Magnus Linklater appears in the Scottish edition of The Times under the headline Lockerbie evidence points firmly in the direction of Libya. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with Mr Linklater’s writing on Lockerbie, it contains numerous distortions and factual errors.
The article is in italics, interspersed with my comments.
It is time to extinguish the last embers of controversy that have heated the Lockerbie case for so long. For more than two decades critics have argued that Scottish police got the wrong man and that the prosecution of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was — perhaps deliberately — a botched job.
Yet last week, after a long and dogged investigation, the Crown Office announced that it had identified two further suspects, and was asking the government in Tripoli to allow it access to them in prison.
The investigation of the two new suspects was done primarily by Ken Dornstein. The key fact that Ken uncovered (that Megrahi’s alleged associate Abu Agila Mas’ud was a suspect in the La Belle Disco bombing) was missed by the Crown Office for 18 years.
It may not succeed — Libya is in chaos at the moment — but it is clear that enough prima facie evidence has now emerged to perhaps home in on those who planned and helped execute a terrorist attack that killed 270 innocent people 27 years ago.
I agree that there is a prima facie case against Mas’ud, just as there was against Megrahi, and I hope he can be brought to trial. However, the case against him will rely on much of the discredited evidence that convicted Megrahi.
Those who have argued down the years that this line of inquiry is misguided, and that Libya was not responsible, have some hard questions to answer.
No one that I know of has argued that the Crown should not pursue lines of inquiry that point to Libya. Our criticism of the Crown is that it has failed to pursue exculpatory evidence.
Why would the Crown Office still be spending public money and using scarce resources to shore up a case that is — as its critics claim — fundamentally flawed?
One reason might be that, it is a way of keeping at bay the tide of scandal that surrounds Megrahi’s prosecution. Another question, which Mr Linklater fails to ask, is: why is the Crown not using its resources to consider the evidence that points away from Libya, such as the forensic evidence, that shows that the fragment of circuit board PT/35b did not, as the Crown alleged at trial, originate from a timer supplied to Libya by the Swiss company Mebo?
The central accusations that have sustained the conspiracy theorists is that evidence was manipulated by the CIA to accuse Libya rather than Syria or Iran; that information was withheld from defence lawyers representing al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the bombing; and that Scottish judges presided over what they call “the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history”.
Wrong. The central allegation, which is in the realm of fact, not conspiracy, is that the Crown withheld exculpatory evidence. We also believe that it was a terrible miscarriage of justice, for which the judges must share the blame. On this point, Mr Linklater fails to report that the SCCRC ruled that the trial court judgment was unreasonable.
Ever since, they argue, the Scottish judicial system has connived in an attempt to prevent the truth coming out. Allowing al-Megrahi back to Libya on condition that he dropped his appeal was part of the strategy.
Wrong. It has never been seriously suggested by Megrahi’s mainstream supporters that the Scottish judicial system pressured Megrahi to drop his appeal. The pressure was purely political and came from the Scottish Government and/or the Libyan government.
Why, then, should that same legal process be obstinately nurturing a case that it must, by now, have conceded is wrong-headed? Perhaps, as one of its accusers has alleged, the explanation is sheer stupidity. Or, as another claims, it is desperately trying to cover its tracks by pursuing an empty investigation.
But perhaps it is simply following the evidence, and doing what every family of every Lockerbie victim wants it to, which is trying to get at the truth. The hard facts are that every countertheory, and every alternative thread of evidence, has been examined to distraction, and has led nowhere.
Wrong. The counter evidence relating to PT/35b (and much else) has not been pursued.
The time has come for those who cling to them to accept that the evidence points firmly in the direction of Libya rather than the myriad of misty theories and unsupported allegations on which their case has rested.
Wrong. The primary claims of Megrahi’s supporters are supported by a wealth of hard evidence, the great majority of which was gathered by the Scottish police.