Press coverage of ‘Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters’

The Herald 3 October

The father of a young woman killed in the Lockerbie bombing warns the SNP’s hopes for the referendum will be adversely affected by Scotland’s failure to address major concerns about the prosecution and the trial.

Dr Jim Swire has written the foreword to a new book to be launched today called Scotland’s Shame. The book’s author John Ashton, biographer of the Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, brands the case the greatest scandal of Scotland’s post-devolution era.

Dr Swire, who was born and raised in Skye, argues that the case could have a bearing on next year’s independence vote. He writes: “Scottish justice survived the Act of Union with England with its independence intact: perhaps since then it has been a talisman of Scotland’s reputation as an independent nation capable of running its own affairs. If that is so, Scotland – my country – would do well to address the apparent problem of the impenetrable arrogance of her prosecuting authorities that seem to have blighted her justice system ever since it became clear that the Lockerbie trial had been defective.

“It is best addressed from within Scotland herself and may well be a factor which will block independence until it is resolved, for an independent community with an obscured and mistrusted justice system can never be a healthy community.

“We would wish healing, not harm, for Scotland and all her people, but the arrogant refusal to consider fault has dragged on so long that the cure is not likely to be found within the timescale now scheduled for the independence debate. It is to be hoped that the refusal of the current Scottish Government to intervene with an independent inquiry, despite clearly having the powers required to do so, is not driven by motives of party advantage.”

An SNP spokesman said: “We have enormous respect for Dr Swire, and hope he would accept that everything that has been done in Scotland in relation to the Lockerbie atrocity. In stark contrast, the Westminster Government based its stance on Mr al-Megrahi’s release on political and economic considerations.”

The Scotsman 4 October

THE father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing has written to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland criticising the investigation.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 23, was among 270 who died in the 1988 atrocity, has questioned the original and current inquiry.

The late Abdelbaset al Megrahi was the only person ever convicted of the terrorist attack.

Dr Swire believes the original prosecution was flawed, that key evidence was withheld from the defence team, and that the Crown Office has refused to reinvestigate new evidence which has since come to light.

In particular, he points to John Ashton’s book Megrahi: You Are My Jury, which argued that the timer used in the explosion could not have come from Libya.

“Why did you state there is no evidence to support the book’s claims?” Dr Swire wrote to Mr Mulholland.

“Why have the three witnesses who attest to point three above (about the timer) not been interviewed by the police?

“Do you consider that the Crown’s withholding of evidence favourable to Mr Megrahi, as documented by the SCCRC (Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission), is compatible with the United Nations International Association of Prosecutors’ standards of professional conduct?”

The letter coincides with the release of Mr Ashton’s new book Scotland’s shame: why Lockerbie still matters?

 The Herald 4 October

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie tragedy, has written about the “painful task” of clearing out her room after her death and his struggle to avoid becoming bitter.

In the foreword to a new book by John Ashton, biographer of the Libyan convicted of the bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, Dr Swire describes Flora as “our deeply loved elder daughter” slaughtered “a day short of her 24th birthday”. She was on flight PanAm103 because she wished to visit her boyfriend in Boston for Christmas. “If we had only said no…” he writes. “We would still have Flora with us.”

Yesterday, at the launch of the book, Scotland’s Shame, Dr Swire and Mr Ashton released an open letter to Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate, asking why he dismissed new evidence revealed in the [2012] biography of Megrahi, and why the witnesses relating to this evidence have not been questioned. Dr Swire said a public inquiry is the only way to answer the questions and concerns of the relatives of the 270 victims and the only way to hold the Crown Office to account.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly refused and instead called for Westminster to hold an inquiry or for the case to be tested with another appeal in the courts.

Dr Swire and Mr Ashton said an appeal, even if feasible, would not answer questions about the Crown Office’s failure to disclose key documents.

The Crown Office said the case is still live and it therefore cannot comment. 

The Times 4 October

Twenty five years after his daughter was killed by the Lockerbie bomb, Jim Swire is to step back from active involvement in the campaign to uncover the full facts about the atrocity.

Dr Swire, 76, a retired GP, is the most prominent spokesman for British families affected by the attack on Pan Am Flight 103. Among the 270 dead was Flora, 23, his daughter, a medical student. He hoped he might find closure when Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi came to trial in 2001.

Instead he was horrified by what he saw as the flimsy case against the Libyan, who was found guilty. Dr Swire redoubled his efforts to get to the bottom of the crime.

Yesterday, at the launch of a book entitled Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters, he said he was ready to “disappear from the battlements”.

“I think my campaign has been my means of survival, but I have got to a point where I really have to cut back on it, otherwise it will do harm,” said Dr Swire. “One of the parameters of doing it is what Flora would have thought. I think Flora would be saying, ‘You’ve done your very best dad. It’s time to leave it to others, to younger men.’

“I suspect I will be called in to make comments to the media from time to time. That’s OK. What I don’t think is OK is investing as much time as I have been doing. I’m going to try to find ways of trying to avoid spending as much time on it.” Dr Swire has already bought a computer programme which converts words to text, which he say will cut by two thirds the time he has to devote to writing. By the anniversary, December 21, he would be ready to move on. (…)

There was little immediate sign that he was ready to wind down. In the foreword to the book, Dr Swire says the country’s justice system had survived the act of Union with England intact, only to be blighted by “the impenetrable arrogance of her prosecuting authorities”, the Crown Office.

Together with John Ashton, the book’s author, he used a press conference to launch an outspoken attack on Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate. Dr Swire and Mr Ashton have also written an open letter to the Crown Office, questioning aspects of the al-Megrahi trial, including the alleged withholding of evidence and the payment of a key witness, Tony Gauci.

At a meeting London in 2011, Dr Swire said he had asked Mr Mulholland repeatedly why evidence of a break-in at Heathrow airport in 1988, the night before the bombing, had not been presented at the trial.

“We went through this routine four times,” recalled Dr Swire. “At the end of, Mr Mulholland said. ‘You know, I wondered why it wasn’t available, but I haven’t been able to find out’. An incredible statement.”

Mr Ashton added: “Frank Mulholland, with aspects of his behaviour … has really raised questions about whether he is fit to hold office.”

The Crown Office said that because the bombing was still a live case it could not comment on it. A spokesman said the remarks attributed by Dr Swire to the Lord Advocate at the meeting in London were “simply untrue”.  




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