Has Scotland really swallowed this crazy conspiracy?
A remarkable thing happened at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday.
Eight senior Scottish judges were accused of presiding over a major
miscarriage of justice in the Lockerbie affair — and a packed Scottish
That trust in the judiciary should have descended to this level says
much about the way that the long saga of this terrorist atrocity has
evolved. A determined campaign to absolve the convicted bomber,
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, of guilt, has succeeded to the extent that not
only does it appear to have swayed public opinion in his favour, it has
also undermined confidence in the most important legal process Scotland
has been involved in since the Second World War.
The man who lodged the accusation was Hans Köchler, the UN observer at
the Lockerbie trial. He believes that the judges, both at the original
trial, and the appeal, were prepared to overlook flawed evidence to
ensure a conviction. His fellow panel members, Jim Swire, whose daughter
died in the bombing, and the writer John Ashton, who has ghosted
al-Megrahi’s own account of the affair, agreed.
They believe not only that the evidence was deliberately manipulated at
the trial, but that, from the outset, there was a conspiracy to point
the finger at Libya and divert attention from the real instigator, Iran.
Yet that contention has never been challenged in any detail. Because the
trial judges and the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecution service, are
bound by convention to remain silent, the counter-argument has gone by
default so that we have only heard one side of the case. The opportunity
of a second appeal, which might have tested the allegations, was
abandoned by al-Megrahi himself when he was released on compassionate
grounds and returned to Libya.
But the case mounted by the pro-Megrahi campaigners is every bit as
flawed as the one it seeks to dismantle. To demonstrate that Libya was
framed, they have to prove that there was a calculated decision to do
so. That decision would have had to lead to the planting or suppression
of forensic evidence, the control of witnesses by intelligence services,
the approval of senior politicians, the complicity of police officers, a
prosecution team prepared to bend every rule to secure a conviction, and
a set of senior Scottish judges willing to go along with that.
This last contention is perhaps the most controversial. As Brian
McConnachie, a senior Scottish QC, puts it: “The idea that eight
Scottish judges took part in a deliberate manipulation of evidence for
political reasons is simply preposterous.”
But for the conspiracy theorists, who have excluded reason and logic,
the preposterous is all that remains.