Lockerbie deserves a meaningful inquiry

Source: The Big Issue Scotland, July 12-18 2010, No. 793

Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing, on the calls from four US senators for the UK to hold an inquiry into the release of convicted bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

I welcome any intervention over Lockerbie that seeks genuinely to expose any aspect of the truth. So good luck to the four US Senators in their call to the UK government to review the reasons for Megrahi's repatriation, but I hope they know what an honest investigation might reveal, and what the odds are against them getting such an investigation from the UK authorities.

The UK government for more than 21 years, under various leaders, has been refusing to allow any meaningful inquiry, thereby denying us our human right to know for sure who killed our loved ones. The important aspect of the truth hidden by Megrahi's repatriation is not the accuracy of the medical advice given to Kenny MacAskill, nor the application of compassion, but the question of whether he was indeed guilty.

I have talked at length with Professor Karol Sikora, Dean of Buckingham University medical school and oncology expert, who was one of the medical advisers to MacAskill. It is clear he advised that there was, at that time, a 50/50 chance that Megrahi would live for three months.

Cancer of the prostate is one of the most wildly variable of all cancers in rate of progress. The return of Megrahi to his loving wife Aisha and children would also likely prolong life.

All doctors can do is to make a guess based on statistics, and statistics 'do not apply to the individual'.

Tony Blair struck a deal with Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2007, in which BP - no less! - was granted substantial advantage in the Libyan oil industry, while the UK promised to set up a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA).

In the event, Jack Straw as Blair's Minister of 'Justice' later had to override the wishes of the Commons Committee on Human Rights, to be sure to get the PTA up and running before Megrahi's second appeal, which would almost certainly have overturned the verdict against him. Megrahi's return to Tripoli stopped the appeal.

Scotland's Criminal Case Review Commission after three years decided that the trial in Holland might have been a miscarriage of justice. That is why the second appeal was allowed.

Yet Megrahi's flight home meant reconsideration of the verdict was prevented.

We do not know exactly what pressure may have been put upon Holyrood by Westminster to set him free, any more than we know exactly why MacAskill took the action that he did. Those would be legitimate goals for an inquiry.

Westminster, under Blair in particular, seems to have been desperate to see questioning of the verdict stopped, by stopping the appeal that would likely have overturned it.

For the senators to ask that the UK government mount an inquiry into the repatriation may well be putting the fox in charge of the hencoop.

Perhaps the senators believe that our new coalition will be happy to criticise their predecessors, objectively.