Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Equality of arms? Fair trial? Forget it!

What follows is an item posted on this blog on 17 December 2007:

Crown refuses to reveal secret Lockerbie paper

This is the title of a front-page article in The Herald by Lucy Adams. Whereas I on this blog on 14 December merely speculated that the reason for this week's procedural hearing might be that the Crown had refused to hand over to Mr Megrahi's legal team the document relating to timers seen by the SCCRC, Lucy Adams (whose sources are usually impeccably reliable) states as a fact that this is the reason why the hearing has been called. She writes:

"Two months ago, the Crown Office was instructed to pass on the document or provide substantial reasons as to why it could not be given to the defence.

"However, The Herald can reveal the Crown has since opposed the petition and suggested it has no duty to disclose. It has refused to reveal, even to the defence, the country from which the document originated, or its full reasons for not sharing the information.

"The defence team is understood to be seeking the document which relates to supply of timers and an additional paper."

For the full story, see

The Edinburgh Evening News has picked up the story:

And here is a link to Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer's commentary on OhMyNews:

It looks, therefore, as if the Crown is claiming Public Interest Immunity in relation to the document, on the basis of the public interest in maintaining good relations with the foreign country which supplied the document with the condition that its confidentiality be preserved. What the judges of the High Court will be required to do, in deciding whether to order the document to be handed over, is to balance that aspect of the public interest against the public interest in a fair trial (protected, inter alia by article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) which involves an accused person having access to all evidence that might assist his case.

If this is indeed what the procedural hearing will be concerned with, I, for one, will find it interesting to hear the the Lord Advocate's representative arguing that maintaining good relations with a foreign country is a matter that should take precedence over the fairness of Scottish criminal proceedings.

[The sordid saga of the UK Government’s successful attempt to prevent Abdelbaset Megrahi’s lawyers obtaining access to this document, aided and abetted by the Scottish Crown Office, can be followed here.]

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A political fiction convenient to US foreign policy

[What follows is the text of an open letter sent by Dr Jim Swire on 14 December 2014 to Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC MP, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament:]

I applaud your statement on Radio Four this morning, as chairman of the intelligence and Security committee that you will seek clarification from the Americans over the heavily redacted Senate report on CIA torture.
Of course you will want to know whether aircraft spotted transiting Prestwick airport really were part of the CIA run 'extraordinary rendition' programe which is widely alleged to have included the sending of British Nationals to Libya to be tortured.

May I remind you that prior to that in President Reagan's day, the CIA were deeply involved in the deeply illegal Iran Contra activities of the mid 1980s, involving extra-judicial killings on an industrial scale.
The present investigation was into post 9/11 (2001) CIA activities.
In 1988 in your own homeland of Scotland the Lockerbie disaster occurred.
At the subsequent trial at Zeist the CIA were seen to have blatantly attempted to mislead the court by concealing the lying and fantasizing of their 'star witness' known as Jiaka, to the point where, after the then Lord Advocate Colin Boyd had been brought to the very edge of perjury in his attempts to prevent the court from hearing the truth contained in the CIA cables concerning 'Jiaka' the court rejected him as a reliable witness.
What the court did not know because the information was not made available to it, was that a technical forensic item which was produced in court, seeming to be a piece of circuit board from Libya, had in fact been manufactured using technology not even available to manufacturers in the late 80s.
This item accepted by the court seems clearly to have been designed expressly to deceive the court.
Its technical excellence suggests a sophisticated organization behind its production.
Please will you therefore request that the Americans also to research and divulge divulge to your committee what actions were taken by the CIA during the years between Iran/Contra and '9/11' which were relevant to the UK, particularly with respect to their major role in providing evidence to the court which convicted a Libyan over Lockerbie?
As a distinguished Scot you must surely be deeply concerned were any proof to emerge that our Scottish Criminal Justice system had been deliberately subverted by the CIA.
Would you also, having the ear of the Prime Minister, please inform him of this letter and of any information from America relevant to Lockerbie, and then explain to us why you believe there is no need for a full inquiry, denied us for 26 years over the slaughter of our families?
As recently as 2012, Downing Street claimed publicly that a book published in Edinburgh confirming, with independent and responsible scientific support, that false forensic evidence had been introduced at Zeist, was "an insult to the relatives".
I would like him to be aware that the Downing Street statement about this book was the insult to many UK relatives of the Lockerbie dead, not the evident confirmation of some of our worst fears contained in the book.
We still seek the truth about who murdered our families. We are not going to go away until we know the truth and see it publicly confirmed. That is our right. It has long been evident to some of us that the blaming of the two Libyans was a political fiction convenient to US Foreign policy.
In the past you have taken quite a hostile attitude to our attempts to discover the whole truth, but you may well have been unaware at the time, of the information certainly denied to the public and the trial court, but now widely available. The post 9/11 Senate report even as published reveals an ongoing ethos of contempt within the CIA for the restraints which the law imposes. I feel sure that you will wish to pursue this hitherto enigmatic horror story through to the truth on which it must eventually be founded, for the sake of Scotland's reputation and in the name of justice.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Malpractice at the CIA and the Lockerbie trial

[What follows is the text of a letter submitted by Dr Jim Swire to The Times on 10 December but not (as yet) published:]

The Senate inquiry [into torture and the CIA] was essentially limited to post 9/11 behaviour by the CIA.
During the Lockerbie trial of two Libyans over the Lockerbie disaster the CIA was the major provider of evidence to the court.
Their attempts to conceal the true status of their key witness by selective redaction and concealment of their cable traffic led to their Lordships rejecting his entire evidence. It emerged that the man was a liar, a fantasist and a corrupt consumer of their resources and that the CIA knew this before the trial.
Scotland's then Lord Advocate was led to the very brink of perjury in trying to defend that evidence. [RB: More about this disgraceful episode can be read here.]
Since the trial it has now become clear that a key forensic item  allegedly from the crash site had in fact been manufactured using advanced electronic technology simply not in use at the time of Lockerbie.
The verdict reached has contributed to NATO's decision to bomb the unfortunate Libya into current chaos, the murder of Colonel Gaddafi and a failed State where ISIS is already training jihadies, an whence arms have infiltrated the terrorist groups throughout much of the Sahel region.
It also led to the conviction of an innocent Libyan, the destruction of the reputation of Scottish Justice the protection of the real Lockerbie perpetrators, and much extra suffering for inquisitive Lockerbie relatives.
I have faith in the philosophy underlying the Obama regime, based on his magnificent Cairo speech after election. I believe the President should now seek an extension of investigation of the CIA prior to 9/11 as well.
If one is to lance a boil it is wise to curette out all the pus on the same occasion.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Contempt shown to Scotland's legal system during Lockerbie shambles

[The following are excerpts from a column headlined Will torturers be banged to rights? in today’s edition of the Sunday Herald. The columnist is not readily identifiable from the newspaper’s website (though I think I detect the style of Ian Bell):]

I have, as our American friends sometimes say, a dream.

In my little reverie, two of Glasgow's finest one day turn up at the headquarters of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, and ask to have a word with whoever is claiming to be in charge that week. For the sake of good taste, neither copper will say: "There's bin a torture."

After all, the reality of the allegations involving CIA rendition flights and Scottish airports does not approach even black comedy. The world's most powerful country stands revealed, in a vast report from its own Senate, as a torture state. That's not how America likes to see itself. On this side of the Atlantic, numerous politicians have issued denials of complicity which turn out to be - for how dare we say more? - "untrue". And then there's little Scotland.

Inevitably, the security establishment in the United States - and in London, for that matter - will treat that detail as an actual joke. The contempt shown to Scotland's legal system during the Lockerbie shambles ought to have been evidence enough that in those circles we don't count for much. But the fact does not oblige us to remain silent, not where grotesque violations of human rights and international law are concerned.

Those sleek, mysterious private jets turning up everywhere from Prestwick to Wick were not secrets for long. The CIA's rendition flights, "black sites" and outsourcing of torture when Dick Cheney was pulling the strings for George W Bush were all documented, to a degree, before the Senate set to work. The politicians, in the US, Britain and beyond, simply responded with unrelenting, blanket denials. Legislatures were kept - no pun offered - in the dark. Thus was democracy defended.

This was not a failure of journalism, or of honest politicians. As long ago as 2005, my colleague Neil Mackay was describing the operations of a global torture industry in harrowing detail, telling of 75 flights through Prestwick, almost as many through Glasgow, and of 20 British airports exploited for the trade in "intelligence", most of it - says the Senate - worthless.

Mackay documented the horrific treatment of one individual now named by the committee. Direct British involvement was described. No-one resigned; no-one was arrested. (...)

Police Scotland should be encouraged to ask their questions, starting at home. They should be joined by police the world over. This might prove to ordinary citizens that reasonable questions are too often met by an unreasonable silence, that our safety has now become a permanent excuse for the state within the state.

The advocates of torture, like Cheney, have few justifications now. While democracy is debauched we are left with a just-in-case argument: systematic abuse merely to be on the safe side, to guard against a possibility while reality becomes still more dangerous than before. Yet, ironically (or comically), Britain has a bigger problem than the US. The behaviour of Bush and his crew was more or less known. Our Westminster politicians just lied, time and again.

Sending round a DI and a DC from Police Scotland might not be such a bad idea. If tortured prisoners were on our soil they are, in any sense that counts, on our consciences. Scots law has plenty yet to say about that kind of offence.

Victim's father urges new investigation into Lockerbie case

This is a translation of the headline over an article published yesterday on the Austrian Wings website. It deals with Dr Jim Swire’s letter in yesterday’s edition of The Scotsman. An English version, courtesy of Google Translate, can be read here.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

CIA’s Lockerbie role must be reviewed

[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today’s edition of The Scotsman. It reads as follows:]

The trial of two Libyans in Zeist in 2000 over the Lockerbie atrocity first convinced some UK relatives and exp­erts in criminal law that we were not seeing a fair trial, but a cynical intelligence-led perversion of the Scottish criminal justice system.

For instance, the prosecution alleged that the bomb had been placed aboard a plane in Malta, and transferred at Frankfurt and 
Heathrow to the target plane on which our families died.

This clearly would have requir­ed a long-running timer, and a fragment of 
circuit board allegedly from such a timer was duly led in evidence in court.

However, post-trial, we now know, and have independent scientific proof, that the technology used to 
create that fragment was fundamentally different from that used in the Libyan 
timers allegedly powering the Lockerbie bomb, and simply could not have come from one of them.

The fragment was claimed to have been found by UK forensic “experts” within a Scottish police evidence bag.

The crash site had been overrun by CIA agents immediately after the crash and potentially evidential material visibly tampered with. The Scottish police were working in close contact with the CIA throughout the investigation.

Neither the UK nor the Scottish Governments have been prepared to listen to our constant pleas since the trial for an inquiry into the whole case.

Now that it seems clear that at least some sections of the CIA using a remarkable degree of autonomy from their executive had long cast any moral restraint aside, is it not high time that their management of the Lockerbie evidence also be re-examined?

It is not simply that we relatives have a right to know the whole truth; the verdict of that court must have been a powerful factor in “justifying” the Nato bombing of Libya, which has resulted in such misery to that unfortunate country, to the rise of Isis training camps round Bengazi and the redistribution of Libyan arms to terrorists throughout much of the Sahel region.

I do not believe that the UK and US Governments would want to try to conceal such wicked actions by their own intelligence services and 
police if the leaders only knew of them.

To take positive action to objectively review their 
intelligence management of the Lockerbie atrocity might alleviate a great deal of unnecessary ongoing suffering for us even now.

It might also offer a golden opportunity to lay blame, if blame there truly be, where it is properly due.

That could then underpin improvements in the behaviour and status of our nations in the future.

We are not going to abandon our search for the truth, – far better to lance the boil now rather than let more hostile agencies do it later.

I believe that if he knew about this further intelligence scandal, then in the spirit of his great Cairo speech following his election, President Obama would not want this concealed one moment longer.

Fourth meeting between Justice for Megrahi and Police Scotland

[What follows is a précis of the fourth meeting held between the Justice for Megrahi Police Scotland Liaison Group and officers of Police Scotland at Tulliallan on 24th November 2014. Reports on the earlier meetings can be found here and here and here.]

Present:

Justice for Megrahi (JfM):  Iain McKie; James Robertson.

Police Scotland: Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone; Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone; Detective Chief Inspector Scott Cunningham.

Apologies: Len Murray.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Agenda:

This is the fourth meeting held to facilitate liaison between Police Scotland and JfM in respect of the ongoing investigation by Police Scotland into JfM’s complaint of 9 criminal allegations made in September 2012.

DCC Livingstone introduced the meeting and welcomed those present whilst acknowledging the apology sent by Len Murray due to illness.

He referred to the previous meeting held on 29th September 2014; despite neither himself nor James Robertson being present, he acknowledged this still provided opportunity for meaningful dialogue and discussion on the progress of the enquiry and that much of the discussion at the last meeting focused on what is essentially the conclusion, meantime, of enquiries into Allegation 8.

It was agreed by both parties that the précis of the last meeting was accurate for submission to the Justice Committee and DCC Livingstone confirmed he would update the JC convener’s clerk.  The confidential meeting record was also discussed to be agreed.

DCC Livingstone confirmed that a meeting with the appointed independent QC had been arranged for early December 2014 to discuss the draft report in relation to Allegation 8.

D Supt Johnstone referred to the close relationship between Police Scotland and JfM; this allowed for open and frank discussion which had been, and would continue to be recorded in an agreed confidential record of meetings, with also a subsequent agreed précis for public release.  JfM were in full agreement with this and emphasised the importance of keeping certain discussions confidential.

DCC Livingstone reiterated that consideration was ongoing in terms of the necessity and proportionality of interviewing witnesses, and that the matter of interviewing witnesses would be considered by the investigating officers and actioned if deemed necessary.  JfM, acknowledging this, however stated they expected in principle that witnesses would require to be interviewed at some stage.

DCC Livingstone added that as these were unique circumstances the appointment of an independent QC provided the police investigation with an appropriate level of scrutiny prior to reporting the findings to Crown Office, which was clearly not the normal procedure.  It was again emphasised that this was a key relationship and preparatory work was underway prior to the next formal meeting with the QC.  

JfM highlighted their desire to discuss the findings of the police investigation at the conclusion and acknowledged although they may not be in full agreement or entirely satisfied with the findings, they appreciated a thorough investigation was ongoing.

D Supt Johnstone confirmed that the analytical research had been opened out and wider reaching including analysis of publications by Morag Kerr, John Ashton along with the JfM allegations.  A document listing 64 assertions had been compiled which was particularly complex and included key areas of forensics, 3 airports security and movement of baggage.  This was identified as the largest body of work due to the sheer volume of information and documentation.

D Supt Johnstone highlighted that there was a good relationship with the SCCRC who are assisting the police investigation with providing relevant documentation and information, where necessary.

Police Scotland also confirmed that to date, there has been no dialogue with Crown Office in relation to the police investigation into the 9 allegations made by JfM.

JfM emphasised that it was critical that the present level of trust was maintained with Police Scotland and that this should not be jeopardised by either party.

Although not directly linked to their criminal allegations JfM raised concerns about a perceived lack of follow up treatment by the authorities for police officers and others who had been traumatised as a result of their Lockerbie related duties. It appeared as if a number had suffered from post traumatic stress and other psychological and emotional reactions and these effects had not been effectively monitored and treated by the various responsible authorities. They felt that these issues were worthy of recognition and comment. DCC Livingstone acknowledged this concern and outlined how Police Scotland were alert to such issues and had built in welfare procedures to identify, diagnose and care for those officers who suffered such reactions.

The JfM representatives asked Police Scotland to confirm in respect of their enquiries into the ‘timer’ fragment found at Lockerbie, whose provenance had subsequently been challenged by JfM in their allegations, that should these challenges be upheld, would further enquiry then be made into the evidence of the witnesses who allegedly found the fragment and who had subsequently handled and analysed it.

DCC Livingstone explained that while he would not go into detail about any aspect of their investigation, no legitimate lines of enquiry arising from their investigations would be excluded.

D Supt Johnstone confirmed that a specific timeline was being compiled in relation to ‘evidence’ related to the “bomb” used in the atrocity.

The matter of forensic issues and experts was raised by JfM. D Supt Johnstone explained there were several areas which would require independent forensic experts.

In terms of the projection of the police investigation, D Supt Johnstone indicated this would progress well into 2015.  Additional expert support was being provided by the National Crime Agency emphasising the degree of specialist support to the police investigation.


Conclusion

JFM representatives stated they were satisfied with the updates and with the process whereby a confidential record of discussions is maintained and circulated to both parties, and an agreed précis released to the public.  It was agreed to hold the next meeting around February 2015.

Both parties agreed that the positive relationship and mutual trust which had been built was apparent and that the discussions continued to be open, frank and extremely beneficial.

Seminal article on political background to Lockerbie

On this date in 2011, I reproduced on this blog excerpts from Davina Miller’s seminal article Who Knows About This? Western Policy Towards Iran: The Lockerbie Case. This is perhaps the most important, detailed and unbiased account yet written about the political background to the Lockerbie atrocity. For anyone with a genuine interest in the case, it is required reading.

Friday, 12 December 2014

CIA, Lockerbie and perverting the course of justice

[What follows is the text of a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today’s edition of The Herald:]

In the Lockerbie trial at Zeist the CIA was the major provider of evidence to the Scottish police nominally in charge of the investigation.

From day one CIA agents were observed removing and interfering with potentially evidential material at the crash site, unimpeded by any scene-of-crime precautions.

During the trial a sliver of circuit board was produced in court, allegedly found at the crash site and discovered within a Scottish police evidence bag. The bag was seen to have had its label interfered with. The court accepted that the sliver had come from a long running bomb timer owned by Libya.

What the court did not know was that the sliver of circuit board had been manufactured using technology which had not been in use with manufacturers until the early 1990s, years after Lockerbie, and so could not have been from the wreckage in 1988. To the court it seemed strongly to support the prosecution case that the bomb had travelled all the way from Malta, courtesy of such a timer.

Those who seek the truth over Lockerbie, would like to know who made this clearly anachronistic fragment, what their motive was and how it came to be found within an official Scottish police evidence bag, thus apparently deliberately assisting in perverting the course of justice.

Hitherto both the Scottish and UK Governments have refused objective and comprehensive review of the tragedy; now is America's chance to define the role of the CIA in this dreadful case.

By assisting the court in reaching a guilty verdict against a Libyan, the scene was set for the subsequent NATO bombing of Libya, which led to the murder of Gaddafi, the collapse of Libya into an anarchy where thousands have died, and where ISIS is now able to run training camps in the East of the country, while the country's armories have been looted to supply terror groups throughout the Sahel region.

This apparent perversion of justice through CIA actions appears to have led to results which have killed more people even than those horribly murdered in 9/11.

If America wishes to overcome the CIA's deep stain on her reputation for freedom and fairness, as at least some of her senators and her President seem to want to do, she will need to investigate just how far back the CIA first became a semi-autonomous rogue organisation.

The senate's investigations must now be extended back in time to cover all aspects of the Lockerbie bombing, the truth of which so many in the Arab world already believe has been deliberately concealed to this day for political reasons, by the West.

Enough of the present Senate report has been left unredacted to show not only that the limits of the law were far exceeded, but that a culture free from the restraints of honesty or integrity had been accepted without question by many in the service.

"A freak show extension of foreign policy"?

[What follows is excerpted from an article by William Paul published in Scotland on Sunday on 12 December 1999:]

So it begins. The two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing have appeared before the special Scottish court in the Netherlands and the process of justice according to Scots law must run its course in all its ponderous panoply.

If doubters still regard the whole affair as some kind of international cover-up, the sight of Lord Sutherland in his cream and crimson robes following the mace-bearer to a high-backed leather chair at a makeshift bench in the corner of an old American gymnasium should have clearly demonstrated that the politicians and diplomats are no longer in control. Any covert agreement brokered by the United Nations to limit the scope of evidence or ignore the more embarrassing past behaviour of a country’s security services is worthless. If it exists, as has been suggested, the signatories are fooling themselves. Now that the law has taken over, unpredictability reigns and there can be no guarantees.

Last week in the Netherlands, the defence QCs at a preliminary hearing acknowledged they were "not arguing about points of fact, but points of law" as they attempted to have the first charge of conspiracy to murder dropped from the indictment.  (...)

If the conspiracy happened abroad then the Scottish court, despite being deliberately set up outside Scotland for the purposes of neutrality, would not have jurisdiction. 

Lord Sutherland dismissed the argument as "illogical" but was also mindful that it was not the affront to common sense it seemed, but contained its own compelling brand of legal logic. He therefore allowed an appeal against his judgment where the issues will once again be rehearsed in open court. The whole trial, when it actually gets under way in May, more than a year after the Libyans surrendered to answer the charges against them, will be like this; a self-conscious display of scrupulous fairness and attention to detail, an obsessive desire to appreciate opposing points of view, and a firm insistence that justice will be seen to be done. 

Scotland has already settled in well to the little part of foreign land it has been allocated Kamp van Zeist, a former American military base that is now an outdoor museum – for the approaching trial. With the courtroom proper still under construction, Kamp van Zeist’s gymnasium was pressed into service last week as temporary accommodation for preliminary legal skirmishes. No sooner had the QCs crossed the line with Dutch politie on one side and Scots police on the other, than they donned their wigs and gowns and paired off to pace up and down just as they traditionally do in Parliament Hall at the Supreme Courts in Edinburgh to prevent their conversations being overheard. In another part, where US airmen had whiled away the Cold War playing basketball, academics from Glasgow University patiently explained the legal system to a knowledge-hungry international media, including a couple of Russians who nodded knowingly at the motto to the lion and unicorn coat-of-arms, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit. 

Beyond the partition wall in the bottom quarter of the gym, the press were divided from the legal teams by the kind of red-twisted rope that usually guards antique furniture in stately homes, and the lawyers were divided from the accused by bullet-proof screens on wheels. 

The Libyans, always immaculately groomed, were led in and out from the underground detention area to the dock by Scottish police officers holding their wrists. Interpreters sat beside them whispering translations of arcane legal terms and Latin phrases in their ears, occasionally gesticulating with a dramatic wave of an arm or the raising of eyebrows at apparently unimportant moments. Megrahi, the older of the two accused, sat throughout wearing an overcoat as if the winter cold was somehow penetrating the windowless walls surrounding him. 

It will be much like this in the courtroom for the duration of the trial – six months or two years, no-one really knows – as the prosecution evidence is presented and the past is recreated in a hundred small cameo episodes that build, it will be claimed, into the worst terrorist outrage of an era when the world was ordered very differently. 

The framework for what is to come is contained in the narrative of the indictment which sets out the course of events that the Crown will seek to prove, in particular that the two accused were agents of the Libyan Intelligence Service, acting in concert with others and travelling around to gather electronic timers and components for the bomb that was eventually to be loaded into the hold of Flight 103. Colin Boyd QC, Solicitor General, last week gave a hint of what will be claimed by briefly describing an agent, using a false passport, embarking on a ‘dry run’ on the route from Libya to Malta to Germany one month before the bombing in December 1988. 

It promises to be compelling stuff, related to the outside world principally by newspaper reports since the only television coverage so far agreed will be closed-circuit links to Syracuse University in the US for American victims’ families, and a location in London for British relatives.

The effectiveness of Scots law will be as much under test as the guilt or innocence of the two Libyans. The international understanding, replete with secret meetings and nudge-nudge assurances, was crucial in bringing about this unprecedented trial, but if the Libyan government thought its intelligence service would be above criticism, and if the US government thought its intelligence agents would not be required to account for their actions, they will very soon be disabused of the notion. The law, once set in motion, can be relentless in drawing out a infinite number of competing strands in its attempts to find the truth, and what is said in court can be reported without restraint 

Juries are regarded as the ‘masters of the facts’ compared with the judges’ role as ‘master of the law’. Since there is to be no jury in this case, the burden is on Lord Sutherland and his two colleagues to be masters of both and ensure that all doubts are dispelled before a verdict is reached. 

There were many people who believed a Lockerbie trial would never happen because powerful vested interests did not want it. There are still sceptics who see the whole thing as a freak show extension of foreign policy, a forum for political manipulation rather than honest disclosure. The former were proved wrong, and so will the latter be. Open court is a very dangerous place for those who prefer to inhabit the shadows. The simple principle of ‘having their day in court’ is not confined to the Libyan accused who hope to prove their innocence. It is also there for the bereaved families who, four days before Christmas, must endure the 11th anniversary of the bombing hoping they will soon know the real story of what happened to Flight 103. 

The outcome is, of course, entirely unpredictable whatever expert authorities may say. Whether the truth will be uncovered is unknowable because, as was argued last week, it is as much to do with the law as it is to do with the facts. The Scottish court in the Netherlands can only do its best, according to the rules of law, by examining the strength of the evidence put in front of it. In the final analysis, whatever the verdict at the end of it all, people will make up their own minds.

[RB: Like the author, I too in 1999 would have said: “There were many people who believed a Lockerbie trial would never happen because powerful vested interests did not want it. There are still sceptics who see the whole thing as a freak show extension of foreign policy, a forum for political manipulation rather than honest disclosure. The former were proved wrong, and so will the latter be.”  To the immense discredit of the Scottish criminal justice system, William Paul and I have been shown to be both wrong and naive. Honest disclosure (by the prosecution) did not happen. Was there political manipulation? Possibly. What there certainly was, were findings on the evidence -- and hence a conviction -- that no reasonable court could have arrived at.]