By Tom Gordon, 21 August 2011, Source: www.heraldscotland.com
A secret report casting doubt on the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber is to be published under a new law to be unveiled by the Scottish Government next month, when it sets out its legislative programme for Parliament.
The bill, to be formally announced on September 7, will enable the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to release its 800 pages of findings on Adbel Baset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, which have remained under lock and key since they were finalised in 2007.
The SCCRC report identified six grounds for believing Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice when he was prosecuted and tried for the murder of 270 people in the atrocity.
They included doubts over pivotal aspects of the prosecution case against him, and undisclosed payments to a key prosecution witness.
The findings led to Megrahi being granted leave to launch a second appeal against his conviction and the 27-year sentence he received in 2001.
The Libyan dropped the appeal on the eve of his compassionate release from Greenock jail in 2009. Megrahi had been expected to die from terminal prostate cancer within three months of his liberation, but yesterday marked exactly two years since his return home to Tripoli.
The anniversary prompted calls from two US senators for Megrahi to be extradited to the US and returned to jail if the rebel-led transitional government in Libya finally ousts Colonel Gaddafi.
Megrahi, 59, an ex-Libyan intelligence officer who has always denied being part of the plot to bomb Pan Am 107 in December 1988, was convicted by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.
The SNP Government has already tried and failed to make the SCCRC report public through a minor piece of legislation, but not all the parties to the case agreed, blocking its release.
It is understood the new bill will be a weightier measure, allowing the SCCRC to publish any of its reports which relate to cases where a subsequent appeal has been dropped, which includes Megrahi.
Last month the SCCRC’s chair, Jean Couper, said the organisation had “no objections, in principle, to the release of the Statement of Reasons detailing its decision” in the Megrahi case, provided the law allowed it.
The SCCRC report claims the court acted unreasonably when it concluded he had definitely bought the clothes which ended up in the suitcase carrying the airplane bomb.
Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who testified he sold Megrahi the clothes, was also found to have been paid a $2 million reward by the US government.
Although SNP ministers support release of the SCCRC findings, their publication could increase pressure to release Megrahi’s full medical notes, which ministers have repeatedly refused to allow into the public domain.
Megrahi’s continued survival yesterday led to fresh criticism of the medical advice which led to his compassionate release.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told MSPs that Megrahi was being “sent home to die”. However, the Scottish Government later released files showing three months was only ever a “median survival time”, meaning Megrahi always stood a 50-50 chance of living longer.
It also emerged that Fraser never personally examined Megrahi, but used reports from four cancer and urology experts – none of whom was willing to make a prognosis – and the prison GP.
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray called on Alex Salmond to apologise to victims’ families for releasing Megrahi on the basis of flawed advice.
A Government spokesman said: “Whether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and he is dying of terminal prostate cancer.”