On 18 September Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi’s legal team published online a 300-page dossier of evidence protesting the convicted Lockerbie bomber’s innocence. The dossier would have formed part of the basis of al-Megrahi’s appeal had he not given it up so he could return to Libya to die in the bosom of his family.
As Gareth Peirce argues in the latest LRB, there never was any convincing evidence against al-Megrahi in the first place. (In a response to Peirce, former FBI agent Richard Marquise doesn’t substantively address either her main points or those in the dossier.) One reason for this is that, when Libya was first fingered for the bombing in 1990, those responsible never expected their case would ever have to stand up to scrutiny in a court of law.
‘It was never meant to be this way,’ I was told by Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh, one of the architects of the original trial. ‘The evidence that was cobbled together was simply intended to be the scenario, the scene, the script if you like, that could be fed to journalists around the world. It was never intended to be evidence to go before a court and when it did, everyone on the prosecution’s side including the Department of Justice in America and the Crown Office in Scotland was anticipating an absolute disaster.’
After all, the prosecution’s star witness was a proven liar, political interference from start to finish undermined any chance of a fair trial, and no one ever had any explanation about Megrahi’s supposed motive or means, let alone any evidence linking him to the bomb or proving that he put the fatal suitcase on Flight 103. And yet, somehow, the trial judges fell for it.
Last week the Scottish lord advocate, Elish Angiolini, unexpectedly announced that she found Megrahi’s decision to publish his defence evidence ‘deplorable’. This is a curious point of view: since when has there been anything unusual or improper about a condemned man protesting his innocence?