Scotland

Lockerbie bomber report published online by Sunday Herald

  • 25 March 2012
  • From the section Scotland

Full details of the Lockerbie bomber's grounds for appeal have been published for the first time.

The Sunday Herald said it had decided to publish online the821-page report from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC)in the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

It follows assurances by the lord advocate that SCCRC members would not be prosecuted for publishing details.

The newspaper said it chose to publish on the grounds of public interest.

The move was welcomed by First Minister Alex Salmond, who had earlier called for the grounds for appeal to be published.

Last week Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said that while it was an offence for the commission to disclose information obtained in its investigations, he considered "it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, given the selective publication" in the media.

The SCCRC took four years to consider the Lockerbie bomber's case.

It produced an 821-page document which referred Megrahi's conviction for the 1988 bombing back to the appeal court for the second time.

Statement of reasons

The document - called a statement of reasons - has never been published in full before, even though Megrahi abandoned his appeal shortly before he was allowed to return home to Libya in August 2009 because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is still alive.

In publishing the document, The Sunday Herald said: "We choose to publish it because we have the permission of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the bombing, and because we believe it is in the public interest to disseminate the whole document.

"The Sunday Herald has chosen to publish the full report online today to allow the public to see for themselves the analysis of the evidence which could have resulted in the acquittal of Megrahi.

"Under Section 32 of the Data Protection Act, journalists can publish in the public interest. We have made very few redactions to protect the names of confidential sources and private information."

'Unauthorised publication'

SCCRC chief executive Gerard Sinclair confirmed that the Herald document appeared to be a copy of its statement of reasons.

He said: "The commission has always been willing to publish this document, subject to the appropriate protection of individuals' rights, and to that end has been working for some time with the relevant parties, including Crown Office and both the Scottish and UK governments, to allow for publication of the outcome of our inquiries into Mr Megrahi's conviction."

"No further comment will be made by the commission at this time."

The Crown Office said it noted the publication by the Sunday Herald.

It said: "The commission was working to facilitate the publication with appropriate protection for all of the persons named in it taking account of their human rights (articles 2 and 8) and issues of confidentiality.

"The unauthorised publication by the Sunday Herald today does not deal with any of these issues which rightly constrain all public authorities by law."

'Selective leaks'

The Crown Office said it had "become very concerned at the drip feeding of selective leaks and partial reporting from parts of the statement of reasons over the last few weeks in an attempt to sensationalise aspects of the contents out of context".

It continued: "Persons referred to in the statement of reasons have been asked to respond to these reports without having access to the statement of reasons and this is to be deplored.

"Further allegations of serious misconduct have been made in the media against a number of individuals for which the commission found no evidence. This is also to be deplored.

"In fact the commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies."

The Crown Office also said it was "not appropriate or helpful to seek to try a case in the media".

It added: "The only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law. The trial court accepted that this was an act of State sponsored terrorism and that Megrahi did not act alone.

"Investigations will continue to bring the others involved in the murder of 270 persons to justice.

"As a result the Crown will be making no further comment on the evidence in the case and on the statement of reasons."

'Valuable information'

Mr Salmond said: "I welcome the publication in full of this report, which is something that the Scottish government has been doing everything in our powers to facilitate.

"I especially welcome the fact that it offers a full account of the SCCRC's deliberations rather than the partial accounts which have appeared in the media in recent weeks."

He added: "This report provides valuable information, from an independent body acting without fear or favour, and while we can not expect it to resolve all the issues in the Lockerbie case, it does however lay the basis for narrowing the areas of dispute and in many ways is far more comprehensive than any inquiry could ever hope to be.

"The Lockerbie case of course remains an open criminal investigation, and while the only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law, the SCCRC is a valuable body which is itself part of the Scottish criminal justice system."

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