There is a common thread that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s death leaves many questions unanswered, including whether he was actually guilty to begin with.
As newspapers across Scotland reflect this morning on the death yesterday of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bomber, there is a common thread that his death leaves many questions unanswered, including, and perhaps ultimately, whether he was actually guilty in the first place.
At the Herald, a warning comes from its leader column that al Mergahi’s death cannot end the “search for truth”.
Raising the possibility of some sort of judicial inquiry it concludes:
Who was the man who died in Tripoli yesterday after a prolonged and painful battle with prostate cancer?
Was Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi the biggest mass murderer in Scottish criminal history? Was he the fall guy for a much wider international conspiracy than has so far been revealed?
Or was he, as the Justice For Megrahi campaign claimed yesterday, “the 271st victim of Lockerbie”?
The families of those who died on that terrible night in December 1988, when “liquid fire” rained down on the quiet town in the Scottish Borders, remain bitterly divided on the issue. Certainly, most of the American relatives would subscribe to the first of those three descriptions. For them, the death must bring some relief, even satisfaction.
However, a number of the UK relatives, including retired GP Dr Jim Swire, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, are convinced that Megrahi was either entirely innocent or only peripherally involved. What unites them all is a need to get to the truth.
For their sake, it is vital to assemble all the pieces of the jigsaw concerning this atrocity that have emerged in the following 24 years and attempt to join them together. This had not been done before and Megrahi’s death makes no difference to the case for it happening.
Megrahi’s death must not end the search for the truth. One option appears to be the possibility of one of the bereaved relatives taking up the appeal. Another would be for the Scottish or UK government to institute a judicial inquiry.
This would be long and expensive but we cannot put a price on justice. A country can be judged by the quality of its judicial system.
This case leaves a smear on the quality of Scottish justice that needs to be either contradicted or belatedly put right.
• Salmond: We remain committed to Lockerbie inquiry 21 Oct 2011
• Al-Megrahi release row: What do we know? 7 Feb 2011
Over at the Daily Record, meanwhile, its editorial reads:
December 1988 seems a lifetime away. But it must feel like only yesterday to the residents of Lockerbie and the families of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the town.
Some of them may wake up today feeling that the death of the only man convicted of Britain’s worst terrorist attack has given them what the Americans call closure.
But many others will rightly believe that the death yesterday of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is not the end of this tragic saga. That the search for justice must continue.
The paper continues:
Perhaps now, with Megrahi’s death and a new regime in charge in Libya, the full truth about the bombing may finally emerge. In the meantime, our thoughts today should be with the families of the 270 who perished at Lockerbie in 1988.
As Alex Salmond said, their “pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years”. That pain will probably never go away. But justice for their loved ones will help to ease it.
Meanwhile Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, was killed on board Flight 103, uses the death as an opportunity to reiterate his belief al Mergrahi was innocent.
Writing in the Scotsman this morning he concludes:
“Initially, we were told the investigation was fingering Iran and Syria over the Lockerbie bombing. By time the trial started this had switched to Libya.
“I presumed that I was going to that court to hear the conviction of two of the people responsible for the disaster. But halfway through, I reluctantly came to conclusion that these two were not guilty as charged and that the prosecution case was not sound.”
And Clive Fairweather, former Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, assesses some of the evidence which suggest all might not have been has it seemed.
Writing in the Scotsman he explains:
“Now that one of the main witnesses to the Lockerbie bombing has gone, we may never discover the full truth of quite who and how many were involved in the biggest terrorist incident ever to hit Scotland.
“Indeed, we might never have known about the Libyan connection, had the explosive device hidden in the hold of the doomed Pan Am jumbo jet detonated over the sea, as was almost certainly planned.
“Instead, every item of wreckage, suitcases and clothing which rained down on a small Dumfriesshire town became a rich source of forensic evidence, some of which was later used at the court established in the Netherlands to try the two co accused under Scottish law.
“Part of my remit involved me inspecting the prison at Kamp van Zeist, where the two Libyans were held, and I spoke with them at some length, though we never discussed their alleged offence. I also took the opportunity to attend the trial in the Netherlands and was impressed by the detail a small Scottish constabulary had managed to assemble, particularly evidence concerning a tiny circuitboard found near the crash site and supplied by a Swiss arms dealer.
“This had particular resonance for me, a former Special Forces member and intelligence officer, well versed in the theory of timers and barometric devices.
“There is no question in my sceptical mind that this and the particular circumstantial evidence accompanying it pointed very firmly at Libya and nowhere else.
“Similarly, I have no doubt that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was the equivalent of station intelligence officer in Malta at the time the bomb was loaded on board and was closely involved in the latter stages of what was probably a very large conspiracy involving several countries and terrorist groupings.
“I have doubts, however, about his identification by the Maltese shopkeeper in connection with the clothing purchased locally and later found amongst the wreckage in Scotland.
“There is a possibility that this was in fact bought by someone else – possibly from a Palestinian group.
“Personally, I would doubt if a sophisticated operator like Megrahi would have exposed himself in quite such an obvious way, well-trained operator that he was.
“To that extent – but that alone – he may have been the victim of some twisted miscarriage of justice. I am equally certain it was not just him who conceived the entire fiendish plot.”