Scotland’s top judges have upheld a secrecy order signed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to withhold intelligence documents believed to implicate a Palestinian terrorist group in the Lockerbie bombing.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the attack, believe that the documents are essential for a new appeal against his sentence that begins on Tuesday and have urged the court to release them. .
The appeal has been filed by Megrahi’s son, Ali Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, in what is believed to be the first posthumous miscarriage case of justice in the legal history of Scotland. Megrahi died of cancer in Tripoli in 2012 after being released from prison on compassionate grounds.
The documents are believed to have been sent by King Hussein of Jordan to the UK government after Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the town of Lockerbie in December 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 residents.
The documents are believed to allege that a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), named Marwan Khreesat, manufactured the bomb. Critics of Megrahi’s 2001 conviction believe that the PFLP-GC carried out the attack on behalf of the Tehran regime in retaliation for the destruction of an Iranian airliner by the US warship USS Vincennesa in July 1988, but this was covered up to implicate Libya. .
In August, Raab signed a public interest immunity certificate to keep the documents secret. In 2008, then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband also refused to hand over the documents before Megrahi’s second appeal, which he later left in the belief that he would be released early.
In a ruling delivered late on Friday, Scotland’s highest-ranking judge Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice General, said the court had upheld Raab’s order signed in August after studying the documents in a secret hearing at earlier this month, despite the foreign secretary’s agreement. the documents are relevant to the appeal.
“His clear sight is [it] It would cause real harm to UK national security because it would damage the counter-terrorism link and intelligence gathering between the UK and other states, ”Carloway said, referring to Raab’s presentation. “The documents had been confidentially handed over to the government. Disclosure would reduce the willingness of the state, which produced the documents, to entrust information and cooperate with the UK. “
To the disappointment of the Megrahis’ lawyers, Carloway sided with the UK government arguing that much of the material in the secret documents was known to Megrahi’s defense team at his trial in the Netherlands in 2000-01, as were the claims about Khreesat’s role, even though the Jordanian cables were hidden from his lawyers.
Lawyers for the Megrahi family insist the documents could have opened important new lines of investigation and helped prove Megrahi’s innocence had they been released before their trial. Megrahi tried to incriminate the PFLP-GC in the attack.
Lawyers for the Scottish government, who are on the side of the UK government in opposing the appeal, told Carloway that they believed the documents should be released.
The new appeal hearing was ordered after the Scottish Criminal Review Commission decided that Megrahi’s conviction was possibly a judicial error, due to significant discrepancies in the evidence from the Crown’s key witness, a Maltese merchant named Tony. Gauci, who alleged that Megrahi had bought clothes put in the suitcase bomb.
The SCCRC also said that the Crown had not disclosed Gauci and that his brother was offered reward payments totaling $ 3 million for testifying. Given that evidence, no reasonable jury would have convicted Megrahi and her rights to a fair trial under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated.
The commission found that the Jordanian documents were hearsay and did not come from a primary source. That contradicts a previous ruling by the SCCRC. In 2007, with different commissioners involved in the case, he decided that Jordanian documents raised questions about the safety of Megrahi’s conviction when he recommended an appeal.
With that hearing ongoing in August 2009, Megrahi dropped her case after it became known she had cancer. “He did so, at least in part, because he thought that by doing so his prospects for compassionate release would increase,” the court said. Megrahi was later released by Kenny MacAskill, then Scottish Attorney General and now SNP MP.
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