Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland
A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed — 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground — in what remains Britain's deadliest terrorist attack. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 November 2020

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland
  • Convicted bomber Al-Megrahi's family claim the US and UK governments have “lived a monumental lie for 31 years.”
  • It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group

GLASGOW: The family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmet Al-Megrahi on Tuesday began a posthumous appeal in Scotland hoping to overturn the former Libyan intelligence officer’s conviction for downing a Pan Am flight in 1988, killing 270 people.
Lawyer Claire Mitchell told five judges in Edinburgh that “no reasonable jury, properly directed, could have returned the verdict that it did.”
The case was referred to Scotland’s highest criminal court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in March on grounds a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
The SCCRC said there were grounds an “unreasonable verdict” was returned in that it could not be proved Megrahi bought the suitcase containing the bomb that was loaded onto the flight.
It also highlighted “non-disclosure” of evidence to Megrahi’s defense team.
Megrahi is the only person convicted of bombing Pan Flight 103, which was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it flew from London to New York on December 21, 1988.
Three Scottish judges sitting at a special court in the Netherlands jailed him for life in 2001, recommending he serve at least 27 years.
He was released from a Scottish prison on health grounds in 2009 and returned to Libya, where he maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.
A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed, including 11 people on the ground, in what remains Britain’s worst terrorist attack.
But Megrahi’s family maintain there are widespread doubts about his conviction.
A successful appeal would vindicate their belief the US and UK governments had “lived a monumental lie for 31 years” by imprisoning an innocent man and punishing Libya’s people, they said.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar said before the appeal began that he had spoken to Megrahi’s son, Ali, who was eight years old when his father stood trial.
“The Megrahis regard their father as the 271st victim of Lockerbie,” he said.
“Finally there is hope that we are coming to the end of a very long journey in nearly 32 years of their struggle for truth and justice.”
Megrahi’s first appeal was dismissed in 2002 and a second abandoned after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Five judges including Scotland’s most senior jurist, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland, are hearing the case, which is due to last until Friday with a ruling at a later date.
The family’s legal team are taking part remotely from Glasgow.

It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group in retaliation for a US Navy strike on an Iranian Airbus six months earlier in which 290 people died.
Late last Friday, the High Court upheld a secrecy order signed in August by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab to withhold intelligence documents related to the case on grounds of national security.
The documents are thought to allege a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) built the bomb.
The PFLP-GC has been designated a terrorist group by several countries, including Britain and the United States.
Lawyers acting for the Megrahi family believe the documents are central to their appeal, which is backed by some of the victims’ families.
They also said they would disclose “significant material about the role of individuals, nations and their politicians” at the end of the appeal.
“There can never be a time limit on justice or the truth emerging,” said Anwar.
In 2008, then-foreign secretary David Miliband also refused to release the papers before Megrahi’s second appeal.


‘Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh

Demostrators take part in a protest in Brasilia on January 24, 2021 against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the coronavirus disease outbreak. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
Demostrators take part in a protest in Brasilia on January 24, 2021 against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the coronavirus disease outbreak. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
Updated 18 min 36 sec ago

‘Get out Bolsonaro!’ say ex-supporters in Brazil as COVID-19, vaccines weigh

Demostrators take part in a protest in Brasilia on January 24, 2021 against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the coronavirus disease outbreak. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
  • Support for Bolsonaro has fallen by the largest amount since the beginning of his government in 2019
  • His administration was rated as bad or terrible by 40% of respondents, compared with 32% in early-December

RIO DE JANEIRO: Meggy Fernandes voted for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, attracted by the far-right former army captain’s promise to shake up a hidebound political establishment mired in endless graft scandals.
But after watching him jettison his anti-corruption pledges, strike pacts with the politicians he vowed to shun, and, most importantly, botch Brazil’s coronavirus response, Fernandes, 66, now says she was wrong to place her faith in Bolsonaro.
“I’m so revolted by my vote,” she said in a supermarket carpark in Rio de Janeiro, at an unusual pro-impeachment rally convened by right-wing groups. “Bolsonaro is overseeing a terrible government. He’s doing a disservice to the nation. His handling of the pandemic is completely wrong.”
Despite repeatedly denying the severity of the pandemic and overseeing a response that has blighted Brazil with the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 fatalities after the United States, Bolsonaro ended 2020 riding high in the polls, buoyed by a generous coronavirus support package.
January has been less kind, however. The welfare program is now over, leaving many poor Brazilians stranded as a second wave gathers steam. Others have been irked by the federal government’s slow and patchy vaccine rollout, and Bolsonaro’s personal pledge not to take any COVID-19 shot.
A recent surge in cases in the northern city of Manaus, which was one of the first places badly hit by the virus during the first wave, has proved to be another stain on the president’s coronavirus response. The city, deep in the Amazon rainforest, ran out of oxygen last week, leaving hospitals reliant on black-market cylinders, or tanks imported from Bolsonaro’s longtime foe Venezuela.
Support for Bolsonaro has fallen by the largest amount since the beginning of his government in 2019, a Datafolha poll on Friday showed. His administration was rated as bad or terrible by 40% of respondents, compared with 32% in early-December. Just under a third of respondents rated Bolsonaro’s government as good or excellent, versus 37% in the previous poll.
In Brasilia, though, Bolsonaro seems to be on steadier ground. A majority of Brazilians reject him being impeached, a second Datafolha poll on Friday found. It showed that 53% of respondents are against Congress opening impeachment proceedings, up from 50% in a previous survey. Those favoring impeachment fell to 43% from 46%.
Bolsonaro-backed candidates are also expected to win control of Congress next month. His growing willingness to discuss political horse-trading has helped him secure a base of center-right lawmakers who could scotch any chances of impeachment.
But it is exactly those partnerships that brought out a smattering of protesters to a scorching parking lot in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on Sunday.
Convened by Vem Pra Rua and Movimento Brasil Livre, two right-wing groups whose nationwide protests in 2016 helped precipitate the impeachment and later removal of former leftist President Dilma Rousseff, Sunday’s protests were full of disgusted former Bolsonaro supporters. Similar events took place in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, with left-wing pro-impeachment protests across Brazil on Saturday.
Although turnout in Rio was thin, if the numbers swell in the months ahead, it may pose a problem for the president ahead of 2022, when he is certain to seek re-election.
Like others at the protest, Patricia Resende, a 57-year-old civil servant, said Bolsonaro was unlikely to be impeached.
She said many of her friends who voted for Bolsonaro still liked him. But Resende said she had come to “take a stand” against what she described as his “electoral swindle.”
“He has been a coronavirus denier,” she said. “He didn’t try to buy enough vaccines for a population of more than 200 million people.”
As the crowd assembled, Fernandes picked up the microphone and gave an impassioned speech about Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic and her disappointment of his presidency.
“’Long live Bolsonaro!’” she exclaimed as she finished, before realizing her error, blushing and quickly correcting herself. “Sorry, I meant ‘Get out Bolsonaro!”