Search topics on this blog

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Megrahi, The Scotsman and the Unionists.

The Scotsman is in no doubt what the big story is today – Megrahi’s death bed ‘confession’. It puts confession in quotes, but it’s a nod and a wink – we know what they really believe. The justification for this is in the sub header – Lockerbie bomber: ‘My name was exaggerated’. The Unionist logic on Megrahi – and the Scotsman is a unionist paper, whatever its pretensions to objectivity and its token inclusion of nationalist commentators – goes something like this -

The SNP Government, in their first term, made a damaging political error in releasing Megrahi, an error that had to be ruthlessly exploited by Scottish and Unionist UK politicians. The fundamental political error lay in releasing him on compassionate grounds, even if he was dying, since Unionist realpolitik would never have let compassion - or indeed the facts of Scottish Law on compassionate release - get in the way of political expediency.

But just in case the Scottish public - who have an unhappy tendency to be more humane and compassionate than the Labour and Tory hegemonies that have hitherto ruled them - shared the humanity of Kenny MacAskill and the SNP Government, the question had to be raised if Megrahi was really dying or not, and here they had the advantage that estimates of life expectancy in terminal illness often prove to be too short, and many terminally ill patients live for much longer than forecast. This bet was promptly hedged. If he died as forecast in three months, they could still argue bad judgement: if he lived longer, they could argue that it was a fix.

There were also a few other inconvenient factors for the Unionist parties to consider in the exploitation of a dying man for political purposes.

A significant number of Scots did not believe Megrahi was guilty, and some believed that he was involved but did not act alone. This was compounded by the fact that Doctor Jim Swire, who had lost his daughter in the Lockerbie atrocity - and was a prominent voice among the bereaved - did not believe that Megrahi was guilty.

Tony Blair had muddied the water by the abortive attempt to secure the deal in the desert with Gadaffi to release Megrahi for cynical political gain over oil, a deal that he had no power to make constitutionally, given the devolved settlement. This meant that a potential fault line lay between the Tories and LibDems on one side and UK Labour on the other. This was compounded by the fact that the American critics of the release believed that UK Labour had stitched up a deal with the SNP Government, a proposition that was utterly ludicrous to all who knew the total hostility of the Labour Party, at both UK and Scottish levels to the elected Government of the people of Scotland, and was more than a little inconvenient for Labour, less so for Cameron.

The most inconvenient factor of all was that Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government took the decision in the firm belief that Megrahi was guilty under the verdict reached at the trial. (This, for the record, is also my belief – I support the compassionate release decision although I believe Megrahi was guilty, although I do not believe that he acted alone.)

The pristine clarity of Kenny MacAskill’s decision rested on the fact that he believed Megrahi was guilty, had been properly found guilty as charged under Scots Law, but nevertheless was eligible for compassionate release. The Scottish Justice Minster, in the full knowledge that he would unleash a volley of critical fire, nonetheless did what was right, rather than what was expedient. No Scottish unionist politician  had either the political or moral courage to take such a decision, and Scottish Labour were clearly kept out of the Machiavellian Blair/UK Labour loop and their machinations.

As the Gadaffi regime began its bloody collapse and Libya moved towards freedom from a brutal dictatorship, the unionist camp lived in hope of new disclosures that would confirm Megrahi’s guilt and somehow implicate the Scottish Government, still consumed by their faulty analysis of the dynamics of the situation.

They seized upon every panic-stricken defector who was prepared to say whatever was necessary to the US and UK governments to gain asylum and immunity from prosecution.

What emerged was in fact embarrassing revelations of just how close Blair, the Labour Government and now the Coalition had been to Gadaffi till the eleventh hour, when Cameron grasped his Maggie moment and found his war by joining France in supporting the rebels.

And so to yesterday at Megrahi’s sick bed and today at The Scotsman and elsewhere

What conclusions may we draw from Megrahi’s statement, and what does it signal for the future? The possibilities are easy to set out -

Megrahi is either feigning illness – the unstated sub-text of much unionist media comment – or he is dying. If the first is true, why would a man feted by the regime as a hero not be with Gadaffi in his final bunker in Sirte, instead a lying in a bed without any protection other than unarmed immediate family? To secure asylum to the West or the US by trading information? Such an explanation has zero credibility. He is pretty clearly seriously ill, has been abandoned by the regime, and does not have the drugs or medical care to alleviate his pain or prolong his life.

What would a guilty man do in such circumstances? He would admit his guilt, as other senior figures have done, and try to trade information for immunity.

What would an innocent man do in such circumstances? He would try and clear his name.

Since I believe Megrahi is guilty at least of complicity in the Lockerbie bombing, my conclusion is that he is terminally ill, has been abandoned by the regime, expects to die, expects nothing of the West, but wants to make the exact nature of his role in the atrocity clear before he dies.

Can we conclude anything from his statement, accurately reported in The Scotsman’s sub-header – “My name was exaggerated”. If this strange formulation is accurate, nothing can be concluded from it – it could mean anything. But The Scotsman, the unionist media and the bandwagon jumpers such as Johann Lamont have rapidly translated Megrahi’s gnomic statement into – “My role was exaggerated”.

Megrahi could have meant that – he equally could have meant that his name and identity, as an acknowledged senior member of the Libyan security apparatus, were seized upon by the media, even though he had no direct involvement in the plot.

But none of the this changes the analysis vis a vis Kenny MacAskill’s release decision. The situation is now as it has always been, crystal clear.

1. If conclusive evidence is found of Megrahi’s guilt, even if it confirmed him as the sole architect of the Lockerbie bombing atrocity, that would simply confirm the belief in which the Scottish Justice Minister made his decision, namely that Megrahi was guilty as charged.

2. If conclusive evidence is found that Megrahi was completely innocent of the charge, or complicit and not the prime mover, or that he was guilty but did not act alone, then the world must recognise that a compassionate decision, made in the belief that he was guilty, in fact had averted a grave miscarriage of justice.

3. If conclusive evidence was found that, in the face of all rationality and all that we know, that the Labour Government and the British intelligence services somehow conspired with Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill to find a spurious rational for releasing Megrahi, then the American Republican Right would be ecstatic, Labour's already deeply damaged reputation would be dealt a terminal blow, and the UK would be seriously damaged because of the continuity of exactly the same people in the shadowy world of intelligence across both the Brown and Cameron/Clegg regimes, a conspiracy to defeat the legitimate wishes of the American people and the families of the American victims to see justice done to the murder of their loved ones.

But we have conclusive evidence – evidence of  Blair’s Deal (a non-deal) in the Desert, of the Brown Government’s complicity and of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition’s close, intimate relations with a brutal, probably insane dictator up to the eleventh hour, while human rights were being brutally violated with the UK’s full knowledge in Gadaffi’s torture chambers and dungeons, all in the name of realpolitik and oil.

The Megrahi Affair teaches us a lot about the Scottish Government and its Justice Minister - who acted unselfishly and upheld the highest principle of law, justice and human compassion - and successive UK Governments and the three Unionist parties that comprised them at various times – who acted in the most despicable traditions of  a brutal, expedient and values-free colonial imperialism.

Saor Alba!


  1. Peter, have you watched the Al Jazeera video that discusses the evidence?

    It was a micarriage of justice that Megrahi was found guilty whether he was or wasn't. If you ar anyone you know were found guilty based on such weak eye-witness (paid) testimony, unrealistic witness identification and questionable forensics (the most important part of which just suddenly appeared) then you would rightly proclaim a miscarriage of justice.

    Megrahi is innocent as far as the evidence is concerned.

  2. I learned a long time ago, Stevie, that judging evidence when you haven't been in the court and are not a lawyer or a judge is a dangerous and superficial game to play.

    That is not to say that miscarriages of justice don't happen. As things stand, I accept the vedict of the Scottish Court. Other informed - and many ill-informed - voices differ. The most objective and respected of the voices that say Megrahi is innocent is Dr. Jim Swire, and I listen carefully to what he says. I do think an enquiry is required to satisfy the victims' families and the wider public.

    As far as the validity of the Megrahi release decision is concerned, it is irrelevant - he was released in the firm belief that he was guilty.

  3. I agree but plenty of voices inside parliament believed should he have had his appeal he would have been cleared.

    That said, I was utterly gobsmacked when the SNP resolutely stood against: the loud blunderbus of Brit nat opposition in the Scottish parliament and Brit nat media; the UK governments loathsome hypocritical attacks; the US government. I knew the SNP was going to take a hit, so did they. Yet, ultimately agree or disagree, the Scots respected the right of the Justice minister to take the decision.

    I was far more gobsmacked by the cast iron testicles/ovaries of the SNP government and how they decided 'right' was more important to them than playing safe.

    And ultimately, I am actually proud that most Scots accepted the decision despite the tirade from all quarters against the SNP government.

    Proud of my fellow Scot, then and on May 5th.

    Have you seen the Al jazeera video report?

  4. Gray, in your clip - hadn't seen that before - is saying what he would have done.

    He never once questions the morality of what his bosses did. The 'it wisnae me' mentality is fit for the primary school playground but is yet another example of his hypocrisy.

  5. The release had nothing to do with how Megrahi was found guilty (the evidence against him failed to live up to even being able to be described as circumstantial) and of course the Justice Minister had to support the verdict to release him anyway.

    Or he wouldn't be in jail as non guilty people are not jailed, or if they are the reason they are released is because of new evidence presented at a High court that would have the power to release the person if the evidence was upheld as truthful.

    As far as I am aware, there is no one who can tell you what evidence exactly convicted Megrahi of mass murder.

    There is nothing within the court record to be quoted that would lead to a guilty conclusion.

    The UN observer, there throughout the whole trial, described it as a farce and that justice was not done.

    However, this article is a good article in itself, very fair and observational, but this ":we don't know what evidence is presented in courts' or 'you need to see the whole case to understand a guilty verdict" is simply a load of nonsense I am afraid.

    If the article writer has any idea of exactly what evidence convicted Megrahi, I am all ears..........

  6. Gustorpher

    I didn't say either of these things, as wronly attributed by you -
    ":we don't know what evidence is presented in courts' or 'you need to see the whole case to understand a guilty verdict"

    What I said was -

    "...that judging evidence when you haven't been in the court and are not a lawyer or a judge is a dangerous and superficial game to play.

    That is not to say that miscarriages of justice don't happen. As things stand, I accept the vedict of the Scottish Court. Other informed - and many ill-informed - voices differ. "

    As for having any idea of the evidence that convicted Megrahi, read the trial transcripts.

    This blog, indeed everything I have written about Megrahi has been about the Megrahi release decision. This is not a forum for discussing his guilt or innocence - if you want to express your views, on that go elsewhwere, Gustopher - you'll find no shortage of lengthy debate all over the internet, ranging from considered informed comment from both sides of the argument to superfical and often abusive comment.

  7. I will refrain from commenting on the testimony against al-Megrahi except to say that you can not solely go on the transcript in view of the evidence which has since come out that witnesses received large sums in payment. The whole business was severely tainted whoever was guilty.

    More to the point, as miserable as the coverage of this was by the Scotsman, I don't know of a single MSM outlet in either the UK or US that has been honest or forthcoming on the topic.

  8. Oh, two more points. I agree with you 100% on this comment: "The Scottish Justice Minster, in the full knowledge that he would unleash a volley of critical fire, nonetheless did what was right, rather than what was expedient." Not only did the Justice minister have a very good idea what would be unleased, so did the Scottish First Minister when he made the decision to stand firmly behind him. Whether al-Megrahi was guilty or not, the SG garnered my entire admiration for their resolute behavior.

    On the topic of al-Megrahi's comment about: "My name has been exaggerated", I have seen some discussion in a few publications that the word exaggerated is not a perfect translation and that it should be closer to slandered or lied about. Not knowing a word of the language, I couldn't say but this would make more sense.

    So much of the behavior of politicians and MSM has been at best shameful, this topic has become difficult to discuss in an unemotional manner. I can't agree with you on al-Megrahi's likely guilt but respect that you really don't want to discuss that.

  9. Jeanne, I don't want to discuss Megrahi's guilt or innocence because I have nothing useful to contribute to the torrent of 'facts', opinions and conspiracy theories that abound. I want to believe that justice was done, and if it wasn't, or there are other guilty men, I want to see them brought to justice. I support Dr. Jim Swire in his clear-eyed search for that truth.

    But whatever Megrahi's guilt or innocence, I hold no brief for the man - he was a member of the intelligence services of a brutal murderous regime for decades, a regime that, given his position, he must have known the exact nature of, yet remained with and profited from.

    No one can be a member of the intelligence services of such a regime and not commit appalling acts that offend against humanity.

    In spite of all that, I supported the decision to release him on compassionate grounds. In conflating the argument over his guilt or innocence with that decision, we blur the essence of the debate on the release decision, when it fact it is starkly simple - he was released under Scots law on compassionate grounds in the firm belief that he was guilty.

  10. Peter - I can't agree with your conclusion.

    That he has been found guilty, therefore must be, does not compute given the evidence and witnesses and conduct of the trial.

    I fully agree with what the Justice Secretary did - in reality it was the only position he could take - he had to back up the verdict of the (his) court - but what would have been his view and indeed yours, had there been the death penalty?

    Al Megrahi can thank his God for the SNP and the guys who stood up for Scots Law and the compassion element built into it.

    Crime has been committed, but by whom and I think further crime is happening. I deplore the actions by vested interests to deny information to the court and their ongoing refusal to help the appeal process.

    Robert Black QC and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC)are resolute, as is Dr Jim Swire, that a miscarriage of justice has taken place. My money's on them.

    I am sure there's a twist coming in this sad story and Al Megrahi will have his day.

  11. Barontorc,

    " ...I can't agree with your conclusion.

    That he has been found guilty, therefore must be, ..."

    I made no such comment and reached no such conclusion, as a careful re-reading of what I said will show.

    If you also read today's follow-up blog, you will see my postion set out again. Your comment is the last one in this vein that I will publish.

    I fully support your right, and that of others to believe in Megrahi's innocence and to campaign for a re-opening of the facts of the case, but you must look elsewhere for a place to argue that case.

    Thanks for posting.