Friday, September 04, 2009

Scotland releases wrongfully-convicted Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

al-Megrahi's appeal proves the Scottish system to be a sham.

by Justin Panos
BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)

On August 20, 2009, convicted killer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison on what was said to be compassionate grounds. The 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence officer, who is dying of terminal cancer, was convicted on 270 counts of murder for allegedly bombing Pan Am Flight 103 which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. Upon Megrahi’s arrival back in Libya, he was greeted with cheers and jubilation by hundreds of supporters. The celebration angered U.S. and U.K. officials.

Megrahi’s trial was one that is beset with controversy and scandal. The UN observer to the trial, Hans Kochler, denounced the entire proceedings as a ‘spectacular miscarriage of justice’ and, in an interview with Radio Basics, said that he would fail a student if she presented such an argument in his university classroom.

Scotland, the United States, and the U.K. indicted the 2 Libyans and threatened sanctions against the African country if they were not turned over. The basis of their case against Megrahi was that he and co-accused Lamin Fhimah conspired on the island of Malta to plant a bomb on Pan Am flight 103. This information was brought forward by a Maltese shopkeeper who the appellate court, Hans Kochler, and even the prosecution, found to be an unreliable source. Kochler told Radio Basics the shopkeeper was later awarded one million dollars from the FBI.
The charges against Fhim were eventually dropped by the prosecution. The prosecution then changed their entire case half way through the proceeding. Megrahi was still found guilty even though the star witness and the evidence were not credible. Kochler denounced the ruling as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘irrational’.

In June 2007, Megrahi was granted a second appeal when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) found the original verdict to be totally wrong and politically driven. However, before the Scottish legal system was to be denounced and Megrahi set free, the Scottish minister of Justice, Kenny MacAskill, released Megrahi on ‘compassionate grounds’ in light of his cancer. Megrahi is said to have three months to live, which is quite convenient for the Scottish legal system that can now wipe its hands of responsibility for the state of Megrahi’s ill-health and the show trial they forced him to endure for two decades.

Hans Kochler has continued to denounce the trial and has said that international institutions—like the international criminal court and the United Nations—are inherently undemocratic and subject to the wishes of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, U.K., and the U.S.— who act above the law. Any reform to the UN would require their consent, which is likely not to happen. He believes that new organizations outside of the UN framework are needed in order to counteract the lawlessness of the current system.

Megrahi maintains his innocence. ∗

Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is helped down the airplane steps on his arrival at an airport in Tripoli, Libya after being released by Scotland after more than 20 years imprisonment.