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Friday, August 21, 2009 

The Maltese double cross part 2.

You do have to wonder exactly what both the United States and ourselves expected to happen when al-Megrahi touched down in Libya. He was always going to be given something approaching a warm welcome, mainly because even while the country has paid reparations for the bombing, he is still regarded as innocent.

As almost always, American and Western lives are regarded as having far more worth than those towards the east. You might have thought that some would have mentioned Iran Air Flight 655 today; after all, it's still possible that the Lockerbie bombing was revenge for it. Flight 655 was shot down by the USS Vincennes whilst it was inside Iranian territorial waters, killing all 290 on board. The crew of the ship were not even slightly disciplined: they instead received Combat Action Ribbons, while the captain received the Legion of Merit. The Iranians received no apology, the US has never accepted responsibility and also never admitted wrongdoing. It did however eventually pay $131.8 million in compensation. Libya, by contrast, ended up paying more than $2.16 billion for the Lockerbie bombing.

It's also fairly remarkable how in this instance the Scottish government has managed to stand up to American pressure not to release al-Megrahi. How very different to the extradition of Gary McKinnon, where Westminster has refused to intervene and where Denis MacShane even claimed that McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome was a ruse. Similarly, David Miliband continues to refuse to disclose 7 paragraphs of a memo concerning Binyam Mohamed, claiming that if he did the Americans would withdraw intelligence cooperation. It might well be that the Scottish, unlike the UK government as a whole, doesn't have to worry about the relationships which would be affected by playing politics as it were, but it also exposes both the cowardice and the disparity of the "special relationship", as well as just how nasty both Labour and the Conservatives have become, both of whom would have apparently denied a man with three months to live a compassionate release. I'm no fan of the SNP, and their authoritarian tendencies especially over alcohol are repugnant, yet they've made the right decision for exactly the right reasons, the only downside being that al-Megrahi apparently had to drop his appeal for his release to be agreed. Justice may not have been fully served, but this may well have been the best outcome out of a slew of worse ones.

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I had the misfortune to listen to MacAskills announcement (or should I say marathon, pompous, worse-than-mediocre performance) on radio 5. It was excruciatingly, embarrassingly bad. I am also less sanguine about the SNP's 'show of independence' than you. The impression left with me was of innocents caught in an issue dominated by vastly more powerful and unscrupulous interests that had made that power very clear to the little SNP boys playing big-boys games. In order of importance, there were three things those interests sought to secure:

1. Prevention of further scrutiny of either the original or substantial new evidence in open court.
2. The existing guilty verdict to stand.
3. al Megrahi to remain in prison.

They got the first two which, as a bonus, means Libya remains saddles with the compensation bill.

Robert Black QC, an emeritus professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, was one of the architects of the original trial in Holland. Asked by Hugh Miles in 2007 what he thought about the original guilty verdict for a London Review of Books article, Black stated: 'I am still absolutely convinced that ... No reasonable tribunal, on the evidence heard at the original trial, should or could have convicted him and it is an absolute disgrace and outrage what the Scottish court did.’

I thought the FBI head's remark that "terrorists will take comfort" from this was particularly ludicrous.

Sure, all you have to do is die from a painful disease and you won't be punished further! Sweet!

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