Convicted Lockerbie Bomber Wins Chance to Appeal

By Mike Mitchell

Jun 28, 2007 2:32pm

Some families of those killed in the Lockerbie tragedy are outraged the convicted bomber won a chance today to appeal in court. A Scottish judicial review panel ruled today that former Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who was convicted of carrying out the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, be granted an appeal. "It’s unfortunate and will reopen old wounds," Bert Ammerman, spokesperson for those who lost loved ones to the tragedy, told ABC News. "Some families will go back and relive what took place in the first trial." Former FBI agent Richard Marquise, who spearheaded the Lockerbie investigation, expressed to the Blotter on ABCNews.com his "disappointment" with the ruling made by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). "I expected the commission to say there was no manipulation of evidence," said Marquise. "I thought they would reject everything the defense had thrown at them." Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the airline bombing that killed 270 people, and since then he has maintained his innocence. "The Scottish Crown Office informed me that a very small percentage of these cases have ever gone to a higher court," Ammerman told ABC News. "This gives me some concern." The appeal grant has placated some who have long held that al-Megrahi was unjustly convicted, including relatives of the victims. Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing and believes al-Megrahi is innocent, has been quoted as saying, "I think for those of us who have looked carefully at the evidence and have doubts, we cannot achieve [closure] until we’re quite sure that it really is true and it could be proved that it were true that [al-Megrahi] was the one that did it. It’s no good trying to have closure on false foundations," he said while attending a press briefing held by the Lockerbie victims’ families outside the Scottish Parliament. Ammerman respectfully disagrees with such "conspiracy theorists" within the victims’ families, "While I have enormous respect for Jim Swire, I feel that he’s thinking more with his heart than his head." Marquise is less sympathetic. "We followed the evidence, and it led us to Megrahi," said Marquise. "We didn’t guess." In a statement today, the chairman of the SCCRC said, "The Commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice." The statement explains new evidence raised questions as to whether al-Megrahi had purchased the items found in the suitcase containing the bomb. Resulting speculations of injustice compelled the ruling for appeal. Marquise has strong doubts about these recent findings of the SCCRC. "They don’t believe the clothing in the suitcase was purchased on the date we said it was, based on some information they’ve gotten since the closing of the case," Marquise told ABC News. "Many of the issues raised were not substantiated by the commission." Ammerman feels the initial evidence identifying al-Megrahi as the buyer of the alleged items was "overwhelming." "That in itself was grounds for conviction," Ammerman told ABC News. In addition to the new evidence, according to Marquise, a written statement by Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi four years ago helped encourage the commission to reconsider Megrahi’s conviction. In a letter to the United Nations in 2003, Gadhafi said that Libya "accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials." According to such a shrewdly worded assurance, if al-Megrahi is found innocent, Libya can deny having a role in the bombing altogether. "I don’t know why Gadhafi’s statement was accepted as an apology," said Marquise. "Now the commission is throwing it in our face that he never said he was guilty." As the case heads to the High Court, Ammerman still holds an optimistic outlook. "I have complete faith in the Scottish legal system," Ammerman told ABC News. "If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this process, it’s that the Scots don’t hold the Britons in high regard, so they won’t be intimidated by anyone at 10 Downing Street." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team? This post has been updated.

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