MSPs are to demand a detailed explanation from the Scottish Government of why they oppose an independent inquiry into the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber.
Leading campaigners today (Tue) presented the parliament’s petitions committee with more than 1,600 signatures backing the move.
Members of the Justice For Megrahi group (JFM) told MSPs a full, independent inquiry was the only way to restore the reputation of the Scottish legal system.
Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the December 1988 bombing, dropped his second appeal and returned to his homeland after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Members of JFM believe the unanswered questions about the case have left a dark shadow over the victims and Scottish legal system.
Canon Patrick Keegans, who was the local catholic priest in Lockerbie at the time of the disaster, said: “People have never found a full answer to Lockerbie and this will always be a source of distress.”
Keegans, who lived in Sherwood Crescent, part of which was obliterated by falling debris, said the case was about the “redemption of the Scottish justice system”.
He added: “We have been denied justice from the very beginning. I am very doubtful about the conviction of Megrahi. While doubt remains the victims are denied justice. What we need is the truth about Lockerbie.
Keegans, now the Canon in charge of St Margaret’s Cathedral, Ayr, said: “Obstacles have been put in our way by the Crown Office and by the judiciary. There seems to be a desire to put a lid on this and keep it there.”
“We need truth and we need justice to be at peace. Otherwise we are back in December 1988 in the darkness.”
Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died in the bombing, said “the reputation of Scottish justice has been shot to pieces”.
He said only an impartial inquiry could rebuild that reputation. Swire said the original criminal investigation was run by Scottish police forces and involved Scottish lawyers. They were two obvious groups who might be interested in protecting their reputation, he added.
“Speaking as a relative who has been looking for the truth for 22 years I think it would be vital that any inquiry is seen to be led impartially. Such an inquiry would be of little value if it was deemed to be in any way limited by groups involved in the trial.
Swire said an inquiry “is the only way we will be able to heal the terrible wounds done to our justice system”.
Professor Robert Black, emeritus professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, said: “The fact of [Megrahi’s] conviction is being used as an excuse for not holding a wide ranging inquiry.”
Black refuted suggestions from one committee member that an inquiry would create a constitutional crisis by pitching government against judiciary.
He said: “We are asking the Scottish Government to set up an inquiry. The government cannot deny there is domestic and international concern. We are asking them to investigate these concerns.”
First Minister Alex Salmond has said he has confidence in the conviction of Megrahi.
After hearing today’s arguments, the committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government asking them to respond to the request for an independent inquiry.
The petition has already attracted the support of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Have I Got News for You? TV star Ian Hislop.
REPORT: Peter Laing