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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 17:25 GMT
UN monitor decries Lockerbie judgement
Inside the Camp Zeist courtroom
The proceedings were flawed, says Prof Köchler
A United Nations observer has described the dismissal of the Lockerbie bomber's appeal as "a spectacular miscarriage of justice".

Professor Hans Köchler was speaking after five Scottish judges rejected Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's attempt to overturn his conviction for murdering 270 people in the 1988 atrocity.

Libya condemned the outcome as a "political decision under pressure from Washington and London" but it was welcomed by the US Government.

Al-Megrahi is now preparing to be flown by helicopter from the special Scottish Court in the Netherlands to Scotland's largest prison in Glasgow to serve his life sentence of at least 20 years.

Al-Megrahi: Showed no emotion

Barlinnie Prison
  • Al-Megrahi is to be transfered to Barlinnie
  • He may be held alone in a special unit
  • His sentence is for life
    For more:

  • Professor Köchler, 53, who teaches philosophy at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, was one of five UN observers who followed the Lockerbie case.

    They were appointed as part of the deal between the UN and Libya which allowed the extradition of al-Megrahi and a co-accused, who was found not guilty at the trial last year, to face the charges.

    The observers are not bound to report back formally to the UN but Professor Köchler said that under the circumstances, he felt compelled to do so.

    He told BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme: "I am sorry to admit that my impression is that justice was not done and that we are dealing here with a rather spectacular case of a miscarriage of justice.

    Credence issue

    "I am at a loss to explain how this decision of the appeal court can have been passed unanimously in light of some of the questions asked and analysis presented by one or the other of the appeal court judges during the appeal.

    "I see a kind of gap between how the sessions of the appeal court went and the unanaimity of this decision... which did not give any credence at all to any of the grounds of appeal which were presented.

    "I base my observation only on logic and reason.

    Hans Köchler
    Prof Köchler: "Unconvinced" by ruling
    "Frankly speaking I am not convinced, I was not convinced when I read the opinion of the court after the trial last year and I was not convinced when I went through the text presented today.

    "I am not convinced at all that the sequence of events that led to this explosion of the plane over Scotland was as described by the court. Everything that is presented is only circumstantial evidence."

    Asked if he spoke for the entire UN observation team, he said: "Based on the informal conversations we had today - you can imagine that we have spoken to each other after the verdict - I have the impression that this concern is shared by the large majority of the observers."

    Clare Connelly, a member of the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit at Glasgow University, said Professor Köchler's comments displayed a "profound misunderstanding" of Scotland's adversarial legal system.

    Judge's comments

    Al-Megrahi showed no emotion as Scotland's senior judge, Lord Justice General Lord Cullen, announced the decision at a three-minute hearing in the Scottish Court.

    He said: "For the reasons given in the judgement, in which we all concur, we have concluded that none of the grounds of appeal is well founded.

    "The appeal will accordingly be refused."

    Lord Cullen
    Lord Cullen headed the panel of judges
    Professor Köchler spoke to al-Megrahi after the hearing and revealed: "He is rather composed but of course frustrated and he feels himself to be a victim of international politics.

    "He is in an angry mood but composed."

    Scotland's most senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, said: "I believe that these proceedings have demonstrated what the judicial process can achieve when the international community acts together.

    "I hope that this can be the enduring legacy of the Lockerbie trial. It is one that cannot and must not be forgotten".

    Legal history

    Al-Megrahi's defence team lodged grounds for his appeal a week after the guilty verdict at the end of his trial in January 2001 at the custom-built court in Camp Zeist.

    The 14-day appeal hearing made Scottish legal history by being broadcast live on television and the internet.

    For the Libyan, Bill Taylor QC argued that new evidence presented to the appeal pointed to a miscarriage of justice.

    Barlinnie Prison sign
    Al-Megrahi will have a special prison cell
    He said it raised the possibility that the bomb had been placed on board the aircraft at Heathrow and not in Malta, as the trial judges had concluded.

    However, Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, said the new evidence was weak and flawed, and did not affect the original case.

    Commenting on the decision, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "The completion of the appeal does not end U.S. sanctions against Libya, but should spur Libya to take quick action to fully comply with the requirements of the UN Security Council."

    UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on Libya to honour its obligations in respect of Lockerbie and to co-operate fully with UN Security Council resolutions.

    The UK Government would study the judgement before deciding on whether or not it would hold an inquiry into the bombing, he added.

    Final option

    Only one avenue of appeal remains open to him under the Scottish legal system.

    The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which sits in London, has a supervisory jurisdiction over constitutional matters within the UK.

    However, al-Megrahi can only ask the body to re-examine the case under the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The BBC's David Shukman
    "Whoever instructed him has now got away with it"
    The BBC's Robert Hall
    "He will be treated like any other life prisoner"
    Glasgow University's Alastair Bonnington
    "The system in Scotland has changed recently so there can be reviews"
    Lockerbie megapuff graphic


    Appeal concludes

    Key stories


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    Talking PointFORUM
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