Third Lockerbie appeal given permission to proceed

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Megrahi was released from prison to return to Libya in 2009

A third posthumous appeal on behalf of the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has been given permission to proceed.

Abdelbasset Al Megrahi’s family are asking the High Court to rule that he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

A full hearing is scheduled for later this year.

Megrahi was convicted of playing a key role in the bombing of Pan Am 103 on 21 December 1988.

All 259 passengers and crew on board the flight were killed, along with 11 people in Lockerbie who died when the wreckage fell onto their homes.

Authorising the appeal to move forward, three judges also ruled that an independent lawyer would be appointed to view classified documents on the family’s behalf.

Megrahi was found guilty in 2001 after standing trial at a specially-convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.

He lost his first appeal and abandoned a second shortly before the Scottish government released him on compassionate grounds in 2009. Terminally ill with cancer, he returned to Libya and died there three years later.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred his conviction back to the courts in March this year.

The commission said it believed that no reasonable court, relying on the evidence led at the trial, could have decided that the case had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

They also said prosecutors at the Crown Office had failed to disclose information to the defence, denying Megrahi a fair trial.

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Eleven people died when the wreckage fell onto their homes

Three judges led by Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord Justice General Lord Carloway, have given the case the authority to proceed on the points raised by the commission.

They have also allowed a number of additional grounds of appeal submitted by lawyers acting for Megrahi’s family.

They refused to give them permission to argue that he was unfairly convicted because of “a systematic failure of disclosure” by the Crown Office.

The court will hold a hearing behind closed doors to consider two protectively-marked documents which are the subject of a long-standing public interest immunity certificate recently renewed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

‘Important milestone’

The family’s legal team believe they contain information which could help their case.

A “special counsel” with the right to view the documents will be appointed to represent them at the hearing.

The family’s solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “If the UK government has nothing to hide, then it has nothing to fear from disclosing this material.

“Today was an important milestone for the Megrahi family on the road to try to establish that the verdict against their father was a miscarriage of justice. There can never be a time limit on justice.”

At a hearing last week, lawyers representing the UK government said it intended to satisfy the court that its reasons for imposing the certificate were “well founded.”

How did we get here?

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A total of 270 people died in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988

US and British investigators indicted Megrahi in 1991 but he was not handed over by the Libyans until April 1999.

May 2000 – A special trial under Scots law starts on neutral ground at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

31 January 2001 – Former Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi is found guilty of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years.

March 2002 – Megrahi loses an appeal against his conviction.

September 2003 – The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is asked to investigate Megrahi’s conviction.

June 2007 – The SCCRC recommends that Megrahi is granted a second appeal against his conviction.

18 August 2009 – Megrahi’s move to drop his second appeal is accepted by judges at The High Court in Edinburgh.

20 August 2009 – Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, is released from prison on compassionate grounds.

May 2012 – Megrahi dies at his home in Tripoli, aged 60.

July 2015 – Scottish judges rule that relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims should not be allowed to pursue an appeal on Megrahi’s behalf. Courts had previously ruled that only next of kin could proceed with a posthumous application.

July 2017 – Megrahi’s family launched a new bid to appeal against his conviction.

March 2020 – The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission said Megrahi’s conviction can be taken to a fresh appeal.

BBC News