ABDELBASET Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi last Tuesday abandoned his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing in order to make it easier for the Scottish law courts to allow him to return to Libya on compassionate grounds before he dies, aged 57, of prostate cancer. It another cruel twist to the mountain of injustices that have been heaped on this innocent man that he must surrender his long battle to clear his name - a legal battle that would take longer than his life expectancy - in order to be allowed to return to his home.
His incorrect conviction has in effect been a death sentence because he is dying from a cancer that is easily treatable and curable if the Scottish prison system had given him basic medical care and caught it in its early stages.
Two-hundred-and-seventy people died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the skies of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in December 1988.
At first the British and American security services blamed unspecified Palestinian terrorists. There had been warnings before the Lockerbie bombing of a possible revenge attack after an American warship in the Gulf shot down an Iranian airliner the previous year, killing all the civilians on board. An intelligence report from the US State Department on 2nd December 1988, 19 days before the Lockerbie bombing, warned: “Team of Palestinians not associated with the PLO plans to attack American targets in Europe. Targets specified are Pan Am and US military bases.”
For a while the imperialist leaders used accusations of being involved in the bombing to try to bully several Middle Eastern countries. Eventually they settled on brow-beating Libya by claiming the bombing was the work of two Libyan intelligence agents - Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fimah.
At first the Libyan government refused to hand them over and US imperialism subjected the country to economic and cultural sanctions. Then it bombed the capital, Tripoli, the bombers taking off from Britain. In the bombing raid Colonel Gaddafi’s infant adopted daughter was killed; they had been trying to kill Gaddafi himself.
The Libyan government finally demanded some evidence that the two accused were involved in the bombing. Up until then the US government had never even considered presenting a shred of evidence. Now the CIA went into overdrive to cook up some evidence. They leant heavily on stooges to identify Megrahi and Fimah as people who had bought clothes in Malta that were found in the suitcase that contained the bomb; one vital witness who originally described the purchaser as over six-foot and aged about 50 while Megrahi then was five-foot-eight-inches and 37. The list of dodgy “evidence” is very long.
But the two men were eventually handed over to be tried in 1990 in a special court by a panel of Scottish judges with no jury. The evidence was so bad that they could not bring themselves to convict both of the accused. The CIA had to be content with one sacrificial lamb.
The magazine Private Eye wrote: “The judgement and the verdict against Megrahi were perverse. The judges brought shame and disgrace, it is fair to say, to all those who believed in Scottish justice, and have added to Scottish law an injustice of the type which has often defaced the law in England. Their verdict was a triumph for the CIA but it did nothing at all to satisfy the demands of the families of those who died at Lockerbie - who still want to know how and why their loved ones were murdered.”
Since then Megrahi has been held in prison in Scotland; his wife moved from Libya to Scotland to be able to visit him regularly and they have both been separated from their home and the rest of their family.
The New Communist Party and the New Worker have actively backed the campaign for justice for Megrahi and for Libya from the beginning and we will continue to do so. He may no longer be in a position to fight to clear his name but that does not mean the fight will end. Along with millions of other progressives in Britain and around the world, we will continue to demand that the record be set straight and the machinations of the CIA be fully exposed.