Appeal court judges have ruled that an appeal against the conviction of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing can start in November, his family’s lawyer has said.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York on December 21 1988, killed 270 people in Britain’s largest terrorist atrocity.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi – found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years – was the only person convicted.
An appeal against his conviction was lodged after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred the case to the High Court in March, ruling a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
A virtual hearing took place on Friday before the Lord President Lord Carloway, Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian and Lord Menzies, where the legal team representing the Megrahi family outlined the grounds for their appeal.
The family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said on Thursday that the court has allowed the appeal in relation to the argument that “no reasonable jury” could have returned the verdict that the court did and on the grounds of non-disclosure of documents by the Crown.
The court minute of the hearing states the judges also refused a ground of appeal criticising the system of disclosure.
It said the judges refused to allow parts of the Note of Appeal “which refer to a ‘system of disclosure which was not fit for the purpose of ensuring that all relevant information was identified and disclosed’, the absence of a ‘robust system of disclosure’, a ‘systemic failure of disclosure; and bad faith on the part of the respondent’.”
At the virtual hearing Claire Mitchell QC, representing the Megrahi family, also said the legal team should be allowed to see protected documents held by the UK Government.
She said it is “in the interest of justice” that the defence get to see the two documents, which are covered by a public interest immunity certificate.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has lodged an updated public interest immunity certificate with the clerk of court, dated August 2020.
Mr Anwar, who has seen a copy of the judges’ decision, said the court is still considering the part of the appeal relating to the new public interest immunity certificate and will appoint special counsel for this purpose to represent the person making the appeal, which has been instituted by Ali Al-Megrahi on behalf of his father.
The special counsel will have clearance from the security services and is entitled to see the confidential information and appear at a private hearing which the Megrahi family’s legal team may not attend, Mr Anwar said.
They must not disclose any of the confidential information to the Megrahi family’s legal team, except with the permission of the court, and if permission is given, only in accordance with any conditions imposed by the court.
Mr Anwar said: “The reputation of Scottish law has suffered both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi.
“It is in the interests of justice and restoring confidence in our justice system that these doubts can be addressed, but the only place to determine whether a miscarriage of justice did occur is in our appeal court.
“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.”
The appeal is scheduled to start on November 24.