South Scotland

Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi case goes back to court

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Media captionAbdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted since the bombing

A High Court judge has been asked if families of some of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing can launch an appeal on behalf of the only man convicted of the atrocity.

It is the latest attempt by relatives to bring the case back to court.

The families want the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi overturned.

Lady Dorrian has now ordered that a hearing should take place to decide whether they can pursue an appeal on his behalf.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) wants guidance on the legal status of the relatives of those who lost their lives in the atrocity.

After hearing submissions from legal teams, Lady Dorrian arranged a hearing to take place on 27 March.

The Crown rigorously defend Megrahi's conviction, and they will challenge this latest review.

Al-Megrahi died three years ago, having abandoned his own second appeal brought by the SCCRC.

The SCCRC is considering a joint application from members of Megrahi's family and the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, which includes relatives of British victims of the bombing, to review the conviction.

It previously said that despite repeated requests, members of Megrahi's family had failed to provide "appropriate evidence" supporting their involvement in the application.

The SCCRC concluded that the application was being "actively supported" only by the members of the victims' families.

Previous court decisions have meant that only the executor of a dead person's estate or their next of kin could proceed with such a posthumous application.

The SCCRC wants to determine if a member of the victims' families - such as Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing - might be classed as a "person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal" if the case is referred back to the High Court.

Dr Swire and Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the Megrahi family, were among those at court for the latest hearing.

'Fundamental duty'

Mr Anwar said: "We would submit that the commission are wrong and that we remain instructed by members of the Megrahi family as well as the British relatives.

"We have been in communication with the Megrahi family, both via intermediaries and directly.

"Communication is hampered by an extremely dangerous situation in Libya, a situation referred to in December by the Lord Advocate, by way of an explanation for lack of any progress in relation to investigations into the Lockerbie atrocity."

He added that with regards to the rights of the victims' families to pursue an appeal there was a "fundamental duty" to protect the rights of victims of crime.

"It is submitted that the families of the victims have as much right to make an application for referral as the family of Mr al-Megrahi," he said.

"Finality and certainty in the Megrahi case is unlikely ever to be achieved unless a referral is made to the Appeal Court."

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