Family’s bid to clear Lockerbie bomber’s name rejected

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland have upheld Abdelbasset Al Megrahi's conviction over the bombing.

Family’s bid to clear Lockerbie bomber’s name rejected AAIB / Getty Images

The family of Abdelbasset Al Megrahi said they are “heartbroken” after their appeal against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was rejected. 

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, who was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years, was the only person convicted of the attack.

He died in 2012 after being released from prison on compassionate grounds while terminally ill.

His family lodged an appeal after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred the case to the High Court last March, ruling that a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

However, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland has now upheld the verdict of the trial court and rejected both grounds of the appeal.

The bomber’s son Ali Al-Megrahi said his family were left heartbroken by the decision.

In a statement issued by the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar, he maintained his father’s innocence and said he was determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name.

The Megrahi family now intend to appeal to the UK Supreme Court and an application will be lodged within 14 days.

In a statement, the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: “For 32 years the families of the 270 people murdered on the night of 21 December 1988 have shown dignity in the face of the loss they have suffered. Our thoughts are with them again today.

“The bombing of Pan Am 103 is, to this day, the deadliest terrorist attack on UK soil and the largest homicide case Scotland’s prosecutors have ever encountered in terms of scale and of complexity.

“The evidence gathered by Scottish, US and international law enforcement agencies has again been tested in the Appeal Court; and the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi stands.

“After Megrahi was convicted in 2001 my predecessor as Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that the investigation into the involvement of others in this terrible crime would continue. I reiterate that commitment today.

“For almost 20 years since that date Scottish police and prosecutors have continued the search for evidence. This work will continue; and there remain suspects under active investigation.”

Megrahi’s first appeal against his conviction was refused by the High Court in 2002 and was referred back five years later following an SCCRC review.

He abandoned this second appeal in 2009, shortly before his release from prison on compassionate grounds while terminally ill with cancer.

He returned to Libya and died in 2012.

Key dates in the three decades since the Lockerbie bombing


December 21: Pan Am flight 103 explodes over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people – 259 on board and 11 on the ground.


January 31: Following a trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is found guilty of mass murder and jailed for life.


August 19: Libya accepts blame for the Lockerbie bombing and agrees to compensate victims’ families.


March: Then prime minister Tony Blair offers Colonel Muammar Gaddafi “the hand of friendship” following talks with the Libyan leader in a tent outside Tripoli.

The UK and Libya go on to sign a memorandum of understanding, with a commitment to negotiate a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA).


June: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) recommends Megrahi is granted a second appeal against his conviction after the first, in 2002, was refused.

December 19: It is revealed the UK Government has decided not to exclude Megrahi from the PTA.


September: Megrahi is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.


May 5: The Libyan government submits an application to the Scottish Government for Megrahi’s transfer under the PTA, followed by an application for release on compassionate grounds.

August 20: Then Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill announces Megrahi is to be returned to his home country on compassionate grounds and he is freed from Greenock prison and taken to Glasgow Airport for a flight to Libya.

August 21: The UK and the US condemn the “hero’s welcome” given to Megrahi as he arrives in Tripoli to cheering crowds.

September 5: Then UK justice secretary Jack Straw acknowledges the prospect of trade and oil deals with Libya was “a very big part” of his decision to include Megrahi in the PTA.


May 20: Megrahi dies at home in Tripoli aged 60.


June 5: Six members of Megrahi’s family join forces with 24 British relatives of those who died in the atrocity to seek another appeal against his conviction in the Scottish courts.

December 20: Scotland’s top prosecutor Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland reaffirms Megrahi’s guilt and pledges to track down his accomplices.


July 3: Scottish judges rule relatives of the victims of the bombing should not be allowed to pursue an appeal on Megrahi’s behalf.

October 15: Scottish prosecutors announce they want two Libyans they have identified as suspects to be interviewed by police.


July 4: Megrahi’s family lodges a new bid to appeal against his conviction, five years after his death.


May 3: The SCCRC says a full review of Megrahi’s case will be carried out to decide whether a fresh appeal against conviction can be made.

November 21: A police investigation finds no evidence of criminality in relation to the handling of the Lockerbie investigation and prosecution.


March 21: The Crown Office reportedly questioned retired Stasi agents over the Lockerbie bombing, examining the possible role of the East German intelligence service in the 1988 bombing.


March 11: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission rules a fresh appeal is to be allowed, and refers the case to the High Court of Justiciary.

June 3: The appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is formally lodged at the High Court.

Nov 19: A crowdfunder is launched to help pay for the appeal.

Nov 24: The third appeal begins at the High Court in Edinburgh, sitting as the Court of Appeal, and lasts three days.

Dec 21: The US charges a “third conspirator” in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, on the 32nd anniversary of the atrocity.


January 15: Judges reject both grounds of appeal, meaning Megrahi’s conviction stands.

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