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Lockerbie: Salmond confirms court can still review Megrahi's conviction

Abdelbaset al Megrahi's conviction for the Lockerbie bombing could still be reviewed even after his death, Scotland's First Minister has confirmed as the 25th anniversary approaches.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) can refer cases back to court even after the death of the convicted individual, Alex Salmond told MSPs.

Megrahi protested his innocence until his death in May last year, three years after he was sent home to Libya on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer.

SCCRC reviews can be requested post-mortem by the family of the convict or by the families of the victims.

Megrahi's family in Libya "could be risking their lives" if they pursue a fresh appeal against the conviction, according to Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing in December 1988.

Dr Swire will attend a meeting of the UK Families Flight 103 group in the new year to consider whether to appeal against the conviction on behalf of the UK families.

The US Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group does not share the British families' belief that Megrahi may have been innocent, with many publicly opposing the campaign to reopen the case.

The UK families will also consider whether a public inquiry is the best route to get answers at their meeting next year, although Dr Swire conceded that approach may ultimately fail.

Their hopes for an inquiry were dealt a fresh blow today by the First Minister, who insisted that a court of law is the only place to test Megrahi's conviction, but he also confirmed the court route was not completely closed.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, SNP MSP Christine Grahame, convener of Holyrood's justice committee, said: "I am a signatory to the Justice for Megrahi campaign, concerned that the wrong man and possibly the wrong nation was in the dock.

"Will the First Minister write to the Prime Minister requesting a joint inquiry into all aspects of the atrocity?

"If the Prime Minister does not agree, will his Government take the lead and instigate an inquiry into the devolved issues such as the policing and the Crown Office actions, which might at last kick-start a full UK inquiry, which is what I would suggest the victims' families really require?"

Mr Salmond said: "There are live investigations into the crime to see if others can be brought to account.

"The Scottish Government has not written to the UK Government asking for a joint inquiry.

"Mr al Megrahi was convicted in a court of law, and the conviction was upheld by the appeal court.

"We have made it clear that our view is the only place that Mr al Megrahi's conviction could be upheld or overturned is in a court of law.

"There are established procedures in place as part of the checks and balances in our justice system that allow the SCCRC to consider referring a case back to court.

"It is important to note that the processes can be used even after Mr al Megrahi is deceased."

He said the debate over Megrahi's conviction should not overshadow the commemorations of the bombing on Saturday, 25 years to the day since it happened.

"The local community in Lockerbie will be commemorating the tragic events of a quarter of a century ago," he said.

"I will be attending a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of all of those who were lost in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on Saturday.

"There will be ministerial attendance at the evening service at the church, the commemorative service at Westminster Abbey in London and the memorial service at Arlington national cemetery in Washington.

"One of the themes of the memorial event in Washington is to look forward, and that will involve students in Lockerbie and Syracuse University which lost 35 students in the tragedy.

"The Scottish Government will make a contribution of £60,000 towards the fund that allows Lockerbie students to study at the university in the US."

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