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Mar 8, 2006

Justice? - FBI links between Lockerbie and McKie case

The Scottish Executive is still resisting calls for a public inquiry despite more damaging revelations about the state of Scottish Criminal Justice.

Juval Aviv - Pan Am's senior Lockerbie investigator - has revealed that officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation travelled to Scotland to pressure the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) into a swift resolution of the McKie fingerprint case. Their purpose in meeting senior members of Scotland's forensic service was allegedly to ensure the Shirley McKie affair was "swept under the carpet" to avoid any embarrassment in the run-up to the Lockerbie trial.

According to Mr Aviv during discussions with two senior members of staff in the fingerprint lab at SCRO in 1999 or 2000, they told him they had misgivings over the evidence against Ms McKie but were pressed to "fall in line with the evidence".

It is clear that these allegations further reinforce the urgent need for a Public Inquiry.

The case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the accused in the Lockerbie trial, involved a contentious fingerprint lifted from a travel document in Malta. The fingerprint had only 12 matching points to Megrahi though many courts require 16. Although SCRO had nothing to do with identifying it, the credibility of the fingerprint was important.
In 1999, a year before the trial was due to get under way at Kamp van Zeist, the McKie controversy blew up. The Strathclyde policewoman had been put on trial for perjury after denying she had left a fingerprint at the scene of a crime and this was backed by scores of international fingerprint experts and she was acquitted. The revelations have severely damaged the credibility of Scotland's fingerprint service.
Mr Aviv said that about this time the FBI flew to Scotland. "I heard about the [McKie] case and FBI putting pressure on the labs. I received phone calls from sources within the fingerprint lab saying the FBI visited Scotland and met with people in charge to discuss falling in line with the [McKie] evidence. They met several times and they co-ordinated actions ...[they were] under pressure from the FBI to manufacture evidence to suit this trial and convict the Libyan. [The FBI told SCRO] any scandal that could taint this evidence could really interfere with Lockerbie and should be put under the carpet...The sources were appalled. That's one thing that you do not do - interfere with a court case in The Hague and accuse two people who could get life in prison with manufactured evidence. They were fed up with it."
Mr Aviv would not reveal the SCRO sources to the Scotsman newspaper which broke the story. He also refused to provide details of which FBI officers visited Scotland. It had previously been reported that David Grieve and Pat Wertheim, two American fingerprint experts consulted in the McKie case, had been told by FBI officials not to speak publicly about the case in the months before the Lockerbie trail.
Shirley McKie's father, Iain McKie, said;"The only logical explanation for the ordeal my daughter has gone through is that the SCRO was making sure there was nothing to rock the boat before such an important case that also relied on forensic evidence. This new evidence .... shows the common cast of characters, in the FBI and SCRO, were indeed linked."
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said Mr Aviv's claims made the case for a public inquiry "overwhelming" and that"It is unfathomable that revelation should follow revelation, and accusation follow accusation, and still there has been no inquiry, which is something just about everyone involved in the case now demands."

Hans Kochler, president of the International Progress Organisation, who was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as one of two international observers for the Lockerbie trial, has also said a full public inquiry was the only way to restore faith in the process of law in Scotland.
He warned that the refusal of ministers to reveal the facts behind the McKie case was damaging Scottish justice's international reputation even further. "There is now a growing body of opinion among international lawyers and international experts that the integrity of the Scottish criminal justice system is in serious doubt," he said.

A spokesman for SCRO said: "SCRO can confirm that a fingerprint expert did visit the FBI around those dates. The purpose of this visit was to look at methods for court preparation, training and third-level detail, and was totally unrelated to the McKie case. At no time ... was the case of Shirley McKie discussed or the name 'McKie' mentioned. SCRO was not involved in any way with the fingerprinting of the Lockerbie disaster. The recent speculation about a link between the cases is without foundation."
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