Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Selective standards of proof

Brian Flynn is the brother of one of the American victims of the Lockerbie bombing, and was also one of those consulted by Kenny MacAskill in a video conference before the decision to release Megrahi was taken. He has had a high profile in recent days, castigating the Scottish government, alleging nefarious motivations for the decision on the basis of "evidence" that frankly isn't there, and last but not least demanding the resignation of both Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill.

It's difficult to know how best to respond to someone who has suffered so much, has a huge amount at stake in all this, and clearly has no agenda other than the truth as he sees it. But it seems to me that when the integrity of others is being wrongfully impugned, it's still important that those points are rebutted. In particular, it strikes me that Mr Flynn is guilty of a clear double-standard - he is very quick to label anyone who questions Megrahi's guilt as the peddler of wild conspiracy theories, and yet the evidential basis for those "theories" are demonstrably about a thousand times stronger than the "proof" he cites for his own apparently unshakeable belief that the SNP were nobbled by businessmen in the Libyan corner.

Here is the comment I left at Mr Flynn's latest article in the Guardian -

As I've said to him on another website, I have every sympathy for what Mr Flynn and his family have gone through since 1988. But the fact remains that his logic is self-contradictory, evades certain inconvenient facts, and thus leads him to direct his anger towards the wrong place.

The point about the dictatorship in Libya having been strengthened by Scotland's actions is first of all a totally unproven assertion, and frankly highly implausible. The idea that a devolved government could ever have anything like as much impact on international affairs as Mr Flynn is suggesting stretches credibility to the limit. But the much more important issue is this - does Mr Flynn want the rule of law to prevail, or doesn't he? If he does, then he can't seriously argue that Kenny MacAskill should have been taking account of any theoretical side-effects of his decision. He was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, and thus had to focus on the narrow matter of whether Mr Megrahi satisfied the conditions for compassionate release, and whether it was appropriate to release him. If he'd done anything else, he would be guilty of Mr Flynn's charge of treating Megrahi differently from others for political reasons. But he didn't.

"two months before the release, the Scottish National party received a visit from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a Middle East-based sovereign wealth fund critical to SNP's plans for capital investment and greater economic independence from the UK"

A fairy story. The only thing that can give Scotland "greater economic independence from the UK" is legislation at Westminster, not shady deals with mysterious Qataris.

"Clearly, the vaunted Scottish justice system had been corrupted by the political needs of the SNP."

This really is an extraordinarily silly charge, and it resembles the one made by Menendez and co over Lord Trefgarne's (utterly unimportant) letter. Mr Flynn's logic seems to be that because it can be shown that someone said something to the SNP, the SNP are somehow automatically "implicated" in it. It apparently doesn't even change anything if it can be clearly shown that the SNP gave a firm response that political and economic considerations would under no circumstances be taken into account.

"And dozens of prisoners die of natural causes every year in Scottish prisons. Why was al-Megrahi considered a special case?"

The whole point is that he wasn't. Many terminally ill prisoners have been recommended for compassionate release before, and it has always been granted by Scottish ministers. If they had rejected this particular recommendation on political grounds, they would indeed have been treating Megrahi as a special case. They didn't.

"How is it right that al-Megrahi served only 11 days for murdering a little child four days before Christmas in Lockerbie?"

And if he hadn't been granted compassionate release, how many days more would Megrahi have served for that murder? One or two, at the very most. I can understand the emotive power of those kind of statistics, but they aren't terribly meaningful in these particular circumstances. It simply wasn't in Kenny MacAskill's power to give Megrahi the kind of punishment Mr Flynn feels he deserves.

No comments:

Post a Comment