Thursday, December 06, 2007

Post Script to Jim Swire...The Untold Story

From 1st July 2007:

Friday’s (Lesley) Riddoch Questions with Lockerbie relative leader Jim Swire was a pleasant case of déjà vu.

In 1994 when I was Asst Editor of the Scotsman, I took the decision to screen a film made by the late Alan Frankovich called the Maltese Double Cross. The film argued that Iran not Libya was behind the Lockerbie bombing and though it was meant to be screened by the London Film Festival, they dropped it after getting a legal challenge from….someone. This got me interested. Lockerbie was the biggest single act of terrorism on British soil and no-one wanted to screen a film trying to explain what happened.

A solid week followed with reporter Stephen Breen, working through the film frame by frame to answer the many, many reservations raised by the Scotsman’s lawyers. I booked an Edinburgh cinema, which discovered it was double-booked -- at the last minute. Happily, the Glasgow Film Theatre came to the rescue. Along with Jim Swire.

His daughter Flora was killed on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and earlier that day Jim had been at the Commons where Tam Dalyell showed Frankovich’s film in a private screening. He agreed to head to Glasgow the next day and to take the second tape of the film with him.

Unlike Tam, we were showing the film in public and could be sued for defamation if we put a foot wrong. We had several last minute edits ordered by the lawyers and there was no other way but Jim to get the film to Glasgow on time.

While Jim and Tam were at the Commons, the only other copy of the Maltese Double Cross was stolen in a burglary at a Birmingham Human Rights Office, which, as I recall, was also burned to the ground. Which left me feeling a trifle jumpy, heading for Glasgow with the first tape in a shopping bag, praying that Jim Swire would make it in time, with the second. Minutes before the start, with a cinema fill of hacks, spooks and humans, he appeared.

Exhausted but optimistic the film would raise questions, open doors, open minds…… And here he is again. 13 years later, looking not a day older with his wife Jane. Still hopeful that the true story of the Lockerbie bombing will emerge and quite convinced that Al Megrahi, the man convicted and given leave to appeal again this week, is actually innocent.

Like many other relatives, Jim and Jane hardly allow themselves to believe the guilty man or men will ever be found. But after the appeal they’ll press for an independent inquiry to find out what they really want to know. Why did the British authorities ignore all the warnings that caused other countries to take people off the flight from Heathrow.

I really hope we won’t all be gathering again in another 13 years time. But who knows?

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