Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gaddafi hails Libya Lockerbie "victory" at UN

[This is the headline over a report that appeared on the BBC News wbsite on this date in 1998. It reads as follows:]

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has expressed his thanks to the many countries which expressed support at the UN debate this weekend over ending the sanctions imposed against Tripoli for the Lockerbie disaster, and said Tripoli had won both the legal and political battle over the case.

"On behalf of all the Libyan men and women, I extend my warmest thanks to the friendly and brotherly countries, the UN members and to the International Court of Justice, the main legal instrument of the world.
I also thank the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement," Gaddafi said in a speech broadcast on Sunday on Libyan TV.

Gaddafi said he was addressing "all the speakers who took the floor yesterday at the Security Council".

"On behalf of the Libyan people and all the peoples who are convinced that the strength of law will prevail over the law of force, I extend to them my thanks, respect and gratitude," Gaddafi said.

"The Libyan people received massive support for their just cause and their confrontation against the forces of injustice represented by Britain.

I would like to express this gratitude for this world support which I regard as the support of the century for a small country in its confrontation against superpowers which are coveting our wealth." Gaddafi went on:

"Yesterday there was an international trial in which, principally Britain and America were in the dock. World states made accusations against these two states.

"We, Libyans, won the legal battle at the International Court of Justice, and yesterday night we won the political battle at the Security Council when a third of the organization's members, who were able to speak, spoke.

“Perhaps the other two thirds would have spoken in support of Libya.
When they spoke, they supported the Libyan stance, the Libyan policy and the Libyan people," Gaddafi said.

"What did the ICJ say? It said that the Lockerbie incident - Pan Am flight 103 - was a legal and not a political case. This is the first ruling. It is a criminal case which does not concern the Security Council. It said that it came under the Montreal Convention and not under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Therefore, the resolutions which were literally imposed on the Security Council against the Great Jamahiriyah under Chapter 7 are unlawful under the ruling of the ICJ.

"The falsification, which we rebelled, demonstrated and protested against at the time, has become evident. Now, God be praised, it is being confirmed by the ICJ. It confirms the falsification of the claim that international security was under threat," Gaddafi said.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lockerbie questions for the FBI

What follows is an article originally posted on this blog on this date in 2012.

What the SCCRC should have asked the FBI

[This is the heading over an item posted today by John Ashton on his Megrahi: You are my Jury website.  It reads as follows:]

On 18 March Scotland on Sunday ran an article headlined Megrahi probe ‘failed to speak to FBI agents’, which reported criticisms of the SCCRC by FBI officers Oliver ‘Buck’ Revell and Richard Marquise. [RB: See here and here.]

It states:  Oliver “Buck” Revell, the former associate deputy director of investigations for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, has reacted angrily to the examination into the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). In an e-mail seen by Scotland on Sunday, Revell expressed frustration that no-one from the FBI was consulted by the SCCRC when it compiled its report into the safety of Megrahi’s conviction … In his e-mail to government and legal officials in Scotland and the US, Revell complained that the SCCRC failed to interview members of the FBI for its Statement of Reasons. The e-mail pointed out that the original Lockerbie investigation was carried out by Scottish police, Scotland Yard, the German BKA and the FBI. Revell added: “I don’t know what the SCCRC expects to determine when it is not even interviewing the actual investigators involved in solving this terrible crime.”
Marquise said:  “I don’t know if you can say you have done a comprehensive report unless you speak to key people. To me it is an incomplete report whatever they are going to publish. They never did speak to the people who might be able to shed some light on whatever it is that they were looking to find out. If you are going to say you have done a complete investigation, you should talk to everybody who was key, and I like to think people in the FBI were key. I like to think some people in the CIA were key and they could and should have been interviewed.”
While neither man shed any light on what the FBI investigators could have told the commission, we might infer from their comments that the Bureau held further evidence of Abdelbaset’s guilt. Of course, it almost certainly didn’t, because any such evidence would have been handed to the Crown.
That said, I share Revell’s and Marquise’s disappointment that the SCCRC failed to interview anyone from the FBI, as many important questions remain unanswered. For example:
1. What did FBI agent John Hosinski discuss with Tony Gauci when he met him alone on 2 October 1989?
2. What did Senegalese official Jean Collin reveal when interviewed in the US in December 1990?
3. Was the content of Collin’s interview revealed to the Scottish police? And, if not, why not?
4. Why did the FBI’s Tom Thurman ‘front’ for the CIA in relation to the identification of the timer fragment?
5. According to FBI agent Hal Hendershot, Thurman had a laboratory in Lockerbie within days of the bombing. What forensic work did he undertake and was that work shared with the Scottish investigators?
6.When, in June 1990, Thurman demonstrated to the Scottish police that PT/35b matched the control sample MST-13 timer, why did he not reveal that he was already aware that the timers were made by Mebo?
7. Why was Hendershot aware of the contents of the Toshiba manual fragment PK/689 before it was examined for the Scottish police at RARDE?
8. Why was the FBI able to investigate debris item PI/1389 (a blue T-shirt, which, according to the FBI’s Bonn legal attache David Keyes, showed blast damage and the imprint of the grills of two radio speakers) before RARDE?
9. What information did Hendershot, Thurman and Bob Howen uncover in relation to the crystals used in the MST-13 timers? In particular, were they able to establish the date of manufacture of the crystal used in the control sample timer K-1, which was recovered from Togo and which Thurman used for comparative purposes with the fragment PT/35b?
10. Regarding the episode at Frankfurt airport, witnessed by FBI agent Lawrence Whittaker and DI Watson McAteer, in which a baggage handler apparently entered a bag into the automated transit system without recording the transaction, why was Whittaker’s trial testimony at odds with McAteer’s statement S3743A?
11. How many FBI FD302 reports by Lockerbie field agents were handed to the Crown? (Only a handful were provided to the defence.)
12. The US Department of Justice has stated that only three reports were produced in relation to the FBI’s inquiries in Malta. Given the centrality of Malta to the case, why were there so few?
Perhaps Mr Revell and Mr Marquise can answer these questions.
The article is also notable for the following quote by Marquise:  “On the issue of witnesses being paid, no witness [was paid] to my knowledge. What some police officer or FBI agent might have told somebody in the corner in a dark room in the middle night that I don’t know about, I can’t vouch for that. But everybody that worked for me were under orders that they were not allowed to tell people that they could get money for this case. So, as far as I know, nobody was promised or paid money to testify.”

The SCCRC report states, at paragraph 23.19:  Enquiries with D&G [Dumfries and Galloway Police] have established that, some time after the conclusion of the applicant’s appeal against conviction, Anthony and Paul Gauci were each paid sums of money under the “Rewards for Justice” programme administered by the US Department of State. Under that programme the US Secretary of State was initially authorised to offer rewards of up to $5m for information leading to the arrest or conviction of persons involved in acts of terrorism against US persons or property worldwide. The upper limit on such payments was increased by legislation passed in the US in 2001.
According to DCI Harry Bell’s diary, on 28 September 1989, FBI agent Chris Murray told Bell that he (Murray): ‘had the authority to arrange unlimited money for Tony Gauci and relocation is available. Murray states that he could arrange $10,000 immediately.’  Murray would not have said these things unless he believed that the offer might have been put to Gauci, yet, according to Marquise, “everybody that worked for me were under orders that they were not allowed to tell people that they could get money for this case.” So, was Murray acting against Marquise’s orders? And, if so will he be held to account? Again, maybe Marquise and Revell can enlighten us.

Monday, 20 March 2017

International pressure for neutral venue Lockerbie trial

[What follows is excerpted from a press release issued by the United Nations Security Council on this date in 1998:]

The Security Council this morning heard of a proposal by the League of Arab States aimed at resolving the situation for which the Council had imposed sanctions upon Libya following the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (...)

The proposal offers three options for the trial of the two Libyan nationals suspected in the Lockerbie bombing -- they could be tried in a neutral country chosen by the Council, at the World Court in The Hague by Scottish judges, or in a special tribunal to be created at The Hague. The League's Observer at the United Nations said the proposal had been formulated in consultation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Under its resolution 748 (1992) and 883 (1993), the Council imposed a wide range of aerial, arms and diplomatic sanctions on Libya pending its renunciation of terrorism and its action to ensure the appearance of those charged with the Lockerbie bombings before the appropriate courts in the United Kingdom or the United States. (...)
Many speakers today drew attention to two recent decisions by the International Court of Justice on cases submitted by Libya against the United States and United Kingdom. In those cases, Libya held that those countries did not have the right to compel it to surrender the suspects. Libya also argued that the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation authorized Libya to try the suspects itself. The Court found that it had jurisdiction to deal with the merits of the cases, that the Libyan claims were admissible, and that it would take action to consider them.
Addressing the Council, the representative of Libya said his country had been suffering from collective sanctions for the past six years, without a court judgement or a legal basis for them. Like the families of the bombing victims, Libya was anxious to have the two suspects brought to trial in a just and fair court in a neutral country and to uncover the truth.
He said his Government had urged the suspects to appear before a Scottish court, but they had refused on their lawyers' advice, stating they had already been condemned in the United Kingdom and the United States as a result of biased media coverage and official statements. Libya asked that the suspects be treated in the same manner as the American citizen accused in the Oklahoma City bombing, whose trial venue had been transferred from the state where the crime was committed.
The representative of the United States said that the World Court's rulings involved technical, procedural issues and in no way questioned the legality of the Security Council's actions affecting Libya or the merits of the criminal cases against the two accused suspects. It had simply said that the parties must now argue the legal merits of the case. While the case was proceeding, Libya must comply with its obligations under the Council decisions and turn over the two suspects for a fair trial.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed the hope that the OAU and the Arab League would not be used to undermine the Council's resolutions, and that their influence would eventually be used to bring about Libya's acceptance of international law and justice for the victims. He said an expert mission sent by the Secretary-General had concluded that the Scottish legal system was fair and independent, that the accused would receive a fair trial under the Scottish judicial system, and that their rights would be fully protected during all phases of the trial proceeding in accordance with international standards.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Mandela announces Lockerbie suspects to surrender for trial

[What follows is excerpted from an address by South African President Nelson Mandela to Libya’s Congress of the People on this date in 1999:]

It is with great admiration for the Libyan people that I can today announce to the world that Libya has decided to write to the secretary-general of the United Nations to give a firm date for the handing over for trial in the Netherlands of the Two Libyan nationals named as suspects in the Lockerbie case.

At the outset, we must make a point which one would have assumed in this modern day needed no making. We are speaking of two people suspected of a crime, not of people proven guilty. Too often the impression is given that Libya is harbouring convicted criminals. As a world which believe in justice and which is committed to due legal process we must cling to the principle that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I wish to take the liberty of referring in some detail, for the benefit of yourselves and the world, to the text of the letter that the Libyan authorities will be addressing to the Secretary-general. I have the letter in my hand.

I am confident that the Secretary-general will understand and pardon me for publicising the contents of a communication to him before he receives it. We do so because the writing of this letter has taken great courage and self-sacrifice on the party of Libya, and because King Fahad, Crown Prince Abdullah and I take responsibility in your presence and before the Libyan people for our part in that decision.

We therefore want you and the world to know that we, the leadership of Saudi Arabia and of South Africa, put our honour before you as guarantee of the good faith that we believe the leadership of the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the Security Council had pledged in this regard.

The letter starts by expressing the Jamahyria's thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the secretary-general, myself as President of South Africa, and the those of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahad bin Abdulaziz al Saud and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, to find a just solution to the Lockerbie issue, from which Libya has suffered for more than ten years.

The letter then states, and I quote (but I must first state that the Leader had entrusted to me the choice of the precise date): "The Jamahyria agrees to ensure that the two suspects would be available for the Secretary General of the united Nations to take custody of them on or before 6th April 1999 for their appearance before the court."

This, the letter states, is based on the following points which had already been agreed:

  1. A Scottish court shall by convened in the Netherlands for the purpose of trying the two suspects in accordance with Scottish law and based on the agreement reached between the legal experts of the United Nations and Libya, and with the presence of international observers appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations. The Jamahyria would wish that this be done also in consultation with the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  2. The suspects if convicted will serve their prison sentence in Scotland under UN supervision and with assured access to a Libyan Consulate to be established in Scotland in accordance with the arrangements reached with the British government.
  3. The sanctions imposed on the Jamahyria will be frozen immediately upon the arrival of the two suspects in the Netherlands. Thereafter the sanctions will be lifted upon submission, within 90 days, of a report by the secretary-general to the Security Council stating that the Jamahyria has complied with the Security Council's resolutions.

The Jamahyria, in this letter, also seeks to bring again to the attention of the secretary-general, the following points:

  1. The Jamahyria, as it has stated before on numerous occasions, opposes all forms of terrorism and condemns all acts of such heinous criminality. The Jamahyria recalls that it has itself been a victim of terrorist acts which could not be condoned by any religious, human or international laws.
  2. The Jamahyria pledges co-operation with the investigation, the procedures and the trial, within the framework of Libyan laws and legislation.
  3. The Jamahyria reiterates what it had previously declared regarding compensation in the event of the two suspects being found guilty by the court and a final verdict being reached.

In the light of all the above, the Jamahyria states its view in the letter that the Security Council should pass a resolution with regard to this arrangement in a form binding on all concerned parties.

That is the essence of what is in the letter.

King Fahad, Prince Abdullah and I believe that, with those undertakings, Libya has taken the issue that has beset us for so long, to a new phase. The Libyan people can rightly claim that they have made major concessions, putting aside understandable considerations of national sovereignty for the betterment of international relations and for a world of greater normality.

We have no doubt that all other parties will respond with equal magnanimity to this development so that the issue can be resolved speedily. We are particularly hopeful that these undertakings will put the secretary-general in a position to expedite his report to the Security Council to have sanctions against Libya finally and fully lifted. We hope that all members of the Security Council including Permanent Members will redouble their commitment to restore normality to international relations.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

We have not seen the end of this case

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2002:]

The legal expert who brokered the Lockerbie trial is helping the Libyan government to lodge a fresh appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, it emerged yesterday.

Professor Robert Black, a law lecturer at Edinburgh University, flew to Tripoli the day after Megrahi’s appeal was rejected last week.

He said he regarded the case as a miscarriage of justice because the court did not consider all the available evidence. "We have not seen the end of this case," Prof Black added.

Thousands of people marched through the Libyan capital yesterday in protest at the decision of the appeal court judges to uphold the conviction of Megrahi. Riot police supervised demonstrations outside a UN office.

A statement handed to a UN representative said Megrahi’s life sentence "contradicts international laws, as it was handed as a result of political pressure aimed at settling account with the Libyan revolution."

Prof Black was invited to the country by the Libyan government’s Lockerbie Committee, which is planning to lodge an appeal through the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. It was he who proposed the idea of trying the Lockerbie suspects in a neutral third country, which was the breakthrough which led to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi agreeing to hand the two accused over for trial in the Netherlands.

Megrahi was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, resulting in the deaths of 270 people, and lost his appeal last week.

Fresh doubts over his conviction were raised with claims that senior police officers covered up the discovery of important evidence in the wreckage of the Boeing 747.

Mary Boylan, 53, a retired Lothian and Borders Police officer, said she found a CIA identification badge among the debris but was told not to make a record of the find in her notebook.

Megrahi was found guilty of loading an unaccompanied suitcase bomb in Malta that was later transferred on to the Pan Am aircraft, which exploded en route to New York.

The Libyan government has said it will appeal the ruling to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

Prof Black said: "I am sure that at some point they will actually make an application to the Scottish Commission which deals with miscarriages of justice. The commission could then refer it back to the appeal court.

"I predict the grounds for that would be that evidence is emerging that has not yet seen the light of day. There is a hell of a lot more evidence about Lockerbie that appeared at neither the trial nor the appeal."

Libya, which is still subject to stringent UN sanctions over the Lockerbie bombing, faces a claim of up to 1.3 million compensation from relatives of each of the victims.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Demand for more Lockerbie papers

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2009. It reads in part:]

Judges have ordered prosecutors to hand over more undisclosed documents they may have concerning a crucial witness at the trial of the Lockerbie bomber.

Abdel Baset Al Megrahi's lawyers went to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh seeking further material for the appeal against his conviction. (...)

The Crown said it believed it had already handed over all the documents sought by the defence.

The material being sought includes records, logs, notes and police computer entries concerning a sighting by Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci of a clothes buyer in September 1989.

Mr Gauci gave evidence at the trial at Kamp Zeist in the Netherlands that the purchaser looked a lot like Megrahi.

The clothing was packed into a suitcase with the bomb.

The material wanted by defence lawyers also includes any documents on a meeting between police and Mr Gauci and an interview held with him.

It further includes material over aspects of an ID parade held at Zeist in April 1999, attended by Mr Gauci, at which Megrahi was paraded.

In the grounds of appeal lodged on behalf of Megrahi, those relating to the evidence of Mr Gauci run to almost 150 pages.

More documentation is also sought of contact between police and other investigators with a potential witness, David Wright.

Mr Wright did not give evidence at Megrahi's trial but it is said he "may have material evidence to give bearing on the identification of the appellant as the purchaser of goods associated with the Lockerbie incident".

The Lord Justice General, Lord Hamilton, said: "Without expressing any view on the adequacy of the steps already taken by the Crown to satisfy the claims for recovery, we consider that the appropriate course at this stage is to identify the classes of document which, if they exist, the appellant is in our judgement entitled to recover."

Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lord Kingarth and Lord Eassie, said: "The Advocate General has not yet scrutinised all the material on behalf of the United Kingdom Government.

"It is possible that objections, based on legal privilege, might yet be made on the part of other governments or agencies.

"The order which we shall pronounce will be subject to due consideration of any such objections."

Megrahi's case was referred back to the appeal court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which was set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Kenny MacAskill on the “hero’s welcome” for Megrahi

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Kenny MacAskill in today’s edition of The Scotsman:]

Fake news is a phrase that has recently entered the political lexicon. It’s compounded by half-truths and disinformation that distorts the reality of what really happened. For many people these can appear as facts, as they’re reported as truths and sometimes even the evidence before them seems to confirm that. But, they’re false. Much of this is considered to be a recent invention and even an American import. However, its happened oft times before and in the UK as well.

I know, as I have seen it when I was Justice Secretary. (...)

But there was far worse and much more sinister in actions that related to my decision to release Al Megrahi. It is supported by some and disagreed with by others, as their right and entitlement. It’s a decision I stand by now, as then. However, there are things that only came to light after I demitted office and began to research for my book on Lockerbie. They disclosed some information that had been suppressed and other facts that had been distorted, by both the British and American governments.

Other than the decision to release Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds, the loudest criticism was reserved for the so-called hero’s welcome he received on his return to Libya. As with others, I saw it unfold on television when the plane carrying him landed at Tripoli Airport. It was immediately clear there would be a problem because of what was being shown with jubilant crowds celebrating. Assurances had been sought and given by the Libyans that no such triumphalism would be shown, out of respect to the victim’s families. It appeared that had been breached and huge criticism followed including from both UK and US Governments. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and even President Obama, expressed outrage.

I had to accept it had occurred and that our requests had been ignored, although I was somewhat perplexed by a former UK Ambassador to Libya who had supported the release and who had argued that the reception was relatively low key. However, I had seen the TV footage myself, and the camera doesn’t lie.

But, it had. A book published by a State Department official who served in Libya during that period, and subsequent WikiLeaks documents, showed the reality. The reception at the airport was relatively low key and adhered to assurances given, as reports from Americans on the ground back to Washington disclosed. However, Libyan TV had spliced the footage with an entirely separate event on-going in a central square in Tripoli that had nothing to do with the release of Megrahi, and where people were oblivious to it.

However, conjoining the two events made it look as if there was rejoicing in the streets, which there wasn’t. It was not just the Scottish Government that had made request that there be no triumphalism, but the US authorities had also threatened reprisals if there were. The WikiLeaks documents confirmed that the Libyans had adhered. That didn’t stop the British and American Governments from fulminating about the supposed celebrations, when they knew differently.

Similarly, there have always been accusations about a deal for oil. And there was more than one, but none that the Scottish Government was involved in. At the time of the row over a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) being entered into between the UK and Libya, the British Justice Secretary made it clear to me the importance of the agreement to BP. They were in competition with the American company Halliburton for a major contract and it was clear that this was part of it. That, however, was denied by the UK Government. As it was, the Scottish Government opposed the PTA and I refused the application. I did though grant compassionate release as Al Megrahi met the criteria and I believe that it’s the humane thing to do.

However, later investigations showed that another deal for oil preceded all those events. They showed that in 2004, Tony Blair embraced Colonel Gadhafi in the Libyan desert. The following day Shell petroleum got a commercial deal with the Libyans worth £550 million. But there was something in it for the Libyans too. Days after that, MI6 handed over a Libyan dissident to the Americans, who in turn returned him to Gadhafi for torture and imprisonment.

[RB: What Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi had to say about the “hero’s welcome” can be read here. And the similar views of Libya’s then ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, can be read here.]

Evidence against Megrahi demolished

[What follows is from an item originally published on this blog on this date in 2012:]

Megrahi evidence "fails to stand up to serious scrutiny"

[Here is an excerpt from Dr Morag Kerr’s Scottish Review article An overview of the Lockerbie case in which the evidence against Abdelbaset Megrahi is set out and demolished:]

Evidence against Megrahi fell under a number of headings.

1. A member of the Libyan security services who had turned CIA informer identified him as a senior security operative.
2. Tony Gauci identified him as 'resembling' the man who bought the clothes in his shop.
3. He was shown to have been at Luqa airport at the time KM180 departed, travelling on a false passport.
4. Baggage transfer records at Frankfurt showed evidence of an item of luggage being transferred from KM180 to PA103A, even though no passenger from the Malta flight was booked on the Heathrow flight, and all the passengers collected their luggage at their destinations with nothing going astray.
5. A small piece of printed circuit board found embedded in a scrap of the Maltese clothes was identified as a part of a countdown timer made by a Swiss firm which Megrahi had had business dealings with. This timer was part of a special order of only 20 items supplied exclusively to Libya.

The difficulty with this is firstly that each of these points fails to stand up to serious scrutiny, and secondly that far more robust evidence exists for both a different modus operandi and a different set of perpetrators.

    1. Membership of the Libyan security services
The CIA informant, Majid Giaka, was originally the Crown's star witness. Without his evidence, the indictments against Megrahi and his colleague Lamin Fhimah (who was acquitted) could not have been issued in the first place. However, CIA cables revealed during the trial exposed Giaka as a fantasist who was inventing 'intelligence' for favours and money from the CIA. The judges discounted all his evidence except for his statement that Megrahi was a member of the Libyan security forces. No other evidence for this was produced, and Megrahi has consistently denied the allegation. No evidence has ever emerged linking Megrahi to any other terrorist atrocities or human rights abuses of the Gaddafi regime, or to refute his claim that he was merely an airline employee who was also moonlighting as an entrepreneur businessman.

    2. The identification evidence
Tony Gauci was first interviewed about the clothes sale on 1st September 1989, nine months after the event. He described the purchaser as Libyan, aged about 50, over six feet tall, heavily built and dark-skinned. Megrahi is 5 feet 8 inches tall, light-skinned, of medium build, and was 36 at the time of the purchase. A photofit and an artist’s impression produced at the time suggest the man may have been negro or mixed race. Gauci was unsure of the date, but this was narrowed down to either 23rd November or 7th December 1988 on the basis of televised football games. Gauci stated that the Christmas lights were not yet lit, and it was raining when the customer left the shop.

On 15th February 1991 (well over two years after the purchase) Gauci was shown a police photospread including a picture of Megrahi. He initially rejected all the men as being 'too young', but when urged to reconsider he chose Megrahi's picture as the one that looked most like the customer. However, all the policemen present knew which picture was the suspect's, a recognised confounder in such exercises and something now banned, and Megrahi's picture was appreciably different from the others in both size and quality. As a further confounder the passport photo reproduction used was such a poor likeness of Megrahi as to be essentially unrecognisable. It did, however, look a bit like the photofit Gauci had produced in 1989.

By the time of the live identity parade in April 1999, better likenesses identifying Megrahi as the 'Lockerbie bomber' had appeared in many publications, which Gauci is known to have seen. (So widespread had been the publicity that most people following the case could probably have picked the accused out without ever having met him.) Megrahi was by then 47, close to the age the purchaser was said to be in 1988. The 'foils' in the parade were nearly all much younger (and bore little resemblance to Megrahi), even though by Gauci's original estimate the purchaser would by then have been in his early sixties. Megrahi in the flesh looked nothing like the images Gauci had produced for the police in 1989, or the blurry passport photo he picked out in 1991. Nevertheless, Gauci once again fingered him as 'resembling' the purchaser.

The date of the purchase was important, as Megrahi was in Malta on 7th December 1988 (using his own passport), but not on 23rd November. Meteorological evidence demonstrated that there was light rain in Sliema at the relevant time on 23rd November, but not on 7th December. The Christmas lights were eventually found to have been switched on on 6th December.

In late 1998 a magazine article was published with a recognisable photograph of Megrahi, together with a list of all the discrepancies between Gauci's original description of the purchaser and date, and the case against Megrahi. Gauci had a copy which was only taken from him four days before the identity parade. When he gave evidence, he consistently back-tracked on his original statements regarding height, build, age, Christmas lights and rain, always to favour the prosecution case. Tony Gauci's brother Paul, who was later rewarded for 'maintaining the resolve of his brother', had long expressed interest in a reward for the family's input, and after Megrahi was convicted the brothers were paid an alleged $3 million by the US Department of Justice's 'Rewards for Justice' programme.

    3. Presence at Luqa airport
Megrahi was at Luqa airport on the morning of the disaster, using a passport in the name of 'Abdusamad'. However, all he did was catch his flight for Tripoli, without going airside, and without checking in any hold luggage. The court accepted that he could not have got the bomb suitcase on to KM180 himself, and must have had an accomplice. That accomplice was originally said to have been Lamin Fhimah, but Fhimah could not even be shown to have been at the airport that morning. The 'false' passport was a legal one, issued to Megrahi to allow him to conceal his airline employment while negotiating business deals to circumvent the sanctions then in force against Libya, and which he occasionally used for personal travel. Although Megrahi used it for that trip, he had business meetings in Malta using his own name, and stayed at a hotel where he was well known.

Not only was no other accomplice identified, security at Luqa airport was unusually tight in 1988, and baggage records provided strong evidence that there was no unaccompanied luggage on flight KM180. Despite intensive and intrusive investigation lasting many months, no plausible mechanism whereby the bomb suitcase could have been loaded was ever identified, and no trace of the bomb was found on the island.

    4. Baggage transfer at Frankfurt
The only evidence for an unaccompanied suitcase coming from Malta was a single line of code in a printout taken from the Frankfurt airport automated baggage system, which surfaced in August 1989. However, that system was far from transparent, and a number of guesses and assumptions were necessary to conclude that something might have been transferred from KM180 to PA103A. In the end, two items apparently loaded on to the Heathrow flight could not be identified, one seeming to have come from Malta and one from Warsaw. The coincidence of the Maltese clothes caused the investigators to become convinced the former item was the bomb, and this was never reconsidered despite the failure to find any way the bomb could have been put on board at Luqa. The Warsaw-origin item was never investigated.

    5. The timer fragment
This is the most notorious item in the Lockerbie case. Originally the investigators believed the bomb to have been triggered by an altimeter device, operating on air pressure, and designed not to explode until the device was airborne (...) This introduced problems in respect of a Frankfurt introduction, as such a device should have exploded over France. A hypothesis was developed that the altimeter had malfunctioned on the feeder flight, only to detonate after the second take-off. When the focus of the investigation switched to Malta and a third flight, this introduced a paradox that was not addressed for over a year, until the identification of this fragment as part of a countdown timer resolved the difficulty.

The MST-13 timer was said to be one of a special run of only 20 supplied exclusively to Libya by the Swiss firm MEBO. Megrahi had business dealings with that firm, but not relating to, or at the time of, the purchase of the timers. Nevertheless this was said to be the 'golden thread' linking him to the bomb. This item had extraordinarily irregular provenance within the forensic investigation, with paperwork anomalies leading many commentators to suspect its appearance in the chain of evidence had been back-dated. In addition, the Libyan provenance was less certain than claimed, with Lockerbie occurring over two years after the timers were supplied, and examples having been found in other parts of Africa.

Irrespective of who had bombed the plane, the countdown timer introduced another paradox. Maid of the Seas exploded only 38 minutes after her wheels left the tarmac, and the plane was not late. There was a seven-hour flight ahead of her, with a thousand miles of Atlantic ocean where incriminating clothes and PCB fragments could have been buried forever. An altimeter timer would inevitably have exploded around 40 minutes into the flight, regardless of take-off time. Using a countdown timer set so early in the flight time carried a huge risk that the explosion would have occurred harmlessly on the tarmac if the plane had missed its slot at Heathrow – as could easily have happened on a stormy winter evening.

It was only in February 2012 that metallurgical evidence concealed from the original trial was revealed, which showed that the fragment could not have been one of the 20 items MEBO had supplied to Libya. This discovery calls into question whether the PCB chip was even part of a countdown timer, rather than some other electronic component using the same basic template.

[RB: Since then, Dr Kerr has, of course, established beyond reasonable doubt that the bomb suitcase was ingested at Heathrow, not Luqa in Malta.]