Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A small step forward in the US?

[The following are excerpts from an article in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal.]

Mr MacAskill, in granting compassionate release to Mr Megrahi, relied on a report from the head administrator for Scotland's prison health service saying that it was reasonable to estimate that Mr. Megrahi would die from prostate cancer within three months—though the report didn't present medical evidence directly supporting that prognosis.

At the time, Scotland's legal system was weeks away from facing a potentially embarrassing appeal over Mr Megrahi's still hotly-debated conviction for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Mr Megrahi dropped his appeal two days before Mr MacAskill's decision to release him.

The evidence that led to Mr Megrahi's conviction has long been questioned by some legal experts.

"On absolutely crucial factual points, without which they could not have convicted [Mr Megrahi], their decision was simply contrary to the evidence," said Robert Black, a senior lawyer and former professor of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh. Mr Black helped design the special trial for Mr Megrahi held in the Netherlands under Scottish law. (...)

Scotland first fended off a legal appeal by Mr Megrahi in 2002. But in 2007, a review by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission identified six grounds on which it concluded that there "may have been a miscarriage of justice" in the case. That triggered a second appeal for Mr Megrahi, which was due to be heard in the fall of 2009.

The appeal was set to focus on issues that had been challenged, such as the validity of statements by a key witness.

With his compassionate-release application hanging in the balance, Mr Megrahi met on Aug 6, 2009, with Mr MacAskill.

On Aug 18, Mr Megrahi dropped his appeal. Two days after that, Mr MacAskill agreed to release Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Some politicians and critics have said Mr MacAskill was influenced by the pending appeal.

"Kenny would want to do what he would genuinely think is the right thing, and would try and protect the Scottish justice system," said Margo MacDonald, an independent member of the Scottish Parliament. Scotland defends the conviction, and denies Mr MacAskill traded Mr Megrahi his freedom in exchange for the dropped appeal.

"Megrahi was convicted by a Scottish Court, and Scottish Ministers do not doubt the safety of the conviction," said a spokesman for Mr MacAskill.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish prosecution service said the service "has supported the conviction vigorously and stood ready, willing and able to do so throughout the appeal process which Mr Megrahi abandoned."

Mr Megrahi wasn't legally required to drop his appeal to win compassionate release. He would have been obligated to do so under a separate petition he had filed to be returned to Libya under a prisoner-transfer agreement, but Scotland rejected that in favor of compassionate release.

Mr Megrahi was convicted based on a mix of physical and circumstantial evidence. Police traced fragments of clothes from the suitcase in which the bomb was detonated to a shop in Malta, whose owner, Antony Gauci, identified Mr Megrahi as looking "a lot" like the purchaser. Based on the evidence, the court concluded that the clothes were bought on Dec 7, 1988, a date when Mr Megrahi was staying in a nearby hotel.

The court also heard evidence that Mr Megrahi was at a Malta airport at a time when baggage was loaded onto a flight to Frankfurt, where it would be transferred to a flight to London and onto Pan Am Flight 103.

Other key parts of the prosecutor's case involved fragments of the bomb's timer, traced to a Swiss firm that admitted to dealings with Mr Megrahi and the Libyan military.

But when the Scottish commission reviewed the conviction, it said there was new evidence that raised questions about the identification by Mr Gauci. Though the commission declined to disclose this material, Mr Megrahi has since released documents claiming fresh evidence, including inconsistencies in what Mr Gauci had told prosecutors.

Mr Gauci's testimony about the date varied, according to these documents, and at one point he said the clothes were bought on Nov 29, 1988 — not Dec 7. The shopkeeper had also said Mr Megrahi bought the clothes before the switching on of local Christmas lights, while evidence submitted by Mr Megrahi's defense claims to show the lights were turned on earlier.

There also was previously undisclosed evidence that suggested that Mr Gauci had expressed interest in a financial reward prior to testifying, which Mr Megrahi's lawyers said raises questions about the reliability of the witness.

The documents quote extracts from a British police officer's diary that said the Department of Justice offered Mr Gauci $2 million if he gave evidence. The Department of Justice denies the offering such a payment. Mr Gauci couldn't be reached for comment.


    No luggage transfer from air Malta flight KM-180 onto PanAm-103:

    sorry, only in german language:

    Das angebliche "Bomb-Bag", Tray No. B-8849 wurde nicht von AirMalta Flug KM-180 auf PanAm, Flug PA-103/B via Frankfurt nach London-Heathrow transferiert !
    Bei einem Dokument aus der Sammlung ST- 0685507 / 88, des Deutschen Bundeskriminalamtes (BKA) vom 08.02. 1989, handelt es sich u.a. um einen X- Ray Report der Sicherheitsfirma ALERT vom Flughafen Frankfurt. (Police Referenz: DW 26). Camp Zeist Prod. No. 1076)
    Darin bestätigt Sicherheits-Angestellter Kurt Maier, dass er am 21. 12. 1988, zwischen 16.25- 16.30 Uhr am X-Ray-Gerät bei Gate
    B-46, total 13 inter-line Gepäckstücke überprüft habe.
    (Maier Duty Report, Camp Zeist Prod. No. 1076).

    Bei einem weitern Dokument des BKA vom 02.02. 1988, Zeist Production No. 1790 handelt es sich um einen Ausdruck der Gepäck- Beförderungsanlage des Stellenleiter und Zeugen Kurt Berg.
    Hiernach wurden am 21.12. 1988 über die Beförderungsanlage total 25 Inter-liner Gepäckstücke für Flug PA-103/B befördert.
    Auch Zeuge No. 799, Gunther Karsteleiner machte am Gericht dieselbe falsche Aussage.
    Er zählte 12 on-liner Gepäckstücke, welche gezwungener Massen falsch als inter-liner Gepäckstücke codiert wurden, mit den 13 korrekt codierten inter-liner Bag's zusammen und kam dadurch auf die Anzahl 25 Inter-liner Bag's.

    MEBO Erklärung:
    Die Anzahl der inter-liner Gepäckstücke ist nachweislich falsch ! Von den angeblichen 25 inter-line Gepäckstücken waren davon 12 Bag's On-liner von PanAm Flügen aus Berlin (TXL), PA-107;
    PA-637; PA-639; PA-643.

    11 On-liner Bag's kamen von (TXL) PA-107; PA-637; und PA-639 und wurden über die inter-line Baggage Halle Mitte "HM", am Counter HM-4 zwangsläufig falsch als inter-liner Bag's codiert und mit den Tray No. B-xxxx + Zeit und dem Attribut "BP" (By Pass) in den Hausspeicher "HS", und später auf Flug PA-103/B befördert.

    1 on-liner Bag kam von (TXL) Flug PA-643 und wurde über das inter-line Baggage Vorfeld "V3" am Counter No.206 zwangsläufig falsch als inter-liner Bag programmiert, Tray No. B-8849 --
    S-0009+ Z1307, mit dem Atribut "TO" (to) Hausspeicher HS und später auf PA-103/B befördert.

    Auf der Ladeliste TADD, 881221, für PanAm, Flug PA-103/B wurden total 6 Gepäckstücke nach der Tray Nummer B---- und des S-Codes, mit dem Attribut "TO" (to) -- HS-33 + Zeit bezeichnet.

    Durch das Attribut "TO" = to *HS-33 +Zeit *(Ziel Hausspeicher) kann zugeordnet werden, dass die 6 Gepäckstücke im inter-line Baggage Vorfeld "V-3", an einem der Counter No. 203; 204; 206 codiert wurden.
    Da für das Bag, Tray No. B-8849, S-0009+Z13:07 mit dem Attribut "TO" HS-33, für einem Transfer von AirMalta KM-180 auf PA-103/B, nur der Counter No.206 infrage kommen würde steht beweisbar fest, dass das Bag Tray B-8849 nicht von AirMalta sondern von PanAm Zubringerflug aus Berlin, PA-643 transferiert wurde !

    Continuation down >>>

  2. continuation >>>

    No luggage transfer from AirMalta flight KM-180 onto PanAm-103:

    Nur weil das on-liner Bag, Tray No. B-8849 aus abwicklungs-technischen Gründen falsch als inter-liner Bag eingestuft wurde und gleichzeitig, zwischen 13:04 und 13:16 Uhr, um 13:07 Uhr, am gleichen Counter No. 206, zwischen Gepäckstücken von AirMalta KM-180 codiert wurde, konnte behauptet werden, dass das Bag
    B-8849 von AirMalta auf PA-103/B transferiert wurde.

    Die restlichen 24 Gepäckstücke können Fluggesellschaften oder Passagieren zugeordnet werden und kommen für einen Transfer von AirMalta KM-180 auf PA-103/B nicht infrage.

    NB: Das "Baggage Conveyancing System" im Frankfurt Airport war mit einem Betriebs Computerprogramm ausgerüstet, welches on-liner Gepäckstücke bei der X-Ray Kontrollstelle am Gate B-46 nicht ausschleuste, da solche Bag's bereits in Berlin X-Ray überprüft wurden.
    Da zahlmässig feststeht (12 on-line Bag's) dass das Bag
    B-8849 nicht x-Ray überprüft wurde, bestätigt das Bag war on-line.
    Durch diese Fakts kann ein Transfer von AirMalta KM-180 auf PA-103/B, absolut ausgeschlossen werden.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland

  3. MacAskill contradicts himself every time he defends this conviction. Even in his release speech he said publicly there were serious concerns about the case. We know what you meant Kenny even if you didn't have the guts to say it publicly!

  4. Have to agree tho that this is indeed a step forward for the US press to publish something like this and actually say outright how desperate certain parties were to get rid of that appeal. It is the same thing as saying there were indeed doubts about the safety of the conviction.

  5. Jo, you sent me a link to an excellent article. I found a better copy, as a pdf, on the author's own web site. I think it's relevant here, because it really takes the judgement apart.

    I note the date is March 2001, which explains why there's no mention of the first appeal. He seems to have more or less dead-heated with Paul Foot.

    Oh, and note who gives it a plug on the title page!

  6. It is indeed a very good article. Is there no way the judges could be charged with perverting the course of justice?

  7. I shouldn't think so!

  8. The article is certainly more nuanced than usual, but the comments are atrocious as always. Even mine appearing at the end is not great. This and "Unfinished Business" mentioned on ABC, good combo. At least one other story will have tobounce out of combining the two to address questions and interview Swire, get 3 comments, and fade away.