Sunday, 19 September 2010

Lockerbie victim's dad visits man convicted

[This is the headline over a Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency report on the website of The Seattle Times. It reads in part:]

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing "remains a sick man" but was in better shape than expected when the father of one of the victims visited him in Tripoli, Libya.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 24, was on the Pan Am airliner when it was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, held a one-hour meeting with Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in Libya on Tuesday, The Sunday Times of Malta reported.

It was the first time that the Scottish doctor had met al-Megrahi since his controversial release from a Scottish prison in August 2009. (...)

Al-Megrahi has kept a low profile since his release, amid media speculation about his health and whereabouts.

Swire, who has always maintained the Libyan was wrongly convicted of the crime that killed 270 people, was quick to quash media claims that the so-called "Lockerbie bomber" was not really a dying man.

"Abdel Baset remains a sick man, but he is in better shape than I had dared to hope. His mind is perfectly clear. I attribute this to the love and care of his family and community, and to some extent also to the excellent medical care he seems to be receiving," Swire, 74, told Malta's main newspaper.

He said he decided to visit Tripoli in solidarity with the Libyan, who has maintained his innocence and wants the verdict against him overturned.

[There is a brief report on the website of The Sunday Times of Malta. A longer report will probably appear there later today. The brief report, headlined "Lockerbie bomber claims he was 'betrayed' by Maltese man" reads in part:]

Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and controversially released last year, is claiming that a Maltese witness at his trial “betrayed a fellow human being for money”.

The claim was made to Jim Swire, a Scottish doctor who last week visited Al Megrahi in Tripoli. Dr Swire lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. (...)

The two men met in Tripoli last Tuesday where they discussed, among other issues, Tony Gauci, the owner of a shop in Sliema who claimed he had identified Mr Al Megrahi as the man who had bought clothes from him that were later found wrapped around the bomb.

His testimony led to the imprisonment of Mr Al-Megrahi, until the Libyan was released a year ago on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

Asked by The Sunday Times whether the two men spoke about Mr Gauci’s testimony, Dr Swire said: “Yes we did. We felt that if Abdelbaset and I were standing at the gates of heaven, and Mr Gauci applied for entry he would be asked why he had betrayed his brother human being and his only answer would have to be ‘for the money’.”

Mr Al-Megrahi’s defence team recently contended that the Maltese witness was paid “in excess of $2 million”, while his brother was paid “in excess of $1 million” for their cooperation.

Dr Swire said he was convinced of the Libyan’s innocence, saying he was converted by the evidence he heard in the main trial at Camp Zeist.

Dr Swire said Mr Gauci’s evidence was clearly unreliable now that it had emerged (from a policeman’s diary, since made public by Mr Megrahi’s defence team and not seen by the court), that he was enticed with offers of American money to give evidence, which the court was unaware of.


  1. Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and controversially released last year, is claiming that a Maltese witness at his trial “betrayed a fellow human being for money”.

    To some extent, that's a bit simplistic. Tony Gauci never said, "That's the man, I'm sure of it, I never forget a face." Indeed, he said "NOT (exactly) the man I saw in my shop, but the man who looks a little bit like (exactly)." (I think the "exactly" is superfluous both times; it would be interesting to get a second opinion translation of what Tony actually said, assuming he was speaking Maltese.)

    It was the judges who did the rest.

    My reading of the whole sorry story is that it was Paul who was really after the money, and pressurising Tony to make that identification. "The photo my brother showed me" and so on. Paul made a collection of articles about the case and the clothes buyer if I remember correctly, and he was responsible for Tony having the magazine article with the picture of Megrahi in it that had to be taken from him before he travelled to Zeist.

    That alone should have caused his identification evidence to be thrown out. How often do we hear about newspapers being unable to print picture of suspects because it might compromise identification evidence, but in this case Megrahi's picture was all over the place, quite unhindered. It's scandalous.

    Tony seems to have been quite conflicted about it all, and still unwilling to say yes, that's the man, despite Paul and the lure of the money. If the money did anything, it probably stopped him from saying, look, it's been over ten years and I never really looked at his face in the first place, sorry.

    The scandal of the money shouldn't be allowed to distract from the fact that Tony never did identify Megrahi at all,

  2. I think it is very simplistic. Its just the truth. Ultimately then Megrahi is right: a human being betrayed him for money. No more, no less.

  3. Hmmmm. Gauci said "Not the man I saw in my shop, but the man who look a little bit like is [Megrahi]."

    That was a non-identification. In spite of the money.

    The judges did the rest.

  4. My own view is that firstly, the identification should have been ruled inadmissible because of the extensive pre-trial publicity showing Megrahi's picture and identifying him as the suspect. God alone knows why it wasn't - as I understand the law it would have been a complete no-no in any other trial.

    Second, it was a non-identification. What on earth possessed the judges to declare that this was simply because the passage of time had dimmed Tony's memory, and they could magically divine that in fact it was the same person, again God only knows. It should have been thrown out because it was a non-identification.

    Alongside that, the bribery is almost a side-show. It has a bit of a down-side too. It allows critics to concentrate on justifying the money. Oh, but they weren't paid until after the trial. Rewards for justice is a respectable undertaking. They were never promised money before the trial (like hell they weren't).

    We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this identification was a complete farce, even if not a brown penny had changed hands.

  5. The scandal of the money is that it was bribery.

  6. Absolutely, no question about that.

    It's just interesting that the bribery didn't even get them a reasonably confident identification at the end of it all.

  7. It was clear already during the trial that the identification was absolutely worthless. I wonder if court history can provide anything halfway matching.
    I agree with Rolfe that Gauci could have done a 'better job' for the money. All the way it sounded like he was trying to sit between two chairs.
    Irregardless of that, the bribery hammers a 7-inch nail in the coffin for the testimony.
    I still can't understand why we never saw front page news "Lockerbie witness bribed by CIA".

  8. An xcellent thread. Some very valid comments.