[This is the headline over a report by Marcello Mega on page 44 of today's Scottish edition of The Mail on Sunday. The story does not (as yet) appear on the newspaper's website. The following excerpts have accordingly been typed out by me.]
The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is to publish a book containing sensational new evidence he claims will clear his name.
When ... Megrahi was found guilty of planting the bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, the most crucial evidence involved a tiny piece of electronic circuit board.
Prosecutors said it had been found 35 miles from the crash site and was part of a timing device used to detonate explosives hidden in a tape recorder in luggage on the plane.
Megrahi's book will make public the results of comprehensive tests carried out by an internationally acclaimed explosives expert which cast doubt on his conviction.
The experiments -- by Dr John Wyatt, the UN's European consultant on explosives -- suggest that the 4mm square fragment of circuit board could not possibly have survived the explosion. In conditions designed to replicate the 1988 bomb as closely as possible, Dr Wyatt carried out 20 controlled explosions.
Radio-cassette recorders containing Semtex and timing devices of the type that led to Megrahi's conviction were placed within hard-shell Samsonite suitcases and surrounded by clothing matching the contents of the case that concealed the actual bomb.
The amount of Semtex used was 400g -- the amount estimated to have brought down Pan Am Flight 103.
When the Semtex in the experiments was detonated, all the circuit boards in the timing devices and the surrounding tape recorders were completely destroyed.
Last night, Dr Wyatt said his experiments proved beyond a doubt that the fragment of circuit board used to convict Megrahi could not have been part of a timing device. He claimed his research was absolutely conclusive: it simply could not have survived such close proximity to such a powerful explosion.
Dr Wyatt said: "Before carrying out the tests, I found it quite extraordinary that a 4mm fragment had survived an explosion caused by 400mg of Semtex, had been found among long grass and foliage many miles from Lockerbie and had been identifiable. Now, I find it completely unbelievable.
"The tests we carried out showed a consistency that leaves no room for doubt. So where did the fragment come from?" (...)
In Dr Wyatt's tests, circuit boards were completely vaporised in all the explosions using 400g of Semtex. Circuit boards were also vaporised in tests using considerably less explosive.
Only when the amount of Semtex was reduced to 150g -- 37.5 per cent of the quantity used -- did any trace of the circuit board survive. Even then, the remains were so small they could only be viewed and identified with a microscope.
Megrahi's conviction rested on two things: the discredited testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper paid $2 million for his inconclusive identification evidence; and the discovery of the fragment. (...)
The book will also cover forensic tests carried out on the fragment in 2008. Those tests showed no trace of explosive residue.
The two strands of evidence relating to the fragment are especially powerful as they were not considered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which even without that material judged the conviction unsafe.
It referred the case back to the Court of Appeal, saying no reasonable tribunal could have found Megrahi guilty on the evidence.
Last night, Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University ... said: "I have decided to stop commenting on new evidence because, interesting as it may be, it takes the eye off what really matters, namely, that he should never have been convicted in the first place on the flimsy evidence before the court."
[I am grateful to Marcello Mega for sending me the full, unedited, text of his article in The Mail on Sunday. It reads as follows:]
Dramatic revelations to be made in a book co-authored by the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will send shockwaves through the Scottish justice system.
The book will outline in detail explosives tests carried out by an independent expert proving that a 4mm sq fragment of circuit board that was at the very heart of the Libyan’s conviction could not have survived the Lockerbie bomb, made up of about 400g of semtex.
Dr John Wyatt, the United Nations’ European consultant on explosives, carried out a series of 20 controlled explosions within brick and corrugated iron constructions in a secluded part of the Kent countryside.
Dr Wyatt revealed last night that the experiment was designed to replicate as closely as possible the conditions of the Lockerbie bomb.
Radio-cassette recorders, containing semtex and timing devices of the type that led to Megrahi’s conviction, were placed within hard-shell Samsonite suitcases and surrounded by clothing matching the contents of the case that concealed the bomb.
The circuit board was completely vaporised in all tests until the amount of semtex was reduced considerably. Only when the scientists went as low as 150g, 37.5% of the quantity that downed Pan Am 103 on 21 December 1988, did any trace of the circuit board survive, and it could only be viewed and identified through a microscope.
Dr Wyatt said: “We carried out the tests indoors specifically to make it easier to gather up all the residue of the explosions. Until we got down to 150g of semtex, nothing was left but dust.
“At 150g, we found one tiny fragment that had been part of the circuit board, and it had to be checked and identified through a microscope. Even at 150g, the device, the circuit board and the radio-cassette recorder had literally disintegrated, a far cry from the evidence presented at the trial.
“Before carrying out the tests, I found it quite extraordinary that a 4mm sq fragment had survived an explosion caused by 400g of semtex, had been found among long grass and foliage many miles from Lockerbie and had been identifiable. Now, I find it completely unbelievable.
“The tests we carried out showed a consistency that leaves no room for doubt. I don’t think it could have happened. So where did the fragment come from?”
That uncomfortable question would have been at the heart of the second appeal against conviction by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, but he abandoned that appeal a year ago to speed up the process of his compassionate release as he battled prostate cancer.
Now, the detail of the tests, and the questions it raises, will be the corner-stone of his book, co-authored by the investigative journalist John Ashton, who latterly worked as an investigator on the defence team preparing Megrahi’s appeal.
The book, which may be published before the end of this year, will also outline in detail forensic tests carried out on the fragment in 2008. Those tests showed no trace of explosives residue, meaning that it had never been near the seat of an explosion.
The two strands of evidence relating to the fragment are especially powerful as they were not considered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which even without that additional and crucial material judged that the conviction was unsafe.
It referred the case back to the Court of Appeal on six grounds, the most damning of which -- especially given that three judges sat without a jury -- was that no reasonable tribunal could have found Megrahi guilty on the evidence heard.
Megrahi was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in Europe because of two things: the discredited testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper paid $2m for his inconclusive identification evidence; and the remarkable discovery of the fragment, the only piece of forensic evidence that pointed to Libyan involvement.
Dr Wyatt’s tests, and the publicity they will receive through publication of Megrahi’s book, will reinforce suspicions long held that the fragment was planted to implicate Libya.
Dr Wyatt’s qualifications and integrity are beyond question, unlike the former head of the FBI lab Thomas Thurman, who identified the fragment. Thurman did not even have a science degree and has been barred from giving evidence in murder trials after his testimony in a huge case proved unreliable and was heavily biased to favour the Crown.
It was widely believed that Megrahi’s second appeal would expose deep flaws in the Scottish justice system and prove embarrassing for the Crown Office and for senior Scottish and US investigators.
At least one former police officer has made sworn statements to the defence implicating former colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic who he says were involved in planting and manipulating evidence to fit Libya and Megrahi.
The weakest elements of the case have been exposed repeatedly over the past nine years, including the credibility of the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci.
Gauci was recorded admitting he was to be paid for his testimony, had been coached by Scottish detectives before giving evidence and had been given free holidays in Scotland arranged by his police handlers.
There has also been growing unease over the integrity of the fragment.
In a case with thousands of productions, it had already been remarked upon at Megrahi’s trial that the only production with a label that had been altered was the evidence bag containing the fragment.
In their written judgment, the three Scottish judges who sat without a jury said that the attempts of the police officer responsible to explain his actions were “at worst evasive and at best confusing”.
However, they concluded that there was no sinister reason either for the re-labelling or for the poor quality of the officer’s evidence, while offering little explanation of how they reached that conclusion.
In referring the case back in 2007, the SCCRC -- made up of lawyers and ex-police officers -- took pains to stress that although it believed the conviction might be unsafe, it had not concluded that evidence had been planted or manipulated.
But it has now emerged that although they were sent reports on Dr Wyatt’s tests, commissioners working on the case refused to consider them.
Legal experts believed a second appeal would certainly have seen Megrahi’s conviction quashed, but expected that it would be done on a technicality to avoid scrutiny of the controversial evidence, and especially how the fragment entered the chain of evidence.
Robert Black, retired professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University and the architect of the trial in a neutral country before a panel of judges, has grown weary of the media focus on Megrahi’s controversial release just over a year ago.
Originally from Lockerbie, Prof Black, one of Scotland’s most eminent QCs, has even tired of hearing about the fresh revelations in the case.
He said last night: “I have decided to stop commenting on new evidence because interesting as it may be, it takes the eye off what really matters, that Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place on the flimsy evidence before the court.”
[The Scottish edition of the Sun for Monday, 6 September contains a brief report about the Wyatt findings. It can be read here.]