[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times. It reads as follows:]
The “flawed” evidence which secured the Maltese connection to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing became a central plank in the plea for a fresh independent inquiry into the atrocity last week.
Had it not been for this evidence, which implicated Malta in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, Libyan national Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi could not have been found guilty, said former judge Prof Robert Black.
He was speaking at a hearing of the petitions committee in the Scottish Parliament, which has been asked to consider a call for a fresh inquiry into the case on the strength of a list of serious concerns about the safety of Mr Al-Megrahi’s conviction.
A panel of three Scottish judges, sitting in a special court at Camp Zeist, the Netherlands, had found the former Libyan intelligence officer guilty of the murder of 270 people.
However, Prof Black, the architect of the extraordinary trial, along with others of the Justice for Megrahi pressure group, which includes relatives of victims, believe Mr Al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted. They are now asking the Scottish petitions committee to call a fresh inquiry backed by a petition signed by 1,649 people, including 100 Maltese citizens.
The conviction, Prof Black told the committee, hinges on the premise that Mr Al-Megrahi was the man who bought the clothes from the shop Mary’s House in Sliema, and which were later said to have been wrapped around the suitcase bomb which destroyed the Boeing 747.
According to this theory, consistently rejected by the Maltese government and Air Malta, the bomb left from Malta and was transferred onto the Pan Am Flight in Germany.
But Prof Black pointed out to the committee that Tony Gauci, the Maltese star witness for the prosecution, had only ever said that Mr Al-Megrahi looked “a lot like the man” who bought the clothes from his shop in the days before the bombing.
“He also said in his first police statement that the man was more than six feet tall and over 50 years old. At the relevant time in 1988, Mr Al-Megrahi was 38. He was then, and remains now I presume, five foot, eight inches tall. Still, the court held that he had been positively identified,” Prof Black said.
He also highlighted serious weaknesses in the rest of the evidence which placed Mr Al-Megrahi at Mary’s House.
For instance, according to Mr Gauci’s testimony, the man bought the clothes either on November 23 or December 7, 1988 – the days in which two legs of an international football match were aired on Maltese TV.
On November 23, it had rained heavily according to undisputed meteorological records tallying with Mr Gauci’s further evidence that his customer returned just after leaving to buy an umbrella.
However, Mr Al-Megrahi was not in Malta on the day. He was on the island in December 7 but it did not rain that day, according to the same meteorological records.
No reasonable court could have upheld the view that Mr Al-Megrahi was the man at Mary’s House on the strength of this evidence, Prof Black insisted.
This, he told the committee, was one of six legal points which led the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2007 to declare that the Libyan “may have suffered a miscarriage of justice”.
The commission’s decree had set the ball rolling for Mr Al-Megrahi’s appeal, which was aborted when he was released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds last year because he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
Beyond clearing Mr Al-Megrahi’s name, according to Jim Swire, a leading figure of the pressure group and the father of a victim, an inquiry was necessary to expunge the stain on the Scottish justice system.
He also argued that an inquiry would deprive certain governments of the excuse not to keep pursuing the real plotters of the atrocity.
At the end of the hearing, the petitions committee wrote to the Scottish government asking if it will set up a new inquiry, and if not, asked to know why.