[On Tuesday 9 November, the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee will hold a hearing on the Justice for Megrahi petition. Dr Jim Swire, Mr Iain McKie, Mr Robert Forrester and I have been invited to attend to make a brief presentation and to respond to MSPs' questions.
The Scottish Sunday Express today runs an article on the forthcoming committee hearing. It reads in part:]
Shocking unseen evidence from the Lockerbie bomber’s abandoned appeal is to be presented to Holyrood this week in a bid to prove his innocence.
Campaigners including Professor Robert Black and Dr Jim Swire will use the documents to try and force a Scottish Government inquiry into Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s conviction.
Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 killed in the 1988 atrocity, will introduce previously unseen diaries which could cast doubt on one of the trial’s key witnesses and show he was offered cash for evidence. [RB: The journalist is in error. This material will not be introduced at the committee hearing, which will be concerned simply with what action, if any, should be taken on the petition, NOT with the merits of Abdelbaset Megrahi's conviction. That would be a matter for any inquiry set up as a result of the petition.]
Written by a Scottish detective they reveal police knew from an early stage that Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, whose identification of the bomber was pivotal in the conviction, had been promised an “unlimited” reward by the US.
Dr Swire, who will deliver a plea to ministers on Tuesday, said: “The diaries kept by Detective Inspector Harry Bell show he knew when he was interviewing Tony Gauci he was getting excited about the possibility of a reward.
“This information alone would ordinarily be enough to overturn the conviction. Both Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond have made public statements saying they have full confidence in the verdict against Megrahi.
“That is an extraordinary situation given the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has ruled there may have been a miscarriage of justice.” He added: “How can politicians say they have total faith in the verdict when the one organisation that Scotland possesses to look into these matters says otherwise? It is an untenable position.”
DI Bell was the Dumfries and Galloway detective who traced a scrap of material which had been wrapped around the bomb to Gauci’s clothes shop in Malta. When Megrahi was finally brought to trial, Gauci identified the Libyan in court as the man who had bought the clothing.
It has since emerged that Gauci received $2million and his brother, Paul, received $1million from the US Department of Justice. DI Bell kept a diary during the investigation, although this was not presented to the three judges at the Lockerbie trial in 2001.
On September 28, 1989, he recorded that the FBI had discussed with the Scottish police an offer of unlimited money to Gauci, with $10,000 being available immediately. On March 5, 1990, he recorded a meeting with the FBI and a Maltese detective to discuss “reward money as a last resort”.
And on January 8, 1992, he said Dana Biehl from the US Department of Justice had offered a $2million reward to Libyan double agent Majid Giaka, who also gave evidence against Megrahi. DI Bell wrote: “He was immediately advised of our concern regarding this. I also clarified with him about the Gauci reward and the response was only if he gave evidence.”
It contradicts police sources who have always insisted the rewards were only “engineered” after the trial to help the Gaucis leave Malta. (...)
At Tuesday’s Holyrood hearing, MSPs will consider for the first time a 1,646-signature petition calling for an independent Lockerbie inquiry. Previously, ministers have maintained such a wide-ranging probe could only be called by Westminster or the United Nations. However, Prof Black, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The reasons the Scottish Government has given for not holding an inquiry are simply not correct.”