Tuesday, 16 November 2010

What Justice for Megrahi seeks to achieve

[Following the appearance of Justice for Megrahi committee members before the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee last Tuesday, Dr Morag Kerr who had not been able to attend the hearing contacted me to express her congratulations on the team's performance. However, she felt that one point had not perhaps been adequately stressed. I agreed, and asked Dr Kerr to let me have a piece for posting on the blog. Here it is.]

The question has been asked, would it not be fair to say that Megrahi had his chance, he had his appeal ongoing, but he chose to drop it. Why should he be given another bite at the cherry?

To ask such a question is to misunderstand profoundly the point of the petition. Despite its name, “Justice for Megrahi” is not and never has been concerned with giving Mr al-Megrahi “another bite at the cherry”. It is concerned with establishing the truth, which transcends the mere fact of a verdict against one individual.

Over a million pounds of public money was spent by the SCCRC on their 3½-year investigation, and the outcome was an 800-page report with 13 volumes of appendices, and no less than six grounds on which a miscarriage of justice was suspected. What has been revealed of that report suggests that the original investigation quite simply got the wrong man, which means that the real perpetrators of the Lockerbie atrocity have never been identified.

Mr al-Megrahi stated that he dropped the appeal in order to improve his chances of returning home to Libya before he died. It appears he was mistaken in that belief, and how he came to be under that misapprehension might in itself be an interesting question. Be that as it may, the dropping of the appeal left the SCCRC findings untested in court. It is the contention of JFM that this unfortunate development should not be allowed to bury the truth, if the truth is indeed contained in these 800 pages.

Taking a wider view, it cannot be overemphasised that the conviction as it stands is acting as an insuperable barrier to any further investigation of the Lockerbie disaster. While JFM is not asking the Scottish government to investigate the identity of the real perpetrators, which would indeed be outwith its remit, it is clear that if indeed the wrong man was convicted, this is the first error that must be addressed before any further steps can be taken to hold a more wide-ranging enquiry, or indeed to re-open the criminal investigation.

[Dr Kerr has also pointed out that in an answer I gave in the hearing I referred to Tony Gauci's having described in police statements the purchaser in his shop as being over six feet tall and over 50 years of age, whereas Mr Megrahi is 5 feet 8 inches tall and was at the time 38 years old. At the relevant time (November/December 1988) Mr Megrahi was in fact 36 years of age.]


  1. At the time of watching I too had expected to hear the SCCRC report mentioned in response to this particular question. I think tho that in the circumstances - not all of the JFM had expected to be speaking - all of you still did a wonderful job. And in any case the SCCRC report was mentioned elsewhere so it wasn't as if it wasn't mentioned at all. As far as I'm concerned you all still did a grand job and gave them plenty to think about. When watching things like this I sometimes think, "Why doesn't he say this, that or the next thing." It is easy to do that. I will say again all of you did very well indeed sitting, as you were, before a Scottish Parliament Committee which was also being televised.

  2. Indeed, being grilled live like that is very hard to handle, and to bring off well. I particularly admired the way all concerned were able to speak slowly and calmly. If it had been me, I'd have been gabbling uncontrollably.

    It's in the nature of the beast that "l'esprit d'escalier" figures prominently in the post-mortem. However, we have to bear in mind that the petitions process is an ongoing affair, and JFM will get further bites at this cherry. It's important, therefore, to examine where answers might have missed a good point, or been in error, so that this can be used to good effect in future presentations.

    Opponents are just waiting to pounce on any inaccuracy or mis-statement. Look for example at this contribution from our friend Bunntamas.

    I find it interesting that, in his opening comments at the petition hearing, Jim Swire stated:
    "It is not our position as a group that the verdict against Mr. Megrahi was wrong... simply that it must be re-examined."

    Er, duh? After some discussion I still have no clue what point she was trying to make with this observation.

    Then she gets really into it, six posts later.

    So it's okay for Robert Black, a lawyer, solicitor, whatever; one whom should be well versed in facts, and evidence to be "out" on Megrahi's age, and alleged date of purchase, but not Gauci, a mere shopkeeper, attempting to recall something that happened more than a decade prior?
    Add to that, Black's concocted story about it "pouring" on the date of clothing purchase, and the fact that he had to correct himself for stating Megrahi's name as the person who was (according to Black) running in the pouring rain with the umbrella to the taxi. What a load of crap.

    She's quite right that Prof. Black over-stated the amount of rain that was falling. Tony Gauci described light rain or drizzle, and Joseph Mifsud's meteorology records also described light rain or drizzle on the evening of 23rd November. (And no rain at all on 7th December.) The meteorological evidence is entirely consistent with 23rd November.

    However, because Prof. Black, intending to describe rain heavy enough that the customer thought it advisable to buy an umbrella (which was his actual point), inadvertently described the rain as "heavy" or "pouring", Bunntamas picks on this as a reason to dismiss the point about the weather as a "concocted story" and "a load of crap".

    This is why we have to go back over these points and double-check that we are bang on accurate at every step of the way. Even if an inaccuracy has no bearing on the validity of the point being made (as the inaccuracies in Megrahi's age and the amount of rain didn't), people in the Frank Duggan camp will still use them to jump over the entire presentation.

    I have (several times) pointed out to Bunntamas that Frank Duggan has never to my knowledge made one single accurate statement about the evidence or the Zeist process. That in his case the errors seem not to be inadvertent slips (they're way too big for that anyway), or even due to profound ignorance of the case he is being paid to represent. That he systematically lies about the evidence on platforms where he believes he will not be challenged or corrected, and that he continues to repeat these falsehoods even when he has been told in no uncertain terms that he's wrong.

    However, people in the opposing camp, like Bunntamas, don't want to hear about Frank Duggan's errors, no matter how egregious. They do want to stomp all over anything they can find on the JFM side, no matter how trivial. Only by continually refining the message can we ensure that they have as little to stomp on as possible.

  3. The point about Megrahi's age leads on to a further criticism of police procedure which I haven't heard pressed as much as I think it should be.

    Tony said nothing about the age of the customer in his first statement, but in a statement a few days later he estimated the age as about fifty. At that time, Tony himself was 44. Megrahi was 36, that is eight years younger than Tony. However, Tony estimated the purchaser's age as being some six years older than himself.

    This would be a very, very unusual error in identification, particularly from a witness whose recall (of the clothes, certainly) seems to have been remarkably good. If that estimate of age means anything, it indicates that the police should be looking for someone older than Tony.

    Tony persisted in his assessment of the customer's age over a number of statements, and in the face of a bunch of photos showing people who were younger.

    The first person he picked out as resembling the purchaser was one Mohamed Salam, who would have been 32 at the time of the purchase, but what he actually said was "If the man in the photograph was older by about 20 years he would look like the man who bought the clothing." So again, about 50 years old.

    Skipping on to the photospread when Tony eventually picked out Megrahi, we note that once again he rejected the entire photospread on the grounds that all the men pictured were too young. It was only when he was told to have another look and forget about the age part that he picked on Megrahi's picture as "resembling" the man, "but he would need to be at least ten years older".

    The point I'm making here isn't so much that Megrahi was only one of several men Tony picked out of photospreads as "resembling" his customer, but about the composition of the photospreads themselves. It appears that despite Tony declaring the customer to have been about 50 years old, the police persistently showed him pictures of men in their thirties. Was he ever shown any pictures of men in the right age group? Not as far as I can ascertain.

    [.... continued ....]

  4. [.... continued ....]

    This constant exposure to many, many pictures of possible suspects is inevitably going to degrade anybody's memory of the original customer. If, in addition, the pictures being shown are consistently of younger men than the original description, this only exacerbates the problem.

    It didn't get any better in the live lineup at Zeist - in fact it got worse. By 1999, when this took place, Megrahi was 47 - getting on for the actual age Tony described the purchaser as being in 1988. However, by then they should have been looking for a guy in his sixties! (Or at least over 55, Tony's age by then.)

    The original group presented for the identification parade included men as young as 25, people who would have been only 15 years old at the time when Tony served the customer he described as being about fifty! These individuals were excluded after objections from the defence, but what on earth were the police thinking of, presenting them in the first place?

    The seven stand-ins who actually participated were aged 32, 33, 33, 38, 44, 47 and 49. So there were still three men in the lineup who would have been under 25 years old in late 1988. Megrahi, despite having been described by Tony as "too young", and "he would need to be at least ten years older", was among the oldest in the line-up. There is no sign of the police taking on board the fact that the actual customer should have been over 60 by then.

    In essence, I believe the police approach in continually showing Tony photos of men in their thirties, amounted to imprinting him with the idea that he should be identifying someone of that age. Rather than taking Tony's description seriously and trying to trace the actual customer, the entire exercise appears to have been aimed at inducing Tony to bend his recollection to fit someone who was a plausible suspect, and in particular to identify someone who was way out of the age bracket described.

    This is beyond embarrassing.


    As a result of the ongoing inquiries, Inspector Harry Bell showed to Mr. Gauci in August of 1990 a further set of photographs. Production 468, a statement taken by Harry Bell from Mr. Gauci on the 31st of August 1990.

    Bell showed him 12 photo spreads, including persons who were of interest to the inquiry but Gauci could not see the photograph of the man who had purchased the clothing. He informed Mr.Bell that the man's photograph was not present. MEBO: That does not correspond to the truth, Megrahi's photo participated likewise on Prod. no. 468 !

    Mebo: After Gauci received an unknown money present, he was invited 1991 again to a meeting into the headquarters of Maltese police.

    In February 1991 Harry Bell visited Malta again and showed a spread of photographs to Mr. Gauci. Later in the same meeting:
    Gauci's police statement, no. 470:
    "On Friday, 15th of February 1991, I attended at police headquarters, Floriana, in Malta. Inspector Scicluna had asked me to come into the police office, and I agreed to come at 1.00 p.m.
    I arrived at the police office about 1.10 p.m., and I met Mr. Scicluna and Mr. Bell. I was then introduced to two other men (DC Crawford and SA Reid). I was told by Mr. Bell that he wanted me to look at a few photographs in an attempt to see if I could identify the man who bought the clothing from my shop".

    Tony Gauci: "One of the men (DC Crawford) then handed a card to Mr. Bell. He took brown paper from this card (Production No. DC 839), and the card was placed on the table that I was seated at.
    I saw that the card was full of photographs of men."
    (Edwin Bollier knows this maps and photo books, these were without photo of the libyan CIA defector, *Abdul Magjid Giaka and *Hassan
    Badri (ABH) *Both persons were on 23rd November 1988 in Malta).

    Toni Gauci: "I looked at every photograph on the card, and I counted a total of 12 photographs on the card. The first impression I had was that all the photographs were of men younger than the man who had bought the clothing. I told Mr. Bell this. I was asked to look at all the photographs carefully and to try and allow for any age difference.

    I then pointed out one of the photographs, and I later counted the photographs from the top left as number 1 (one), to this photograph at number 8 (eight). I would say that the photograph at number 8 (eight) is similar to the man who bought the clothing. (MEBO: photo number 8= Q14, Abdelbaset al Megrahi).
    I was asked to sign my name across the top left side of the photograph to indicate that this was a photograph I had identified to the police. I signed the photograph. I also signed the label for the card containing the photographs (Production Label Number DC 839)".

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland, URL: www.lockerbie.ch

    Do not forget! Ne pas oublier! Nicht vergessen!
    MEBO Document no. 3276

    Another offer for a reward of up to US$ 4,000,000 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation 1-800-HEROES-1 P.O.Box 96781, Washington, D.C. 20090-6781, U.S.A. (All identities are kept strictly confidential).

    This call was published until 1998 on the Internet, under URL: http://www.clark.net/pub/heroes/megrahi.html

    1) DESCRIPTION of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi Date of birth--------------------------to Nationality

    2) Abdel Baset Ali-Megrahi, one of the suspects indicted for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, is believed to be in Libya. The Libyan Government, against which the United Nations has invoked resolutions and sanctions, has been unwilling to turn Al -Megrahi over to the United Kingdom or United States for trial.

    The United States Department of State and the U.S. airline industry are offering a reward of up to $ 4,000,000 for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of Al-Megrahi. The U.S. Government can also provide for the protection of identity and the possibility of relocation for persons and their families furnishing such information. If you have information about Al-Megrahi or the Pan Am 103 bombing, contact authorities or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

    Federal Bureau of Investigation HEROES, Washington, D.C. 20090-6781. U.S.A.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd, Switzerland

    Since August 1990, definitely a wrong date was created (7th of December, 1988) in order to accuse deliberately the libyan official Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi as the buyer of the cloths in "Mary's House".

    A further proof from MEBO that the sale of dresses in Anhony Gauci "Mary's House" took undoubtedly place on Wednesday, 23th of November 1988 by a supposedly unknown buyer:

    Tony Gauci told Bollier on 25.01.2008 in Malta, that the 2 (3?) pieces of pyjamas, label "John Mallia", were the last two pyjamas he had sold to a Libyan in his shop. On the other day, the 24th of November 1988, Gauci by phon ordered at the company "John Mallia" additionally 8 pieces of the same pyjamas. The 8 pyjamas were delivered on the 25th of November 1988 with the calculation/delivery note, dated 25th of November 1988 to Gauci' s Mary' s House at Sliema Malta. Prod. 477-1.

    The day after Wednesday, December 7, December 8, 1988 was in Malta an official public holiday (Immaculate Conception Day) and the "John Mallia" company was closed. But the day after November 23, November 24, 1988 was not an official public holiday, the company "John Mallia" was open.

    Court at Kamp van Zeist, Excerpt:
    Q-- If you can close that, please, and look now at Production 500. Do we see that this label tells us that this, too, is a receipt. And if -- an invoice, I'm sorry. And if we move to image 1, we again see that this is a carbon copy invoice from your records. Is this one dated the 25th of November 1988? **A-- Yes, that's correct. Q-- And again, is it to Mary's House in Sliema? A-- Yes. Q-- And in this case the item -- the items in it is a quantity of eight men's pyjamas? A-- Yes.

    **(MEBO: This order made by Gauci on 24th of November 1988, by telephone).

    Excerpt: described by Gauci.
    Question: Q-- And if we can have Production 4771, do we see that that's a similar invoice to your shop from John Mallia dated 25th November 1988 for eight pairs of pyjamas?
    Answer: A-- Yes. I used to buy stock, and when it finished, I used to buy -- I used to phone often. It's an item that is quite sold in winter.

    Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL: www.lockerbie.ch

  8. I would like to just say again that I believe JFM played a blinder on the day.

    I believe the SCCRC report was more than adequately covered by Jim Swire and he stressed just how long it had taken to produce that report and the six grounds to believe a miscarriage of justice could have taken place. With such a short space of time to put their case there was no point in Robert repeating this information. It was there already for those who had ears to listen. Jim Swire covered the SCCRC report at the beginning and at the end of the hearing. So it was not missed out. And the weather on the November and December dates was part of those findings.

    The JFM group did very well and they got a result. The Committee agreed to refer the matter immediately to the Scottish Government. There was no better outcome that day. That is what matters. Whether some Americans approve or not is irrelevant. If the best they can do is describe Robert Black's contribution as a load of "crap" then I personally would not waste energy on them. I would also not use their disapproval as an excuse to criticise the performance of Robert and the others that day. The response of all on this blog on the day in question was excellent. We were proud of them. I still am. If certain Americans disagree that's really too bad. It isn't Americans we need to work on in this case as we take it forward. The focus should be on justice and fair trials. JFM has its eyes fixed clearly on both. The SCCRC report itself highlights the relevant issues and those issues are a matter for this country. Perhaps the lawyers who put in all those years of work on the final report are talking "crap" too.

  9. I don't know what a blinder is but the rest of what Jo G wrote above I totally agree with.

    I also agree with Rolfe that it is important to be correct on facts. Anyone can make an accidental mistatement, and such mistatements can and should be clarified. I say leave it to the likes of Richard Marquise to make unclarified wrong statements. I would not view this as criticism. Prof. Black also mistakenly said December 3 meaning December 7 at the end of his first segment.

    I don't think any reasonable person could doubt the sincerity of the JFM presenters that day, that is what came accross the most and what will ultimately serve the campaign well.

  10. So it's okay for Robert Black, a lawyer, solicitor, whatever; one whom should be well versed in facts, and evidence to be "out" on Megrahi's age, and alleged date of purchase, but not Gauci, a mere shopkeeper, attempting to recall something that happened more than a decade prior?

    One important difference being that Professor Black didn't flip his claims upon their heads (ie. "the Christmas lights were down...Did I say down? I meant up!").

  11. "... not Gauci, a mere shopkeeper..."

    A mere shopkeeper! Shopkeepers can actually be very tremendously sharp, in my humble opinion.

    I don't think we should be too hard on Gauci. For a start I am grateful that he never identified me as the guy who looked a little bit like exactly to the buyer of the clothes.

    Also, he has clearly been cheated for a place in Guiness Book of Records as "Most Unreliable", or "Highest Bribed" witness.

    Then again, I recall a statement from highest level that Gauci "was not quite the full shilling" and that "I think even his family would say (that he) was an apple short of a picnic".

    (whatever that means - I am not a native English speaker, but I have an idea)

    "...attempting to recall something that happened more than a decade prior?"

    Good to see that even Buntamas understands the major problems associated to Gauci as a witness.

    Real progress is being made here!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. The deleted comment took me to task for saying at the Public Petitions Committee that it was pouring with rain when the umbrella was bought in Tony Gauci's shop. The response that I had drafted was:

    "Mea culpa. I should have remembered the contrast between what Tony Gauci said in court and what he said in his police statements."

  14. Dr Kerr writes

    "The conviction as it stands is acting as an insuperable barrier to any further investigation of the Lockerbie disaster."

    Quite true although the indictment itself had a similar effect with the authorities pretending there was no alternative to the official "Libyan solution". In my view an objective investigation was abandoned with the elimination of Heathrow. Indeed the last thing the authorities wated was an objective or competent investigation as I believe the authorities colluded in the bombing.

    For many reasons I did not sign the "Justice for Megrahi" petition. (Nor for different reasons did I make any submission to the SCRCC). However I note that several of the charlatans and fabricators who were prominent signatories, indeed sponsors of the petition petition had no qualms about wasting the SCRCC's time.) Although their "alternative version" of events was rightly rejected by the SCRCC and the defence teams they still want a further enquiryinvestigation of their risible and fabricated claims!

  15. Robert. The fact is, is it not, that the weather on each of those days was shown to be very different? So different in fact that a professional was brought to the trial to testify on the matter.

    The fact is this man who bought the clothes was driven to purchase an umbrella on the November date when Megrahi was not on Malta. That is the point, it was raining heavily enough to justify the purchase of a brolly. So the point you made was a valid one and the weather on those two days is relevant. You did not mislead anyone. You were not introducing something into the debate which had not already been formally raised.

    I must say again that the main points made here about the SCCRC report were made by Jim Swire during the hearing. He made them twice and stressed the costs and the time taken by the SCCRC to produce the report. So the contents and the relevance of that report were not omitted that day. You may not have made them but others had already. You each had mere minutes allocated to speak during that hearing and for all of you to say the same things would have been wasteful. For me you have nothing to apologise for. The situation was a very stressful one and I remain impressed by the manner in which all of you conducted yourselves.

  16. You know, I'm getting slightly tired of this. Robert and Jim and the others do a fantastic job and their knowledge is fairly encyclopaedic. However, when it gets to the point that even helpful suggestions are seen by some people (OK one person) as criticism, and criticism of these heroes deemed a hanging offence, it starts to get silly.

    The above short piece stemmed from a private email I sent to Robert, discussing what I saw as a useful point which could be made in reply to the "another bite at the cherry" thing, if it came up again. Robert asked me to post it, or could he post it, or a version of it, and I chose to re-work it slightly because the original email wasn't as tightly argued as it could have been.

    In the course of that tightening up, the remark that of course the point about the SCCRC report had been well-made elsewhere, nevertheless it was also relevant in this context, was edited out. The reworked version was intended to stand alone.

    If these discussions only had to convince the already convinced, we wouldn't need to have them. However, they are intended to win minds, and hopefully hearts, of the unconvinced and the positively hostile. To do that, we have to be as scrupulously accurate as possible, never stooping to the lies Frank Duggan constantly propagates.

    There's so much to remember, it's almost impossible for one person to have a complete grasp of every point. For those who have a grasp of a particular area to decline to contribute this knowledge for fear of appearing critical, would be to do a disservice to the JFM effort as a whole.

  17. "You know, I'm getting slightly tired of this. Robert and Jim and the others do a fantastic job and their knowledge is fairly encyclopaedic. However, when it gets to the point that even helpful suggestions are seen by some people (OK one person) as criticism, and criticism of these heroes deemed a hanging offence, it starts to get silly."

    All I have done is point out that the things you think were omitted were not remotely omitted.

    The piece you presented has highlighted the SCCRC findings. Jim Swire said all of that on the day in question. Twice. No need therefore for Robert to say it a third time. And Jim Swire could not have argued the point more "tightly" in my view. The points you make on the main blog here were made by him that day. You contributed no new knowledge. It was all covered on the day.

    I don't see anything remotely silly about pointing that out.

  18. Well, maybe you need to tell Prof. Black all that, because he asked me to write the freaking piece.

    Get over it.

  19. ....they still want a further enquiry/investigation of their risible and fabricated claims!

    Baz, what on earth are you talking about. The inquiry JFM are asking for has nothing to do with investigating any alternative theories about how PA103 came to be bombed. It is entirely about investigating the soundness (or lack of it) of the Zeist trial and verdict.

    I cannot imagine what conceivable reason you could possibly have for declining to sign the petition, unless you believe the Zeist verdict was correct and Megrahi really was complicit in smuggling the bomb suitcase on board KM180 at Malta.

  20. Mea culpa. I should have remembered the contrast between what Tony Gauci said in court and what he said in his police statements.

    That is an extremely interesting point. So far as I know, Tony Gauci never said it was pouring with rain, or raining heavily, though if I'm wrong I'd be grateful if someone would point this out. However, the minimising of the amount of rain was part of the changing of his story that is so evident by the time he gets to Zeist.

    His first statement simply says it was raining. "He then walked out of the shop with the umbrella which he opened up as it was raining." No qualification, just that it was heavy enough to prompt the customer to open the umbrella.

    This is entirely consistent with the weather records which report light rain at that time of day on 23rd November.

    However, it didn't rain on 7th December, at all. No record of a single drop. Pushed as to probabilities, Joseph Mifsud says 90% probability of no rain at all, but even if there was some, it would only have been a few drops that wouldn't even have wet the ground.

    At Zeist, Tony backtracks on the rain, speaking of it just "spotting", in an obvious attempt to make his description more congruent with 7th December.

    I don't think anyone ever said the rain was heavy or pouring, but Tony's original statement said "raining", and this rain was heavy enough to prompt the mystery customer to open the brolly. Tony's later statements, influenced by the smell of several million dollars and his brother leaning on his to make sure he got it right, are a different matter altogether.

  21. "Well, maybe you need to tell Prof. Black all that, because he asked me to write the freaking piece.

    Get over it."

    Dearie me.

  22. There's something incredibly surreal about the image of a soon-to-be-terrorist - whoever the bugger might have been - thinking, "Right, I need to get some fabric to wrap the bomb in...Ooh, and a brolly 'cos I can't have me hair getting wet..."

    People are weird.

  23. You would.

    Has MI6 or the CIA come calling on you yet?