[This is the headline over a report (not on the newspaper's website) published today on page 17 of the Scottish print edition of The Sunday Times. It reads in part:]
Envoy says he could have discredited key witness
A former Maltese minister with information that raises questions about the case against the Lockerbie bomber has criticised Scottish authorities for not interviewing him until almost 20 years after the atrocity.
Michael Refalo, a former tourism minister in Malta and a former high commissioner in London, said he disagreed with evidence given by Tony Gauci, a key witness in the case against Abdelbaset … al-Megrahi.
However, he was not approached until 2007 when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) carried out an independent review of the case.
Gauci … claimed the Christmas lights were not lit in the Maltese city of Sliema when Megrahi allegedly bought clothes from his shop on December 7, 1988.
Megrahi’s trial heard claims that fragments of the clothes were recovered from the wreckage of Pan Am flight 103 later that month.
The date was crucial as Megrahi is known to have been on the island that day. Refalo said he had lit them the day before, casting doubt on the reliability of Gauci’s testimony.
“Without going into the merits of whether Megrahi was guilty or not, there are a few inaccuracies in Tony Gauci’s testimony about the Christmas lights. Gauci said that on December 7 the Christmas street lights were not on. That’s incorrect. As minister for tourism at the time, I switched them on the day before at 5.30pm.”
Refalo criticised Scottish police for not interviewing him before the trial. He said that as a former member of the Maltese government he was easy to trace but had never been approached.
His evidence forms part of the unpublished 800-page report from the SCCRC, which casts doubt on Megrahi’s conviction and offers six reasons why he may have suffered a miscarriage of justice (…)
The secret report has remained under lock and key since 2007. It is understood that it states that during inquiries in 1990-91, officers tried and failed to establish when the Christmas lights outside Gauci’s shop were lit in 1988, but adds that the most significant missing evidence now available is Refalo’s.
“The first time I got to know my evidence was required was during my term as Malta’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom when I was contacted by the SCCRC,” said Refalo. “I was interviewed by lawyers acting for the SCCRC and released a sworn affidavit about the date and time I had turned on the lights.”
[The context and importance of this material are better elucidated in the Megrahi appeal documentation (pages 209 to 225) than in The Sunday Times report.
This is yet another nail in the coffin of the Megrahi conviction. The flaws that have been exposed in the investigation and the prosecution are so glaring that it is a gross insult to the people of Scotland for the Scottish Government to continue to deny that an independent inquiry is necessary into the operation of the Scottish criminal justice system in the Megrahi case.
Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm has published a news item on this story.]