Thursday, 22 December 2011

‘These are my last words: I am innocent’

[This is the headline over a report (behind the paywall) in today's Scottish edition of The Times. The article, under the byline of Marcello Mega and the paper's Scotland editor Magnus Linklater, gives an account of a very recent visit to Abdelbaset Megrahi by George Thomson (who presented the Aljazeera documentary on the Lockerbie case broadcast in June 2011). The report reads in part:]

The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has given what he says is his last interview, using it to protest his innocence.

Speaking from his sick bed in Tripoli, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, insisted that he was not involved in the attack on Pan Am 103 in December 1988 that killed 270 people. He also accused a key witness, whose evidence helped to convict him, of lying in court.

The interview was published as relatives of the American and Scottish victims gathered yesterday to mark the 23rd anniversary of the atrocity. At the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, stood alongside US officials, including Eric Holder, the US Attorney-General, and Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, to lay a wreath at the Lockerbie cairn.

They were joined by Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States, a mark of the new relationship between Tripoli and the West, and also a signal that new evidence may be produced in the search for the original instigators of the Pan Am bombing. (...)

A friend, George Thomson, who conducted the interview on Saturday, described him as ravaged by the cancer and very weak. “For any doubters who may think he is not ill, you only have to look at the man and how wasted he is to see he has not got long in this life,” said Mr Thomson on his return.

However, al-Megrahi still had enough strength to deliver a personal challenge to the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, whose identification was instrumental in securing his conviction. Clothes from Mr Gauci’s shop were found, along with a tiny fragment of the timing device that triggered the bomb, in a briefcase among the wreckage of the plane.

Asked by Mr Thomson, a former police officer who was part of his defence team, what he would say to Mr Gauci if he met him again, al-Megrahi said: “If I had the chance to see him, I would tell him that I never ever in my entire life bought clothes from his shop, I never bought clothes from him. He dealt with me very wrongly, I have never seen him in my life before he came to the court. I am facing my death and I swear by my God, which is my God and Gauci’s God, I swear with him I have never been in that shop or buy any clothing from Gauci. He has to believe this because we are all together when we die.”

It is not suggested that the claims against Mr Gauci have any basis in fact. [RB: Well done, Magnus Linklater! The Times's lawyers will be proud of you!]

Mr Thomson filmed the 20-minute interview as part of a documentary about Lockerbie to be broadcast in February. The Libyan revealed that he has co-operated in writing a book with an investigative journalist, John Ashton, that will contain “dramatic” new evidence about his case.

Scottish prosecutors remain convinced that the evidence on which he was convicted is substantial, but al-Megrahi said: “I want people to read the book and use their brain, not hearts, and make judgment. Information is not from me, not from lawyers, not from the media, but experts who deal with criminal law and science, and they will be surprised when they read it. It will clear my name.”

Al-Megrahi is convinced that US agencies were determined to secure a conviction. “I am facing my death any time, and I don’t want to accuse anyone, or any country. But the Americans led the way,” he said.

He also revealed that he had been paid a visit a few days earlier by Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the atrocity, and who has long campaigned to clear his name. He said that he had confided in Dr Swire the details of new discoveries about the timing fragment made by investigators still working on his behalf.

He claimed that police were aware that there was another witness to the purchase of clothing in the Maltese shop, who might have helped to clear his name — Mr Gauci’s brother, Paul. It has always been believed that Mr Gauci was the only witness who could identify the buyer of the clothes.

“The commission met with Gauci. At the end of the statement they said he was nervous. He told them that when the man who bought the clothes left the shop, his brother Paul came to the shop, and took the parcels from the man and took them to the taxi he was taking. This information has never been raised before. There is an opportunity to have another physical witness who could have identified the man, yet they kept the brother out of it.”

Al-Megrahi ended the interview by saying he had a message for the international community, especially the people of Scotland and the UK: “I am about to die and I’d ask now to be left in peace to die with my family, and they be left in peace by the media as well. I will not be giving any more interviews, and no more cameras will be allowed into my home ... I am an innocent man, and the book will clear my name.”

[A longer and more personal article by Marcello Mega about George Thomson's visit to Megrahi appears in today's Scottish edition of The Sun. A further article appears in the Daily Mail. A Maltese perspective is to be found in this article in Malta Today; and a Libyan perspective in this article in The Tripoli Post.]


  1. It's funny...

    I wrote back when "Al-Megrahi was in a coma and near death" that this was a lie.

    I extended a bet to any and all takers that Al-Megrahi was not as sick as contrived (ooops...I mean conveyed) by the Scottish Executive, Mr. Al-Megrahi, Nic "the Dupe" Robertson, et al... that Mr. Al-Megrahi was not in a coma and/or near death and would live at least to the end of the year.

    Nobody had the courage to take me up EVEN on a gentlemen's bet. Again, I am not betting on something ghoulish like someone's passing...but betting on the veracity of the allegation of the degree of illness...I even noted the obvious inconsistent visual clues that a 3rd grader would see which indicated the "scene was staged". Instead, you all railed on me for being ignorant, a jerk, a yank (and other racist-inclined derivatives), a shill, yada yada yada...

    Well, it looks like I am about 10 days from being proven right.

    I bet this will be the same song, new verse this time next year too.

    He may be ill, but he's not terminal.

    Well, I guess we are all terminal, but he not materially more than the rest of us.

    It's a Festivus Miracle!

  2. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Hanukkah.

  3. Hi Michael,
    you and your betting!

    To match your bet somebody would have to say "I bet that Megrahi will be dead before (not too distant date)".
    There are reasons enough not to make any such statement. Can't see why? Well, to quote Louis Armstrong: "If you gotta ask, you will never know".

    May I wish you a Happy New Year, with the hope that you'd use it constructively. E.g. in details looking into _why_ you think Megrahi is guilty, and then come back and debate it here.

  4. SM:

    I would take a bet that the intelligence gathered does show that Libya (Qaddafi, et al) ordered the bombing and it was carried out by Al-Megrahi with others.

    I would take a bet (or whatever is legally permitted) that Al-Megrahi lives into 2013...

    I would take the bet that Iran was not materially involved in the bombing for reasons I previously stated.

    And I would take the bet that the US follows-through on the Federal charges...why do you think the teams are descending on Libya? It's not the Welcome Wagon rolling in to welcome the NTC to the neighborhood!

    I feel badly for you all...all crestfallen when all the intelligence proves you all have been duped by Al-Megrahi...and sold out by MacAskill, et al.

    There is a difference between what is proven to a legal standard and what actually happened. However, I believe that it will also remain proven Al-Megrahi is guilty (even though there are appellate issues in play).

    And I will bet that Tim Tebow will lead the Broncos to the AFC West title and that the Broncos could actually make it to the Super Bowl, though Green Bay looks really strong this year.

    And I will bet that Al-Megrahi will begin "Tebowing" (Google's all the rage in the USA) when he realizes that his "innocence story" is not borne out from the new evidence...and that will result in his trial in the USA.

    Happy Festivus!

    On a serious note, though we disagree, I do wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and / or Merry Christmas.

    Best regards from a snow covered Mile High City of Denver, Colorado...


  5. You would take a bet that the people who gathered the "intelligence" the first time around will fit him up again, Michael? I think that might be a good bet too. A few million bucks can guarantee a lot of "evidence" as the FBI and Scottish police demonstrated at Camp Zeist. Or are Richard Marquise and the rest of you conspiracy theorists still denying that you've ever heard of the Gauci bribe?