Sunday, 26 February 2012

Megrahi: the secret evidence

[This is the headline over an article (behind the paywall) in today’s edition of The Sunday Times.  It reads in part:]

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who is dying of prostate cancer, will claim in a new book that crucial documents were withheld from his defence team to ensure he remained the chief suspect for the 1988 atrocity which killed 270 people.
In Megrahi — You Are My Jury: The Lockerbie Evidence, published tomorrow, the Libyan will disclose details of witness statements that were not heard at his trial in 1999.
Megrahi, who was allowed to return to Libya in 2009 after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, hopes his book will provide compelling evidence that he is not guilty of Britain’s worst terrorist attack.
It argues that, far from being an unrepentant terrorist, the Libyan was the “innocent victim of dirty politics, a flawed investigation and judicial folly”.
Much of it draws on the findings of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which recommended that his case be returned to the Appeal Court in 2007.
Their report has not been released publicly but was made available to the Libyan’s defence team. Megrahi is expected to reveal that statements made by Tony Gauci, the prosecution’s key witness, were never disclosed to his lawyers.
Gauci owned a shop in Malta where Megrahi allegedly purchased clothes that were wrapped around the Lockerbie bomb. Gauci’s testimony about the date when the clothing was purchased — December 7, 1988 — was crucial as that was the only day that Megrahi was known to be on the island.
Among the missing statements discovered by the SCCRC was one in which Gauci claimed his brother Paul was in the shop when the clothes were bought and helped the buyer carry the parcels to his car. It is claimed that, had Megrahi’s defence been aware of this, Paul Gauci would have been questioned and could have confirmed that Megrahi was not the buyer.
In another statement to Scottish police, Gauci said he “clearly” remembered an argument with his girlfriend on the day the clothes were purchased. Megrahi claims a failure to share this information denied his defence team a chance to interview the woman and corroborate the date.
The book also suggests false intelligence was passed by the Scottish authorities to German counterparts who were initially sceptical about Libya’s role in the atrocity.
A source close to the project said: “It’s a vast book and a lot of it is in forensic detail. If the case in the book is accepted, then the questions it raises about Scottish justice are very deep and very serious.”
The Crown Office, which maintains that Megrahi did not act alone in carrying out the terrorist attack, is preparing to send investigators to Libya in the hope of gathering fresh evidence to support his conviction and identify his accomplices.
Frank Mulholland QC, the lord advocate, met British relatives in London last week and revealed that the Crown Office had received “favourable” responses from Libya to a request for access to files held in Tripoli.
Also present at the meeting in Whitehall was Patrick Shearer, the chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway police, and two agents from the FBI.
Last night, Pamela Dix, who lost her brother Peter in the Lockerbie bombing, said: “The tragedy is still very distressing. I would far rather that new evidence was heard in a courtroom. The problem is none of it can be legally refuted and it will be his side of the story.”
John Ashton, a British journalist who wrote Megrahi’s book, said: “Abdelbaset and I are acutely aware of the anguish that the book might cause the victims’ relatives who believe him to be guilty. We simply wish them and the wider public to know all the important evidence that was available to us, most of which has been concealed from the relatives and was not aired at his trial.”
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing and believes Megrahi was wrongfully convicted, said: “I very much hope the book will have influence on Scottish public opinion and persuade ministers to hold an independent inquiry into Megrahi’s guilty verdict.”
The Crown Office said: “The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the court.”

[A brief article in the Sunday Mail headed “Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 'forgives' witness who secured his conviction” can be read here.]

1 comment:

  1. No doubt the investigators will find evidence all freshly concocted by the FBI/MI6 who with their wads of money will draw in a few Libyans to testify to the discovery of the forged documents.