Monday, 27 February 2012

New evidence casts doubt in Lockerbie case

[This is the headline over a report published today on the Aljazeera News website.  It reads as follows:]

Fresh scientific evidence unearthed by a Scottish legal review undermines the case against the man convicted of being responsible for the Lockerbie aircraft bombing, an investigation for Al Jazeera has found.

The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) report details evidence that would likely have resulted in the verdict against Abdel Baset al-Meghrahi, a Libyan man convicted of carrying out the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988, being overturned.

'Lockerbie: Case Closed', an hour-long documentary to be aired on Al Jazeera on Monday, examines the evidence uncovered by the SCCRC as well as revealing fresh scientific evidence which is unknown to the commission but which comprehensively undermines a crucial part of the case against the man known as the Lockerbie bomber.

Among the evidence examined by the SCCRC was the testimony of Tony Gauci, a shop owner from Malta, and the most important prosecution witness in the case.

Gauci identified Megrahi as a man who had bought clothing and an umbrella from him on December 7, 1988 - remnants of which were later recovered from among debris recovered from the disaster scene. 

The SCCRC found a number of reasons to seriously question this identification and Gauci’s account of events on that date, which was also the only day on which Megrahi could have been present in Malta to make such purchases.

The report also raises concerns about the legitimacy of the formal identification process, in which Gauci picked Megrahi out from a line-up. The commission found that Gauci had seen Megrahi’s photo in a magazine article identifying him as a possible suspect many weeks before the parade took place.

The SCCRC also found that Scottish police knew that Gauci was interested in financial rewards, despite maintaining that the shopkeeper had shown no such interest.

Gauci reportedly picked up a $2 million US government reward for his role in the case. Under Scottish law, witnesses cannot be paid for their testimony.

Most significantly, the documentary will reveal the dramatic results of new scientific tests that destroy the most crucial piece of forensic evidence linking the bombing to Libya.

The new revelations were put to the terminally sick Megrahi in Libya, and his comments on the case will be heard for the first time in these films.

Of Gauci, he maintains that he never visited his shop.

"If I have a chance to see him [Gauci] I am forgiving him. I would tell him that I have never in my entire life been in his shop. I have never bought any clothing from him. And I tell him that he dealt with me very wrongly. This man – I have never seen him in my entire life except when he came to the court. I find him a very simple man," Meghrahi told Al Jazeera.

John Ashton, who has been investigating the case for nearly 20 years, including time spent as part of Megrahi’s defence team, said: "The Lockerbie disaster was Europe’s worst terrorist attack. More Americans died in that attack than in any other terrorist event before 9/11. It's also Britain’s worst miscarriage of justice, the wrong man was convicted and the real killers are still out there."

Lockerbie: Case Closed will be broadcast on Monday 27 February at 20:00 GMT on Al Jazeera English.

[The following is an excerpt from a report in today’s edition of The Herald:]

Today the official biography of the Libyan convicted of the atrocity, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, will be launched and two documentaries will be aired, all of which highlight new evidence and previously unseen documents that experts say would have overturned the conviction.

Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci claimed that Megrahi purchased clothes found packed around the bomb – a claim the Libyan has always denied.
In one of the TV programmes, Megrahi, 59, says: "I have never seen him in my entire life except when he came to the court. I find him a very simple man. But I do forgive him."
The Herald is one of only two newspapers in the world to have had advance access to the book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by John Ashton, a former member of the defence team.
The Al Jazeera documentary to be broadcast today claims Megrahi's conviction would "almost certainly" have been overturned had previously unseen evidence been used in an appeal.
The programme, Lockerbie: Case Closed, gained access to the investigations of the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) – which referred Megrahi's case for a fresh appeal in June 2007 on six grounds – and also uncovered fresh scientific evidence that it claims is unknown to the commission and "comprehensively undermines" part of the case against Megrahi. (…)
Earlier this month, campaigners fighting on behalf of Megrahi accused politicians, lawyers, civil servants and governments of an "orchestrated desire" to keep details of his case under wraps.
Members of the Justice For Megrahi group, who have called for an inquiry into his conviction, said the Crown Office and civil service would "do anything" to stop disclosure.
The Al Jazeera documentary claims to disclose the "dramatic results" of new scientific tests that undermine forensic evidence used in the case.
John Ashton, the author of the book, has been investigating the case for nearly 20 years.
He said: "The Lockerbie disaster was Europe's worst terrorist attack. More Americans died in that attack than in any other terrorist event before 9/11. It's also Britain's worst miscarriage of justice – the wrong man was convicted and the real killers are still out there."
[A report in today’s edition of The Scotsman contains the following:]
Scottish publisher Birlinn launches into the Lockerbie controversy today with the publication of a book that promises the fullest account yet of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s story in his own words.
Megrahi: You Are My Jury – The Lockerbie Evidence, is by John Ashton, who worked with Megrahi’s legal team from 2006 to 2009.
A long-time researcher on the case, he is said to have been working on the 500-page book with Megrahi since the latter’s release from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds following a cancer diagnosis in August 2009.
In its summary, the book promises to present “conclusive new evidence” to prove Megrahi was “an innocent victim of dirty politics, a flawed investigation and judicial folly”. (…)
Details of the book’s contents have been a closely guarded secret. But it has hit the headlines well before its publication, with some parents of those who died denouncing it as “blood money”.
The Rev John Mosey, will be in Edinburgh today for the book’s launch. His daughter died in the atrocity.
He said he respected Mr Ashton’s research, adding: “If the rumours of its contents are well-founded, it could open up the Lockerbie thing in a very serious manner that the legal profession will have to take notice of.” (…)
Nearly half of the latest book is in Megrahi’s own words, a Birlinn spokesperson said yesterday. About a third explores the forensic evidence, and one person who has read it described it as so complicated that “my brain has been stewed”.
The Birlinn spokesperson said: “The book came to us, and the board talked about it long and hard, but decided that this was a book we wanted to publish.
“We published it without serialisation or profiting from the book, just to get Megrahi’s story on the record.
“There is new evidence within the book, and that’s what will be revealed today. It’s also the first time that we have had a wealth of material in Megrahi’s own words.
“He will not receive any form of payment for the book.”
[A further article in The Scotsman, which purports to disclose some of the evidence in the book and contains reactions from Lockerbie relatives, can be read here.  The Times's short report (behind the paywall) can be read here. A report in today’s Daily Mirror can be read here; the report in the Daily Record here; and the report in The Sun hereThe Press Association news agency report can be read here. A report on the STV News website can be read here.]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Robert. I watched the Al Jazeera docu. Very good.