It may seem like a revelation but a UK news report that Libyan Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, travelled to Malta regularly to have sex was well documented 12 years ago.
The information, including the names of two women alleged to have been Mr al-Megrahi’s and co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah’s mistresses, formed part of the Libyan men’s defence arsenal but was never used during the Camp Zeist trial.
The link between the two Libyan men and the Maltese women was well-documented in the book Lockerbie: Qabel il-Verdett [“Before the Verdict”] by investigative journalist Joe Mifsud more than a decade ago. [RB: Incidentally, I contributed a chapter – in English – to this book.]
Referring to documents in the hands of defence lawyers, the book highlighted the fact that the two Libyan men used to “meet” the women at the now defunct Central Hotel in Mosta. Mr al-Megrahi was the only one convicted of the Pan-Am flight bombing on December 21, 1988 that killed 270 people over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. He continues to claim innocence.
But Jim Swire, the father of Flora, one of the Lockerbie victims, believes the most recent attempt to dig out salacious information about Mr al-Megrahi is nothing more than “a spoiler” to detract attention from a book showing how “fatally flawed” the prosecution’s case against the Libyan was.
Talking to The Times yesterday, Dr Swire, who has long believed in Mr al-Megrahi’s innocence, said the recently published book Megrahi: You Are My Jury by John Ashton revealed how detailed metallurgy tests of the fragment of a circuit board believed to have formed part of the bomb “never could have matched” the bomb timer circuit boards.
The BBC, the UK’s public broadcaster, reported that previously secret documents, seen by BBC Scotland, gave details of Mr al-Megrahi’s explanations for being in Malta.
Scottish investigators who interviewed the Libyan in Greenock Prison, where he was jailed for life before being released on compassionate grounds in 2009 – he is suffering from cancer – discovered he had a mistress in Malta.
Mr al-Megrahi may have visited her twice in December, 1988, including the night before the bombing. He told investigators he could not have sex with his wife and the clandestine relationship lasted several years until 1989 or 1990. “It was possible therefore that the reason for his visit to Malta on December 20 was to meet a woman for this purpose,” the investigators’ report said.
The same woman was the one he had suggested he might have met during his visit to Malta on December 7.
Mr al-Megrahi and Mr Fhimah were Libyan secret service agents, doubling up as employees of Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta, at the time of the Lockerbie tragedy. [RB: So the fantasist Abdul Majid Giaka said. There was no other evidence at Zeist that supported this.] The women also worked at the Libyan Arab Airline offices in Malta.
But these news reports have done nothing to change Dr Swire’s friendship with Mr al-Megrahi.
“Megrahi was an aspiring entrepreneur with business interests in Malta. He was a seeker after sanction-busting spare parts for his country and it now seems he was deceiving his wife as to what he was up to abroad. Does any of that justify what we did to him?” Investigators had concluded the suitcase containing the bomb that exploded over Scotland was loaded in an unaccompanied luggage on an Air Malta flight to Germany before making its way to London. Malta has always denied any link with the case.
The luggage was traced back to Mr al-Megrahi and the crucial evidence to convict him was provided by a Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, from Sliema, who identified him as the person who bought the clothes that were found in the luggage.
However, serious doubts have been shed on the credibility of the Maltese shopkeeper. Mr Al-Megrahi’s defence team contended that the Maltese witness was paid “in excess of $2 million”, while his brother was paid “in excess of $1 million” for cooperating. Neither has ever denied receiving payment.