A commentary on the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am 103 disaster.
Sunday, 1 April 2012
Reopen the Lockerbie case
[This is the
headline over an editorial in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times. It reads as follows:]
A report unveiled last Sunday, casting doubt on whether
Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was actually the Lockerbie bomber, barely made
The Western media, especially, long ago decided that Mr Al
Megrahi was the man responsible for the death of 270 people when a Pan Am
aircraft exploded over the small Scottish village in December 1988.
But the same media (which recently went to town on salacious
information about Mr Al Megrahi’s sexcapades in Malta in the 1980s)
conveniently ignored a new 820-page report by the Scottish Criminal Cases
Exposing the potential miscarriage of justice, the report
cast serious doubt on the credibility of crucial evidence given by a Sliema
shopkeeper that led to the Libyan man’s conviction.
Among other crucial issues, the report confirmed that Tony
Gauci had been paid by the US State Department for the evidence he provided
during the trial when identifying Mr Al Megrahi as ‘the Libyan’ who bought
clothes from his shop, allegedly found wrapped around the bomb.
Mr Gauci was also in possession of a magazine containing a
photograph of Mr Al Megrahi stating he was the Lockerbie bomber – before he
pointed him out at an identification parade in the Netherlands.
Doubts over the Lockerbie verdict have been so pronounced
that some of the victims’ families insisted the wrong man was jailed.
Would a bomber conceivably have chosen such a complicated
journey for the bomb – placing it in a suitcase that was loaded onto an Air
Malta flight to Frankfurt, which was then transferred to Heathrow before being
placed on the fatal Pan Am flight 103?
Why was a break-in at Heathrow airport just 16 hours
before the explosion concealed from the court?
It would be one of the biggest injustices of modern times
if we fail to question the potentially flawed prosecution evidence which led to
Mr Al Megrahi’s conviction.
The Maltese government clearly does not want to ruffle
feathers with the international community by refusing to petition the Scottish
Crown Office to reopen the Lockerbie investigation in light of the recent
It is not enough for the Justice Minister to repeat the
government’s mantra in yesterday’s edition of The Times that “the bomb did not
If that is really the case, then Mr Al Megrahi is not the
Lockerbie bomber. The only evidence linking him to the bombing was the evidence
of the Maltese shopkeeper who was accused of changing and fudging his evidence
to fit better with the prosecution’s case.
Former Air Malta chairman Albert Mizzi and former ground
operations manager Wilfred Borg were among those who repeatedly insisted
unaccompanied luggage never left Malta.
It is ironic that one of those putting pressure on the
Maltese government to call for the reopening of the inquiry is Jim Swire, whose
daughter was killed at Lockerbie. What possible motive could he have other than
getting to the truth?
The government might argue it has no reason to clear Malta’s
or its airline’s name. But 23 years later, this terrorist act still casts a
This mystery will not go away when Mr Al Megrahi dies,
which is likely to be fairly soon given his terminal condition, and our
government is duty-bound to seek the truth.
There may be question marks over Mr Al Megrahi’s role in
the 1980s. There may be question marks over his conduct and the reasons he was
travelling to Malta.
But for him to be a terrorist there must be clear evidence
that he loaded the bomb in Malta and that the Maltese shopkeeper was telling
the truth. That evidence has never been more flimsy and it is intolerable that
there is a lack of desire, especially on our part, to get to the bottom of the