Eight damning claims that have sparked a bitter row within Scotland’s legal hierarchy over the Lockerbie investigation can be exclusively revealed today.
Campaign group Justice for Megrahi (JfM) has opened a 39-page dossier containing accusations that, if proved, would rock governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
JfM, which has the support of leading lawyers, claims that Crown Office officials and police officers attempted to pervert the course of justice during the investigation and trial following the 1988 disaster.
Our investigation comes just days after Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, launched a scathing attack on “conspiracy theorists”, whose attacks were “defamatory” and “without foundation”.
His comments have further angered campaigners, already infuriated that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill forwarded their complaints to the Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary – the very organisations accused of wrongdoing.
It is alleged the authorities deliberately misled judges during the 36-week hearing at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2000 in an attempt to frame Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and his co-accused Lamin Khalifah Fhimah.
The group believes that vital evidence suggesting the bomb was planted at Heathrow Airport rather than in Malta, as found by the court, was intentionally overlooked in order to achieve a conviction against the two Libyans.
Backed by evidence from a “wide variety of sources”, the dossier also includes claims that prosecutors passed on false information to the court and key statements were deliberately “buried”.
Prominent Scots lawyers Ian Hamilton and Robert Black both support the claims and insist an independent inquiry must be held into the Lockerbie case.
Retired QC Mr Hamilton said: “Prima facie, all of the allegations hold water. But put together, there is such a defence case here that I find it incredible that any responsible Crown Office should not welcome an inquiry.
“The whole case against Megrahi was soured and poisoned from the very beginning by the CIA. They wanted a conviction at any cost to satisfy the understandable desire of the victims, many of whom were American citizens, for vengeance. I’m afraid Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Scottish Crown Office caved into this desire.
“It seems to me that this prosecution was conducted with a desire to get a conviction at all costs, even at the cost of justice itself. This has gone on too long and is a blot on Scotland’s reputation for fair trials.”
Reacting furiously to Mr Mulholland’s “defamatory” claims, he added: “It is very, very right for people to criticize an administration of justice which appears to be so corrupt as this one.”
JfM committee member Mr Black, also a [retired] QC and Emeritus Professor of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh, said the Scottish legal system had collapsed under a “real determination” for a conviction. (...)
Megrahi, who died in May, is the only man ever convicted of the bombing, which killed 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, in December 1988. Fhimah was acquitted.
He always maintained his innocence and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled there may have been a “miscarriage of justice” in his trial.
On Friday, speaking as the Libyan Government vowed to release all files related to the disaster, Mr Mulholland told a national newspaper [The Times] that he had already appointed “outside counsel” to conduct an independent review of the evidence and found Megrahi’s conviction was sound.
He added: “I am hugely frustrated that there is an unfounded attack on the integrity of the judges involved in the process.”
In response, JfM secretary Robert Forrester hit back: “To say our allegations are defamatory is a joke. Of course they are defamatory – if you point the finger at somebody and say they broke the law you are impuning their reputation.
“There is substantial evidence contained within the documents which supports these allegations and the Crown Office, along with Dumfries and Galloway Police are obliged to investigate.
“Our allegations were met with a prolonged period of silence, it is now interesting to see the Lord Advocate using the media rather than choosing to respond to us directly.”
A Crown Office spokesman said it “would not be appropriate” to name the counsel appointed to review the case.
THE EIGHT ALLEGATIONS
* Crown Office officials attempted to cover up damaging information contained within CIA cables about their star witness Abdul Majid Giaka, who said he saw Megrahi and Fhimah at Luqa Airport with a “suspicious” suitcase. Giaka was later found to be an unreliable witness.
* In the early stages of the inquiry, Dumfries and Galloway officers and Crown Office officials “deliberately ignored” compelling evidence suggesting the bomb was loaded on to Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow Airport.
* A statement by Heathrow security guard Raymond Manly, who discovered a break-in 18 hours prior to the departure of Flight 103, was “buried” and not disclosed during the trial.
* The Crown Office presented a false scenario to court concerning the positioning of the Samsonite hardshell suitcase – identical to the one containing the bomb – which was seen in Flight 103’s luggage container at Heathrow, at least an hour before the Frankfurt feeder flight landed.
* A witness for the prosecution, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, intentionally failed to point out a “crucial discrepancy” with a key piece of evidence.
* Dumfries and Galloway Police did not ascertain whether the company which made the MST-13 circuit boards had the capability to create the type of circuit board found at Lockerbie. In 2008, the defence team found the firm could not produce that type of circuit board.
* The Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary failed to disclose critical evidence relating to the scientific analysis of the circuit board.
* Megrahi’s identification by witness Tony Gauci was not handled correctly by the authorities and did not show the expected level of fairness to the accused.
[The precise nature of the criminality alleged is outlined in a 4-page press briefing document produced by Justice for Megrahi. It can be read here.]