Monday, 14 January 2013

Lockerbie bomb play may be shown in Malta

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

Talks are under way to stage a new play in Malta about the Lockerbie bombing.

The 1988 bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie killed 270 people and was the worst terrorist atrocity in UK history.

The Lockerbie Bomber is the latest in a long line of books and plays tackling the subject, and it will be performed in Alloa's Alman Theatre this week.

Malta is a key location in the case, and a theatre director in the capital, Valletta, is now in talks with writer Alan Clark about staging it there.

The Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci was a crucial witness in the trial, identifying the only man convicted of the atrocity, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.

Mr Gauci owned Mary's House clothes shop in the port of Sliema, and according to evidence given at Megrahi's trial in 2000, he sold him clothes which were said to have been wrapped around the bomb which brought down the flight.

Megrahi was also said to have loaded the bomb onto an Air Malta Flight at the island's Luqa airport.

He was convicted in 2001 but was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds in 2009, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died last year.

The new play about the bombing considers events from three perspectives; families, journalists and security experts.

And Valletta theatre director Herman Grech is keen to stage it in the Maltese capital later this year.

He said: "The play struck me because it recalls the bombing of the aircraft in its vivid, horrific detail.

"But most of all, the script challenges the audience into thinking whether, beyond the odd newspaper headline, this could have been one of the grossest miscarriages of justice of our times.

"I have also found it ironic that while the Maltese government has maintained that the bomb never departed from the island's airport, it has remained reluctant to challenge the accusations against Megrahi."

Mr Clark said: "Mr Grech and I have had preliminary discussions about performances in Malta. It's especially interesting because Malta has particular relevance to Lockerbie, an angle that the play examines."

He said he hoped performances of the play, both in Scotland and in Malta, would boost calls for an independent public inquiry into the prosecution of the case.

And Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the attack, said: "I welcome the play as it tries to shed light on what happened when the investigation went off the rails."

[What follows is the full text of a press release from Tryst Theatre:]

A Maltese theatre director has expressed an interest in staging a new play by a Scottish writer about the Lockerbie bombing.

Malta-based Herman Grech is in discussions with writer Alan Clark about presenting The Lockerbie Bomber in Valletta later this year.

The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie killed 270 people and was the worst terrorist atrocity in the UK. Now, for the first time, the horrific tragedy has been brought to the stage in this new work which attempts to lift the veil of secrecy thrown over the bombing by successive Governments and security services.

Mr Grech, who is also Head of Media at The Times of Malta, said: "The play struck me because it recalls the bombing of the aircraft in its vivid, horrific detail. But most of all, the script challenges the audience into thinking whether, beyond the odd newspaper headline, this could have been one of the grossest miscarriages of justice of our times.

“I have also found it ironic that while the Maltese government has maintained that the bomb never departed from the island's airport, it has remained reluctant to challenge the accusations against Megrahi." [RB: An article on Lockerbie and Malta by Herman Grech can be read here.]

Alan Clark said: “Mr Grech and I have had preliminary discussions about performances in Malta. It’s especially interesting because Malta has particular relevance to Lockerbie, an angle that the play examines.

“The Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci identified Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity, as resembling the man who bought clothes in his shop. Megrahi was at Malta’s Luqa Airport on the day of the bombing. It’s alleged the bomb was put on a feeder flight at Luqa which went to Frankfurt and then to London Heathrow before detonating over Lockerbie. Following the bombing, a small fragment of printed circuit board was found embedded in a scrap of the Maltese clothing. After Megrahi was convicted, Tony Gauci and his brother were paid an alleged $3m for their evidence by the US Department of Justice ‘Rewards for Justice’ programme. So Malta is absolutely central to the case.”

Clark continued: “It’s worth pointing out that the trial judges had problems with how the suitcase containing the bomb got loaded at Malta. In their determination, they said: ‘The absence of an explanation as to how the suitcase was taken into the system at Luqa is a major difficulty for the Crown case but after taking full account of that difficulty, we remain of the view that the primary suitcase began its journey at Luqa.’”

He added: “Since then, compelling new evidence has come to light that the verdict was terribly flawed – the Heathrow break-in, the bomb timer fragment, the view of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that there were six separate grounds where there may have been a miscarriage of justice. So it seems to me the only way the matter can be satisfactorily resolved is by having an independent public inquiry, not into Lockerbie itself, but specifically into the prosecution of the case – as allegations of evidence fabricated and evidence withheld continue to be made.

“I hope performances of the play, both here and in Malta, help us move towards such an inquiry.”

The play has been seen and welcomed by members of the Justice for Megrahi group. Founded in November 2008, the campaign maintains that the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing was a miscarriage of justice.

One of its members is former Police Superintendent Iain McKie who was at the premiere. “This is a challenging and thought-provoking play that brings the human suffering and political chicanery behind the tragedy of Lockerbie to vivid and dramatic life. It should be required viewing for every Scot as a reminder of a disaster that has become an indelible stain on the reputation ofScotland and its justice system."

And Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the attack, commented: “I welcome the play as it tries to shed light on what happened when the investigation went off the rails. I believe Megrahi was wrongly identified.”

Tryst Theatre is staging The Lockerbie Bomber in Alloa’s Alman Theatre from January 17-19 at 8pm. Call the Box Office on 07929 561 311 for tickets.


[This story features on the website of the Maltese newspaper The Independent, but not, strangely enough given Mr Grech's links, on that of The Times of Malta.]

3 comments:

SM said...

Mr Grech:

“I have also found it ironic that while the Maltese government has maintained that the bomb never departed from the island's airport, it has remained reluctant to challenge the accusations against Megrahi."

Well, ironic maybe, but certainly not surprising. Most governments are like small schoolboys sitting in a classroom where a strict teacher in a star-spangled shirt sits with a cane ready on his table. You can get away with saying "It wasn't me, Sir", but saying "You have got it all wrong!" is risky business.

Dave said...

Malta survived WWII and was awarded the George Cross.

If they challenged Megrahi’s conviction they would incite another siege and deserve the Victoria Cross, because sadly these are mostly awarded posthumously.

pete said...

Nice one, Dave!