1. From an item posted on this blog on 29 November 2009:
British MPs, activist say Malta should defend itself on Lockerbie case
[This is the headline over an article by Caroline Muscat in today's edition of the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times. It reads in part:]
Two former British Labour and Conservative MPs have joined American political activist Noam Chomsky in calling on the Maltese government to defend the country's reputation.
Prof Chomsky and the British MPs are signatories to a letter sent to the government calling on Malta to support a demand for an inquiry by the UN General Assembly into the 1988 Pan Am bombing that claimed 270 lives.
The letter sent by the Justice for Megrahi campaign, which includes relatives of the victims in the bombing, is also signed by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for 43 years, and Teddy Taylor, MP for the Conservatives for 36 years, said they had doubts about the original verdict. They said if the Maltese government supported a UN inquiry, then it could clear the country's name and help the families of the victims establish the truth.
Prof Chomsky described the events surrounding the case of the convicted bomber Abdelbasset Al Megrahi as "a remarkable illustration of the conformism and obedience of intellectual opinion in the West".
He told The Sunday Times: "I think the trial was very seriously flawed, including crucially the alleged role of Malta. There is every reason to call for a very serious independent inquiry." (...)
The original conviction of Mr Al Megrahi had relied heavily on the testimony of Tony Gauci, the owner of a shop in Sliema who said the Libyan had bought clothes from his shop that were later found wrapped around the bomb.
But it has since emerged that Al Megrahi's defence team had argued in the recent appeal that the Maltese witness was paid "in excess of $2 million", while his brother Paul Gauci was paid "in excess of $1 million" for their co-operation. Neither has ever denied receiving payment.
The former British Conservative MP referred to Mr Gauci's testimony when speaking to The Sunday Times. He said if "our friends in Malta" were willing to pursue the issue at the UN and seek the truth that may have been flawed by "a statement of a resident of Malta who appears to have benefited enormously from his identification and who then moved to Australia", then the government would help relatives of the victims, and itself.
Mr Taylor recalled Malta's role in the Second World War, saying "British people my age have a very special regard for Malta as a centre of brave and trustworthy people who were willing to stand firm against fascism".
Mr Dalyell said: "I have believed since 1991 that the Crown Office in Edinburgh should have respected the stated view of the Maltese government, Air Malta, Luqa airport authorities and the Malta police that no unaccounted for luggage, let alone a bomb, was placed on the flight."
Although Malta has always denied any involvement in the act, it remains implicated by the government's refusal to take up the cause.
When Mr Gauci said in the original trial that he believed Mr Al Megrahi purchased clothes from his shop, it provided the prosecution with grounds to argue that the bomb had left from Malta and then transferred to the fateful flight.
Malta had provided ample evidence to support its contention that there was no unaccompanied luggage on Air Malta flight KM180 on December 21, 1988. But Malta's defence was trumped by Mr Gauci's testimony.
2. From an item posted on this blog on 29 November 2013:
Maltese minister believes Megrahi innocent
[This is the headline over a report by Lucy Adams in today’s edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]
The Foreign Minister of Malta has revealed that he does not believe the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was responsible.
George Vella made the comment about Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who was found guilty over the tragedy which took place 25 years ago.
The claim is the most direct by a serving minister about the controversial conviction, based around the evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper and his brother.
Speaking on Times Talk television programme in Malta, Dr Vella said the government did not intend to point fingers at one country or other, but in view of the evidence that was emerging, he personally felt that the case needed to be heard once more before new judges in the interests of justice, not least that of Megrahi, who died last year.
Malta had good relations with the countries involved in the case, including the US and the UK but it has also just signed a memo-randum of understanding with Libya to agree preferential rates for oil and gas, once the country is back on its feet.
According to The Times of Malta, Dr Vella said his personal belief was that the bomb which downed the Pan Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie was a revenge attack after an Iranian passenger aircraft was shot down by a US warship in 1988.
Earlier in the programme, lawyer Dr Giannella de Marco said there was never any evidence to back the claim that the Lockerbie bomb was loaded on an Air Malta flight from Malta to Frankfurt and then to London for the Pan Am 103 flight because all luggage on the Air Malta aircraft in question had been accounted for and there were no unaccompanied bags.
Dr Vella agreed and said that once there was no evidence that the bomb started its journey in Malta, one could never find Malta-based Megrahi guilty. Nor did it make sense that of two accused, one was convicted and the other Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was acquitted. With regard to reward money promised to Tony and Paul Gauci for their evidence in the Lockerbie trial, Dr Vella said that at no stage did the Gauci brothers actually request money.
However, Dr de Marco said there was evidence that the statements by the Gaucis changed several times, there was talk of reward money and money was given. Tony Gauci gave several versions of his description of Megrahi. He said one could not depend on a person who was inconsistent and was paid at the end of his evidence.
Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the tragedy, has repeatedly said that the type of bomb used could not have been loaded on an aircraft from Malta or Frankfurt as it would have exploded earlier.
Dr Vella, whose comments were broadcast earlier this week, is favourite to be named President of the Republic when Dr George Abela's term expires in April. [RB: Dr Vella remains Malta’s Foreign Minister. The president is currently Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.] His comments on Lockerbie were broadcast earlier this week.
Professor Robert Black, emeritus professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, said: "For a foreign minister to say that the verdict of a court of a friendly foreign country is wrong, is almost an unprecedented event. It is highly significant that the Foreign Minister of Malta has said this."