[What follows is the text of a press release issued today by Aamer Anwar, head of the Lockerbie Defence Legal Team:]
We reject Lord Advocate’s claims over ‘Lockerbie Bomber’
On the eve of the anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, Scotland’s Lord Advocate has once again rejected claims that Mr Megrahi could be innocent stating that:
“During the 26 year long inquiry not one Crown Office investigator or prosecutor has raised a concern about the evidence in this case. We remain committed to this investigation and our focus remains on the evidence and not speculation and supposition. Our prosecutors and police officers, working with UK government and US colleagues, will continue to pursue this investigation, with the sole aim of bringing to justice those who acted along with al-Megrahi.”
When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, 270 people from 21 countries perished. It remains the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the UK.
But the trial of the “Lockerbie Bomber” remains the UK’s worst miscarriage of justice, whose consequences are still being felt 26 years later whilst the truth remains elusive.
The Lord Advocate’s speech in Washington makes for great sound bites with an American audience but lacks analysis of the essential facts.
In June 2014 we lodged an application with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) seeking to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for murder. That has absolutely nothing to do with conspiracy theories but is based on a solid assessment of the ‘so called evidence’ against Mr Al-Megrahi.
It is claimed that the Crown Office and Police Scotland have carried out a review of the evidence used to convict Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi which ‘confirms beyond doubt that he was responsible for the killings.’
Such reviews repeat an ‘age old mantra’ of the Crown never doubting the safety of the conviction. It would be better to place such reviews in context, despite many miscarriages of justice over the years it is noticeable that prosecutors have never accepted that they have made mistakes, so why would it be any different now?
The application to the SCCRC was submitted on behalf of :-
i) Six immediate family members of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
ii) Dr Jim Swire, Rev’d John F Mosey and 24 other British relatives of passengers who died on board Pan Am Flight 103.
An essential fact missing from the Lord Advocate’s speech is that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) had already determined on the 28th June 2007 that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice in relation to his conviction and identified six grounds for referring the case to the High Court.
The Chairman of the SCCRC Graham Forbes at the time said:
“The Commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.”
Following Mr Al-Megrahi’s death and our subsequent instructions for a posthumous appeal we have asked the Commission to reconfirm these six grounds.
We have also requested that the Commission consider referring the case:-
i) On the ground of the Crown’s non-disclosure to the defence of evidence relating to the difference in metallurgical composition between the fragment of circuit board PT35b and the circuit boards in the timers supplied by MEBO to Libya. New evidence claims that the fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, “discovered” in the Scottish countryside could not have been responsible for the bombing.
ii) On the ground of the evidence uncovered which demonstrates that the bomb suitcase was already in Pan Am 103 luggage container AVE4041 before the feeder flight from Frankfurt arrived at Heathrow with, as the Crown contended and the trial court accepted, a suitcase from Malta which contained the bomb. It was submitted that there is evidence which will show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft.
iii) New evidence claims the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was ‘transferred’ through two airports undetected to Pan Am Flight 103.
iv) There is a multitude of serious question marks over material evidence, and most worryingly, allegations of the Crown’s non-disclosure of evidence which could have been key to the defence.
v) Mr Megrahi was convicted on the word of a Maltese shop owner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and failed to even recognise him in the courtroom.
Documents have claimed that Scottish police officers and FBI agents had discussed as early as September 1989 ‘an offer of unlimited money’ to the Maltese shop keeper Tony Gauci.
Gauci was central to Megrahi’s conviction because the clothes recovered from the suitcase that carried the bomb onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, bound for New York, were traced back to his shop.
Various reports have claimed that Tony Gauci received more than $2m and his brother more than $1m in reward money.
This completely contradicted guarantees given by Richard Marquise, of the FBI who led the US wing of the Lockerbie investigation- ‘no witness in this case was ever promised or paid any money in return for their testimony’.
I would submit that if it is unacceptable to offer bribes, inducements or rewards to any witness in a routine murder trial in Glasgow then it should have been unacceptable to have done it in the biggest case of mass murder ever carried out in Europe.
What is unusual about our application is that this is the first time in legal history in the UK that relatives of murdered victims have united with the relatives of a ‘convicted’ deceased to seek justice by means of a referral to the Appeal Court.
The case of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi is described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history for a reason. A reversal of the verdict would mean that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom stand exposed as having lived a monumental lie for 26 years, by imprisoning a man they knew to be innocent.
The Appeal was commenced but following the diagnosis of terminal cancer it was suddenly abandoned in 2009. The application we lodged with the SCCRC deals with the circumstances that led to Mr Megrahi abandoning his appeal.
To date both the British Government and Scottish Government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release.
The Governments in England and Scotland stand accused of effectively blackmailing a dying man into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release, and the backdrop to all of this was ‘strategic oil interests’.
The reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system has suffered badly both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the justifiability of the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.
It is in the interests of justice and of restoring confidence in our criminal justice system and its administration that these doubts be addressed.
The Lord Advocate was right when he said that the only place to determine guilt or innocence was in a court of law, where the evidence could be subjected to “great scrutiny, cross examination and testing”.
That is exactly what we intend to do if the SCCRC as a result of our application refers the original conviction back to the Court of Appeal believing that there may have been a miscarriage of justice.
END OF STATEMENT BY SOLICITOR AAMER ANWAR
STATEMENT BY DR JIM SWIRE FATHER OF FLORA SWIRE
“It has always been and remains my intent to see those responsible for her death brought to justice. So by 1990 I was appalled by what I already knew concerning what appeared to me to be the betrayal of the trust which we should be able to place in our Government to protect us.
For me this case is about two families, mine and Abdel Baset’s, but behind them now are seen to lie the needs of 25 other families in applying for a further appeal 26 years after the event itself.
We need the truth and Scotland’s management of this case produced a verdict perfectly tailored for use by those who would seek to ensure that the full truth remains hidden.”