[What follows is excerpted from an article published in The Observer on this date in 2007:]
The case of the only man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, Britain's biggest terrorist outrage that killed 270 people, could be reopened after fresh evidence that his conviction was based on unreliable evidence.
If the appeal is successful, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi could walk free.
Senior legal and intelligence officials have told The Observer that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission will conclude that the conviction of al-Megrahi is unsafe and that he may have been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.
The commission's verdict follows a three-year inquiry that examined new evidence submitted by Megrahi's legal team. They registered concern over the testimony of expert witnesses, contradictory forensic evidence and vital material not aired at the trial.
They say in their 500-page report that the new evidence casts reasonable doubt on the verdict that Megrahi was responsible for the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 four days before Christmas 1988.
Sources close to the commission, an independent body made up of senior police and legal figures set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice, said 'hundreds' of inconsistencies have been uncovered in the crown's case. Megrahi, 54, received a life sentence in 2001 for plotting and carrying out what was then the world's worst terrorist atrocity following a trial costing £80m at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. Megrahi has always insisted he was innocent. The development suggests that the perpetrators responsible for blowing up the airliner over Lockerbie might remain free almost 20 years after the attack.
The commission will refer the case to the High Court in Edinburgh on appeal in 10 days' time, where it is expected that the conviction will either be quashed or that Megrahi could face a retrial. Although the court has the power to uphold Megrahi's conviction, sources believe the weight of evidence examined by the commission suggest this is unlikely.
Major concerns with the crown's case include:
· Credibility of the key forensic scientists used by the prosecution during Megrahi's trial.
· Inconsistencies of statements made by the Maltese shopkeeper who allegedly sold Megrahi clothes found scattered around Lockerbie.
· New evidence not presented at the trial pointed away from Libyan involvement and towards Palestinian terrorists as those responsible for the atrocity.
Megrahi has served seven years in British custody. During sentencing he was told he must serve at least 27 years before being considered for release.
Politically the ramifications of the commission's decision are enormous, posing questions for both British investigators and the Scottish judicial system. In addition, the decision will add succour to the theories that Megrahi was framed for a crime he never committed.
Named in a 400-page report of evidence collated by Megrahi's seven-strong legal team are those suspected of carrying out the attack. Among them is Mohammed Abu Talb, a convicted Palestinian terrorist and initial suspect for the Lockerbie bombing. He was a member of the Syrian-led Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, a terrorist group backed by Iranian funding. The claims will raise the political stakes at a sensitive time in relations between the West and Iran.
Following Megrahi's trial, a number of legal observers expressed unease over the 'circumstantial' nature of the case against the Libyan intelligence officer.
A legal source who has seen the evidence collated by Megrahi's team said: 'The case was flaky and you only had to shake it a bit for it to start falling apart. A steamroller has been taken to it'.