Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Megrahi judgment 'full of mistakes'

[This is the headline over a report published in The Herald on this date in 2002. It reads as follows:]

The 82-page judgment that convicted Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi of the Lockerbie bombing is riddled with errors both great and small, the Libyan's counsel claimed yesterday.

William Taylor, QC, told five appeal judges at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands: ''Some of these errors are by themselves gross enough to entitle this court to hold that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.''

Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield, and MacLean jailed Megrahi for life last January after concluding that the evidence against him fitted together to form a ''real and convincing pattern'', but yesterday Mr Taylor used words such as ''flimsy'' and ''unbalanced'' to attack the judges' reasoning.

He accepted that one simple error might not have the effect of causing the appeal court to accept that a miscarriage of justice had taken place, but the combination of a series of errors could persuade the judges there had been a wrongful conviction.

He concentrated his attack yesterday on the way the trial judges dealt with the evidence of Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper whose testimony was instrumental in convicting Megrahi.

The judges decided Megrahi was the man who bought clothes from Mr Gauci's shop in Sliema on December 7, 1988, two weeks before the Lockerbie bombing, and Mr Taylor argued that the date of purchase was crucial to his client's conviction.

He has already told the appeal judges that unless the sale of the clothes - later packed in the suitcase containing the Lockerbie bomb - could be pinpointed to December 7 the purchaser could not have been Megrahi.

One of the factors used by the trial judges to pick December 7 as the purchase date was Mr Gauci's evidence about whether Christmas decorations were up in Sliema at the time the clothes were bought from his shop.

Asked about Christmas decorations at the trial, Mr Gauci replied: ''I wouldn't know exactly, but I haven't really noticed these things, but I remember, yes there were Christmas lights. They were on already. I'm sure. I can't say exactly.''

Mr Taylor told the appeal court: ''Gauci gave conflicting evidence in the trial about whether or not Christmas decorations were up or in the process of being up. In a statement to the police he had said that no Christmas decorations were up at the time of the sale.

''There are therefore three self-contradictory positions adopted by Gauci on the matter and the court has ignored the difficulty that Gauci told police in September 1989 that there were no decorations up at the time of the sale.

''It is surprising that the court felt able to reach any conclusion at all on the issue of being able to fix the date of purchase by reference to Christmas decorations.

''The court has preferred one version of Gauci's evidence over others in relation to whether decorations were being put up and has ignored an important contradiction in his evidence in order to reach a conclusion.

''The court attempted to reach a conclusion in the face of contradictory evidence which the court failed to explain away. This was a material misdirection adverse to Megrahi.

''It was at the forefront of the defence submissions that Gauci's reliability was undermined by inconsistencies in his evidence. It is Megrahi's contention that the court misdirected itself as to the date on which the purchase (of the clothes) took place.''

Mr Taylor also attacked the court's finding that Mr Gauci's ''qualified identification'' of Megrahi as the clothes buyer was reliable ''so far as it went''.

He pointed out that descriptions of the buyer given by Mr Gauci to the police less than a year after Lockerbie were ''radically different'' in terms of height, age, and skin colour from his later identification in court and at an identification parade at Camp Zeist in 1999 of Megrahi as resembling the purchaser.

He attacked Mr Gauci's identification of Megrahi as ''inherently suspect and flawed''.   

The hearing continues.


    Dear Professor Robert Black

    It was expected that the report „Operation Sandwood“ by Scottish Police would be published before christmas.
    Is the report due in January or February or even later ?
    What do you feel or know about it?
    Additionaly Jim Swire told me last year in London that the case (legal complaint) against officials (police a.o) would be opened before end of 2015. What is the latest status to this legal move?
    Would appreciate very much hearing from you.

    Best regards
    Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage: www.lockerbie.ch

    1. The Operation Sandwood report is expected soon, but whether that means a few days or a few weeks, I do not know. Representatives of Justice for Megrahi have regular meetings with the police team and are satisfied that the investigation is a serious, committed and professional one. We have no knowledge of what the report will say and the report itself will not be a public document. JfM is pressing for the report to be submitted to an independent prosecutor not appointed by, and with no prior connection with, the Crown Office

  2. Dear Professor Robert Black
    many thanks.