Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Malta is long overdue for an apology

[What follows is excerpted from an article published in Malta Today on this date in 2009:]

Dr [Jim] Swire, known for his involvement in the aftermath of the 1988 Pan-Am airline bombing in which his daughter Flora was killed, has spoken to MaltaToday and reiterated his belief that the bomb that exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270, did not leave from Malta.

Reacting to (...)  the doubts concerning key witness Tony Gauci’s testimony against Libyan convict Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, Swire said Malta was “long overdue for exoneration and an apology… I do not believe the bomb that killed my daughter started from there, nor do many others.”

Swire is also a founder member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign which seeks interim release from jail for Megrahi, who has been diagnosed with metastasized prostatic cancer and is terminally ill, so that he can return to his family in Scotland pending his second appeal against conviction.

Swire told MaltaToday that at the trial in the Netherlands, which found Megrahi guilty and convicted him to 27 years’ imprisonment for placing the bomb in the luggage that was found in Pan-Am Flight 103, “there was simply no evidence as to how Megrahi might have penetrated security at Luqa to put the bomb aboard.”

Megrahi, a former Libyan Arab Airlines security official in Malta, was claimed to have bought clothes from Mary’s Shop in Sliema, which were later found wrapped around the bomb. Shopkeeper Tony Gauci was crucial in identifying Megrahi as the man who bought the clothes from him just before Christmas 1988.

But Swire told MaltaToday that Air Malta had kept “exemplary records” of their flight KM180 which showed that all the bags carried belonged to the passengers and that all were returned to their owners, with none left over, at Frankfurt – where the bomb was loaded onto the Pan Am flight.

“Although Air Malta did force a British TV company to withdraw its allegations that they carried the bomb, I am surprised that neither they nor your government seem to have demanded an explanation for the concealment of evidence from Heathrow, until after the verdict implicating Luqa had been reached. The information only surfaced in Holland in 2000 thanks to the perseverance of the Heathrow security guard who had discovered the break-in,” Swire says.

“The judges were reduced to saying of how Megrahi was supposed to have penetrated security at Luqa and that the absence of evidence was ‘a major problem for the prosecution case’.

“They could surely never have achieved this extraordinary verdict, had they known all the facts.”

On the hand, Swire says the bomb was placed inside the luggage at Heathrow airport.

“In the early hours of the day of the disaster at Heathrow airport, London, there was a break-in allowing access for an unidentified person to the ‘secure’ airside portion of the airport, close to the Iran Air facility and to the baggage assembly shed. In that shed, inside the container in which the explosion was later shown to have occurred, was seen an unauthorised suitcase, which was not removed. It was seen well before the flight from Frankfurt had even landed.

“The most sinister aspect of this information about the break-in at Heathrow is that it was concealed for 12 years, until after the verdict had been reached, yet it was known to our anti-terrorist special branch, and fully recorded in the Heathrow security logbooks.

“A verdict has been brought in, dependent upon activities at Luqa for which there is no evidence, while the information about a probably highly relevant criminal act at Heathrow has been deliberately suppressed. What we need to know now is on whose orders the concealment was carried out and why they ordered it,” Swire said.

Lockerbie appeal
A three-year investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission into whether Megrahi suffered a miscarriage of justice has sent his case back into appeal, with the Libyan’s lawyers claiming there is now substantial evidence undermining the credibility of Tony Gauci’s testimony.

Last week, Megrahi’s lawyers announced that their new evidence showed Gauci had been “coached and steered by Scottish detectives” into wrongly identifying the Libyan, claiming Gauci was interviewed 23 times by Scottish police before giving the evidence that finally led to the conviction for the bombing.

Megrahi’s lawyers will claim that in nearly two dozen formal police interviews, Gauci gave contradictory dates of purchase, changed his account of the sale, and on one occasion appeared to identify the Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Talb as the purchaser.

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