Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ex-leader of Malta casts doubt on conviction of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi

[This is part of the headline over a report published today in The Times. It reads in part:]

Malta’s longest-serving prime minister has claimed it was “impossible” for the Lockerbie bomb to have left the island and suggested that a miscarriage of justice had taken place.

Eddie Fenech Adami, who led the country at the time of the atrocity 30 years ago, also raised doubts about the reliability of the witness whose evidence led to the conviction of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi.

A panel of Scottish judges heard evidence that a bomb was loaded onto Air Malta flight KM-180, which left the island for Frankfurt on December 21, 1988, before being taken to London and transferred on to Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie — with the loss of 270 lives — the next day.

Testimony by Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper, was central to linking al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, to the case and securing his conviction.

However, Mr Fenech Adami, who served as prime minister between 1987 and 1996 and from 1998 to 2004, has challenged the verdict reached by a Scottish court in the Netherlands.

He wrote in his memoirs: “The evidence against al-Megrahi purported to show he had wrapped a bomb in clothing bought from a shop in Sliema and placed it in a suitcase that made its way to Heathrow from Malta via Germany.

“We have never accepted this theory and no one has ever proved us wrong.

“My opinion is that it was technically impossible for the bomb to have taken such a complicated route. It would have been a very haphazard method of executing this act of terrorism.”

He added: “The only evidence against al-Megrahi was the testimony of Tony Gauci. I have always considered Gauci, who was paid by the Americans, to be a very unreliable witness.”

Air Malta insisted that no passengers or luggage had transferred from its Frankfurt flight to Pan Am 103. Its 1989 internal investigation concluded: “All 55 pieces of baggage have been accounted for and every one of the 39 passengers has been identified.”

Mr Gauci had described his customer as 6ft and aged about 50, while al-Megrahi was 36 and 5ft 8in. (...)

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Mr Gauci, who died in 2016, was paid £1.6 million by the FBI through its “rewards for justice” programme. [RB: It is odd to describe the reports as unconfirmed. There is no doubt that payments were made to both Tony and Paul Gauci: Lockerbie reward payouts ‘above board’.] 

Guido de Marco, Malta’s justice minister at the time of the bombing [RB: and later President of Malta], wrote before his death in 2010: “It seemed unrealistic that a timing device could have been put inside unaccompanied baggage that took such a complicated route to get on the Pan Am plane, since there was so much room for error.”

He also clashed with the UK authorities. He wrote: “I learnt that the British secret service was tapping the telephones of people in Malta without consulting the authorities. I ordered the investigating team to stop any activity in Malta.” Mr Fenech Adami is unable to comment further due to ill health.

[RB: Today's edition of The Times also contains an article by Magnus Linklater headlined Lockerbie conspiracy theories that challenge al‑Megrahi’s conviction. As an antidote to Mr Linklater's notorious hostility to any criticism of the Megrahi conviction, read this piece by John Ashton: Lockerbie, and the mangled logic of Magnus Linklater.

A further article by Magnus Linklater headlined Lockerbie bombing prosecutors close in on Libyan suspects contains the following:]  

Scottish prosecutors are closing in on two Libyans suspected of planning the Lockerbie bombing.

Using diplomatic contacts that led to an agreement to extradite the brother of the Manchester bomber, US and Scottish investigators are hopeful they will be given permission to interview Abdullah al-Senussi, said to have been the Lockerbie mastermind, and Abu Agila Mas’ud, the bomb maker.

Both are held in a Libyan prison. (...)

So far, 30 years after the terrorist attack, only one suspect, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, has been convicted for the bombing. He died in May 2012.

Some campaigners claim the conviction of al-Megrahi was a miscarriage of justice, but the Crown Office is certain that the original verdict was correct.

Inquiries by The Times have revealed that the Crown Office commissioned an independent report into allegations that there had been a deliberate plan to steer evidence away from Palestinian terrorists and towards Libya. Investigators were asked to “double and triple check” every aspect of the case.

They concluded that the original conviction was sound, and that allegations that evidence had been tampered with, or deliberately withheld could not be substantiated.

A Crown Office official said: “An independent evidence review did not find any evidence to support claims al-Megrahi, the only man jailed for the bombing, was wrongly convicted.”


  1. Mr Adami and Mr de Marco really really need to read my book. If anyone has contact details for them I'd be glad to send them copies.

  2. It's depressing to realise that even after receipt of the Sandwood report the Crown Office are still insisting the bomb came from Malta. Someone there really does have to take a long hard look at this.