Wednesday 25 November 2020

Lockerbie: court 'should have been told witness wanted payment'

[This is the headline over a report on the website of The Guardian on the second day of the Megrahi appeal. It reads in part:]

The court that convicted a Libyan intelligence officer for the Lockerbie bombing should have been told a key witness wanted payment for his testimony, appeal judges have been told.

Gordon Jackson QC, part of the legal team acting for the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, said there was clear evidence that the witness Tony Gauci was interested in compensation for giving evidence, and frustrated none had emerged.

Jackson said the prosecution had an obligation to reveal that to the trial court, which convicted Megrahi of killing 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie in south-west Scotland in December 1988.

Instead, the relevant Scottish police interviews with Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper whose testimony convicted Megrahi, were not given to the court or the Libyan’s defence team. The undisclosed papers “showed a very clear pattern” where Gauci “had a strong motivation of a financial nature,” Jackson said.

Jackson, (...) said the defence could have aggressively pursued this with Gauci when he gave evidence, challenging his credibility.

“The information in those documents would’ve given them the basis to attack that credibility,” he told a panel of five Scottish appeal judges, headed by Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, the lord justice general.

It later emerged Gauci and his brother were paid $3m by the US government after he gave evidence – a deal not disclosed until after the trial. (...)

The case was returned to court earlier this year after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body, decided there were grounds for believing Megrahi’s conviction was unsafe.

It said there were significant issues with the trial court’s judgment about Gauci’s testimony, and the failure to disclose evidence.

On Friday, Carloway ruled that some of that undisclosed evidence, involving allegations from the Jordanians linking a Palestinian terrorist group to the attack, must remain secret.

Speaking earlier, Claire Mitchell QC, another lawyer for Megrahi’s family, represented by the Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, said the trial court had also been wrong to allow Gauci to identify Megrahi from the witness stand because Gauci had previously seen prejudicial press articles claiming Megrahi was guilty.

Ronnie Clancy QC, acting for the Scottish and UK governments, said the trial judges had acted properly and fairly in convicting Megrahi. “The crown’s position is that the appellant can’t meet the statutory test of showing no reasonable jury, properly instructed, could have convicted Mr Megrahi,” he told the court.

“On the contrary, the trial court were fully entitled to make the findings which they set out in their opinion and were fully entitled to conclude Mr Megrahi was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.” In fact, Clancy said, at times they erred in Megrahi’s favour when they weighed up the evidence.

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