Friday, 24 December 2021

Peculiar reluctance to examine the whole of the available evidence

[Here are two pieces written by Dr Jim Swire to mark the thirty-third anniversary of the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie:]

Those of us who lost family members in the Pan Am 103 disaster of 21st December 1988 just want to know the truth about why the disaster happened, why our innocent families had to die, why it was not prevented and who was responsible.

33 years later we still need those answers and believe that grievous mistakes were made both before and after the blow fell. We are therefore intensely grateful to those who, like some of us, are incredulous about the conviction of a man on such evidence and prepared still to seek the truth

The extraordinary tale of a bomb allegedly transferred from the hand of the Libyan, the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in Malta depended, at his trial in Zeist, upon the evidence of a shopkeeper Toni Gauci, who thought Megrahi “looked a lot like” the man who had bought some key clothing from his shop.

Not only is it now known that Gauci was paid about $2,000,000 for giving evidence that supported the conviction of Megrahi, but from police evidence it is now known that Gauci knew before the trial had even started that serious money would be on offer.

The inducement to give evidence by offering a witness wealth beyond his dreams, if that evidence would support a conviction, sounds to me like bribery or at least an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Of course to openly accuse the US Department of Justice of such criminal behaviour was never going to add muscle to the US/UK ‘special relationship’. But it was the UN’s special observer at the Zeist trial, professor Hans K√∂chler of the IPO in Vienna who said and wrote that the proceedings there did not in his view represent a fair judicial process.

We believe that Scottish justice failed even to enforce its own rules at Zeist and that the massaging of the subsequent appeals has been a deep scandal which has allowed crucial defects, particularly in some of the forensic evidence, to remain inadequately examined in any court of law.

This dreadful business requires a full enquiry chaired and defined now by those unafraid of the power wielded by those states still awed by the historic rhetoric of the iron lady and her successors in the Anglo Saxon world.


[RB: An edited version of this second item has been published today on the website of The Herald.]

Recent evidence quoted in the press reveals that both the UK and US legal authorities were deeply nervous about the quality of the evidence of identification concerning the late Mr Abdelbaset al-Megrahi provided by Mr Tony Gauci the Maltese shopkeeper.

The Scottish police work in Malta leading to this evidence was obtained under the leadership of Harry Bell.

Harry Bell had been keeping a contemporaneous diary, which was irregular.

Giving evidence under oath in the Zeist court Mr Bell perfectly honestly revealed the existence of his diary which was at home in Glasgow.

To the astonishment of some relatives, present in that Zeist court, Mr Bell was not told to go home and get it.

Later that diary was made public.

It appears that Mr Bell knew that an offer of $10,000 ‘for his immediate needs’ was available for Mr Gauci from US Rewards for Justice [sic] funds with essentially unlimited rewards to follow. Mr Gauci is now known to have received $2,000,000.

The diary also reveals that Mr Tony Gauci and his brother were aware of and deeply interested in, the immense financial incentives. 

Wouldn’t you, dear reader, also have been?

Yet Mr Tony Gauci’s was the only supposedly genuine identification of Mr Megrahi as being involved, through the latter’s alleged buying of clothes from Gauci's shop on a certain date. 

Having failed to explore the contents of Mr Bell’s diary there in court, there seemed to some of us to be a peculiar reluctance on the part of the court to examine the whole of the available evidence. To us laymen it was almost as though Mr Megrahi’s guilt rather than innocence was a given. 

I can only agree with Professor Robert Black QC’s comment: “It is now more obvious than ever that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. An independent inquiry should be instituted into the case by the Scottish government, the UK government or both.” 

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