Pan Am 103: More Questions About Concealed Evidence
AUGUST 29, 2009, a week after Megrahi was released on health grounds, having dropped his appeal.
NOW more truth is coming out, and more questions are being asked.
A MEMBER of the Scottish parliament has demanded that the Crown Office, which is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, explain why it "witheld crucial evidence" in the case of Pan Am 103, the Lockerbie bombing.
Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame, chair of the parliament's Justice committee, asked for an explanation after the publication of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's report, giving the reasons why it concluded a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Libyan who was the only person convicted for the 1988 bombing.
The previously secret report from the SCCRC was published at the weekend by the Sunday Herald in Glasgow. In its 800 pages it reveals that the withholding of several pieces of evidence led to al-Megrahi's case being referred to appeal. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said the trial could have had a different outcome if the evidence had been available to the defense at trial.
Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a remotely detonated bomb as it flew over Scotland on December 21, 1988. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed and sections of the plane came down on Lockerbie, destroying homes and bringing the total death toll to 270.
There were reports alleging a Syrian-based group had arranged the bombing as a gift to Iran, in reprisal for the destruction of an Iranian A300 airbus on July 3, 1988 by missiles from the USS Vincennes. All 290 passengers and crew on the Iranian plane were killed, making it one of the worst ever aviation disasters. The American explanation was that the airbus, which was on its normal flight path, had been mistaken for a much smaller F14 fighter plane. The captain of the Vincennes was decorated.
With Syria's co-operation needed for the war on Iraq, US and British governments may have found the explanation of Libyan guilt for Lockerbie more convenient. At any rate, as Libyan leader Gaddafi sought better relations with the West he was persuaded to let Al-Megrahi face trial in a Scottish court, specially convened in Holland. The Libyan was convicted of murder, conspiracy to murder and violation of the Aviation Security Act in 2001, and had an unsuccessful appeal shortly after. He was due to launch another appeal, with fresh evidence, but was released on compassionate grounds in August 2009 because he was expected to succumb to terminal prostate cancer within three months. Al-Megrahi now lives in Tripoli.
There were protests from the United States, and accusations supported here that the release was linked to an oil deal. The British government insisted it was an entirely Scottish decision. But another suggestion made is that the British and American governments covertly favoured the health decision rather than face embarassment if a new appeal was successful.
In Scotland last month Lockerbie bombing victims' relatives called for a public inquiry into allegations that "vital" evidence about the bombing was suppressed. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among 270 people killed in the bombing, said the withheld evidence raised profound doubts about the conviction of Al Megrahi.
Documents given to Megrahi's defence lawyers a month before he dropped his appeal show that government scientists had found significant differences between a bomb timer fragment allegedly found after the attack and the type supplied to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's former regime, Swire said.
A new account of the bombing and Megrahi's conviction, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, published in Edinburgh on Monday, alleges that the Crown Office, the police and Ministry of Defence scientists failed to disclose numerous pieces of evidence that damaged their case against the Libyan. Speaking at the book's launch with John Moseley, a fellow campaigner, Swire, chairman of UK Families Flight 103, said there were "mountains of evidence that doesn't seem to be right and that needs to be examined".Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/03/25/Report-raises-questions-in-Lockerbie-case/UPI-31131332715847/print#ixzz1qLqgmTCW
The BBC seemed to prefer focusing on "previously secret evidence" its reporter had seen showing that Megrahi had admitted regular visits to Malta to see a woman friend, or as it quaintly put it, "mistress", which it claimed would strengthen the evidence for his prosecution. It did not say who had shown it this evidence. During the trial a Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci said he recognised Al Megrahi as the man to whom he had sold clothes which were found in a suitcase with the bomb on the Pan Am airliner. Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 'visited Malta for sex', by Reevel Anderson, March 5.
But this revelation is likely to be eclipsed now by the official report released in Scotland and the questions that are being raised.
The Crown Office, which is headed by Her Majesty's Lord Advocate, assisted by the Solicitor General for Scotland, is responsible for criminal prosecutions.
Among the issues dealt with in the SCCRC report is a claim that material vital to the defence was not disclosed to them by the Crown Office. The material relates to cables provided by the CIA in connection with key Crown witness Abdul Majid Giaka, who it was later disclosed was salaried by the CIA.
"There are allegations in the report that the Crown Office withheld crucial evidence that might have been substantive evidence to assist the defence Where we have an allegation, I would wish the Crown to be able to establish that this is unfounded," says Christine Grahame MSP.
CHRISTINE GRAHAME, MSP
"The reason the Lord Advocate had no control over the documents was that [Crown Agent] Norman McFadyen had signed a non-disclosure agreement before viewing them.
"According to Mr Ashton, the Crown had “secretly, ceded to the CIA the right to determine what information should, or should not, be disclosed in a Scottish Court”."