Lockerbie verdict falls apart

An explosive report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, published online by Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald after five years of secrecy, shows that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi would probably have walked free if allowed to make a second appeal.

Al Megrahi dropped his second appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie Bombing when the Scottish government let him go home on compassionate grounds. Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of planting a bomb on a Pan Am flight that exploded over Lockerbie, killing 270 people.

The SCCRC's review of the evidence suggests he should never have been in prison. Their conclusion states:

"The Commission has also considered, notwithstanding its conclusion that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, whether the entirety of the evidence considered by it points irrefutably to the applicant's guilt. The commission's conclusion is that it does not."

The two key pieces of evidence that put Al Megrahi in jail have fallen apart.

First, claim that al Megrahi bought clothes from Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper, that were later found in a suitcase on the Pan Am flight.

The SCCRC found evidence, not disclosed to the defence, that Gauci was paid $3m by the US Justice Department in advance of giving identification evidence, and that he had a magazine photograph of Al Megrahi for months before picking him out of an ID parade. It is also clear that Al Megrahi could not have purchased the clothes on the date claimed.

Second, a part of a detonator that was claimed to have been one of a batch exported to Libya, was in fact a different type of detonator altogether and not one of the Libyan imports.

Finally the SCCRC was also concerned about the contents of certain CIA cables, whose contents have still not been disclosed.

It was the Crown Office that told the SCCRC that it would be liable to prosecution if it published its own report, under Data Protection Legislation. The Sunday Herald went ahead anyway, claiming the Data Protection Act does not apply, as publication is in the public interest.

The Crown Office claimed yesterday that it was confident it would have succeeded in having the second appeal denied, if it had gone ahead, and Colin (now Lord) Boyd QC who led the prosecution team denies having kept crucial evidence from the defence.

26 March 2012

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