Another piece in a disturbing jigsaw
The Herald (Scotland)
5 October 2007
Piece by piece, the jigsaw is slotting into place. The strength of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi's appeal is becoming apparent.
Today, The Herald sheds light on another vital part of the picture. The Crown's key witness and his brother were offered financial remuneration for their assistance.
This heaps further scorn on the credibility of a witness already in doubt. When I met Tony Gauci in Malta on various occasions, and at Camp Zeist during the trial, he came across as an honest, simple man, much afraid of those in authority and particularly the police. He seemed eager to please and the various disparities in his statements reflect that.
As the Lockerbie verdict unravels, the question remains as to why such information was not disclosed to the defence team in the first place and why we have to rely on a body such as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to gain access to it.
During the trial, senior fiscal Norman MacFadyen, now the Crown Agent, and Alan Turnbull, QC, now Lord Turnbull, visited the US embassy in the Hague to review CIA cables crucial to the Crown's case. Prior to seeing the cables, Mr MacFadyen signed a non-disclosure document which a court would now accept as contrary to an accused person's human rights.
The agreement he signed states: "I understand that the US government is providing me access to US national security information solely for the purpose of determining whether it contains any information which is exculpatory to the defendants in the case of the Lord Advocate v Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. Furthermore, I agree not to use this US national security information for lead purposes in furtherance of the Crown's case without the consent of the proper USG official."
What unfolded at the court thereafter was quite extraordinary. Colin Boyd, then Lord Advocate, told the judges the files did not contain any information advancing the defence's case.
Subsequent events suggest this may not have been entirely correct. Indeed, as a result of the information contained in these same cables, one of the charges against Fhimah, Megrahi's co-accused, was amended.
This agreement suggests members of the prosecution had agreed to be effectively gagged by the CIA. I would question whether the interests of the US government should take precedence over the right to a fair trial. It is time that serious questions are raised over the conduct of the prosecution, particularly if it continues with a refusal to hand over the "top secret" document.
As the pieces of the puzzle come together, the questions they raise are as prolific as those that they answer.
Ian Ferguson is the co-author of Cover-up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie