Lockerbie retrial demand over new evidence
MURDO MACLEOD
THE Lockerbie bombing conviction seems certain to be sent back to the appeal court after it emerged Scottish prosecutors suppressed "absolutely crucial" German police evidence at the trial, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The evidence - papers suggesting a key prosecution witness was implicated in the mass murder - will form part of an official report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).

The results of the German inquiry were passed to the Crown Office in Edinburgh years before the 2000 trial and translated into English at considerable public expense.
But lawyers for Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan serving life for the atrocity, were refused access to the documents by the Crown Office before the historic case opened in Holland.
Scotland on Sunday has established that the defence was forced to obtain the papers direct from the German prosecutors just before Megrahi's trial but did not have the time or money to translate them.
The papers could, it is claimed, have transformed the outcome of the case. German investigators established that a Palestinian terrorist called Abo Talb, funded by Iran, could have placed the bomb on board Pan Am flight 103. They also established that the Iranian government paid millions of dollars into a Swiss bank account belonging to one of Talb's colleagues two days after the Lockerbie bombing.
However, Talb was produced at the trial as a vital witness for the prosecution, in return for lifetime immunity from prosecution. Defence sources claim this provided the motive for the Crown to suppress the German evidence.
The Lockerbie disaster, on December 21, 1988, claimed the lives of 270 people in the aircraft and on the ground. Megrahi was found guilty in January 2001 after a three-month trial at Camp Zeist and his appeal dismissed the following year.
But a team of lawyers and investigators has continued working on the case. The SCCRC is due to complete a report on Megrahi's conviction early next year.
Sources close to the SCCRC have admitted that vital new evidence is contained in its report and concede it is almost certain it will order a fresh appeal. One source confirmed: "The documents are absolutely crucial. They would have proved very useful to the defence at the trial."
If, as expected, the case is referred back, it could result in the original decision being upheld, a retrial or even Megrahi's conviction being quashed.
Meanwhile, the Libyan's defence team is understood to be furious at the failure of the Crown to comply with standard trial procedure. A source close to the defence said: "The Crown refused to hand over these vital documents. That is unacceptable and a complete breach of all the rules about 'equality of arms' and disclosure and a fair trial."
Jim Swire, spokesman for the Lockerbie families, said: "We have always believed that the man in jail for the bombing should not be there. This seems to be a very important step in proving that and getting justice for the victims of the bombing."
Tony Kelly, Megrahi's lawyer, said: "This case is being dealt with by the SCCRC, and we await its findings. Out of deference to it, I cannot comment on any aspect of the case."
No one from SCCRC was available and the Crown Office refused to comment.
A spokesman for the German federal police service confirmed it had carried out a number of investigations that were linked to the Lockerbie affair.

Lockerbie crash timeline

Friday, September 12, 2003 Posted: 11:40 AM EDT (1540 GMT)

Pan Am 103 cockpit

December 1988: Pan Am 103 crashed 38 minutes after takeoff.



(CNN) -- It is more than 15 years since the Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on the airliner and 11 on the ground. The bombing prompted a massive international investigation, a trial, diplomatic sanctions and a protracted compensation claim.

September 12, 2003 U.N. Security Council votes 13-0 with two abstentions to lift sanctions against Libya, clearing the way for families to receive at least $4 million in compensation for each victim of the Lockerbie bombing.

August 14, 2003 Lawyers for Libya and for victims' families decide on the framework for $2.7 billion in compensation, a step which could end sanctions on Libya. The deal would amount to $10 million per family.

May 29, 2002 Libya offers $2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of Lockerbie victims, with payments tied to the lifting of U.S. and U.N. sanctions, according to lawyers for some of the claimants.

March 14, 2002 Libyan Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi loses his appeal against his murder conviction over the Lockerbie bombing. (Al-Megrahi profile)

January 31, 2001 After a trial lasting nearly nine months and held under Scottish law at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Al-Megrahi is found guilty of murder and jailed for 20 years. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, also Libyan, is found not guilty. (Fhimah profile, Full verdict)

January 10, 2001 Prosecutors present their closing argument in the case against the two defendants after calling 232 witnesses. Defense closing arguments follow, after lawyers for the pair call only three witnesses.

January 9, 2001 Prosecutors drop the lesser charges of conspiracy and endangering aircraft safety against the defendants and ask the court to only consider the murder charges.

May 3, 2000 The trial of Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah begins at Camp Zeist.

March 25, 2000 U.S. State Department officials visit Libya to assess whether it is safe to lift a ban on U.S. citizens traveling there.

March 7, 2000 A Scottish judge rules that British and American broadcasters cannot televise the Lockerbie trial.

December 7, 1999 Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah make their first appearance at a two-day pre-trial hearing at Camp Zeist.

June 11, 1999 U.S. and Libyan representatives meet for the first time in 18 years to discuss lifting U.N. sanctions.

July 7, 1999 British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announces an agreement to resume diplomatic ties with Libya after a 15-year break caused by the fatal shooting of London police officer Yvonne Fletcher during a demonstration against Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi.

April 5, 1999 U.N. Security Council suspends air and arms sanctions against Libya after the bombing suspects are taken into U.N. custody.

April 5, 1999 Libya hands over the suspects to the U.N. They are taken to the Netherlands to stand trial.

December 16, 1998 Libyan People's Congress agrees to the proposal to try the Lockerbie bombing suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

December 15, 1998 U.S. Appeals Court rules that relatives of the 189 Americans killed in the bombing can sue Libya for its possible role in sponsoring the attack.

December 5, 1998 U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan meets Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to urge Libya to hand over the bombing suspects.

August 24, 1998 Britain and the United States propose trying the suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

March 1994 Libya says it will consider a proposal to try the suspects in a neutral site with a panel of international judges. Britain and the U.S. reject the plan, insisting the pair be tried in a British or American court.

November 11, 1993 The U.N. Security Council extends and tightens sanctions against Libya.

April 15, 1992 The U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on air travel and arms sales to Libya, over Libya's refusal to hand the suspects over for trial in a Scottish court.

November 13, 1991 U.S. and British investigators indict Libyans Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah on 270 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder and violating Britain's 1982 Aviation Security Act. The men were accused of being Libyan intelligence agents.

July 1990 The British Civil Aviation Authority's Air Investigation Branch says an explosive device caused the crash of Pan Am Flight 103.

December 21, 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 explodes 31,000 feet (9,540 meters) over Lockerbie, Scotland, 38 minutes after takeoff from London. The 259 people on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 are killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

  

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