Defence to Introduce New Evidence in Lockerbie Appeal
Lawyers for Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali Al Megrahi, who is appealing against a life sentence for masterminding the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, sought on Monday to introduce evidence not heard Megrahi's trial.
Defence lawyer William Taylor told the panel of five judges presiding over a preliminary appeals hearing he would introduce fresh evidence from a "security officer,” reported AFP.
The unnamed officer went to the police around the time of the Lockerbie disaster in late 1988 but his evidence was not brought up at Megrahi's trial, Taylor said.
Megrahi, 49, was convicted in January 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in southwestern Scotland. The plane exploded in a fireball over the small town on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.
Although Taylor did not name the new witness, AFP says it is believed he was referring to Ray Manly, a security guard at London's Heathrow airport. Manly told Britain's Mirror newspaper in September that the Pan Am flight's baggage area had been broken into on December 21, 1988, around 17 hours before flight 103 left for New York.
His evidence could indicate that the bomb which blew up the Boeing 747 was sneaked on board in London. Manly told the police of the break-in and was questioned by investigating officers in early 1989 but the evidence was lost and never appeared in court, the Mirror said.
If confirmed, the newspaper report would destroy a key plank in Megrahi's conviction. The prosecution case hinges on the suitcase containing the bomb having been loaded in Frankfurt, Germany, after apparently being sent there by Megrahi on an Air Malta flight from Valetta.
And the defense team, which includes American human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz and high-profile British lawyer Michael Mansfield, are also likely to challenge evidence which came from Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who identified Al Megrahi as a man who bought clothing from his store shortly before the bombing.
The Kuwaiti official news agency (KUNA) said that remnants of that clothing were found scattered around Lockerbie after the atrocity and there was evidence that the clothes were packed around the bomb which blew up the aircraft.
The reliability of Gauci's evidence was questioned during the trial and the defence are expected to question whether the trial judges were entitled to decide that al Megrahi was the man who bought the clothes.
Al Megrahi’s Libyan lawyer has said he is confident his client will be freed after the appeal
Monday's hearing began with a petition by Marina de Larrachoechea, whose sister Maria, a Pan Am stewardess, was killed in the crash.
De Larrachoechea requested that she be recognised as a legal party in Megrahi's appeal in order to gain access to all the evidence, or else that the court order a new investigation to review all the evidence in the case.
The court rejected the request, saying it did not have the power to grant the petition. Presiding judge Lord Cullen said the appeal court could only examine evidence that was not submitted at Megrahi's original trial if Megrahi's defence team authorised this.
Some of the relatives of those killed, including Dr Jim Swire and the reverend John Mosey, who both lost daughters, have traveled to Holland for the hearing, according to the KUNA.
Reverend Mosey told reporters "we feel it's important that someone from the families is there to see that justice is done".
For his part, Swire said, "We followed the whole of the trial so it makes sense to follow this stage as well".
Al Migrahi was granted leave to appeal against his conviction earlier this year.
The hearing was expected to last a day and to set the date for the start of the appeal, which is likely to be early next year, said the agency – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)