The Malta Independent 21 May 2019, Tuesday

Lockerbie – 22 Years on - Still more questions than answers

Malta Independent Thursday, 23 December 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

The 22nd anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing – the worst terrorist attack in history on British soil, and the worst terrorist attack that Malta can claim any sort of relation to – was commemorated on Tuesday.

But whether that relation is one of fact or fiction is quite another story, and one which is hotly disputed between victims’ families, former investigators and legal experts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Twenty-two years of anguish for the victims’ families, 22 years in which Malta’s name has been inextricably, and arguably erroneously, linked to the heinous crime and 22 years of questionable investigations, trials, a conviction and a compassionate release of the one person to have been found guilty.

The one fundamental question still lingering is whether the truth of who ordered and carried out the Lockerbie bombing will ever be known.

With the only convicted party, Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, having dropped a highly anticipated appeal when was ‘compassionately’ released from Scottish custody, the possibility of more of the truth ever coming out appears faint. Nor will Malta’s name ever be cleared by a court of law over its apparent role as the bomb’s point of departure.

The country has been dogged for more than two decades years by the prosecution’s contention that the bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland on 21 December 1988 began its deadly journey on an Air Malta flight out of Luqa Airport.

Indeed, the only hope of answers for the families on both sides of the Atlantic, which hold very different views on the guilt of the convicted bomber, of learning the truth lies in the possibility of a separate enquiry into the case. Calls for that too, however, have been brushed aside.

Experts such as Prof. Robert Black – a former Scottish judge and the architect of the original Lockerbie trial – insist that the evidence presented during the trial that the bomb had originated at Luqa Airport was some of the weakest of the entire proceedings.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a former employee at Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta and the only person to have been found guilty of the terrorist attack, had been convicted largely on the basis of evidence supplied by Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci – of Mary’s House on Tower Road, Sliema.

In his evidence Mr Gauci had identified Mr al-Megrahi as the purchaser of articles of clothing and an umbrella found in the suitcase containing the bomb – placed on an Air Malta flight and transferred to the ill-fated Pan Am flight in Frankfurt.

But in reviewing the request for an appeal, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found, for numerous reasons, that “there is no reasonable basis in the trial court’s judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items from Mary’s House, took place on 7 December 1988” – the very argument that had sealed the indictment against Mr al-Megrahi.

That appeal, however, never came to fruition, with al-Megrahi having been released and returned to Libya, on compassionate medical grounds in that he apparently only had three months to live.

There are so many questions about the case that are still lingering, or, rather, festering that one questions whether the truth behind the Lockerbie bombing will ever be known.

The Lockerbie tragedy has left an indelible stain on Malta’s reputation – a stain that will remain, irrespective of whether an inquiry into the Lockerbie case and the evidence that was to be heard at appeal is undertaken, and regardless of what the outcome of such an inquiry would be.

Malta, for many, will always be the place from where the Lockerbie bomb started its fateful journey. An international petition has been handed in to to the Scottish Parliament urging the Scottish government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction.

Such an inquiry would go a long way to bringing a sense of justice to the victims’ families, irrespective of the outcome, and would also help to settle the score insofar as Malta is concerned.

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