Below is the Crown Office full statement in response to the publication of the SCCRC report. As I anticipated, they have cherry picked the parts of the report that are unfavourable to Abdelbaset. My responses to these are in normal typeface.
The Crown notes the publication today by the Sunday Herald of the Statement of Reasons of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in the case against Megrahi.
The Commission was working to facilitate the publication with appropriate protection for all of the persons named in it taking account of their human rights [articles 2 and 8] and issues of confidentiality. The unauthorised publication by the Sunday Herald today does not deal with any of these issues which rightly constrain all public authorities by law.
We have become very concerned at the drip feeding of selective leaks and partial reporting from parts of the Statement of Reasons over the last few weeks in an attempt to sensationalise aspects of the contents out of context.
Persons referred to in the Statement of Reasons have been asked to respond to these reports without having access to the statement of reasons and this is to be deplored. Further allegations of serious misconduct have been made in the media against a number of individuals for which the Commission found no evidence. This is also to be deplored. In fact the Commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies.
Other matters of significance are:
1. The SCCRC found nothing to undermine the trial court’s conclusions about the timer fragment, namely that it was part of a timer manufactured by a Swiss company, MEBO, to the order of the Libyan intelligence services.
The SCCRC missed the fact that the timer fragment could not have been from one of the timers sold by Mebo to Libya. (For further details click here.)
2. The SCCRC report confirms that Tony Gauci was paid a reward by US authorities only after the first appeal.
The report confirms: 1) that Gauci expressed an interest in being rewarded before his original tentative identification of Abdelbaset; 2) that he was under the influence of his brother Paul who repeatedly raised the issue of rewards with the police; 3) that Tony and Paul were respectively paid at least $2 million and $1 million. The fact that they were not paid until after the first appeal is irrelevant, it’s their expectation of a reward that’s key.
3. No inducements or promises of reward were made by US and Scottish Law enforcement prior to his evidence being given.
This misses the point (see 2, above). It should be noted that according to DCI Harry Bell’s diary, on 28 September 1989, FBI agent Chris Murray told Bell that he (Murray): ‘had the authority to arrange unlimited money for Tony Gauci and relocation is available. Murray states that he could arrange $10,000 immediately.’ Murray would not have said these things unless he believe that the offer might have been put to Gauci. According to the head of the FBI investigation, Richard Marquise, “everybody that worked for me were under orders that they were not allowed to tell people that they could get money for this case.” (see http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/scotland/megrahi-probe-failed-to-speak-to-fbi-agents-1-2180385) So, was Murray acting against Marquise’s orders?
4. At no stage was he offered any inducement or reward by Scottish authorities who acted with complete propriety throughout the case
Again, see 2 above. It should also be noted that in a letter to the US Department of Justice, dated 19 April 2002 (after Megrahi’s failed first appeal), the Scottish Police’s senior investigating officer wrote: ‘At the meeting on 9 April, I proposed that $2 million should be paid to Anthony Gauci and $1 million to his brother Paul. These figures were based on my understanding that $2 million was the maximum payable to a single individual by the rewards programme. However, following further informal discussions I was encouraged to learn that those responsible for making the final decision retain a large degree of flexibility to increase this figure.’ Crucially, he added that, at the request of a US official, he had consulted with the Crown Office about the reward. He reported: ‘The prosecution in Scotland cannot become involved in such an application. It would therefore be improper for the Crown Office to offer a view on the application, although they fully recognise the importance of the evidence of Tony and Paul Gauci to the case’. In other words, the Crown Office was prevented by its own rules from seeking a reward, but apparently had no intention of preventing the police from doing so.
5. The SCCRC recognised that Tony Gauci was not motivated by money and that he had allegedly been made an offer to go to Tripoli and be rewarded “by Libyan Government officials”
This misrepresents the SCCRC’s findings. What the commission actually said is ‘Mr Gauci who may well have given entirely credible evidence notwithstanding an alleged interest in financial payment. On the other hand there are sound reasons to believe that the information in question would have been used by the defence as a means of challenging his credibility. Such a challenge may well have been justified, and in the Commission’s view was capable of affecting the course of the evidence and the eventual outcome of the trial. The alleged offer of a reward by Libyan government officials was revealed in Megrahi: you are my jury (p.311-2).
With regard to the differing accounts by Megrahi the Commission noted that:
i. There were inconsistencies and differences in account between his statements to an investigative journalist, his defence team and the SCCRC in matters of significance.
Inconsistencies in statements do not prove guilt. There were numerous inconsistencies in the statements of the Crown’s star witness Tony Gauci. Like Mr Gauci, Mr Megrahi recounted his story many times under conditions of great stress. It’s therefore hardly surprising that there were some inconsistencies between his statements.
ii. He had “personal relationships” with various members of the Libyan intelligence services, including Senussi and accepted that he had been seconded to the Libyan intelligence services (JSO) and that Said Rashid was his superior in the JSO.
Mr Megrahi revealed these connections in Megrahi: you are my jury. It is not a crime to be related to members of the intelligence services, neither is it a crime to be a member of such services.
iii. Senussi was involved in his secondment to Libyan intelligence services (JSO).
See ii, above.
iv. He had travelled with a Colonel in the Libyan intelligence services (JSO) on a false passport in 1987
Mr Megrahi explains his use of a false passport in Megrahi: You are my jury. The Crown has failed to prove that he used it for purposes of terrorism.
v. Megrahi gave the Commission conflicting accounts of his connection to the Libyan intelligence services (JSO)
Mr Megrahi has consistently said: 1) that he was seconded to the intelligence service, the JSO, for one year; 2) that he was not an intelligence agent; 3) that he was related to some senior people with the JSO. The only evidence heard at trial that he was a JSO member was the testimony of Libyan CIA informant Majid Giaka, who also claimed, on the record, that Colonel Gadafy was a freemason.
vi. Megrahi confirmed he had knowledge of a man in Spain who was assassinated because he was allegedly an American spy
In fact Mr Megrahi volunteered this in a pre-trial precognition statement, the relevant section of which reads: “I remember that there was a man in Spain who used to send back articles from the Spanish media. Sometime during the 1990s it turned out that he was an American spy and he was assassinated.” Doubtless many other people, including Spaniards, were aware of this incident, which is entirely irrelevant to the matter of Mr Megrahi’s guilt or innocence.
vii. Megrahi has given a number of different explanations to his lawyers and the Commission about his presence in Malta and use of a false passport on 21 December 1988
See i, above.
viii. The SCCRC believed “there was a real risk that the trial court would have viewed his explanations … as weak or unconvincing” “In particular, the Commission notes the unsatisfactory nature of aspects of their (Megrahi and Fhimah) explanations and the various contradictions which are apparent both within and between their accounts. Although it is possible there are innocent reasons for these deficiencies, they do lead the Commission to have reservations about the credibility and reliability of both as witnesses.”
Again, see i, above. As the Crown Office knows, inconsistencies are not proof of guilt. It also failed to point out that the commission concluded in the next paragraph. “It cannot be said, however, that the applicant’s accounts amount to a confession of guilt.”
The commission’s role is to conduct an investigation and determine whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice. It does not follow that there was a miscarriage of justice, only the Appeal Court can decide that. It should be noted that not all referrals by the SCCRC result in convictions being overturned; less than half of convictions referred to the Appeal are overturned.
This is irrelevant.
In preparing for Megrahi’s second appeal [which followed the Commission’s report] the Crown had considered all the information in the Statement of Reasons and had every confidence in successfully defending the conviction in the Appeal Court for a second time. Although it is entirely a matter for the Commission if the case is referred again to the Appeal court the Crown will defend the conviction.
It is not appropriate or helpful to seek to try a case in the media. The only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law. The trial court accepted that this was an act of State sponsored terrorism and that Megrahi did not act alone.
Investigations will continue to bring the others involved in the murder of 270 persons to justice.
As a result the Crown will be making no further comment on the evidence in the case and on the Statement of Reasons.