Saturday, October 08, 2005

Forensic mix-up casts fresh Lockerbie doubt.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1588101,00.html

Tony Thompson, in The Observer, 9 October 2005, writes that a 'Forensic mix-up casts fresh Lockerbie doubt'.

Megrahi's Lawyers are reported to have discovered 'anomalies suggesting vital evidence used to convict their client came from tests conducted months after the terror attack'.

According to The Observer:

Searches of the crash site found fragments of a Samsonite suitcase and parts of a Toshiba radio cassette player as well as several pieces of clothing covered in explosive residue. Investigators claimed both the suitcase and clothing were linked to Megrahi. To prove that the bomb was inside the case, investigators set off a series of explosions using an identical suitcase and contents to check how they would be damaged.

Megrahi's lawyers now believe material produced during these tests was mistakenly presented to the court as if it were the original suitcase. One source told The Observer: 'To say that the evidence recovered from the ground at Lockerbie and the material produced during the tests became mixed up would be something of an understatement. They became thoroughly confused.

'It casts serious doubts over the prosecution case because certain items that should have been destroyed if they were in the case containing the bomb are now known to have survived the blast.'

In one instance a charred Babygro was produced as evidence that it had been used to wrap the bomb. However, new evidence has emerged which suggests the garment was completely undamaged when it was found. Instead, a similar Babygro used during the explosive tests was presented to the court.

A key witness was the owner of a clothes shop in Malta where the items in the suitcase were allegedly bought. During the verdict, the judges admitted that the owner had failed to make a convincingly positive identification of Megrahi.

An anonymous former Scottish police chief last month gave Megrahi's lawyers a sworn signed statement claiming that key evidence in the trial was fabricated. The officer said that he had expected Megrahi to be acquitted at the trial or on appeal, but came forward when this did not happen.

After the trial, legal observers from around the world, including senior United Nations officials, expressed disquiet about the verdict.

Dr Jim Swire, who led the campaign for justice after losing his daughter, Flora, in the bombing, has also expressed doubts over Megrahi's guilt. 'I am aware there have been doubts about how some of the evidence ... came to be presented in court. It is in all our interests that areas of doubt are thoroughly examined.'

The Scottish criminal review is not expected to decide whether to refer Megrahi's case to the appeal court until next year at the earliest.

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