From The Sunday Times 23 October 2005:
Fraser: my Lockerbie trial doubts
LORD Fraser of Carmyllie, the former lord advocate who issued the arrest warrant for the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, has cast doubt on the reliability of the main witness in the trial.
The former Conservative minister described Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper whose testimony was central in securing a conviction against Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, as “not quite the full shilling” and “an apple short of a picnic”.
Fraser, who as Scotland’s senior law officer was responsible for indicting Megrahi, says he is now not entirely happy with the evidence against Megrahi during his trial in 2001 and in his subsequent appeal.
While making clear that this does not mean that he believes Megrahi was innocent of the 1988 atrocity, in which 270 people were killed, Fraser said he should be free to leave Scotland to serve the remainder of his sentence in Libya.
His intervention is the most significant yet in a series of developments that have cast doubt on the safety of the conviction against Megrahi.
Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988 after an explosion in the cargo hold. Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years following a trial presided over by three Scottish judges in the Netherlands. A condition of his sentence was that he served the full term in Scotland. His co- accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was cleared.
Lawyers acting for the former intelligence officer and head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines have since claimed to have uncovered anomalies suggesting that vital evidence presented at the trial came from tests conducted months after the terror attack. The new evidence is due to be presented in an appeal to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission next year.
Earlier this month it was reported that officials from Britain, America and Libya had met to discuss moving Megrahi back to Libya on the condition that the appeal is dropped.
A key plank in the case against Megrahi was provided by Gauci who claimed that he sold Megrahi clothes that were believed to have been wrapped around the bomb. Fraser said that he believes Gauci was a “weak point” in the case and has expressed concern that he was a “simple” man who might have been “easily led”.
“Gauci was not quite the full shilling. I think even his family would say (that he) was an apple short of a picnic. He was quite a tricky guy, I don’t think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times he would just get irritated and refuse to answer,” he said.
“You do have to worry, he’s a slightly simple chap, are you putting words in his mouth even if you don’t intend to?” Fraser said he has been invited to Tripoli to meet Colonel Gadaffi after the Libyan leader learnt of his views but, so far, he has declined.
“I wasn’t particularly impressed with his defence. Their techniques of muddle and confusion can work for a jury but it doesn’t work for three judges,” he said.
Fraser said he believes that Megrahi should now be free to return to his native Libya to see out the remainder of his sentence.
“The transfer of prisoners is quite common but it’s important that you follow the rules of the transferring country. If he is transferred to any country I would expect him to serve out the sentence that the Scottish court imposed,” Fraser said.
William Taylor QC, the man who led Megrahi’s defence, said Fraser should never have presented Gauci as a crown witness: “A man who has a public office, who is prosecuting in the criminal courts in Scotland, has got a duty to put forward evidence based upon people he considers to be reliable.
“He was prepared to advance Gauci as a witness and, if he had these misgivings about him, they should have surfaced at the time.
“The fact that he is now coming out many years later after my former client has been in prison for nearly 4½ years is nothing short of disgraceful.”
Jim Swire, spokesman for the families of victims and who lost his daughter Flora in the atrocity, said: “Lord Fraser had detailed knowledge of events and I think we have to take seriously anything he says now that is relevant to those who gave evidence at Zeist. It is significant that a man who has been as close as he has to the investigation should be making comments like this.”
Gauci said; “I am not interested in what this man said. What matters to me is what the court said and that’s it. That’s all I have to say.”
All the members of Megrahi’s defence team were approached but have declined to comment.
From The Scotsman, 29 October 2005:
Lord Fraser told to explain Lockerbie witness doubt
JOHN ROBERTSON LAW CORRESPONDENT
THE Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, QC, issued an extraordinary demand yesterday to his predecessor, Lord Fraser, to explain his reported criticism of a key prosecution witness in the Lockerbie bombing trial.
Lord Fraser was the lord advocate who initiated the case against the Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, but he was quoted in a Sunday newspaper last week describing the vital witness as "an apple short of a picnic".
Mr Boyd now wants public clarification from Lord Fraser on what he said and what he meant about Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper.
"The position of the Crown before and after 1992, when Lord Fraser left office, has always been that Tony Gauci was a reliable witness," said Mr Boyd.
When al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which claimed 270 lives, a crucial strand of the case against him had been Mr Gauci's testimony.
Clothing from Mr Gauci's shop in Sliema, Malta, had been packed inside the suitcase containing the bomb. At a pre-trial identification parade, Mr Gauci picked out al-Megrahi and said: "Not exactly the man I saw in the shop ... ten years ago I saw him."
At the trial, he pointed to al-Megrahi in the dock of the special Scottish court in the Netherlands and stated: "He resembles him a lot."
In last week's article, Lord Fraser said Mr Gauci was "not quite the full shilling" and "a slightly simple chap" who might have been easily led. He added: "I think even his family would say he is an apple short of a picnic. I don't think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times, he would just get irritated and refuse to answer."
In his response, Mr Boyd said he had refrained from commenting on speculative and ill-informed reports about the case in recent weeks, but felt he had to speak out on the remarks attributed to Lord Fraser.
"Lord Fraser has indicated to my officials that he did not intend to attack the credibility or reliability of Mr Gauci and I have asked him to clarify publicly what he has said and what he meant," added Mr Boyd.
"Lord Fraser, as lord advocate, initiated the Lockerbie prosecution. At no stage has he conveyed any reservation about any aspect of the prosecution to those who worked on the case or anyone in the prosecution service.
"The position of the Crown... has been that Tony Gauci was a credible witness. This was also the view formed by the court. The three High Court judges saw and heard Mr Gauci giving evidence and said in their judgment that they found him entirely credible.
"They said he was doing his best to tell the truth to the best of his recollection. They gave him particular credit for being always careful to express any reservations he had and for giving reasons why he thought there was a close resemblance between al-Megrahi and the man who purchased clothing in his shop."
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