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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 16:27 GMT
Lockerbie judges to hear new evidence
Heathrow Airport
Heathrow, where the defence say the bomb was loaded
Five judges have said they are willing to hear new evidence in the appeal by the Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

In a ruling at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands, they agreed to allow former Heathrow security guard Ray Manly to appear on behalf of the defence.

Mr Manly reported a break-in at a Pan Am baggage store 18 hours before New York-bound Flight 103 crashed, killing 270 people.

Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's lawyers claim the bomb could have been put on the plane in London, not Malta, as the prosecution said during the trial.

Bill Taylor QC and al-Megrahi
Bill Taylor QC and al-Megrahi
Bill Taylor QC cast doubt on the reliability of evidence given by a key prosecution witness, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who said al-Megrahi bought clothes there.

The garments were shown to have been wrapped around the bomb which destroyed the aircraft on 21 December, 1988.

Mr Taylor also read statements by Mr Manly which he claimed supported the defence case that the bomb was most likely to have been loaded onto the plane at Heathrow.

Mr Manly said he found a door leading to the baggage build-up area, where the luggage was loaded on to the plane, had been forced open the night before the flight.

'Crucial' date

Earlier, Crown advocate Alan Turnbull said he would be calling other witnesses if Mr Manly was permitted to take the stand.

The new evidence brought by the defence failed to pass the test of "prima facie materiality", he argued.

Lead Crown advocate Alistair Campbell QC said the trial court had been right to rely on Mr Gauci's evidence that he recognised al-Megrahi as the man who bought clothes in his shop on 7 December 1988.

Lord Cullen
Lord Cullen, who heads the panel of judges
The date was crucial to the prosecution's case that the bomb started its deadly journey in Malta, as there was evidence that al-Megrahi was staying on the island at the time.

One of the judges, Lord Kirkwood, closely questioned Mr Campbell about Mr Gauci's evidence.

Lord Kirkwood asked how the court could have regarded Mr Gauci's identification of al-Megrahi as a fact when he was only described as being similar.

Mr Campbell said that "strictly speaking", the court could not treat Mr Gauci's testimony as a "primary fact".

Exchange with judge

He said, however, that they could draw an inference of fact if they were satisfied he was a reliable witness.

The judge asked: "Without any corroboration?"

  • Mr Campbell: "This is not evidence of commission of a crime which requires corroboration.

    "This is a piece of circumstantial evidence in a circumstantial case."

  • Lord Kirkwood: "The point that concerns me is how could they infer as a fact that he was the purchaser by resemblance only?"

  • Mr Campbell: "In my submission, it turns upon what is meant by identification by resemblance only.

    "He said 'that is the man, he is very like him'. The other evidence comes from his (Megrahi's) movements at the relevant times at Luqa (Malta's main airport)."

  • Lord Kirkwood: "That is not what the trial court is saying.

    "They are saying from Mr Gauci's evidence, we can infer as a fact that he was the purchaser. Are they entitled to do that?"

  • Mr Campbell replied: "I say that they are."

    Al-Megrahi was jailed for life, with the minimum of 20 years, after a trial at the same, specially-built courthouse, last January.

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     ON THIS STORY
    Home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson
    "The judges said they would hear new witnesses"
    Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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