Here are two recent articles re the Lord Fraser comments

Jim S.

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The Scotsman
Sat 29 Oct 2005

 

 

  

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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."

Last night, Lord Fraser was unavailable for comment.

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The TIMES

 

 

 

 

October 29, 2005


Pressure grows for explanation in Lockerbie witness dispute
By David Lister, Scotland Correspondent

                                                                                                  

THE senior law officer who issued indictments for the Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing is facing pressure to sign a sworn statement after allegedly referring to the prosecution’s main witness at the trial as being “an apple short of a picnic”.

Families of those killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded in December 1988 have urged Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, Scotland’s former Lord Advocate, to explain himself after apparently describing a Maltese shopkeeper who testified during the Lockerbie trial as “not quite the full shilling”.

 

 

Tony Gauci’s testimony was crucial in securing the conviction of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi at a Scottish court in the Netherlands in 2001. Mr Gauci sold the clothes that were wrapped around the bomb and was the only witness to link al-Megrahi directly to the device.

Al-Megrahi, serving his 27-year jail term in Scotland, is trying to mount a second appeal against his sentence. Doubts over Mr Gauci’s testimony are said to be central to his lawyer’s case. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is expected to decide next spring whether the appeal should be allowed.

Relatives of British victims of the bombing yesterday described Lord Fraser’s reported comments as extraordinary and called on him to make a sworn statement clarifying his position. As Lord Advocate, he was ultimately responsible for the prosecution case against al-Megrahi and his co-accused, Lamine Khalifa Fhimah, when indictments were issued against them in Edinburgh in November 1991. Fhimah was later acquitted.

The controversy comes amid mounting speculation that the SCCRC is to rule that al-Megrahi suffered an apparent miscarriage of justice and should be granted leave to appeal.

Jim Swire, whose 24-year-old daughter was among the 270 killed in the bombing, said that Lord Fraser’s alleged remarks to a newspaper earlier this week were “an extraordinary intervention”.

Mr Swire, who believes that Palestinian terrorists, not Libyans, carried out the bombing, told The Times: “Because he was Lord Advocate at the time of the indictments his opinion is of dramatic significance. Gauci was the only person who claimed to be able to identify the buyer of the clothes [in which the bomb was wrapped] . . . he was the key identifier of Megrahi.”

He said that Lord Fraser should be asked to give sworn evidence to the SCCRC, stating whether his view of Mr Gauci’s reliability had changed and, if so, what had prompted this.

The Rev John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter was also killed, said that at the very least Lord Fraser should explain himself to families of the victims. “If he has said these things and they are his honest thoughts, then it’s quite amazing,” he said. “But why didn’t he say it earlier? If he’s got serious doubts, then he really ought to go on the record.”

Lord Fraser, who served as Scotland’s Lord Advocate from 1989 to 1992 and went on to become a Conservative minister, allegedly described Mr Gauci as a weak point in the case against al-Megrahi and a “simple” man who might have been “easily led”.

He reportedly said: “Gauci was not quite the full shilling. I think even his family would say [that he] was an apple short of a picnic . . . 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?”

Asked to clarify his alleged remarks, Lord Fraser told The Times that comments attributed to him had been misleading and selective, though he did not deny making them.

Pressed further, he said that he would “no longer engage in discussion with the Scottish media. You are collectively regarded as a joke in London and with great reluctance I now understand why.”

Last night Scotland’s top prosecutor also demanded an explanation from Lord Fraser. Colin Boyd, the present Lord Advocate, demanded that his predecessor issue a public statement to clarify what he said and what he meant.

Mr Boyd said several “speculative and ill-informed” media reports had appeared in recent weeks in relation to al-Megrahi’s trial and conviction. “I have refrained from publicly speaking about these but I do have to comment on remarks in an article last Sunday attributed to Lord Fraser of Carmyllie,” he said. “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.”

Gerard Sinclair, chief executive of the SCCRC, refused to say whether the body was investigating Lord Fraser’s reported remarks. “Any investigation we carry out we seek to do so as rigorously and as thoroughly as possible,” he said.

Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh and a Lockerbie expert, described the alleged remarks as “an indication that various people who have been involved in the Lockerbie prosecution are now positioning themselves in anticipation of the SCCRC holding that there was a prima facie miscarriage of justice and sending it back for a fresh appeal”.

The controversy also coincides with growing suggestions that al-Megrahi may be allowed to serve the rest of his jail term in a country in North Africa.