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Bomber disputes Lockerbie evidence

Al-Megrahi's appeal is expected to last five weeks
Al-Megrahi's appeal is expected to last five weeks  


CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (CNN) -- Lawyers for the Libyan convicted over the Lockerbie bombing told the second day of an appeal hearing that crucial evidence at his trial was riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions.

Former secret agent Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was jailed for life a year ago for bombing a U.S. jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259 on board and 11 on the ground.

The 49-year-old Libyan was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years in jail.

Opening the appeal on behalf of Al-Megrahi on Wednesday, William Taylor QC said he would be questioning the validity of the original trial's findings and intended to bring fresh evidence that cast doubt on the conviction.

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The opening of the hearing marked a first in legal history by becoming the first British court proceedings to be shown live on television and the Internet.

On the second day of the hearing Taylor said that Al-Megrahi's conviction should be overturned because the trial judges failed to consider evidence which conflicted with their conclusions and caused a miscarriage of justice.

Taylor said: "The question here is whether there has been a miscarriage of justice, having regard to the reasons given for the conviction.

"The appellant says that the trial court has made certain errors in misinterpreting evidence or ignored or failed to give due weight to particular parts of the evidence.

"If the fact-finders reach a conclusion on a misinterpretation of the evidence, that is a misdirection.

"It is a misdirection to ignore material pieces of evidence or to fail to give them proper weight.

"This is especially so in a wholly circumstantial case, as the present one is."

Unlike at the trial, when the burden of proof was on the prosecution, the onus is now on Al-Megrahi's lawyers. They must convince appeal judges that the trial court was wrong to find the Libyan's guilt established "beyond reasonable doubt."

"Basically his lawyers must prove miscarriage of justice in the original trial," said CNN's Jim Bittermann.

lockerbie
The Lockerbie bombing killed 270 people  

If the conviction were to be overturned it would be a major embarrassment for the United States and Britain.

Both imposed sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi's Libya to press him to hand over those suspected of bombing Pan Am 103 from London to New York -- Britain's worst case of mass murder.

Al-Megrahi's lawyers say the new evidence would have supported the argument that the suitcase carrying the bomb was not loaded at Malta's Luqa airport but at London Heathrow.

They want to call a former Heathrow security guard, Raymond Manly, to testify that a padlock was forced on a secure door near a Heathrow baggage area hours before the Boeing 747 was blown up.

The lawyers also question the trial judges' handling of testimony by a Maltese shop owner who said he sold Al-Megrahi Libyan clothes that were tucked around the bomb.

But Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, said he would oppose any move to introduce new evidence, arguing that it was not substantial enough to justify being heard.

Five High Court judges, headed by Scotland's top judge Lord Cullen, are hearing the appeal.

Like the nine-month trial, the hearings are at Camp Zeist, a former U.S. air base in the Netherlands chosen to overcome Libyan objections to a trial in Britain.

Clad in white robes, a patterned waistcoat and a dark red fez, Al-Megrahi sat listening impassively through headphones to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.

His co-accused at the trial, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, was acquitted and returned home to Libya.

The three trial judges heard the case without a jury. That prompted Al-Megrahi's counsel to charge that the Scottish court had at times "misdirected itself" -- interpreted the law wrongly.

Some victims' relatives from the U.S. and Britain are attending the opening days of the appeal, which is expected to last around five weeks.

After the hearings end, a judgment is expected in around a further week.

If the conviction is upheld, Al-Megrahi will be transferred to Glasgow's tough Barlinnie jail, where a cell prisoner dub the "Gaddafi cafe" awaits him. The trial judges recommended he serve at least 20 years of his mandatory life sentence.



 
 
 
 


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