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Al-Megrahi attacks Maltese shopkeeper's testimony

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing yesterday published documents aimed at casting doubts on the credibility of a key Maltese witness.

Maintaining his innocence, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi published documents from his appeal, which he later dropped, that specifically challenge shopkeeper Tony Gauci's testimony.

Mr Gauci had identified Mr al-Megrahi as the man who had bought clothes from his shop in Sliema and which were later found wrapped around the bomb.

However, the documents claim there was a new witness present in the shop when similar clothing was bought by another two Libyans. According to the evidence presented in the trial, the bomb left Malta in a suitcase that was transferred onto the ill-fated jet in Frankfurt.

The date when the clothes were supposedly bought from the Sliema shop was also queried because of a number of inconsistencies.

Mr Gauci had testified that Mr al-Megrahi bought the clothes before the Christmas street decorations were put up. But former Tourism Minister Michael Refalo had said he switched on the lights one day before the purchase.

The documents also challenge the way Mr Gauci identified Mr al-Megrahi after he originally rejected his photograph when shown 12 images because they showed men who were younger than the purchaser. Mr Gauci was then asked to discount the age and to look again and it was then that he picked Mr al-Megrahi, saying he looked "similar" but "younger".

Later, during an identification parade in the Netherlands where the trial was held, Mr Gauci pointed at Mr al-Megrahi, saying: "Not exactly the man I saw in the shop..."

From his home in Tripoli, Mr al-Megrahi, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer, has continued to claim his innocence in the 1988 bombing which claimed the lives of 270 people. In an attempt to clear his name after he was released two months ago from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, he has set up a website which lists documents related to his appeal.

He had unsuccessfully filed an appeal in 2002 - one year after being given a life sentence. In 2007 his case was referred back to the Appeal Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, only for him to abandon the case last August. He is now publishing details of the appeal which he was due to present.

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