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British MPs, activist say Malta should defend itself on Lockerbie case

Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and renowned political activist, said the Lockerbie case is an illustration of conformism in the West.

Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and renowned political activist, said the Lockerbie case is an illustration of conformism in the West.

Two former British Labour and Conservative MPs have joined American political activist Noam Chomsky in calling on the Maltese government to defend the country's reputation.

Prof. Chomsky and the British MPs are signatories to a letter sent to the government calling on Malta to support a demand for an inquiry by the UN General Assembly into the 1988 Pan Am bombing that claimed 270 lives.

The letter sent by the 'Justice for Megrahi' campaign, which includes relatives of the victims in the bombing, is also signed by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for 43 years, and Teddy Taylor, MP for the Conservatives for 36 years, said they had doubts about the original verdict. They said if the Maltese government supported a UN inquiry, then it could clear the country's name and help the families of the victims establish the truth.

Prof. Chomsky described the events surrounding the case of the convicted bomber Abdelbasset Al Megrahi as "a remarkable illustration of the conformism and obedience of intellectual opinion in the West".

He told The Sunday Times: "I think the trial was very seriously flawed, including crucially the alleged role of Malta. There is every reason to call for a very serious independent inquiry."

The 'Justice for Megrahi' campaign argues that the verdict was guided by political interests at the time and an inquiry by the UN General Assembly is required. They believe Malta has an equal interest in exposing who was really behind the act of terrorism.

Their hopes had been pinned on the appeal initiated by the convicted bomber. But Mr Al Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was freed last August on compassionate grounds and flown home to Tripoli to die with his family. Consequently, he dropped the appeal.

To this day, Mr Al Megrahi contends he has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice - a claim supported by the expert appointed by the UN to monitor the trial, Hans Kochler.

The original conviction of Mr Al Megrahi had relied heavily on the testimony of Tony Gauci, the owner of a shop in Sliema who said the Libyan had bought clothes from his shop that were later found wrapped around the bomb.

But it has since emerged that Al Megrahi's defence team had argued in the recent appeal that the Maltese witness was paid "in excess of $2 million", while his brother Paul Gauci was paid "in excess of $1 million" for their co-operation. Neither has ever denied receiving payment.

The former British Conservative MP referred to Mr Gauci's testimony when speaking to The Sunday Times. He said if "our friends in Malta" were willing to pursue the issue at the UN and seek the truth that may have been flawed by "a statement of a resident of Malta who appears to have benefitted enormously from his identification and who then moved to Australia", then the government would help relatives of the victims, and itself.

Mr Taylor recalled Malta's role in the Second World War, saying "British people my age have a very special regard for Malta as a centre of brave and trustworthy people who were willing to stand firm against fascism".

Mr Dalyell said: "I have believed since 1991 that the Crown Office in Edinburgh should have respected the stated view of the Maltese government, Air Malta, Luqa airport authorities and the Malta police that no unaccounted for luggage, let alone a bomb, was placed on the flight."

Although Malta has always denied any involvement in the act, it remains implicated by the government's refusal to take up the cause.

When Mr Gauci said in the original trial that he believed Mr Al Megrahi purchased clothes from his shop, it provided the prosecution with grounds to argue that the bomb had left from Malta and then transferred to the fateful flight.

Malta had provided ample evidence to support its contention that there was no unaccompanied luggage on Air Malta flight KM180 on December 21, 1988. But Malta's defence was trumped by Mr Gauci's testimony.

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