Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Lockerbie relatives cautiously welcome review

[This is the headline over a report that was published in The Herald on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 killed, said yesterday a desktop review of the criminal inquiry has always been the excuse to block a full investigation into how Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21 1988. [RB: Such a review had just been announced by the Crown Office.]
In a letter in today’s Herald, Dr Swire states: "The ‘ongoing criminal investigation’ has been repeatedly used as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth, to which we are entitled under human rights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005."
He also told reporters yesterday: "I think if they are really going to have a meaningful investigation then that is all well and good and long overdue. But if it is just a dodge to prevent an investigation into why the lives of those killed were not protected then I would be livid."
Dr Swire is among many who do not believe that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan agent convicted of the bombing in 2001 and released in August on compassionate grounds, was guilty of the atrocity. Days before his release Megrahi, who has inoperable cancer, dropped his second appeal against his conviction, although he has always protested his innocence.
Eleven relatives of the victims went to Downing Street on Friday to hand a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for a public inquiry into the bombing. The UK Government has always resisted demands for an independent inquiry and insists that Mr Megrahi’s conviction still stands despite his release.
[RB: The letter by Dr Swire does not appear on the newspaper’s website. As submitted it read as follows:]
After more than 20 years, the Crown Office has just announced that the Lockerbie Criminal Investigation is to re-examine the available evidence and assess new channels of investigation. Their announcement coincides to the day with the public announcement by the UK Lockerbie families group 'UK Families-Flight 103' that they are yet again demanding (this time of Gordon Brown), a full inquiry into the failure to protect their loved ones and the identity of the perpetrators.
The 'ongoing criminal investigation' has been repeatedly used as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth as to why our families were not protected back in 1988, to which we are entitled under Human Rights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005.
If further serious meaningful investigation really is to be pursued by the police and Crown Office (CO) as to who elsemay have contributed to the ruthless murder of our families back in 1988 I would be the first to applaud it. Abu Talb, a potential incriminee has now been released from jail and according to the Crown Office itself was not granted immunity against prosecution over Lockerbie, though appearing as a witness at Zeist. That might be no bad place to start looking for the truth. Trouble is, if he bought 'the clothes from Gaucis’ shop' then Megrahi clearly didn't. Honest further investigation is almost bound to embarrass the Zeist verdict, on which the CO's reputation, and that of its members past and present heavily depends.
'Who else' I write. Interested parties should go to the website of the London Review of Books (lrb.co.uk) and read the article by Gareth Peirce, one of England's foremost miscarriage of justice and human rights lawyers. Her article is titled 'The framing of Al Megrahi'. There they will find an erudite critism of the trial.
After that they might like to consider the words of the UN's specially appointed International Observer at the Lockerbie trial, Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna, who found the verdict against Megrahi 'incomprehensible' and a 'travesty of justice'. He was also forthright enough to say that the verdict could not have been reached without 'deliberate malpractice on the part of Scotland's Crown Office'.
That is a weighty charge, which the CO has not publicly contested, nor have Scottish or UK politicians.
Then interested parties might like to press for the public UK showing of Lockerbie Revisited, a brilliant documentary film by Gideon Levy of the Netherlands which has just won a major international prize, yet which no one in the UK has yet had the guts to screen outside the privilege of the Scottish Parliament, under the redoubtable wing of Christine Grahame MSP.
Forgive me, if for now the jury is out as to what the Crown Office are really up to. Let us not forget that very serious issues still surround the conduct of the Crown Office throughout this case, and the verdict against Al Megrahi in particular.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Between a rock and a hard place

[What follows is excerpted from a cable (available courtesy of Wikileaks) sent on this date in 2008 by US chargé d’affaires in London, Richard LeBaron, to the State Department:]

1. (C/NF) Summary. Convicted Pam Am 103 bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi has inoperable, incurable cancer, but it is not clear how long he has to live, according to two separate medical opinions obtained by officials at Greenock prison near Glasgow, where Megrahi is currently serving a life sentence. Preparatory hearings for the second appeal of Megrahi's conviction, meanwhile, are continuing, but the appeal itself will probably not begin until late 2009, according to the Scottish Crown. The Libyan government is therefore pursuing Megrahi's early release through two other channels, the FCO reports: compassionate release under Scottish law, and the as-yet unsigned UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA). HMG has made clear to the Libyans, to Embassy London and to the media that it will take no official position on Megrahi's early release, but will leave the decision - whether through compassionate release or the PTA - to the devolved Scottish government. At the same time, FCO contacts tell us that HMG is adamant that, despite devolution, London controls foreign policy for the UK, not the Scottish. Embassy London is working with the FCO and the Cabinet Office to find a way to represent USG views on the matter to the Scottish government, should we wish to, without making any implicit statement about UK national foreign policy prerogatives.

2. (C/NF) Summary cont. The Libyans have not yet made a formal application for compassionate release for Megrahi, but HMG believes that the Scottish may be inclined to grant the request, when it comes, based on conversations between Scottish First Minister (PM-equivalent) Alex Salmond and UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw. Although the general practice is to grant compassionate release within three months of end of life, this is not codified in the law, so the release, if granted, could occur sooner rather than later. End summary.

Megrahi's Diagnosis
3. (C/NF) Megrahi was first diagnosed on September 23 at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, both the FCO and the Scottish Crown office have told us; the second diagnosis was on October 10. The two diagnoses match: he has prostate cancer that has spread to his bones, the cancer has advanced rapidly, and it is inoperable and incurable. Megrahi could have as long as five years to live, but the average life expectancy of someone of his age with his condition is eighteen months to two years. Doctors are not sure where he is on the time scale, and therefore, how much longer he has to live. He has visibly deteriorated in recent weeks, according to those who have visited him. His visitors have included a Libyan oncologist, who expressed satisfaction with the medical treatment Megrahi has been receiving. FCO North Africa Group Head Rob Dixon told us October 22 that Qadhafi apparently complained about the Scots' treatment of Megrahi, but that complaint was unspecific and hasn't been repeated. Megrahi has told his family he is dying, and is receiving regular visits from a imam.

Compassionate Release
4. (C/NF) The Libyans are pursuing two tracks to obtain Megrahi's release, apart from the appeal, Dixon told us. The first is the possibility of early release on compassionate grounds. FCO Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell sent Libyan Deputy FM Abdulati al-Obeidi a letter, which was cleared both by HMG and by the Scottish Executive, on October 17 outlining the procedure for obtaining compassionate release (text of letter sent to NEA and L). It cites Section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act of 1993 as the basis for release of prisoners, on license, on compassionate grounds. Although the Scottish Crown informed the families of the Pan Am 103 victims in an email October 21 that the time frame for compassionate release is normally three months from time of death, Dixon stressed to us that the three month time frame is not codified in the law. Although Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill would normally make the final decision, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told Jack Straw that he will make the final decision in this case. Salmond told Straw that he would make the decision based on humanitarian grounds, not foreign policy grounds; Dixon told us HMG has interpreted this to mean that Salmond is inclined to grant the request.
Publicly, Salmond has refused to speculate on what decision he might make.

5. (C/NF) The Libyans have not yet requested compassionate release, but have indicated to the FCO that they will. Libyan officials are currently seeking a meeting with the Scottish Executive to discuss the situation. If Megrahi were to be released on compassionate grounds, he would be released into Scotland, but could be transferred back to Libya. According to Dixon, Megrahi does not have to drop his appeal in order to be granted compassionate leave.

Prisoner Transfer Agreement
6. (C/NF) The second track that the Libyans are pursuing to obtain Megrahi's early release is the UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement. The text of the PTA is not yet concluded between HMG and Libya, although the Libyans are now pushing for this process to be expedited, Dixon tells us. Once the two governments reach agreement on the text, HMG will proceed to clear it with the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Salmond publicly expressed his ire to then-PM Tony Blair for not consulting with Scotland beforehand when HMG announced its intention to pursue a PTA with Libya in 2007; nonetheless, Dixon says the current draft PTA contains standard language that the Scottish have cleared for other countries. Once the three devolved governments agree to the text, Libyan and British officials will sign it. Dixon says the signing will probably take place before Christmas. Once it is signed, under British law the PTA needs to sit for 21 days before the House of Commons and in the Lords before it is enacted, meaning that late January 2009 is the earliest the PTA could come into effect. Megrahi cannot be transferred under the PTA while he has an appeal pending. Dixon says that Megrahi is not specifically mentioned in the text; however, there are no other prisoners currently in the UK prison system to which the PTA would apply.

Status of Megrahi's Appeal
7. (C/NF) The Scottish High Court's October 15 decision to allow all grounds for appeal to be considered, including grounds that had been previously rejected by the Scottish Criminal Case Review commission (text sent to NEA/MAG and L/LEI), slows the whole appeal process down, according to Scottish Court Head of Policy John Logue. Logue and Dixon both estimate that the appeal itself probably won't begin until late 2009, and probably won't conclude until 2010, Dixon said. Under Scottish law, even if Megrahi dies before the appeal is completed, a third party "with a legitimate interest" can continue the appeal on his behalf. The Scottish Crown is therefore proceeding with the case, Logue said.

UK: Between a Rock and A Hard Place
8. (C/NF) HMG is in an awkward position, Dixon and Cabinet Office North Africa officer Ben Lyons confided to us. The Libyans have told HMG flat out that there will be "enormous repercussions" for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi's early release is not handled properly. At the same time, in keeping with the practice of devolution, HMG has made clear to the Libyans, to the media, and to us that it will take no official position on Megrahi's early release, but will leave the decision on early release - whether through compassionate release or the PTA - to the Scottish government, and the decision on the appeal to the Scottish courts. But HMG is also adamant that, despite devolution, London controls foreign policy for the UK, not Edinburgh. Added to the mix are Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, whose stated goal is an independent Scotland, with a referendum on the issue to be held in 2010; Salmond and the SNP will look for opportunities to exploit the Megrahi case for their own advantage. This is the first time HMG has had to deal with a foreign policy issue under devolution, Dixon said, and HMG is feeling its way forward, as are the Scottish; Logue told us that Scotland, for example, has never before granted compassionate release to a foreign national. We noted that while we understand the complexities of the issue for HMG, we need to find a channel for consultation and representation of USG views on the matter to the Scottish government, should we wish to, while taking HMG equities into account. Our HMG interlocutors agreed to explore options with us.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Mandela defies UN sanctions to visit Libya

[What follows is excerpted from an article (in English) headlined Rétrospective d’une erreur monstrueuse aux conséquences tragiques that was published on the Appel de Stasbourg website on 1 February 2012:]
But undoubtedly the greatest threat posed by Gaddafi to NATO warmongers was his efforts to fast-track the creation of an African Monetary Fund and an African Central Bank and to establish the gold dinar as a pan-African currency (Libya has 144 tons of gold with a population of jut 6 million, no external debt and $150 billion in cash reserves). Gaddafi’s idea was that African and Muslim nations would join together to create this new currency and use it to purchase oil and other resources to the exclusion of the dollar and other currencies. While a Russia Today report called it “an idea that would shift the economic balance of the world”, Gaddafi’s plans for a radical financial overhaul of African economies would undoubtedly have sounded the death knell for IMF looting of African economies, not to mention the ’CFA Franc’, a colonial currency tied to the Euro and the French central bank and used in twelve formerly French-ruled African countries (hence the unbridled enthusiasm with which the French government joined the fray).  
Writing in April 2011 for the London Evening Post, writer Jean-Paul Pougala had this to say about Gaddafi: "For most Africans, Gaddafi is a generous man, a humanist, known for his unselfish support for the struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. If he had been an egotist, he wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the West to help the ANC both militarily and financially in the fight against apartheid. This was why Mandela, soon after his release from 27 years in jail, decided to break the UN embargo and travel to Libya on 23 October 1997. Mandela didn’t mince his words when the former US president Bill Clinton said the visit was an ‘unwelcome’ one: “No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do.”
He added, "Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi, they are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past." A “generous humanist”? Dare we say a genuine socialist? The late African freedom fighter, Kwame Ture, further characterised Gaddafi as ‘a diamond in a cesspool of African misleaders’. “African misleaders” installed and financed by Western governments.
Writing in September this year in the Guardian, Julian Borger and Terry Macalister pointed out that Western oil companies had planned to carve up Libyan oil before the so-called ‘revolution’. Are we surprised? Is it mere coincidence that the NATO bombing campaign began on the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq? The Egyptian uprising was more or less legitimate based on the psychopathic policies of a real ’brutal dictator’ - Hosni Mubarak - who had brought millions of Egyptians to the brink of starvation. And take note how Mubarak was dealt with in comparison to Gaddafi.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

“It appears that Megrahi is innocent”

[What follows is excerpted from an article by retired US Ambassador Andrew Killgore that was published on Media Monitors Network on this date in 2007:]

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled on June 28 that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basit Ali Megrahi for the Dec 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 people on the plane, including 179 Americans, were killed, and 11 people on the ground lost their lives. Megrahi was found guilty on Jan 31, 2001 -- on the shakiest of grounds, in this writer’s opinion -- by three Scottish judges sitting at a special Scottish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. (...)

Dr Robert Black, professor of law at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and originator of the idea to try the Lockerbie defendants in the Netherlands under Scottish law, told this writer in December 2000 that for nearly three years after the crash of Pan Am 103, the investigation looking for a culprit focused on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Their supposition was that Iran may have commissioned the PFLP-CG to down the American plane in retaliation for the accidental shooting down over the Persian Gulf of a civilian Iranian airliner by the American Navy cruiser the USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988. Suddenly, however, according to Black, the investigation began to center on Libya.

The premise of the prosecution’s case at the Camp Zeist trial was that the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 was loaded at Valetta, Malta on an Air Malta flight bound for Frankfurt, Germany, where it was offloaded onto a feeder flight to London, then loaded aboard Pan Am 103 in London, bound for New York. Megrahi supposedly was assisted by Libyan Airlines employee Lamin Khalifa Fahima in sneaking the bomb aboard the plane in Malta, according to the prosecutors. Although Megrahi and Fahima had been indicted together, Fahima, strangely, was acquitted.

The most compelling evidence to undermine the conviction of Megrahi is the questionable testimony of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who on Dec 7, 1988 supposedly sold Megrahi clothing which was found at the wreckage site of Pan Am 103. Lengthy investigations suggest that while Megrahi was in Malta on Dec 7, he did not buy clothing at Gauci’s shop on that date.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Pan Am crash, has always believed that the bomb that destroyed the plane was loaded aboard the plane in London, not at Valetta. An explosives expert in the British Army who resigned his commission to study medicine, Swire became a spokesman for the British relatives of Lockerbie victims. The Glasgow Herald of June 20 contains a sinisterly intriguing quote by Swire, claiming that a US official involved in the case once told him, “Your government and ours know exactly what happened, but we are never going to tell.” [RB: The statement was made to Martin Cadman, not Jim Swire.]

A sensational article in the June 24, 2007 edition of The Scotsman includes allegations by the unnamed “Golfer” -- a Scottish police officer who worked at a senior level on the Lockerbie case -- in which “Golfer” claims there was a plot to blame Libya for the crash of Pan Am 103. In a damning indictment of Scottish justice, he claims that senior members of the Scottish investigating team agreed to manufacture and manipulate evidence to help secure a suspect and conviction. “Golfer” claims that when the Maltese shopkeeper Gauci was shown photographes of both the accused, Megrahi and Fahima, he had failed to identify either of them.

“Golfer” further alleges that a detective changed the labeling on a bag from “cloth charred” to “cloth with debris.” The bag with the changed label contained a piece of a shirt collar and fragments of material said to have been extracted from it, including tiny pieces of circuit board identified as coming from a timer made by a Swiss firm, MEBO. “Golfer” says the detective who knew he would be questioned about the label change was so nervous about it that he had trouble sleeping the night before he testified. “Golfer” claimed that the detective told him he had not been responsible for changing the label on the bag.

The identity of “Golfer” is a closely guarded secret. He will be seen as having betrayed his former colleagues. But his testimony, if it proves true, could be crucial in providing the relatives of the victims with the truth they have been craving for almost 19 years.

Dr Black told this writer in a July 5 telephone conversation that the High Court will probably consider Megrahi’s appeal next year. Black believes that he will be freed.

From all the evidence considered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, it appears that Megrahi is innocent. But if Iran and Libya didn’t do it, who did destroy Pan Am Flight 103?

[RB: Regrettably, the article places a great deal of stress on the revelations by "the golfer" about evidence fabrication which, of course, were dismissed by the SCCRC.]

Friday, 21 October 2016

Conspiracy against a Libyan

This is the translated title of a fairly lengthy article (in German) about the Lockerbie case by Martin Alioth in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, first mentioned on this blog on this date in 2007. It quotes Dr Jim Swire and myself and is, perhaps, of particular interest because written primarily for a readership in the Swiss city where MeBo and Edwin Bollier are based. See

An English language version, courtesy of Google Translate, can be read here.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Lockerbie evidence was taken abroad

[This is part of the headline over a report published on the STV News website on this date in 2009. It reads in part:]

Christine Grahame says Crown Office confirmed fragment taken abroad by investigating officers.

An MSP says that a key piece of evidential material used to convict the Lockerbie bomber was taken to Germany and the US without the defence team or the prosecutor knowing.

Christine Grahame MSP says the Crown Office confirmed to her that the fragment was taken to Germany and then to the US by Scottish investigating officers without the knowledge of the defence team or the senior prosecutor at the time of the investigation.

Ms Grahame also claims Scottish police investigators did not record the fragment's transportation across the world and in doing so broke the vital chain of evidence undermining the integrity of the fragment.

She said: "The Crown Office have confirmed to me today that the fragment, PT-35, the piece of evidence that it was claimed linked Libya to the attack was also sent to Germany in April 1990 as well as the US.

"On the 22nd of June 1990 it was then taken to the FBI lab in Washington for examination by FBI officials there. Lord Fraser makes it clear he did not know and would not have allowed this evidence to be taken out of Scottish jurisdiction and control, but that is precisely what did happen. That leaves a very serious question mark over the central piece of evidence used to convict Mr Megrahi."

[RB: The history of PT35 and its travels can be found on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s PT35B website.]

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Lockerbie petition

[What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2010:]

Over 1,000 sign Lockerbie petition

[This is the headline over a Press Association news agency report just published on the website of the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser. It reads in part:]

More than 1,200 people have backed an independent inquiry into the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber, campaigners have revealed.

A petition was lodged at the Scottish Parliament urging ministers to look again at the 2001 trial, which saw Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi become the only man to be found guilty of the 1988 terror attack.

One year after the Libyan's release on compassionate grounds, campaigners launched the new attempt to secure an inquiry, attracting 1,245 signatories in 10 days.

The appeal is being led by pressure group Justice For Megrahi, which involves Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the Pan Am bombing.

He said the case has been "corrosive and deeply damaging" to the Scottish justice system and called on the Government to open an inquiry.

Mr Swire added: "Only in such a manner can Scotland demonstrate that it is making a sincere attempt to resolve this highly contentious issue."

Professor Robert Black QC, who has been described as the "architect" of the Kamp van Zeist trial, also leant his name to the campaign. He has hit out on the "weak" quality of evidence which placed Megrahi in Malta, linking him to the bombing later over Scotland.

Prof Black said: "I have always contended that no reasonable tribunal could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led."

The petition, lodged on October 8, can be accessed through the Scottish Parliament's website and closes on Thursday next week.

[RB: The petition remains live on the programme of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. Its progress over the years can be followed here.]

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Abu Talb released from prison in Sweden

[What follows is an item first posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]

Lockerbie "suspect" freed

[This is the headline over a short report (which does not seem to feature on the newspaper's website) in today's Scottish edition of The Mail on Sunday. It reads as follows:]

A terrorist who many believe carried out the Lockerbie bombing has been freed from jail in Sweden.

Mohammed Abu Talb ... was released less than three weeks after Addelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the atrocity, was released from prison in Scotland.

Talb has served 20 years of a life term in his adopted country for a series of bombings in Amsterdam and Copenhagen in 1985, which killed one and injured dozens.

The Palestinian terrorist is thought to have had the backing, finance, equipment and contacts to have downed the Pan Am jet in 1988.

As he was a key witness in the trial of Megrahi, the Crown Office says Talb has immunity from prosecution.

[If the Crown Office did indeed say this, it is -- once again -- in error as to the law of Scotland. A Crown witness gains immunity from prosecution only if he is called as an accomplice to give evidence against those involved with him in the crime charged. Talb was not called by the Crown in this capacity. He had been named by the two Libyan accused as the person who, acting for a Palestinian group, was really responsible for the destruction of Pan Am 103. The Crown called him to obtain a denial of this. He was not called as an accomplice of the Libyans.

The law on the subject of the extent and limits of the immunity from prosecution of Crown witnesses is clearly set out in the 5-judge case of O'Neill v Wilson 1983 SCCR 265.]

Lockerbie-Pan Am 103: Prosecution case evaporates

In the wilds of the Roggeveld Karoo we have been without internet access for the past three days. Here is what I would have posted on Monday, 17 October had it been possible.

[This is the headline over an article by Steve James that was published on the WSWS.org website on this date in 2000:]

After six months, the prosecution case in the trial of the two Libyans accused of blowing up Pan Am 103 on December 21 1988 has all but evaporated. The defendants, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, are being tried at a special court in Camp Zeist, a former US military base in the Netherlands, which was designated as Scottish territory for the purpose of the proceedings.
At the time of writing, the trial has again been interrupted after Scottish Lord Advocate Colin Boyd informed the three trial judges that new and unspecified information relating to the defence case had been made available to the prosecution by "a government”, but not that of the USA. The adjournment came on the day before Mohamed Abu Talb, a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) was due to give evidence for the prosecution. Talb, who is already serving a life sentence in Sweden for planting bombs, is one of those cited by the defence in their special defence of incrimination. This states that the PFLP-GC was, with others, responsible for the atrocity that killed 270 people. Talb denies any involvement and is now scheduled to give evidence on October 17. He has apparently been offered remission of his present sentence and immunity from further prosecution if he testifies.
A report in the October 15 Scotland on Sunday newspaper suggested that the government in question referred to by Boyd was Syria, and that a "confession" by Talb had been handed over to the prosecution. The Lord Advocate has also arranged an explanatory meeting with angry relatives of those who died in the explosion, who fear the trial may now disintegrate.
The present adjournment is the latest in a series that have preceded the appearance of particularly controversial witnesses or pieces of evidence.
Shortly before the trial commenced, the Swiss manufacturer of the timing device implicated in the explosion announced that from their own research, they concluded the bomb had not been located in the luggage container in a Samsonite suitcase, as the prosecution team claimed, but was jammed against the aircraft wall. Such public announcements from a leading witness threw the prosecution into crisis, triggered a round of legal threats to newspapers such as the Glasgow-based Sunday Herald who had printed the claims made by Edwin Bollier, CEO of MEBO, which made the MST-13 electronic timers alleged to have triggered the explosion.
When he eventually took the stand in June, both prosecution and defence questioning of Bollier revealed the extent of MEBO's relations both with the Libyan government and the former East German security police, the Stasi. He sold prototype timers, and millions of pounds worth of electronic equipment, including exploding mobile pagers and encryption manuals to the Stasi, who are known to have supplied the PFLP-GC with equipment. Bollier supplied Libya with radio antennae, bomb timers, and had observed explosives' trials in the Libyan desert. He rented a Swiss office to one of the accused, who it is likely had some role in the Libyan intelligence service. Bollier also had unspecified relations with other Middle Eastern governments and with the CIA.
Bollier's was followed by a series of witnesses—CIA and ex-Stasi spies, other MEBO staff, airport staff, a clothes shop owner—whose testimony reveals a prosecution case that is characterised by its extreme flimsiness, resting almost exclusively on tenuous circumstantial evidence, for which alternative explanations can easily be found.
The prosecutions most heralded witness was Abdul Majid Giacka, who has been living in the US under a witness protection programme since 1991. Long presented to the family members of the US victims as a crucial eyewitness, Giacka's evidence proved disastrous for the prosecution case.
Giacka, it finally emerged, offered to provide the CIA with information after he joined Libyan intelligence to avoid military service in 1988. Such was the low level of the information that he presented to the CIA that by 1991 his handlers considered halting all payments to their dubious asset, who was costing them $1,000 a month. Despite a period working alongside both the accused at Malta airport, Giacka never mentioned Lockerbie or suitcase bombs to his CIA handlers at the time.
In July 1991 Giacka attended a meeting with the CIA, at which his continued employment on Langley's payroll was to be discussed. The next day, more than two years after the Pan Am bombing, Giacka presented the CIA with an account according to which Fhimah and Megrahi had carried a "Samsonite" suitcase through Maltese customs.
The defence also cited censored CIA cables to illuminate some of Giacka's other extravagant accusations. He claimed at one point that Libyan leader Moammar Qhaddaffi was a freemason, and that he (Giacka) was related to the former Libyan monarch, King Idris. It also became clear from the cables that at the time of the bombing the CIA did not consider Fhimah to be a member of the Libyan intelligence services.
According to Clare Connolly from the Glasgow University's Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit, "The defence cross-examination made it clear that Giaka's actions in providing this information to investigators could have been motivated by a desire for money and a wish to secure his future as a US citizen."
On other occasions, Giaka's reliance on US officials sitting on the prosecution bench was so blatant that UN observers attending the trial told the Sunday Times, "We could not see how Mr Giaka conducted himself, but the defence raised objections repeatedly to the looks that passed between him and the Americans... With other witnesses introduced at the American end of the investigation, through the CIA or the FBI, we have witnessed those types of exchanges."
The prosecution are so short of serious evidence that, despite the numerous delays, the trial is expected to last much less than the full year initially anticipated.
The PFLP-GC were the original suspects, and for two years after the crash most of the investigating authorities operated on the basis that the evidence against the PFLP-GC was overwhelming. The US intelligence services have played a dubious role from before the crash right through to the trial. It is a fact that several US Special Forces members died on Pan Am 103, and that their luggage recovered from the crash site was interfered with.
No trial in legal history has been so bound up with shifts in world politics, a study of which is very revealing. Initial accusations directed against the PFLP-GC regarded the Lockerbie bombing as a reprisal, organised by Iran, Syria and the PFLP-GC, for the shooting down of an Iranian Airbus on July 3, 1988 by the US. The December 21 1988 bombing came little more than a month after the Palestinian National Council meeting which effectively sanctioned the existence of Israel. On December 13 PLO leader Yassir Arafat expounded on this in his historic speech to the United Nations. The pro-Syrian PFLP-GC opposed the PLO's line, and, along with other Palestinian groups advocating the continuation of a military strategy against Israel, launched a series of raids designed to derail the PLO's developing relations with the US. The PFLP-GC had on numerous occasions been involved in fire-fights in Beirut with the PLO and had been implicated in a series of attacks on aircraft.
The change in focus to Libya was, at the time, widely interpreted as a political response by the US in line with its preparation for the Gulf War, with both Syria and Iran acting as crucial US allies in the attack on Iraq. Subsequently, the US used Lockerbie and other attributed bombings as a justification for imposing sanctions against Libya. The present case only emerged in the context of the Libyan regime's developing international relations, particularly with Europe, and after months of negotiations by Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan.
If the Scotland on Sunday reports are confirmed, it would not be the first time that the Syrian government has dumped its erstwhile allies, in pursuing closer relations with the US. Following Syria's support for the Gulf War, Syria's then leader, Hafez al-Assad, handed over information on planned terrorist attacks, evicted Carlos "the Jackal" from Damascus, and latterly expelled Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, allowing his capture by the CIA and subsequent trial in Turkey.
[RB: Regrettably, the Zeist judges did not agree that the prosecution case had evaporated, but swallowed it hook, line and sinker.]

A brilliant and forensically precise dissection

In the wilds of the Roggeveld Karoo we have been without internet access for the past three days. Here is what I would have posted on Sunday, 16 October had it been possible.

[What follows is the text of a review by Lindsay Bruce of Dr Morag Kerr’s Adequately Explained by Stupidity? that was posted on this date in 2015 on the Amazon UK website:]

A brilliant and forensically precise dissection of the fog and confusion surrounding the loading of the bomb in baggage container AVE4041 which took the lives of 270 people and precipitated the biggest murder investigation in Scottish history and an international manhunt involving almost every law enforcement agency in the western hemisphere. A noted veterinarian and biochemist, Dr Kerr takes us on a journey through the labyrinthine interline baggage handling procedures of 1988 and uncovers huge gaping holes in the investigation; lost opportunities, speculative leaps, rank incompetence, dodgy testimony, flawed forensics, and political expediency. With all the case evidence laid out in front of her, she patiently and methodically works through analysing each fateful step that led to the loading of the bomb, exploring all the possible contributing factors that lead us to one inescapable and irrefutable conclusion; the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 has yet to be solved and the hunt for justice must continue.

A superbly written tome that despite its mountain of technical evidence will have you gripped from foreword to conclusion, Kerr's analysis is top drawer. Humanised by anecdotes of thoughtful individuals doing their jobs amidst the horror of one of the world's most atrocious pre-9/11 acts of terrorism, her clinical detachment and professional evidence-led approach casts serious doubts on the legitimacy of Megrahi's conviction.

This is a must-read for anybody touched by the Lockerbie tragedy, and all those interested in international justice.