Friday, 7 August 2009

Do not set 'guilty' Lockerbie bomber free, detectives plead

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

The investigating officers who led the original inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing have made an unprecedented intervention in the case to argue against the release of the Libyan convicted of the attack.

In a letter to the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish police chief and the FBI boss who led the international investigation 20 years ago launch a powerfully worded plea against the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, who is serving a minimum sentence of 25 years for his part in the bombing.

In the letter obtained by The Times, Stuart Henderson, the retired senior investigating officer at the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre, and Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent in charge of the US taskforce, whose detective work helped to convict Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, insist that he is guilty. They also argue that his release would “nullify the dedicated work of dozens of law enforcement and intelligence officials around the world”. (...)

In the letter sent to Kenny MacAskill last month, Mr Henderson and Mr Marquise claim the evidence they gathered added to a “strong circumstantial case” against al-Megrahi, and point out that Libya has admitted culpability for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on a number of occasions since.

They say that releasing him would make a mockery of the work undertaken during the Lockerbie investigation, the biggest murder inquiry in British history, involving Scottish police, Scotland Yard, the FBI and other agencies from around the world.

The pair write: “To release Mr Megrahi to a regime which has admitted culpability for killing 270 citizens of the world would be a mistake. It would nullify the dedicated work of dozens of law enforcement and intelligence officials around the world who only wanted to find the truth.”

The detectives acknowledge al-Megrahi's poor health but contend it should not be a reason to release him.

“The eight judges who have already heard the evidence including three who were able to observe each witness under direct and cross-examination came to the same conclusion the rest of us did - Mr Megrahi was guilty of murder. His current health situation does not change that.”

Mr MacAskill, who is awaiting independent medical reports assessing al-Megrahi's condition, is expected to make a decision on his future by the end of this month. On Wednesday, the minister took the unprecedented step of visiting the Libyan in jail, prompting accusations that he was undermining the legal process. Al-Megrahi's second appeal is currently under way, although he will be forced to abandon his attempt to clear his name if he wishes to pursue a prisoner transfer. Release on compassionate grounds would allow him to continue with the appeal after being freed.

[Note by RB: Mr Henderson and Mr Marquise are gravely in error when they say that "The eight judges who have already heard the evidence ... came to the same conclusion as the rest of us did - Mr Megrahi was guilty of murder." Only the three judges at the Zeist trial heard the evidence and reached that conclusion. The five judges at the 2002 appeal made it clear that they had not considered the sufficiency of the evidence against Megrahi nor whether any reasonable tribunal could have convicted on that evidence. In paragraph 369 of their Opinion they said:

“When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor [senior counsel for Megrahi] stated that the appeal was not about sufficiency of evidence: he accepted that there was a sufficiency of evidence. He also stated that he was not seeking to found on section 106(3)(b) of the 1995 Act [verdict unreasonable on the evidence]. His position was that the trial court had misdirected itself in various respects. Accordingly in this appeal we have not required to consider whether the evidence before the trial court, apart from the evidence which it rejected, was sufficient as a matter of law to entitle it to convict the appellant on the basis set out in its judgment. We have not had to consider whether the verdict of guilty was one which no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have returned in the light of that evidence.”

The true position, as I have written elsewhere, is this:

"As far as the outcome of the appeal is concerned, some commentators have confidently opined that, in dismissing Megrahi’s appeal, the Appeal Court endorsed the findings of the trial court. This is not so. The Appeal Court repeatedly stresses that it is not its function to approve or disapprove of the trial court’s findings-in-fact, given that it was not contended on behalf of the appellant that there was insufficient evidence to warrant them or that no reasonable court could have made them. These findings-in-fact accordingly continue, as before the appeal, to have the authority only of the court which, and the three judges who, made them."

In June 2007, after a three-year investigation, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission came to the conclusion that Megrahi's conviction may have constituted a miscarriage of justice. One of its six reasons for so finding was that in respect of absolutely crucial findings in fact by the trial court (the date of purchase of the clothing that surrounded the bomb and, hence, the identity of the purchaser) no reasonable tribunal could have reached the conclusion that the evidence established that it was Megrahi.

And whether Libya has admitted culpability for the Lockerbie tragedy has no bearing on whether a particular Libyan citizen was properly convicted or should now be released on compassionate grounds. But, of course, Libya has not admitted culpability. Here is a link to the official Libyan position which is that "Libya accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials". If, as a result of the present appeal, Megrahi's conviction is quashed there is no Libyan government admission of responsibility or culpability.]


  1. Desperate times require desperate measures; and this gesture by Marquise and Henderson has more than a whiff of desperation about it. If they had any respect for justice, they would surely by now have considered the evidence which points overwhelmingly to Al-Megrahi's innocence. They must surely know that the evidence surrounding the timer fragment reeks of manipulation and falsification. They must know that Giaka's evidence was similarly utterly false; and they must know that their investigation was compromised from the very beginning. According to the Times, "They say that releasing [Megrahi] would make a mockery of the work undertaken during the Lockerbie investigation." Releasing a dying prisoner, guilty or innocent, can not make a mockery of an investigation. Rather, it shows a humane and civilised justice system. What has really made a mockery of the investigation is the rigged evidence, the absurd conduct and verdict of the trial, and the sacrificing of natural justice to protect US and UK political interests.

  2. It is fitting that Mr Marquise and Mr Henderson pay tribute to the "dozens (of investigators) and intelligence officials around the world" who contributed to the case.
    It was the "elimination" of Heathrow essentially on a whim by the investigators in the face of the real evidence that marked the end of an objective investigation and lay the way open for the imposition of the "Libyan solution" created by these same "intelligence officials."

  3. I see Justice Secretary Jack Straw has reversed his earlier decision and released Ronnie Biggs on compassionate grounds despite his perceived lack of remorse. Although different jurisdictions it would have looked a little odd if Mr Megrahi was released if Biggs was to have died in prison.

  4. The following is from Peter Biddulph, who has been unable to post it directly:

    In February 2004, in an interview given to BBC television by former Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem, Ghanem claimed that the August 2003 declaration of Libyan guilt for the Lockerbie bombing was not real. It had all been a ruse to help improve relations with Western countries and secure the lifting of sanctions.

    He said: "After the sanctions and after the problems we have [been] facing because of the sanctions, the loss of money, we thought that it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed a compensation."

    Q: Was Libya now denying any guilt for the bombing of Pan Am 103?

    Ghanem was clear: "I agree with that and this is why I say, we bought peace."

  5. Peter Biddulph lifted his quote from the excellently written biography of former Libyan PM Shukri Ghanem on Wikipedia - (see

    However, it was not a BBC television interview. Ghanem was interviewed by Mike Thomson on BBC Radio 4's "Today Programme" of 24 February 2004. A report is available and the full interview can be listened to by following this link:

  6. I think we need to correct the record. If you recall when Mr. Ghanem initially made the statement attributed to him, the Libyan Government--the next day-- said the statement had been retracted and that Libya was reissuiung the statement that Libya was "responsible for the actions of its agents." I know nothing of Mr. Ghanem's "connections" within the Libyan Government but refer you to a statement attributed to Mr. Ghanem's boss-- the leader himself--Moammar Gaddaffi-- when it was reported in the Washington Times on January 2, 2004 that during a lengthy interview with the reporter, Gaddaffi "admitted Libya's guilt for the downing of Pan Am 103...." I think he might be in a better position to know the truth than Mr. Ghanem and as such I take Mr. Gaddaffi's statement at face value. Unfortunately, Mr. Gaddaffi has not given authorities the others involved nor has he explained why Libyan officials were attempting to locate an MST-13 timer (MEBO) in the days just before Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed. The string of circumstantial evidence which implicated and convicted his "agent" for whom he admitted responsibility is the reason Mr. Megrahi is in jail today. One other point, when Mr. Gaddaffi was asked by an American student why he had not yet apologized to the victims, he said, "This is a closed case."

  7. Which "record" do you think needs correcting, Mr Marquise?

    Surely, it can't be the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme's interview on 24 February 2004 with former prime minister of Libya, Shukri Ghanem, which speaks for itself. I suggest you go to the BBC weblink (
    libya_20040224.shtml) and click on "The US government are calling for Libya to clarify the comments made on the Today Programme" (the audio report on 25 February 2004 of the US reaction to Mr Ghanem's interview the previous day).

    As to the Libyan leader, Col. Gaddafi, I think he will clarify the position in his address to the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2009 when he is expected to call for a "United Nations Inquiry into the death of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing."

  8. Mr Marquise, one cannot always believe what one reads in newspapers.

  9. Ruth, you should know all about believeing what one reads in the newspapers, considering all of your posts are nothing but regurgitated rag trash.

  10. Ruth is absolutely right about Richard Marquise's apparent naivety in relation to newspaper articles.

    Marquise would have us believe: "when it was reported in the Washington Times on January 2, 2004 that during a lengthy interview with the reporter, Gaddafi "admitted Libya's guilt for the downing of Pan Am 103...." Please give us chapter and verse so that we can verify the quote, Mr Marquise, not your clearly biased summary of what was said in the newspaper article.

    We are only six weeks away from hearing what the Libyan leader in person has to say to the UN General Assembly (under its Libyan president Ali Treki, and where Libya also holds a seat on the UN Security Council). In his UNGA address on 23 September 2009, Muammar Gaddafi will doubtless have a lot to say about the politics of the Pan Am Flight 103 investigation and trial, and is expected to call for a "United Nations Inquiry into the death of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing."

  11. See this link.

  12. Thank you for the link to the newspaper article.

    It is worth noting:
    a. The reporter, Arnaud de Borchgrave, is a former editor in chief of the Washington Times (1986 to 1992).
    b. His successor at the newspaper (established in 1982 by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon and subsidized by the church) was Wesley Pruden.
    c. De Borchgrave's lengthy interview with Colonel Gaddafi was said to have taken place in July 1993.
    d. "Mr Pruden, who retained the title of managing editor after he succeeded Arnaud de Borchgrave as the top editor, does not deny that he sometimes rewrites articles to give them more punch -- a practice known as 'Prudenizing' at the paper." (Quoted from 'Washington Times Moves to Reinvent Itself' an article in The New York Times - see

    In the light of which, I think it is worth repeating Ruth's sage advice given above: "Mr Marquise, one cannot always believe what one reads in newspapers."

  13. Patrick Haseldine is a former British FCO official who was dismissed in August 1989 by the then foreign secretary, John Major, for "various disciplinary offences constituting breaches of the Diplomatic Service Regulations".

  14. Drat! I had calculated that my lights were impenetrably hidden under a load of bushels!

    I suppose it was my first petition to the PM that gave the game away: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to compensate and substantially increase the FCO pension of British diplomat, Patrick Haseldine, who was sacked for writing a letter to the Guardian 18 years ago ( The petition attracted 126 signatories but, regretably, the compensatory payment of £750,000 from HMG is still awaited, however.

    Of course, it could have been my second petition to the PM: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to say why the number of e-petition signatures needed to trigger a response by officials at Downing Street was recently changed from 'provided there are 100 signatures or more' to 'usually provided there are 200 signatures or more' (

    I suspect, however, that it must have been the third petition to the PM that finally brought me into the spotlight: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to support calls for a United Nations Inquiry into the death of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing (

    After all, this United Nations Inquiry is what the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, is expected to be calling for when he addresses the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2009.

  15. Hamlet- Act III Scene II do you like the play?

  16. Bunntamas doth protest too much, methinks.