Monday, 22 October 2018

Pik's Lockerbie mystery

[This is the headline over an article published on 20 October 2018 in South Africa's Saturday Star newspaper by retired Kwazulu-Natal High Court judge Chris Nicholson. The following are excerpts:]

On January 11, 1989 [South African foreign minister Pik] Botha travelled to Stockholm in Sweden with other foreign dignitaries – including UN Secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar – for the funeral of the UN’S Commissioner for South-west Africa, Bernt Carlsson. Botha was interviewed by Sue Macgregor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and alleged that he and a 22-strong South African delegation, who were booked to fly from London to New York on December 21, 1988, had been targeted by the ANC. However, having been alerted to these ANC plans to kill him, Botha said he managed to outsmart them by taking the earlier Pan Am Flight 101 from Heathrow to JFK Airport, New York.

Despite having the knowledge, the question remains why he did not tell the airline security and alert the other passengers that their deaths were going to follow in a few minutes. Is there any other conclusion but that Botha was happy for them to go to their deaths?

The notion that Botha was warned is bolstered by statements made by Oswald Le Winter, who worked for the CIA from 1968 to 1985, and Tiny Rowland in the 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross. This film was made by Allan Francovich, who later died under suspicious circumstances.

In the film Le Winter quotes Rowland as disclosing that Botha had told him he and 22 South African delegates were going to New York for the Namibian Independence Ratification Ceremony and were all booked on the Pan Am Flight 103. They were given a warning from a source which could not be ignored and changed flights. The source revealed by Le Winter is the SA Bureau for State Security (BOSS), which he claims had close contacts with Israeli intelligence and the CIA.

The grave misgivings of the public about this tragedy persuaded a relative of a victim to write to retired South African MP Colin Eglin of the Democratic Party, asking him to make enquiries on the South African side. On June 5, 1996, Eglin asked Justice Minister Dullah Omar in Parliament if Pik Botha and his entourage “had any plans to travel on this flight (Pan Am Flight 103) or had reservations for this flight; if so, why were the plans changed?” In reply on June 12, 1996, Omar stated he had been informed by Botha that shortly before finalising their booking arrangements for travel from Heathrow to New York, they learnt of an earlier flight from London to New York, namely, Pan Am Flight 101. They were booked and travelled on this flight to New York.

Eglin wrote back on July 18, 1996, and added: “Since then I have done some more informal prodding. This has led me to the person who made the reservations on behalf of the South African foreign minister Pik Botha and his entourage. This person assures me that he and no one else was responsible for the reservations, and the reservation made in South Africa for the South African group was originally made on PA 101, departing London at 11:00 on 21 December 1988. It was never made on PA 103 and consequently was never changed. He made the reservation on PA 101 because it was the most convenient flight connecting with South African Airways Flight SA 234 arriving at Heathrow at 07:20 on 21 December 1988.”

Eglin gave the victim’s family the assurance that he had “every reason to trust the person referred to” as he had been given a copy of “rough working notes and extracts from his personal diary of those days”. In his letter Eglin wrote: “In the circumstances, I have to accept that an assertion that the reservations of the South African group were either made or changed as a result of warnings that might have been received is not correct.”

Could the “rough working notes” and the “personal diary of those days” have been fabricated to save Pik Botha’s skin from a most embarrassing and possibly criminal act? Two years before Eglin asked the questions in Parliament, Botha was contacted by the press and his replies were reported on a Reuters Textline of November 12, 1994, under the heading “South African Minister denies knowing of Lockerbie Bomb”.

The article said: “Former foreign minister Pik Botha denied on Saturday he had been aware in advance of a bomb on board Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people. The minister confirmed through his spokesman that he and his party had been booked on the ill-fated airliner but switched flights after arriving early in London from Johannesburg.”

There is further confirmation of the fabrication from other sources. On November 12, 1994, Botha’s spokesperson, Gerrit Pretorius, told Reuters that Botha and 22 South African negotiators, including Defence Minister Magnus Malan and Foreign Affairs director Neil van Heerden, had been booked on Pan Am Flight 103. He said “the flight from Johannesburg arrived early in London and the embassy got us on to an earlier flight. Had we been on Pan Am Flight 103 the impact on South Africa and the region would have been massive. It happened on the eve of the signing of the tripartite agreements,” said Pretorius, referring to pacts signed at the UN headquarters on December 22, 1988, which ended South African and Cuban involvement in Angola, and which led to Namibian independence.

Another statement by Pretorius was in appallingly bad taste: “The minister is flattered by the allegation of near-omniscience.” Pretorius goes on to explain again how the change had come about. “But we… got to London an hour early and the embassy got us on an earlier flight. When we got to JFK (airport) a contemporary of mine said, ‘Thank God you weren’t on 103. It crashed over Lockerbie’.”

There is further confirmation of the change of flight from another spokesperson for Pik Botha. “Had he known of the bomb, no force on Earth would have stopped him from seeing to it that Flight 103 with its deadly cargo would not have left the airport,” his spokesperson Roland Darroll told Reuters after consulting the minister.

Theresa Papenfus has written a hagiography of Botha and his times, which gives a further version of the events of that fateful night. Papenfus says: “A former member of staff related that there had been a hitch in the travel arrangements. The SAA flight took off from Johannesburg for London on 20 December 1988… I was concerned with the travel arrangements to New York. Because Pik preferred Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow, the party was booked on (Pan Am) Flight 103 from Frankfurt via London to New York.”

This conflicts diametrically with the statement that there never was a booking on Flight 103. Papenfus goes on to say: “It was the third scheduled daily transatlantic flight from London to John F Kennedy Airport in New York. But this schedule would have interfered with affairs of the heart. The official had a fiancée in London and he simply had to see her. He arranged for the delegation to take an earlier flight, from Johannesburg to London and then from London to New York.”

The official who changed the bookings was clearly with Botha. Papenfus says: “Once they arrived at New York the official had to attend to the usual administrative duties of ministerial staff. While the ministers were being whisked away from the airport in cars their baggage had to be collected and their passports stamped. Through the glass panels he could see people showing signs of hysteria. Some were crying, others screaming and a few were lying on the ground. ‘Americans!’ he muttered to himself. Then he was told by a member of the secret service that the Boeing on Pan Am Flight 103 had crashed. This was the flight on which the South African delegation had originally been booked.”

Papenfus admits a further intriguing detail: “In response to enquiries the Department of Foreign Affairs initially officially denied that seats had ever been booked for the ministerial party on Pan Am Flight 103. They said that the bookings had been on Flight 101 right from the beginning.” Papenfus concludes: “The tragedy claimed the life of the UN’S Commissioner for South West Africa, Mr Bernt Carlsson of Sweden. He was supposed to have been present at the signing of the agreements.”

The question remains whether he was not the real target of those who put the bomb on Pan Am 103.

[RB: Further treatment on this blog of the Pik Botha story can be found here.] 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Lockerbie trial was a parody of justice

[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today's Scottish edition of the Mail on Sunday. It reads as follows:]

Thank you for publishing Douglas Boyd’s analysis of the Lockerbie case last week.

I am the father of Flora Swire, who was murdered on the aircraft in 1988, and I attended the subsequent trial of Libyan Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

By the end I was convinced that we had witnessed a parody of justice. There were many deficiencies in the evidence, and those of us who have sought the truth have been further frustrated by the Government and Scottish High Court.

It has become clear to us that the trial was designed not to convict those responsible, but to further the wishes of the US and UK governments.

We agree with Douglas Boyd that the available evidence points to an Iranian decision to get revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian plane with 290 souls aboard.

In our sad search we have also uncovered material showing that the Government of the day had ample accurate warnings in advance of what was about to happen, but raised not a finger to prevent it happening.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Compensation could be sought for Megrahi's imprisonment

[What follows is excerpted from a report headlined Lockerbie Convict's Family Demands Acquittal Following New Evidence in Case that was published today on the website of the Saudi-owned Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat:]

The family of Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi demanded compensation for the period he spent in prison after new claims emerged that Iran may have been behind the 1988 downing of the US airplane in Lockerbie. [RB: (a) These are not new claims, but have been common currency for very many years; (b) the only evidence at the Zeist trial that Megrahi was an intelligence officer came from the CIA asset Majid Giaka whose testimony, except on this one point, was dismissed by the judges as utterly incredible.]

The Daily Mail published excerpts of a book by US author Douglas Boyd where he charged that Iran was behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. (...)

[Megrahi] was released from jail in 2009 on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died in 2012.

Lawyer Ghada Abdelbaset al-Megrahi demanded on behalf of her family compensation for each hour her father spent in British prisons.

Ahmad Hamza, of Libya's National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), said Boyd's book may have leaked facts and information that acquit Libya’s former regime and condemn Iran. [RB: The articles that have so far appeared have produced no new facts or information. Whether the book itself does so will be seen only once it is published later this month.]

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian regime adopts policies and practices that target the safety and stability of the West, United States and Arab countries. 

He said that the Libyan authorities can seek compensation from the international judiciary for the damage caused to the country over the Lockerbie case.

The official authorities in Libya had yet to comment on Boyd’s allegations, but many political and judicial circles have been demanding that the truth be revealed in the case.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Lockerbie has dealt with the atrocity with grace and dignity

[What follows is the text of a speech made by Christine Grahame MSP during the debate in the Scottish Parliament on 2 October 2018 on the motion Cycle to Syracuse to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster:]

I declare an interest as a member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign. I congratulate Oliver Mundell on securing the debate and welcome his so-called Syracuse team to the gallery.

It is important to recall that dreadful night nearly 30 years ago, with the deaths of so many people. They included the young students who will be commemorated on the cycle journey. Their lives ended tragically, but now the cyclists are taking the journey to the destination that those students never reached. We are also reminded of the 11 Lockerbie residents who died that night, and the actions of the professionals who, through their sensitivity and kindness, then and over the years, have created a bond across the ocean between the families of those who were killed that night.

Lockerbie, like Aberfan before it and Dunblane, never wanted to be in the headlines for being a graveyard for so many, but it has dealt with the atrocity with grace and dignity. It should not have been Lockerbie, of course. The delay to flight 103 meant that the bomb, which was probably intended to detonate over the sea without evidential trace, did so over acres of bleak winter Scottish countryside.

Although I have nothing but admiration for the Lockerbie community, I feel that no line can be drawn under that night until the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is finally and fully tried on a last appeal. Members will recall that a second appeal on a referral from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission was abandoned by Megrahi. In my view, that was to secure his transfer from Greenock to Libya to be with his family as he succumbed to terminal cancer. The evidence has not been heard to this day.

I met him three times, and he made it clear at our last meeting that it was not for himself but for his family that he wished his name to be cleared. He did not want the name “Megrahi” to forever be part of the Lockerbie atrocity. At this moment, a third application for review, which has been lodged by his family, is in process with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. I have been told by the SCCRC that the application has passed stage 1; in other words, the commission has accepted his reasons for abandoning the second appeal—in other words, because he thought that would help to secure his release. The process is now at stage 2; that is, the substance of the grounds for a new appeal are being considered. The commission hopes to report by summer 2019.

In the meantime, yet to be completed and sent to the Crown Office is the separate police-led Sandwood inquiry into the actions at the time of police, prosecutors and forensic officials. The inquiry, which is investigating claims of attempts to pervert the course of justice prior to the Camp Zeist trial, started in 2014. Pronouncements have been made on its imminent conclusion, which has been much postponed. Although the SCCRC could conclude its findings without that report, I have no doubt that it would be difficult for it to fully conclude without it. Sandwood’s—to be kind—slow progress is cause for concern, because 30 years on, justice delayed is justice denied for the people of Lockerbie, the Syracuse students, every other one of the 270 who died and their families and friends—and, perhaps, even the Megrahi family.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

How the whole world was sold a monstrous lie over Lockerbie

[This is part of the headline over a long article published in today's edition of the Mail on Sunday. The article, which advances the familiar proposition that responsibility for the Lockerbie atrocity rests with the PFLP-GC acting on behalf of Iran, is condensed from a forthcoming book Lockerbie: The Truth by Douglas Boyd which is due to be published on 11 October 2018. The following are a few paragraphs from the Mail on Sunday article:]

With a loss of 259 lives on board and 11 more on the ground, the destruction of Maid of the Seas, blown up by a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988, was the worst civil aviation disaster in British history. Yet 30 years later, we still do not officially know who is responsible for mass murder high in the air above a small Scottish market town preparing for Christmas.

There was, of course, a fall guy. Eleven years after the atrocity, a 47-year-old Libyan Arab Airlines security officer called Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted on a tissue of lies which centred on the evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed to remember him buying clothes similar to those that may have been in the suitcase with the bomb that would rip through the fuselage.

A low-level Libyan CIA ‘asset’ called Abdul Majid Giaka said he recalled seeing al-Megrahi collect a brown Samsonite suitcase from the Arrivals carousel in Malta’s Luqa airport on December 20, 1988. On the following morning, he alleged, the unaccompanied suitcase was loaded on to a flight to Frankfurt, from where it would be transferred to London on a Pan Am ‘feeder flight’ and loaded aboard Flight 103 – before then exploding.

A further 11 years later, al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment at an extraordinary trial held in a disused American air base near Utrecht, Holland.

After years investigating the Lockerbie disaster and its background, I have found that little of the evidence against him can be taken at face value. Instead, a very different story has emerged from the morass of lies, one that should have been apparent from the very start.

It is a story of incompetence, vengeance, political expediency and then a cover-up orchestrated from the very highest levels in London and in Washington – where the real bomber is said to live today, under the cover of an American witness protection scheme.

[RB: The "real bomber" is said by the author to be Basel Bushnaq, alias Abu Elias. This is not by any means a new claim. Indeed Bushnaq was named by Christine Grahame MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 2 September 2009 (Official Report, columns 19051 to 19053). There is lots about him to be found here on The Lockerbie Divide website.]

Monday, 24 September 2018

Salisbury Incident — Skripal case investigators could learn from the Lockerbie affair

[This is the headline over an article published today on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer's Intel Today website, to which resort should be made for important accompanying references and links. The article reads in part:]

“The men and women at Bletchley had no idea that in the Napoleonic Wars we had broken the French ciphers, any more than those people knew how ciphers had been cracked when we faced the threat from the Armada.

There was absolutely no question of learning from experience. This repeats itself more in intelligence than in any other area because the experience is less well known, and much of it classified. That is why you get major policymakers whose abilities are adequate in other ways who do so badly in matters of intelligence.

There is no profession that know so little about its own history as the intelligence community does.”

Professor Christopher Andrew — Emeritus Professor of Modern and Contemporary History

There is no do doubt whatsoever that Intelligence professionals should have a much better knowledge of their history as, now and then, they could use a few hints from past cases. (...)

The comments from Professor Andrew are not without irony. Ten years ago, I wrote to a British scholar who specializes in the history of MI5. I strongly suggested to this professor that it was urgent to save all information regarding the Lockerbie Affair. The reply was direct. “There is no need for that. Nobody, absolutely nobody, cares about this old story.”

Well, never mind that the SCCRC has decided last year to conduct a full review of the Lockerbie case. A new trial is widely expected to quash the infamous Zeist verdict.

Today, although I am certainly not an expert in the Skripals investigation, I would like to tell you about two striking similarities between this case and the Lockerbie affair. (...)

The Smell Test

LOCKERBIE — For many months, a Germany-based terrorist cell was the prime focus of the Lockerbie investigators. Marwan Khreesat — the bomb maker of this organisation — had built five explosive devices. One was hidden inside a Toshiba cassette-recorder similar to the one that allegedly destroyed Pan Am 103.

According to Intelligence reports, Khreesat, Dalkamoni — the leader of the cell in Germany — and Ahmed Jibril — the head of the PFLP-GC — had repeated discussions about various methods to cover the smell of SEMTEX, the explosive used in these five radio-bombs as well as in the attack of Pan Am 103.

These events occurred in October 1988 and Pan Am 103 was downed on December 21 1988. At that time, only one company produced SEMTEX and terrorists like it very much because it was odourless. Chemicals were added after 1991 to give SEMTEX a distinct smell.

One of the first questions addressed to Dalkamoni after his arrest by the German police at the end of October 1988 was if he knew what SEMTEX smells like. He was quite surprised. “Who do you take me for? I am an explosive professional. I know everything about explosives. Of course, SEMTEX is odourless.”

Today, we know that Khreesat was a CIA mole. Why did he made up all these stories about the smell of SEMTEX? Thirty years later, we still do not know.

SALISBURY — According to UK media, Charlie Rowley mentioned that the perfume that killed his girlfriend had an odd ammonia-type smell. Again, Novichok, like all nerve agents, is both tasteless and odourless.

And if you try to spin the story, you quickly run into troubles. Sure, ingredients could have been added. But, we have been told all along that the samples match exactly the Russian ‘secret’ formula.

The Mystery of the Residue Analysis

SALISBURY — According to the official press release:

“On 4 May 2018, tests were carried out in the hotel room where the suspects had stayed. A number of samples were tested at DSTL at Porton Down. Two swabs showed contamination of Novichok at levels below that which would cause concern for public health.

A decision was made to take further samples from the room as a precautionary measure, including in the same areas originally tested, and all results came back negative. We believe the first process of taking swabs removed the contamination, so low were the traces of Novichok in the room.”

So, we must accept that residues of Novichok were present in the hotel room for two months, and then disappeared because of a couple of swabs? How often do they clean a hotel room in East London, where the “suspects” stayed before travelling to Salisbury?

LOCKERBIE — The Lockerbie trial statistics are impressive. The trial amassed 10,232 pages of evidence amounting to more than 3m words. The court was shown 2,488 pieces of evidence and heard 229 prosecution witnesses. The trial cost £60m.

One would therefore safely conclude that the evidence of SEMTEX in the bombing of Pan Am 103 is well established. One would be wrong! None of the important fragments — radio, timer and pieces of clothing surrounding the device — were actually tested for explosive residues.

Only one piece of debris (a beam from the luggage container) — out of 4 million pieces collected — indicated the presence of SEMTEX. When I first saw these data, I immediately understood that something was badly wrong.

The spectrum indicated that all kinds of explosive residues were present in the swabs. This is clearly nonsense as some of these explosives, such as TNT and SEMTEX components, do not mix. Obviously, this was a case of contamination.

Years later, we learned that the laboratory that had conducted these measurements was indeed totally contaminated. One could find explosive residues in the offices, in the library, in the restaurant, anywhere. Over the years, that laboratory has been renamed many times: RARDE, DERA, DSTL. Many names, but it is the same damn place.

It was contamination in the Lockerbie Affair. And I would not rule out contamination in the Salisbury Case. If there is something we learn from history, it is that some people never learn from history.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Lockerbie's 30th anniversary commemoration plan revealed

[What follows is the text of a report published today on the DnG24 website:]

A plan to honour the 270 people who lost their lives in the Lockerbie air disaster has been revealed.

This year marks 30 years since the December 21 attack in 1988.

And this week Lockerbie Community Council announced their chosen tribute.

Helping them reach their decision was a a survey, conducted by the Annandale Herald in conjunction with the town council, which netted over 500 responses.

The online survey asked two questions: firstly, if locals thought the anniversary should be marked, with 86 per cent of respondents voting yes.

A second question asked how the date should be honoured, listing five options: a minute’s silence the in town, ceremony at the cemetery, civic reception, no event, or another idea.

Coming out top was the option of a ceremony at the cemetery, preferred by 47 per cent of people.

Meanwhile, the second preferred option, with 21 per cent of the vote, was a minute’s silence.

As well as the survey, locals were strongly encouraged to contact the community group to let their suggestions on how best to mark the anniversary be known.

Speaking this week, Jan Andrews, chairwoman of Lockerbie Community Council, said: “We consulted with the town from January this year.

“We had an online survey and, not forgetting those who do not use computers, we also urged locals to come to our meetings or contact us in anyway to let their thoughts, wishes and ideas be known.

“Following consultation, we have listened to the public and they do not want a repeat of the 25th anniversary events. Instead they want an entirely more subtle tribute to remember and respect all those involved in the disaster.”

As a result, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at Lockerbie Garden of Remembrance at 12 noon on Friday December 21.

It will include speeches and be conducted by Lord Lieutenant Fiona Armstrong.

Lockerbie RBL [Royal British Legion] Pipe Band will be in attendance, as well as a host of local groups wishing to lay wreaths, and townsfolk are strongly encouraged to attend.

Any group wishing to be involved should contact Lockerbie Community Council, care of Lockerbie Town Hall, or speak to Jan Andrews for further information.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

In memoriam: Robert Forrester

On 22nd March 2018 Justice for Megrahi (JfM) lost a valued supporter and friend.

Robert Forrester brought intellect, skill and enthusiasm to his role as JfM Secretary. We will miss his unique talents and personality and are left with a deep and profound sense of loss.

Over the years many of us had heard Robert express his determination to be buried in Highgate Cemetery in London beside his hero, Karl Marx. Many saw this as a wish unlikely to be fulfilled.

We should have known better. On Friday 31st August members of our committee joined with family and friends in celebrating his unique life at the interment of his ashes at Highgate Cemetery in the shadow of a large bronze bust of Marx's head and shoulders set on a magnificent marble plinth.

In true Robert style this unique ceremony took place with the music of a jazz band reverberating around the gravestones and tombs of Highgate’s great and good and somehow this musical invasion appeared completely appropriate in this haunting sepulchral place.

At the gathering afterwards we joined his family, friends and students he had taught over the years. We shared memories, laughter and tears as we followed Robert’s journeys and adventures as he travelled in the Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Italy and China before returning home to Scotland.

Robert’s work for Justice for Megrahi should never be underestimated and will remain as a fitting memorial to him. He brought a range of unique talents and a deep sense of justice into play as we worked to uncover the duplicity and deceit behind the system’s efforts to cover up the truth about the Lockerbie tragedy and to remove this massive stain on Scottish Justice.

We wish you could have remained with us to see the results of your work, Robert, but will always be thankful that our paths crossed albeit for too short a time.
JfM Committee: 12 September 2018 

Thursday, 6 September 2018

In the path of terrorists

[This is the heading over an article by Maltese journalist (now magistrate) Joe Mifsud published on website on this date in 2000, during the course of the trial at Camp Zeist. It reads as follows:]

A terrorist, like any other criminal, will do what he can to cover his tracks.  The Maltese origin of clothing in the bomb suitcase does not establish that either the suitcase or the bomb was once in Malta.

The clothing in the bomb suitcase, which was identifiable as having been manufactured in Malta, bore labels to this effect, enabled Royal Armament Research and Development (RARDE) to determine the country of origin as Malta.  So these labels had not been removed by the terrorists.

The Lockerbie investigators established that six items of the clothing and an umbrella, which originated in Malta were new and had been purchased new from the same shop in Malta on the same occasion.

These items of clothing had been purchased from Mary’s House in Sliema weeks, not days, before 21st December 1988.  The prosecution is claiming that the clothes were bought on the 7th December, while the defense is suggesting the 23rd November 1988 as the date.

In my opinion the facts and matters set out above are consistent with an attempt by the terrorists to distract the attention of the investigating authorities away from Frankfurt or Heathrow to Malta in the event of the bomb being detected or as in fact happened of the bomb exploding above land and debris from the bomb and the bomb suitcase being recovered.

It is inherently unlikely that terrorists would have tried to place the bomb suitcase on board Air Malta KM 180 on the 21st December 1988 for the following four reasons.

1.  Terrorists do not expose themselves and their plans to any unnecessary risk of detention or of error;

2.  Accordingly the terrorists responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103 would not have routed the bomb suitcase through Frankfurt and chosen to run the risk of it passing undetected through the security systems of three different airports on two different airlines when Air Malta during that period flew only three flights each week to Frankfurt but ten flights each week to Heathrow.

3.  Further if the bomb consisted of a timer device, terrorists would not have run the unpredictable risk of the passage of the bomb suitcase being delayed in one or more of the following ways:

a)  on the ground at Luqa as a result of mechanical failure, poor weather, security alert, air traffic control or any other reason;

b)  by being diverted away from Frankfurt for any of the reasons at above;

c)  above Frankfurt as a result of air traffic control delays for incoming flights (as in fact happened);

d)  by missing the interline connection at Frankfurt as a result of the bomb suitcase being lost, mishandled or detected in the course of x-ray or baggage reconciliation procedures;

e)  on the ground at Frankfurt for any of the reasons at (a) above;

f)  by being diverted away from Heathrow for any of the reasons at (a) above;

g)  above Heathrow as a result of air traffic control delays for incoming flights;

h)  by missing the interline connection at Heathrow for any of the reasons at (d) above;

i)   on the ground at Heathrow as a result of the connecting transatlantic aircraft being delayed, mechanical failure, poor weather, security alert or any other reason.

4.  Further if the bomb consisted of a barometric pressure device triggered by altitude which itself triggered a timer, terrorists could not have avoided (alternatively would not have risked) the bomb being prematurely triggered on board KM 180 or on board Pan Am 103A from Frankfurt to Heathrow, and then detonating on board either of these flights or on the ground at Frankfurt or at Heathrow.

No terrorist could have predicted in advance the exact altitude at which either flight would have flown or, if such a prediction had been made, no terrorist could have guaranteed that the aircraft would have remained at that altitude and would not have been ordered away from it by air traffic control.  The bomb on board Pan Am 103 exploded approximately 35 minutes after take-off from Heathrow.

It is not clear for me why the Lockerbie investigators choose to blame Malta and Air Malta in this case, when it is so clear that we are the scapegoats for others that lacked security at their airports.

Joe Mifsud is currently following the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist for ONE News and Kullhadd.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Crown and the CIA

[This is the headline over an article authored by me that was published on this date in 2000 on website which Ian Ferguson and I ran during the period of the Zeist trial and first appeal. It reads as follows:]

When the trial resumed on Tuesday 22 August [2000], the defence teams complained to the Court that they had just learned the previous day that certain CIA cables relating to the Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka, which they had thought had been made available to both the prosecution and the defence only in a censored or redacted form, had in fact been seen by members of the prosecution team on 1 June 2000 in uncensored or unredacted form.  The defence contended that the principle of equality of arms enshrined in article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights required that the defence should have similar access to this material.  The Crown opposed the defence's application.  They conceded that it is the duty of a Scottish prosecutor to supply to the defence any material available to the prosecution which advances the defence case or is relevant to a defence attack on the credibility of a prosecution witness. However, in the course of the Crown's lengthy submissions, it was stated by the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, that the deletions from the versions of the cables supplied to the defence related only to matters which were (a) irrelevant both to the facts in issue in the Lockerbie trial and to the credibility of the witness Majid Giaka or (b) related to sensitive matters of United States national security.  Indeed, it was for the purpose of ensuring that the Crown were in a position to fulfil their disclosure obligations that members of the Crown team inspected the unredacted cables on 1 June.  To quote the Lord Advocate:

"First of all, they considered whether or not there was any information behind the redactions which would undermine the Crown case in any way.  Secondly, they considered whether there was anything which would appear to reflect on the credibility of Mr Majid.  They also considered whether was anything which might bear upon the special defences which had been lodged and intimated in this case.

"On all of these matters, the learned at Advocate Depute reached the conclusion that there was nothing within the cables which bore on the Defence case, either by undermining the Crown case or by advancing a positive case which was being made or may be made, having regard to the special defence... 

"There is nothing within these documents which relate to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Mr Majid on these matters."

The Court was unimpressed by the arguments of the Lord Advocate and instructed him to use his best endeavours to secure the release by the CIA to the defence of the unredacted or uncensored cables. 

These cables were in due course made available to the defence, and on Tuesday 29 August various excerpts from them were read out in open court by defence counsel in an attempt to convince the judges that further CIA cables relating to Giaka should be made available to the defence, if necessary by means of a request by the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist to the appropriate Federal Court in the United States of America for an order compelling the CIA to disgorge the relevant material.  The Court, wishing to avoid the delays which would necessarily be caused by any recourse to the American courts, has instructed the Lord Advocate again to use his best endeavours to secure the release by the CIA of these additional cables.  Only if he is unsuccessful will the Scottish Court reluctantly consider the option of a formal request through the American courts. 

The previously blacked-out passages read out to the Court from the cables now in the hands of the defence indicated that, as at 1 September 1989 (more than eight months after the destruction of Pan Am 103), Giaka's CIA handlers were highly critical of him and of the lack of important information supplied by him.  He is described in the now-revealed portions of the cables as a man in the business of selling information for his own benefit; as someone who will never have the penetration of Libyan intelligence services that had been anticipated; as someone who had never been a true member of Libyan intelligence; and as someone whose CIA salary of $1000 per month should be cut off if he supplied no significant information.  It seems to be the natural inference from this that, by 1 September 1989, Giaka had still not informed his CIA masters that his Libyan colleagues in Malta had been responsible for the Lockerbie bombing: if he had done so, it is difficult to see how these criticisms of his value and of the worth of the information supplied by him could conceivably been made. 

But apart altogether from that, if the excerpts read out in court on Tuesday 29 August and summarised in the preceding paragraph accurately reflect passages from the cables which had been blacked out from the versions originally supplied to the defence, it is somewhat difficult to appreciate how it could possibly have been accurate or justifiable for the Crown to state to the Court on Tuesday 22 August that the redacted or censored portions within the documents contained nothing "which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Mr Majid."

Sunday, 26 August 2018

A mosaic of supposition and surmise

[What follows is a short excerpt from a profile of special prosecutor Robert Mueller published in today's edition of the Sunday Herald:]

In 1982, he became an assistant US attorney in Boston, investigating and prosecuting major cases that ranged from terrorist to public corruption. He then had spells as partner in law firms or in public service. In July 1990, he took over the criminal division of the US Department of Justice.

In his book Enemies: A History of the FBI, author Tim Weiner says FBI agents “instinctively liked [Mueller], despite his aristocratic demeanour ... [He] had a sharp mind, a first-rate temperament, and a high regard for well-crafted cases ... [He] was a born leader”.

One of the cases that fell to him was the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Weiner says that at that time, the investigation was “a mosaic of supposition and surmise ... Someone needed to take charge”. Mueller quickly put FBI Special Agent Richard Marquise, who had been involved with the case from the outset, in full charge of it now, tasking him with turning intelligence into evidence.

Intelligence began to be shared much more widely and diligently, and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was charged and convicted.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Kofi Annan and Lockerbie

The obituary of Kofi Annan in today's edition of The Guardian contains the following paragraph: 

'He was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”. But he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat. A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing.'

My own perception of that period, as someone peripherally involved, is that Kofi Annan's office found the negotiating with the United Kingdom and the United States much more difficult and taxing than negotiating with Libya. Here is something that I wrote some years ago:

'Although the British proposal [for a Scottish non-jury court to sit in the Netherlands] was announced in late August 1998, it was not until 5 April 1999 that the two suspects actually arrived in the Netherlands for trial before the Scottish court.  Why the delay?  The answer is that some of the fine print in the two documents [that set out the details of the proposal] was capable of being interpreted, and was in fact interpreted, by the Libyan defence team (now chaired by Mr Kamel Hassan Maghur as successor to Dr Legwell) and the Libyan government as having been deliberately designed to create pitfalls to entrap them.  And since the governments of the United Kingdom and United States resolutely refused to have any direct contact with either the Libyan government or the Libyan defence lawyers -- their attitude being that the scheme had been advanced on a “take it or leave it basis” and that no negotiations would be entered in to -- these concerns could be dealt with only through an intermediary, namely the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (or, in practice, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Hans Corell).   This meant that issues that could have been thrashed out and settled in a matter of a few hours in a face-to-face meeting took weeks and months to resolve.  The US government, particularly the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, took every available opportunity to accuse the Libyan government and lawyers of stalling and trying to wriggle out of the assurances they had given over the years to support a “neutral venue” trial.  My own clear impression, however, through my continuing contacts with the Libyans, was that if anyone was looking for pretexts to avoid a trial ever taking place, it was the US and UK governments.'

Saturday, 18 August 2018

A huge mushroom cloud appeared...

[Today's edition of The Herald features a long article about Sergeant Colin Dorrance who, as an 18-year-old rookie police officer, was one of the first members of the emergency services on the scene when Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie. The following are excerpts:]

At ten to six, as he was driving into Lockerbie his life took a different turn. [RB: His recollection of the time is faulty: the plane fell on Lockerbie at around 7.05 pm.]

“A huge mushroom cloud appeared about half a mile ahead of me," Colin said.

"There was black smoke billowing across the road obscuring the view.”

At first he thought was there may have been been a chemical explosion on the M74.

The blast seemed to be in the direction of the motorway where ironically that week, he and other greenhorns had been training in how to tackle a hazardous chemicals incident.

Or maybe the petrol station had exploded?

It was a while before the dust settled. Confusion reigned as he reached Rosebank Crescent – houses had been struck by parts of the plane’s fuselage, including one which had had its side wall sheared off, exposing the cosy living rooms.

Lockerbie’s fire crew was at Sherwood Crescent, on the other side of the railway line – where whole families had perished and the wing of the plane, had torn a crater in the road.

“We didn’t have the communications we had now," he said. "Some of us had FM-style walkie-talkies, but there weren’t even many of them - they were only issued to people when they went on duty.”

Police and emergency services tried to coordinate a response, still not sure knowing what they were dealing with. A crashed training flight, or a mid-air collision, perhaps?

“At 7.40pm an officer found luggage labels and it became clear it had been a Boeing, bound for JFK airport, from Heathrow,” he added.

Colin cancelled his leave. Colin knew to secure the area, minimising the risk of further casualties. He knew the rules on the handling of evidence. (...)

Later that evening he would be back at his old school of Lockerbie Academy – his knowledge of the building invaluable as it became the nerve centre of emergency responders.

But the horror of that night is brought into sharp focus by one memory. As he stood outside the Town Hall, which had been converted into a makeshift morgue, a farmer pulled up with wreckage from the 747 in his trailer.

It had been strewn across over his land and didn’t know what to do with it.

In the passenger seat was something else he had found. A child, less than five years old.

“I don’t even know now whether it was a boy or a girl," he said. "He or she was unmarked but plainly dead.”

As the farmer disappeared into the night, Sergeant Dorrance cradled the child and walked into the Town Hall. It was the first body to be placed in the 'mortuary'. (...)

One legacy has been better support for those on the ground at such tragedies.

“At the time there was no counselling. There was no structure for it. It was a learning ground for the police,” he said.

The Lockerbie bombing has bookended his career in a remarkable way.

His 30 year term of service up this summer, he has just retired. Meanwhile his son, Andrew, has just returned from New York State, the second of Colin’s children to do so.

On December 21,1988, 35 students from Syracuse University perished in the disaster above Lockerbie. A scholarship scheme, set up in the wake of the terrorist outrage, has led to strong and enduring links between the University and the Scottish border town. (...)

In 1994, Colin was transferred to Lockerbie, where he lived in a police house close to Sherwood Crescent and started a family. The double-glazing of his home was still pockmarked from the explosion, but it wasn’t until his daughter Claire applied for the scholarship programme that his interest in the bombing was reawakened.

“It was important to me that she understood what had been lost,” Colin said, but in fact he had insulated himself from those same questions. “It reawakened an interest in what had taken place, for me.” Claire’s involvement also alerted Syracuse University to him.

“It dawned on them that I was someone who knew an awful lot about the crash and could add to their social history. I’m like the old lady in Titanic,” he said.

The university dispatched researchers to speak to him.

“I found it really fulfilling and quite rewarding to understand what happened on the lives of people in the aftermath,” he says.

And Colin is still involved. This autumn, to commemorate its 30th anniversary of the plane crash, he and representatives of Lockerbie Academy, fire and ambulance services and the RAF search and rescue, will cycle to Syracuse, in time to take part in the University’s remembrance week in November.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The dark past of special prosecutor Robert Mueller

[This is part of the headline over an article published today on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer's Intel Today website. What follows is the section of the article devoted to the Lockerbie case:]
Robert Mueller was assistant attorney general in the United States in 1991 when indictments were issued for the two Libyan suspects, Megrahi and Al-amin Khalifa Fimah. At the Zeist trial in 2001, Fimah was found NOT guilty but Megrahi was found guilty.
During the indictment speech, Mueller explained the importance of PT/35(b), a small fragment of a circuit timer that was allegedly found among the debris of Pan Am 103 near the town of Lockerbie.
PT/35(b) was the key piece of evidence of the Lockerbie Case. As Richard Marquise (FBI Agent who led the US side of the investigation and reported directly to Mueller) himself said:  “Without PT/35(b), there would have been no indictment.”
This fragment was eventually matched to a timer (MST-13) discovered among the weapons and material seized from rebels after an attempted coup in Togo on 23rd September 1986.
This MST-13 had been manufactured by the Swiss company MEBO and supplied “solely” to Libya.
Today, we know that PT/35(b) is a forgery. We also know that at least one witness was well aware that PT/35(b) could not have been part of the MST-13 timers delivered to Libya and that this witness deliberately withheld  this information from the court.
But back in 1992, it would appear that some folks at the Crown office had their own doubts…
Following submission of the Police Report (section 30.0 dealing with PT/35b to the Crown), it was requested that certain further tests which had earlier been carried out on the fragment also be performed on the control sample [ DP/347(a)] of MST-13 circuit board.
Five tests were carried out in the period from 28 February 1992 to 6 March 1992. The conclusion of the report states that none of the scientists would say conclusively that PT/35(b) and DP/347(a) were specifically the same material or from the same source.
In fact, all these scientists had pointed out correctly various methods to establish that PT/35(b) was NOT similar to the control sample of the timers delivered to Libya.
At that point in time, it would have been scientifically straightforward to demonstrate that PT/35(b) — the key piece of evidence linking Libya to Lockerbie — was a forgery.
But nothing was done and a few weeks later — on 31 March 1992 — the UN Security Council passed resolution 748 imposing mandatory sanctions on Libya for failing to hand over Megrahi and Fhimah.