Sunday, 1 March 2015

Arab reaction to World Court Lockerbie judgement in favour of Libya

[The following are two items dated 1 March 1998, taken from The Pan Am 103 Crash Website which was edited by Safia Aoude:]

Cairo, 1 March 1998: The head of the Arab League on Saturday welcomed the International Court of Justice decision that it had jurisdiction in Libya's dispute with Britain and the United States over a 1988 airliner bombing. "This declaration from the court affirms the sound Arab position that calls for the trial to be in a neutral country,'' said a statement by Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid. Separately, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters that the procedural move was an "important step.''

The Libyan foreign minister, Umar Mustafa al-Muntassir, held talks in Cairo on Sunday with Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid to discuss what action to take within the United Nations Security Council on the Lockerbie crisis after the International Court of Justice judgment that it could decide where the two Lockerbie suspects should be tried (...)

Meguid said the meeting would be followed "by intensive consultations and meetings until the type of future action towards the settlement of this international crisis is defined."

"Legally speaking, the ICJ ruling pronouncing its jurisdiction to hear Libyan complaints against Britain is a major development," Meguid was quoted as saying. "It means that the Libyan request was honoured, while the British and US rejection was turned down."

Al Muntasir said the meeting was aimed at coordinating the Arab League-Libya stand over recent developments. "A comprehensive Libyan plan was amended to conform to these developments," he said, adding that he had discussed the amendments with the secretary general. He expressed the hope that Libya's coordination with the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) would help achieve a unified international stand against "the injustices Libya was suffering within the UN Security Council as well as outside it."
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Tripoli, 1 March 1998: The lawyer of the two Libyan suspects wanted in the Lockerbie bombing said Saturday he still backed a trial in a neutral country even though a ruling by the International Court of Justice was a step toward confirming Libya's jurisdiction. "It is a ruling in the right direction...and I am almost certain that the final ruling will be in line with the 1971 Montreal convention which means that Libya's judiciary is competent to hear the case and is right to refuse to hand over the suspects,'' Ibrahim Legwell, lawyer of the two suspects, told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli.

"It is our interest and that of the families of the bombing victims that there be a trial. That's why we support a neutral venue,'' he said. “We had rejected to hand over the two suspects to the United States or Britain because it was unlawful and also we were certain that they wouldn't get a fair trial there. We know that a trial in Libya would also be suspect. The reasonable solution is a trial in a neutral country,” he said.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

"Will the trial bring out the truth? Is it really meant to?"

[What follows is taken from a long report headlined What really happened on Flight 103? which was published in The Guardian on this date in 2000:]

The Maid of the Seas had arrived in Heathrow at 12.10pm from San Francisco and had parked by Terminal 3. It was here that Jim MacQuarrie would take over from another pilot. The 55-year-old captain was an experienced pilot and a veteran of 10,910 flight hours, including 4,107 on a B-747.

While the security forces of an airport are responsible for checking passengers and their hand luggage for dangerous objects, it is the duty of each airline to examine luggage that is stored in the freight section. At Heathrow, suitcases are examined with X-rays - but only those that are checked in at the airport.

Since Flight 103 had officially begun its journey in Frankfurt, luggage originating from there was not checked again. The Boeing 727 that came from Frankfurt was parked at Position 16, directly next to the jumbo bound for New York. Workers unloaded the luggage container from the smaller jet and stored it in the belly of the Maid of the Seas.

About 30 tons of freight was placed in the fuselage of the jumbo and over 108 tons of highly flammable kerosene lapped around in its tanks. The flight now weighed 323 tons and there were 259 people on board. (...)

The people of Lockerbie managed the catastrophe with laudable skill. Although the most important water line was broken, the fire department was able to put out all the fires within seven and a half hours. It is a region where milk production is the primary industry and milk wagons were quickly filled with water and driven to the many burning pieces of wreckage.

The first corpses were brought to the town hall, but people then started bringing them to the hockey stadium because it was the only place large and cool enough to store so many bodies.

The county's police force, the smallest in Scotland, was quickly reinforced. Normally only four policemen worked in the Lockerbie region, but by Thursday morning there were 1,100 working alongside 1,000 other soldiers, firemen and volunteers. But even a force of this size could not prevent the first ghoulish sightseers from blocking the narrow country roads the next day.

At about 10am on the Thursday, two boys who were driving a tractor across a field on their father's farm near Tundergarth found both of the orange metal boxes containing the flight data.

Search teams would comb through much of the 2,190 square kilometres of the county with the help of helicopters, airplanes and even spy satellites. But they would be unable to locate the bodies of seven of the passengers, as well as about 10 per cent of the plane. (...)

In the summer of 1989, British investigators came on to a hot trail. Of 11,000 pieces of cloth found in the wreckage, several dozen scraps had carried traces of explosive. One of these fragments carried a label that said 'Malta Trading Company'. When Manfred Klink, a criminal investigator for Germany's BKA, learned about this, he checked documentation in Frankfurt and found a computer printout showing that a suitcase originating in Malta had been transferred to Flight 103. Then three officials from Scotland Yard, the FBI and the BKA travelled to Malta, found the firm that had manufactured the piece of clothing carrying the label and finally found out where it was sold: a boutique called Mary's House in the port of Sliema. Tony Gauci, owner of the shop, remembered a customer who had bought three pairs of pyjamas and a pair of checked brown trousers in late November, early December.
That customer stood out in Gauci's memory because he had paid so little attention to the size and prices of the garments. The man was of Arabic descent and, judging by his accent, probably a Libyan. (...)

In the summer of 1991, a man presented himself to US authorities and turned out to be a star witness, someone who might prove to be more useful than all of the chemical analyses and microscopic searches carried out so far. Abdel Madshid Jiacha was a former Libyan secret agent who had formerly been an assistant to the station chief of Libyan Arab Airlines at the Malta airport. He implicated two of his colleagues with the crime of Lockerbie - and he gave details. (...)

After months of questioning Jiacha, the FBI and Scotland Yard surprised the world's press with a totally new version of events. According to the new announcement, the attack on the Pan Am jumbo had been carried out by two Libyan secret agents: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, born on 1 April 1952, and Amin Chalifa Fhimah, born on 4 April 1956.

Jiacha said he had observed these two men as they loaded the suitcase containing the bomb on to the plane in Malta that was bound for Frankfurt. He said his government had ordered the attack as revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986. Libya rejected all of the charges and refused to turn over the two accused men. In response, the UN placed several embargoes on Libya at the request of the US and Britain. All air traffic to and from Libya was forbidden, a blockade was put on Libyan assets held abroad and no Libyan exports were allowed to be received. Libya eventually said it was ready to turn over its two citizens, but only to a 'neutral' country.

Robert Black, a law professor at the University of Edinburgh, made a compromise proposal in 1994 that was long rejected by all sides but which was finally accepted after tensions between Libya and the rest of the world had cooled: a Scottish court would judge the two suspects, but the trial would take place in the Netherlands, the headquarters of the International Court of Justice. (...)

Eleven years after the mass murder of Lockerbie, a trial is set to take place that will be unique in the history of jurisprudence: Britain is organising and paying for a trial that will take place under Scottish law, but without a jury, on Dutch soil.

Libya turned over the suspects on 5 April last year: they are the sole suspects. No one is implicating the Gadaffi regime, even though the Scottish prosecutors themselves take it for granted that the two agents were working for their government. The defence has asked that the start of the trial be delayed until 3 May 2000.

And it is highly possible that the prosecutors will not be successful amid growing doubts about three weaknesses in the case.

The first involves the fragment of the timing device that was found in the wreckage of the plane and that led US authorities to suspect Libyan agents in the first place. The Swiss manufacturer of the device has since said that the device found at Lockerbie was not the type that he had delivered to Libya in the past. Furthermore, the FBI forensic researcher who first examined the fragment has since been fired - for falsifying laboratory data in high-profile cases.

The second weakness of the case involves the Malta connection. The boutique owner Tony Gauci has been questioned 16 times, but has never clearly identified the Libyan agent thought to have visited him. At the time of his alleged visit, the Libyan was 14 years younger than the man first described by Gauci. The boutique owner still maintains that Mohammed Abu Talb of the PFLP-GC is more likely to have been the man who visited his store.

The third and major weakness of the case appears to be the star witness. Jiacha moved to the US from Malta after the attack and offered help to the FBI in 1991. The FBI then took him into its witness protection programme and paid him a reward.

But several witnesses claim that he had already made contact with the US Embassy in Valletta, Malta in August 1988 - four months before the attack. At that point, he gave a detailed report of the activities of the Libyan secret service on Malta. It was only after considerable pressure from the defendants' lawyers that the US admitted that he had made contact with the CIA in 1988. This raises serious questions about the reliability of the witness who is the major connection between a purchase of clothing in Malta and the explosion in Lockerbie. (...)

Will the trial bring out the truth? Is it really meant to? What is certain is that the prosecution's case is inconsistent. For if both suspects were working as Libyan secret agents, as the prosecution maintains, then Gadaffi, as Libya's chief of state, must be implicated. 'This trial is meant to accomplish one thing: to bring the entire case to a close,' said one participant, who weighed his words very carefully. 'No one has any interest any longer in a public solution of the problem; neither Gadaffi nor the US. But all parties have to go through with this trial to save face. This is not about law but about politics - and it has been all along.'

Friday, 27 February 2015

World Court decision prompts UK and USA to agree to neutral venue trial

[Seventeen years ago today the International Court of Justice (the “World Court”) ruled against the United Kingdom and the United States in cases raised against them by Libya arising out of their demands that Megrahi and Fhimah should be surrendered for trial in either Scotland or the United States. Here is what I wrote in an article headed “The Lockerbie Disaster” published in (1999) 3 Edinburgh Law Review 85-95:]

On 27 November 1991 the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States each issued a statement calling upon the Libyan Government to hand over the two accused to either the Scottish or the American authorities for trial.  Requests for their extradition were transmitted to the Government of Libya by diplomatic channels.  No extradition treaties are in force between Libya on the one hand and the United Kingdom and United States on the other.

Libyan internal law, in common with the laws of many countries in the world, does not permit the extradition of its own nationals for trial overseas.  The Government of Libya accordingly contended that the affair should be resolved through the application of the provisions of the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, to which all three Governments are signatories.  Under article 7 of that Convention a state in whose territory persons accused of terrorist offences against aircraft are resident has a choice aut dedere aut judicare, either to hand over the accused for trial in the courts of the state bringing the accusation or to take the steps necessary to have the accused brought trial in its own domestic courts.  In purported compliance with the second of these options, the Libyan authorities arrested the two accused and appointed a Supreme Court judge as examining magistrate to consider the evidence and prepare the case against them.  Not entirely surprisingly, perhaps, the UK and US Governments have refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claim to have amassed against the accused who, to this day, remain under house arrest.

The United Nations Security Council first became involved in the Lockerbie affair  on 21 January 1992 when it passed Resolution 731 strongly deploring the Government of Libya's lack of co-operation in the matter and urging it to respond to the British and American requests contained in their statements of 27 November 1991.  This was followed by Security Council Resolution 748 (31 March 1992) requiring Libya to comply with the requests within a stipulated period of time, failing which a list of sanctions specified in the Resolution would be imposed.  Compliance was not forthcoming and the sanctions duly came into  effect.  On 11 November 1993 the Security Council, by Resolution 883, further extended the range and application of the sanctions.  The imposition of sanctions under the last two Resolutions was justified by the Security Council by reference to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis that Libya's failure to extradite the accused constituted a threat to peace.

On 3 March 1992 (after the passing of Security Council Resolution 731, but before Resolutions 748 and 883), Libya presented applications to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for declarations that she was entitled under Article 7 of the 1971 Montreal Convention to put the accused on trial in Libya and that the United Kingdom and the United States were in breach of their obligations under that Convention in insisting upon trial in the UK or the USA.  The Governments of the United Kingdom and United States sought to have these applications dismissed without a hearing on the merits on the grounds inter alia that (1) the ICJ had no jurisdiction to consider them and (2) the Security Council Resolutions of 31 March 1992 and 11 November 1993, imposing upon Libya an international obligation contended by the UK and the USA to be superior to that embodied in Article 7 of the Montreal Convention, had rendered the applications pointless.  On 27 February 1998 the judges of the ICJ by substantial majorities [RB: 13 to 3] (and with the American and British judges dissenting) rejected the submissions of the UK and the USA, thereby clearing the way for decisions at some time in the future on the merits of Libya's applications.

[RB: This judgement was followed within six months by the UK and US volte face whereby they agreed to a neutral venue trial. Here is what I wrote in the article mentioned above:]

For four years and seven months the Government of the United Kingdom (and that of the United States) consistently maintained that the "neutral venue" scheme proposed by the writer and accepted by the Libyan Government and defence lawyers in January 1994 was impossible, impracticable and inherently undesirable.  For a flavour of the strength and vehemence of the Government's opposition, the interested reader is referred to "The Lockerbie Trial"  1998 Scots Law Times (News) 9 by Lord Hardie, a response by the Lord Advocate to the present writer's "The Lockerbie Proposal" 1997 Scots Law Times (News) 304.

However, on 24 August 1998 the Governments of the United Kingdom and United States announced that they had reversed their stance on the matter.  In a letter of that date to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the Acting Permanent Representatives of the UK and the USA stated:

".... in the interest of resolving this situation in a way which will allow justice to be done, our Governments are prepared, as an exceptional measure, to arrange for the two accused to be tried before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.  After close consultation with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we are pleased to confirm that the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has agreed to facilitate arrangements for such a court.  It would be a Scottish court and would follow normal Scots law and procedure in every respect except for the replacement of the jury by a panel of three Scottish High Court judges.  The Scottish rules of evidence and procedure, and all the guarantees of fair trial provided by the law of Scotland, would apply."

[RB: Once the trial and appeal at Camp Zeist were concluded, the World Court case brought by Libya was quietly dropped, to the enormous relief of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, who were in fear and trembling that the court was going to recognise what would, in effect, have been a form of judicial review of the legality of the acts of the Security Council. And that would never do. Good heavens, it might have judicially prevented the invasion of Iraq!]

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Gaddafi and Lockerbie

[What follows is part of an item posted on this blog on this date in 2011. It is excerpted from an article by Nigel Horne to be found now on the website of The Week:]

A senior member of Col Gaddafi's administration has claimed that Gaddafi himself ordered the the bombing of the PanAm jetliner which exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing a total of 270 people, the majority of them Americans.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya's justice minister until he resigned in protest at Gaddafi's orders to murder unarmed protesters, has told the Swedish tabloid Expressen that he possesses proof that Gaddafi gave the order.

Conspicuously, neither Abdel-Jalil nor the paper's correspondent, Kassem Hamade, can reveal what the 'proof' is. (...)

But is Abdel-Jalil telling the truth - or is this a convenient lie, told in the hope that Gaddafi will go to his grave with the secret intact?

The fact is, many politicians and journalists - not nutcase conspiracy theorists, but serious investigative reporters - who have observed and reported into the Lockerbie bombing from the outset have never been persuaded that Libya masterminded the attack. They remain convinced that Libya only ever acted as an agent for another Middle Eastern power and/or - as Alexander Cockburn reported here last year - that Libya and Megrahi were framed.

Iran, Syria, Hezbollah - all have been held up over the past two decades as likely candidates for ordering the bombing.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, still alive in Tripoli, will likely die without giving up his story: recent reports suggest the prostate cancer that was supposed to kill him in 2009 has spread through his body and he has little time left.

But if Gaddafi should die in some final conflagration as the Libyan endgame approaches, there is a real danger that the Lockerbie relatives seeking 'closure' will have been fooled if they accept Abdel-Jalil's claim.

Their best hope of learning the truth is that Gaddafi gets out of Libya alive and in handcuffs, to appear before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and that he is persuaded to tell the whole truth about the worst terrorist atrocity ever perpetrated on British soil.

Such is the nature of what he could tell the court, however, that there are some western governments who might prefer that he meets his end before that can happen.

Lockerbie Air Disaster Group lawyer suspended as part-time sheriff


[What follows is taken from an article in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal:]

Scottish legal authorities have suspended a part-time judge with a former connection to collapsed hedge fund Heather Capital.

Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from office at the start of last week, according to a statement on the Judicial Office for Scotland’s website. (...)

Mr Watson offered not to sit as a judge on a voluntary basis, according to the statement. However, having read the summons, the Lord President, Lord Gill, concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering wasn’t appropriate and that suspension was necessary to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

A spokesperson for Mr Watson referred to comments he gave to a Scottish newspaper, in which he said that he welcomed the suspension and said it is “not appropriate” for him to sit as a sheriff while civil litigation is ongoing.

Mr Watson is one of Scotland’s most high-profile lawyers and has been involved in some of the country’s best-known legal issues. According to the website of his firm PBW Law, he represented the families of 16 pupils in the massacre at Dunblane primary school in 1996 and played a key role in the Lockerbie Air Disaster Group, following the bombing of a Pan Am flight from London to New York in 1988.

[RB: The Lord President, Lord Gill, as Mr Brian Gill QC, represented the bereaved relatives who were members of the Lockerbie Air Disaster Group at the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster held in Dumfries in 1990/1991.]

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Reaction to Libyan PM's denial of Lockerbie guilt

[What follows is an article published in The New York Times on this date in 2004, the day after Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem had denied his country’s involvement in the Lockerbie bombing:]

Libya's prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, brought the thaw in relations between his nation and the West to a sudden standstill on Tuesday by suggesting that Libya was not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing and other major acts of terrorism, even though it has agreed to pay compensation to victims' families and accepted responsibility in writing.

The Bush administration reacted strongly, demanding a retraction. And some of Mr Ghanem's close associates in government told Western colleagues, one of them said, that the prime minister might be forced to resign over the remarks, which cut against the grain of the country's rapprochement with the West.

In an interview with BBC radio on Tuesday morning, Mr Ghanem, speaking from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, said that ''we thought it was easier for us to buy peace'' with the United States and Britain, ''and this is why we agreed on compensation'' in the Lockerbie case.

Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, mostly Americans.

Mr Ghanem also said he believed that Libya was not responsible for the death of a British policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, killed in front of the Libyan Embassy in 1984. Libya formally accepted ''general responsibility'' for Ms Fletcher's death in 1999 as part of the agreement to re-establish relations with Britain.

The Bush administration had been expected to lift the longstanding ban on travel to Libya this week, but White House and State Department officials pointedly put off any announcement on Tuesday. Instead, they demanded that the Libyan government disassociate itself from the prime minister's statements.

''We would expect a retraction from the Libyan government,'' said Richard A Boucher, the State Department spokesman.

''We, and the United Nations, demanded that Libya formally accept responsibility for the actions of its officials in the Pan Am 103 bombing,'' he said. ''Libya did so in a letter that had no ambiguity to the United Nations Security Council on Aug 15, 2003.''

Mr. Ghanem's remarks represented the first serious setback since the Libyan leader, Col Muammar el-Qaddafi, declared on Dec 19 that Libya would abandon all attempts to develop unconventional weapons and was seeking a new relationship with the West. He was congratulated by President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who is expected to meet with Colonel Qaddafi in the spring.

American and British intelligence officials have worked intensively since January to dismantle, evacuate or prepare for destruction Libya's illicit weapons technologies, and American and British officials have praised Libya's cooperation, as Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, did again on Tuesday. American officials have also taken the first steps toward re-establishing diplomatic representation in Tripoli.

Mr Straw seemed at pains to place greater emphasis on the written statements the Libyan government has rendered.

''We take account of the reported remarks of the Libyan prime minister, but we take even greater account of the formal communications from the government of Libya,'' he said.

But the Bush administration took a markedly stronger line. Mr Boucher said the prime minister's statements, if not withdrawn, would ''certainly'' be ''a factor that we would need to take into account as we decide how to proceed'' with Libya. He indicated that other steps in improving relations, like the lifting of sanctions, could not proceed without clarification.

''We need to understand that the Libyan position is the one they stated authoritatively to the United Nations in writing, for all the other steps to continue apace,'' he said.

One close associate of Mr Ghanem in Europe said the prime minister was ''inexperienced'' in diplomacy and somewhat ''argumentative'' in the position Colonel Qaddafi created for him last June to encourage an economic reform program.

Mr Ghanem is considered to be one of the most progressive members of Colonel Qaddafi's government, and some experts suggested that those who oppose his reforms may be among the first to call for his resignation on Wednesday.

One of his Western friends said Mr Ghanem, an economist who studied in the United States and worked in Vienna for OPEC, had privately said that if he believed that his government was responsible for blowing up Flight 103, then he could not serve it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Libyan PM denies Tripoli involved in Lockerbie

[This is the headline over a Reuters news agency report published on this date in 2004. It reads in part:]

Libyan Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem has denied his country's guilt in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people and says Tripoli has only agreed to pay damages to victims in order to "buy peace".

In comments which appear directly to contradict recent more conciliatory moves by Tripoli, Ghanem said Libya had refused to apologise for the attack because that was not part of the deal.

"We reached an agreement in which we feel that we bought peace," he told BBC radio in an interview on Tuesday.

In a deal reached after years of negotiations, Libya last year agreed to pay $2.7 billion (1.4 billion pounds) in compensation for Lockerbie victims -- many of whom were Britons and Americans travelling on Pan Am flight 103 when it was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

In response, United Nations Security Council voted in September to lift sanctions on Libya, first imposed in 1992.

Ghanem said the pressure of years of US and United Nations sanctions against Libya, and a desire to "put the whole case behind us" had forced Libya to agree to compensation.

"After the problems we had faced because of the sanctions ... we thought it was easier for us to buy peace," he said.

Asked whether that meant Libya did not see the compensation payments as an admission of guilt for the bombing, he said: "I agree with that, and that is why I say we bought peace." (...)

Ghanem's comments threaten to sour relations between Tripoli and Britain and the U.S at a time when Libya had been making efforts to reintegrate into the international community.

In a dramatic move last December, Libya promised to abandon plans to develop atomic and other mass destruction weapons.

The British government played a key diplomatic role in securing December's weapons agreement, which has given a huge boost to Libya's efforts to end its international isolation.

Washington has yet to lift economic sanctions, including a ban on travel by US citizens to Libya, but it agreed in January to take "tangible steps" towards improving relations with Libya if it honoured its pledge to give up banned weapons.

Britain has moved faster than the United States to restore ties and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is planning landmark talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi later this year.

Ghanem said he did not yet know when Blair's visit would take place, but hoped it would be soon. "I hope that he will be coming -- the sooner, the better -- he will be most welcome here," he said. "I think he will enjoy coming to Libya and he will find friends here."

[A BBC News report on the same matter can be read here.]

Monday, 23 February 2015

The official case is now so thin that only concoctions can save it

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog four years ago on this date:

Ex-minister says Gadhafi ordered Lockerbie


[This is the headline over a news agency report from Associated Press. It reads in part:]

Swedish tabloid Expressen says Libya's ex-justice minister claims Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988.

Expressen on Wednesday quoted Mustafa Abdel-Jalil as telling their correspondent in Libya that "I have proof that Gadhafi gave the order about Lockerbie." He didn't describe the proof.

Abdel-Jalil stepped down as justice minister to protest the violence against anti-government demonstrations.

He told Expressen Gadhafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

"To hide it, he (Gadhafi) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland," Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying. (...)

Expressen spokeswoman Alexandra Forslund said its reporter, Kassem Hamade, interviewed the ex-justice minister at "a local parliament in a large city in Libya." She didn't want to name the city, citing security concerns. (...)

Bob Monetti, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, whose 20-year-old son Richard was killed in the bombing, said he's glad to hear a former official say what's been clear to him all along. He said officials and the media, especially in the UK, have been denying that.

"Ever since the trial, which was held in a totally obscure location in Holland and was covered by nobody, there's been a drumbeat in the UK about how this is a trumped up thing and Libya had nothing to do with it," he said. "If you went to the trial, there was no question about who did it and why, and who ordered it."

Monetti said he's been following coverage of the Libyan uprising closely.

"I can't wait until we see pictures of Gadhafi hanging by his heels," he said.

[A news agency report from The Press Association contains the following:]

The Scottish Government says it "never doubted" the safety of the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber following reports that Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gaddafi ordered the attack. (...)

A Swedish newspaper reported that Col Gaddafi had personally ordered the bombing.

The Expressen said Libya's former justice secretary, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, told its correspondent in Libya: "I have proof that Gaddafi gave the order about Lockerbie.

"To hide it, he did everything in his power to get Megrahi back from Scotland." (...)

But the Scottish Government, which has repeatedly said Megrahi was only freed on compassionate grounds because of his terminal prostate cancer, said: "Ministers have never doubted the safety of the conviction."

[On this blog yesterday, the following was posted:]

What’s the betting that, sometime in the next few weeks, the following happens:

1. In the burned out ruins of a Libyan government building, someone finds definitive documentary ‘proof’ that Libya and Megrahi were responsible for Lockerbie, and/or

2. A Libyan official reveals, ‘we did it’.

The official case is now so thin that only such concoctions can save it (although it’s also crossed my mind that a prisoner will come forward who says ‘Megrahi confessed to me' – another hallmark of paper-thin cases).

[RB: Further blogposts relating to the Abdel-Jalil statement can be read here.]