Monday, 27 June 2016

Flight from the truth

[This is the headline over an article by John Ashton and Ian Ferguson in The Guardian on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

There are two versions of the Lockerbie story. One - told at the trial - is neat, clearcut and, ultimately, reassuring. The other, which we believe is the true story, is far less comfortable. In the official version it was bad guys against good: Muammar Gadafy and his recently convicted henchman Abdel Baset al-Megrahi versus the heroic international investigation led by the tiny Dumfries and Galloway police force. It ends with the triumph of justice over terror. In the alternative version the heroics of the cops are obscured by dirty politics. It ends with a dreadful miscarriage of justice.

The conviction of Megrahi (his co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, was acquitted) supposedly proved the official version and drew a line under the Lockerbie saga. But the case will not go away: Megrahi is planning an appeal and the relatives of the British passengers are determined to hold the Labour government to their promise, made in opposition, of an independent inquiry. If the relatives get their way, a huge can of worms will be opened for, as our book reveals, almost from the night the plane went down, vital evidence was suppressed.

In the official version, of course, nothing of the kind happened. It posits that on December 21 1988 Megrahi placed a bomb in a suitcase, which was loaded, unaccompanied, on to a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, where it was transferred to Pan Am flight 103. It exploded over Lockerbie just after 7pm that night, killing all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. The bomb was built into a Toshiba radio-cassette player and fitted with a distinctive timing device supplied to the Libyan intelligence service by a Swiss company, Mebo. The firm's Zurich offices were shared in 1988 with the Libyan company ABH, with which Megrahi was closely involved. He was also alleged to have bought the clothes in the bomb suitcase from the Mary's House shop in Malta on December 7 1988.

During the eight-month trial the prosecution could offer no direct evidence of the bomb being loaded in Malta, and their star witnesses, Abdul Majid Giaka - a former colleague of the two accused - was exposed as a money-motivated fantasist. The court heard that Mebo sold identical timers to the East German Stasi (which armed Middle East terrorist groups), and the evidence of the Mary's House shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, suggested that the man who bought the clothes was considerably older and taller than Megrahi, and that the purchase occurred two weeks earlier, when, it is believed, Megrahi had an alibi. The fact that the judges refused to be swayed by the clouds of doubt hanging over the prosecution case left many observers staggered.

In the alternative version, the real culprits lay not in Libya, but in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It begins in July 1988, when a US warship accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. The CIA later revealed that, within days, Iran hired the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) to avenge the incident. The group had close ties to the Lebanese Islamic radicals Hizbullah and in the early 1970s specialised in bombing airliners. Its favoured method was to plant carefully disguised bombs on innocent dupes.

The group's leader, Ahmed Jibril, dispatched his right-hand man, Hafez Dalkamoni, and a bomb-maker, Marwan Khreesat, to West Germany, where Khreesat manufactured at least five barometric bombs designed to blow up aircraft, two - possibly more - of which were built into Toshiba radio-cassette players. Six weeks before Lockerbie, police raided the PFLP-GC gang and found one of the Toshiba bombs. In the official version this put an end to the revenge mission, but there is every reason to doubt this. The PFLP-GC may not have relied solely on Khreesat to make bombs and, in any case, at least four of his devices were unaccounted for. Three were recovered four months after Lockerbie, but the second Toshiba was never found.

Five weeks after the raid, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) warned of the continuing threat of an Iranian reprisal and noted that Middle Eastern terrorist groups active in Germany had the infrastructure to conduct bombings. At around the same time, the US state department circulated a specific warning that radical Palestinians were planning to attack a Pan Am target in Europe.

Three months after the bombing, the transport minister Paul Channon told lobby journalists that the culprits had been identified and charges were imminent. Everyone knew he meant the PFLP-GC. The months passed and nothing happened. A White House leak later revealed that Margaret Thatcher and George Bush had agreed to downplay the investigation for fear of endangering hostages in Lebanon - almost all held by Syrian and Iranian proxy groups. Following the Gulf war, in which Syria became a crucial western ally, the PFLP-GC and their Syrian and Iranian sponsors were officially exonerated, and the blame was shifted to Libya.

The alternative version becomes murkier still when it comes to how Jibril's men got the bomb on to flight 103. Two PFLP-GC insiders and many western intelligence sources claim it was planted in the luggage of Khalid Jaafar, a Lebanese-American mule in a heroin trafficking operation. The whistle-blowing spooks say elements within the CIA were allowing Middle Eastern dealers to ship drugs to America in return for help in locating and releasing US hostages. In allowing the suitcases containing heroin to bypass security procedures, the CIA handed the dealers' terrorist associates a failsafe means of getting the bomb on the plane.

Among the Lockerbie victims was a party of US intelligence specialists, led by Major Charles McKee of the DIA, returning from an aborted hostage-rescue mission in Lebanon. A variety of sources have claimed that McKee, who was fiercely anti-drugs, got wind of the CIA's deals and was returning to Washington to blow the whistle. A few months after Lockerbie, reports emerged from Lebanon that McKee's travel plans had been leaked to the bombers. The implication was that Flight 103 was targeted, in part, because he was on board.

As with the official version, there is no proof of this scenario, but there is a chain of circumstantial evidence. Much of it comes from the army of police officers and volunteers who scoured the vast crash site in the weeks after the bombing. And much of it was either not revealed at the recent trial or, worse, covered up.

One such item was a T-shirt found in Kielder forest, Northumberland, by David Clark, who was later told by police that it was potentially important evidence because it bore the insignia of Hizbullah. The T-shirt has never been officially acknowledged or explained. At least four large quantities of US dollars were also found. No one knows who was carrying the cash, but it has been speculated that McKee's team would have had large amounts to pay Lebanese informants. When the Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked about the cash finds in 1995, the Scottish Office minister, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, replied that nothing other than "what might ordinarily be regarded as personal money" was found.

Also denied was the existence of two large quantities of what appeared to be heroin: one found on Lockerbie golf course and the other in a suitcase discovered by a farmer a couple of miles to the east. The Rev John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter Helga died in the bombing, learned about the latter find and assumed the farmer would be questioned at the Lockerbie fatal accident inquiry held in October 1990. But the farmer did not appear, and police witnesses denied that any drugs were found. Mosey raised the issue with a senior police officer, who told him that the farmer would be interviewed. To the best of Mosey's knowledge, this never happened. In 1992 Dalyell wrote to the Scottish lord advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, about the drugs. In his reply, Lord Fraser stated that none had been found, save for a small quantity of cannabis.

Who engineered the cover-up? Almost certainly not anyone in Britain. Police officers and volunteer searchers have spoken of American agents removing items from the crash site. A proper inquiry into these issues could reveal a picture that governments on both sides of the Atlantic dare not face, but without it the echoes of the Lockerbie bomb will be ringing for a long time to come.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A clear-headed analysis?

[The following are two letters from today’s edition of the Sunday Herald:]

John Laverie may find it illuminating to peruse John Ashton's book Megrahi: You Are My Jury (Libya's gulag: questions linger, Letters, June 19). It contains a number of references to Moussa Koussa, former head of Libyan intelligence. Ashton states that Koussa was debriefed at an MI6 safe house in the spring of 2011 and shortly after was interviewed about Lockerbie by the Scottish police. He was then allowed to leave the country and his assets were unfrozen. Ashton suggests that one obvious reason for Koussa not being arrested was that the UK Government was well aware that neither he nor Gaddafi had anything to do with Lockerbie. A less obvious explanation was that Koussa was a long-time MI6 asset. On March 30, 2011, the Daily Telegraph stated: "As head of Libyan external intelligence, Mr Koussa was an MI6 asset for almost two decades."

In his book, John Ashton recounts the experience of Martin Cadman who lost his son Bill in the Lockerbie bombing. In February 1990, Mr Cadman was invited to the US embassy in London to meet the members of a presidential commission established to examine aviation security policy with particular reference to Lockerbie. At the end of the meeting Mr Cadman was taken aside by one of the commission's seven members who said to him: "Your government and ours know exactly what happened [regarding Lockerbie] but they are never going to tell." Alan Woodcock

I read John S Laverie's letter with particular interest as I had just finished Kenny MacAskill's book, The Lockerbie Bombing – The Search For Justice (Libya's gulag: question linger, Letters, June 19). MacAskill, who was Justice Secretary and responsible for making the decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, brings clarity to a subject muddied by conspiracy theories – he covers the issues of rendition, the involvement of MI6 and the role of Moussa Koussa, and I thoroughly recommend the book to Mr Laverie and all those interested in a clear-headed analysis of the Lockerbie atrocity. Ian D Cochrane

[RB: Mr Cochrane’s view that Kenny MacAskill’s book brings clarity to the subject is a minority one. Reviews of the book can be found here and here and here and here.]

Al-Kassar arrest revives scandal of Bush role in Lockerbie coverup

[This is the headline over an article by Jeffrey Steinberg that appeared in Executive Intelligence Review on this date in 1992. The following are the opening and closing few paragraphs:]

Just when George Bush thought that he had forever buried the Lockerbie scandal, authorities in Spain early in June nabbed fugitive narco-terrorist Mansur Al-Kassar. As a result, one of the President's worst fears may have been revived.

Al-Kassar, a Syrian national with ties to the regime of Hafez Assad in Damascus, had been accused in 1989 of masterminding the Dec 21, 1988 bombing of Pan American Airlines Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people perished.

At the time of the Lockerbie tragedy, Al-Kassar had been secretly employed by the US government as the so-called "second channel" negotiating the release of American hostages held in Beirut, Lebanon. Al-Kassar had, according to congressional testimony, received an estimated $2.5 million from Oliver North's secret Iran-Contra Swiss bank accounts for his role in providing Soviet-made weapons to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. Al-Kassar's ties to the Reagan and Bush administrations apparently continued long after the IranContra scandal was exposed and North, Adm John Poindexter, and others were booted out of the government. (...)

According to an Israeli source, following Al-Kassar's arrest, Spanish authorities searched his Marbella home and discovered a safe filled with diaries and business papers. The Israeli source reports that Al-Kassar is now spilling his guts to the Spanish police about his work for the Reagan and Bush administrations, the secret dealings between Washington and Damascus, and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, including his personal role in developing the cover story that Libyan intelligence, acting on its own, had blown up the plane.

Juval Aviv, the New York City-based private investigator who conducted the initial investigation for Pan Am, is circumspect about where the Lockerbie probe will go from here: "The Time magazine story [RB: 'The Untold Story of Pan Am 103', 27 April 1992] has fortunately put things back in perspective, and the arrest of Mr Al-Kassar could lead to a real breakthrough in the case. I still stand by my original investigative report. I have do doubt that the Syrians were deeply involved in the Lockerbie bombing, as were the Iranians and elements of Libyan intelligence. In my initial investigation, I developed evidence of a kind of 'Terror, Inc' engaged in both narcotics smuggling and terrorism for hire, running out of the Middle East into Europe. I cited the involvement of Libya in the Pan Am plot and I even referenced Mr Al-Kassar's links t0 Tripoli.

"I was deeply disturbed last year when the US Department of Justice indicted the two Libyans and left the world with the impression that Syria and Iran were blameless. Now, perhaps, in spite of that action and in spite of the events in federal district court in Brooklyn, the full story will come out."

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Prosecution policy over Lockerbie

[On the formation of Tony Blair’s Labour government following the general election held on 1 May 1997, Andrew Hardie QC became Lord Advocate. What follows is an exchange in the House of Lords on this date in 1997 between him and the Lord Advocate who had been in office in 1991 when charges were brought against Megrahi and Fhimah:]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their policy concerning the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of those on flight Pan Am 103 and of residents of Lockerbie in December 1988.
The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) My Lords, the Government's policy in relation to the prosecution of any crime is that those allegedly responsible should be brought before the courts having jurisdiction for such matters in order that the accused may receive a fair trial.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has not quite answered the Question that I put to him. As the new Administration takes up office and as the noble and learned Lord as the new Lord Advocate takes over responsibility for these matters, it would be helpful if a clear signal were given not only to this country but also to the rest of the world that the policy pursued by previous Lord Advocates will be maintained. Even in the absence of a clear answer from the noble and learned Lord, I hope I may ask him two questions. First, he will appreciate that as the public prosecutor in Scotland in that respect he does not share a collective responsibility with other ministerial colleagues but has a singular and possibly rather lonely duty to determine whether or not there should be a prosecution. Will he guard against any attempt, however well intentioned, to fetter that discretion for foreign policy or trade reasons?
Secondly, if the noble and learned Lord should determine at any stage that there should not be a prosecution in this matter, will he give an assurance that he will explain that to your Lordships' House? It is not just the relatives of those 270 people who died at Lockerbie who would like to know on what evidence the original decision was taken, but those of us who were involved in the prosecution and the original investigation, who have had our integrity impugned as conspiracy theory has piled upon conspiracy theory, would like the opportunity to reflect on how we would wish to take the matter forward.
Lord Hardie My Lords, I assure the House—as I did in my maiden speech—that I intend to guard the independence of the office which I hold. I assure the noble and learned Lord that I shall not allow anyone from any side of the House to fetter my discretion in any way. As regards reaching any decision, as the noble and learned Lord will be aware, I was involved, along with him, in the public inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster. Since taking up office I have had access to much information that was not available to me at that stage and which is not in the public domain. I can assure the House that I am satisfied on the information available to me that there is no reason not to proceed with the petitions. The noble and learned Lord will be aware that the situation is still fluid in the sense that if additional information becomes available any decision would have to be reviewed. I can also assure the noble and learned Lord that should it be decided that no prosecution will take place I shall return to the House and make a Statement to that effect.
HL Deb 25 June 1997 vol 580 cc1571-3

Friday, 24 June 2016

The Lockerbie Plot

This is the title of a new television documentary currently available only on You Tube. Dr Jim Swire and I feature prominently. The commentary in the You Tube version is in the Greek language, though the lengthy contributions from Dr Swire and me are in English. An English language version of the programme is expected to be broadcast on Channel 5 in the near future.  

The Lockerbie segment starts about 12 minutes 45 seconds from the beginning.

It is time to put right the wrongs

[This is the headline over an article published in Scotland on Sunday on this date in 2007. It reads in part:]

Evidence against the Lockerbie bomber was fabricated and manipulated on both sides of the Atlantic, according to leaked defence documents which appear to undermine the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

Investigators for Megrahi claim to have compelling new evidence of widespread tampering with evidence, missing or overlooked statements, and a concerted attempt to lead investigators away from the original Iranian-backed suspects and towards Libya.

Hundreds of new documents and photographs examined by Scotland on Sunday appear to show many aspects of the Lockerbie prosecution were at best incompetent and at worst amounted to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Last night, legal experts and families of the victims reacted with astonishment and outrage to the revelations. Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the disaster, said: "Scottish justice obviously played a leading part in one of the most disgraceful miscarriages of justice in history. The Americans played their role in the investigation and influenced the prosecution."

Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001 of the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing, will learn on Thursday whether his case will, as expected, be sent back to court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).

Megrahi was convicted for the December 1988 bombing on crucial evidence that he bought items of clothing packed into the suitcase containing the bomb and that he was closely associated with the firm that made part of the bomb timer. Evidence that a fragment of bomb timer was implanted in a shirt sealed Megrahi's fate.

But the defence papers to the commission, seen by this newspaper, appear to undermine that chain of evidence. Among the key findings are:

• Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who sold the clothes to the bomber, gave two earlier statements in which he identified convicted Egyptian terrorist Abu Talb;
• Gauci gave earlier statements saying he did not sell a shirt to the man but six months later remembered selling shirts and the price;
• Two of Gauci's statements are missing altogether;
• A babygro said to have been wrapped around the bomb and shown to the court blown to pieces was recovered intact, according to a statement from the woman who found it;
• A manual for the Toshiba radio containing the bomb was in pieces when shown to the court but was intact when recovered, according to statements from mountain rescuers;
• The discovery of the all-important shirt containing the bomb timer fragment was recorded in May 1989 by a UK forensic scientist and in January 1990 by German investigators. Examination of forensic records shows a "new" page on the discovery was inserted into the record of evidence.
• The same Slalom shirt was in a different condition when shown to the court than when photographed by German investigators.

The defence team believes it was necessary in 1990 for the prosecution to alter evidence, for political reasons. The Gulf War meant it was essential to keep Iran onside and Libya became a suitable scapegoat. Investigators switched from the current known suspects, a Palestinian terror group, the PFLP-GC, and Abu Talb, an Egyptian currently serving life in Sweden.

While the main perpetrators appear to have been CIA officers, according to the defence papers, there is also damning evidence suggesting police officers and other investigators took part in preparing false evidence. (...)

Last night, retired MP and Lockerbie campaigner Tam Dalyell said: "It is time we tried to put right the wrongs that have been perpetrated. This was the most high profile trial internationally that there has ever been, and the conduct of it and the verdict were simply outrageous."

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Crown case has always been highly questionable

[The following are excerpts from a letter dated 23 June 1997 from distinguished Scottish lawyer Peter Anderson to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as quoted in a speech by Tam Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow:]

My attention has been drawn to the question put to you by the MP for Linlithgow on 18 June 1997 (Hansard 309/310). Whilst mention of my name contributed nothing to their weight and substance, can I nevertheless respectfully suggest that the question and proposal which were advanced, merit very careful additional consideration by your new Government.

My interest and involvement in the appalling tragedy of the Lockerbie disaster is well known. I have acted for Pan Am and its insurers throughout and do still have some limited involvement in defending personal injury claims of alleged stress from Lockerbie area residents where liability is denied. This letter however is not written in any capacity as representative of my clients and is not on their instructions or with a view to promoting their interests. Pan Am effectively went out of business following the disaster and the insurers have paid out many millions of dollars which cannot be recovered just because the Libyan connection is doubted.

As a result of my fairly extensive knowledge of the background, I do have scepticism as to whether the Crown Office have properly identified the correct accused, and that is shared by many, journalists, lawyers and others. That scepticism grew during my representation of Pan Am and its insurers in the course of the five month Fatal Accident Inquiry in 1990/91, when, as I am sure you have been advised, the now Lord Advocate [RB: Andrew Hardie QC] was senior Crown Counsel assisting the then Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC. It was heightened during the civil damages trial in New York by what I understand was the evidence led there before Chief Judge Platt, and also, importantly by the evidence which he excluded.

It would be unfair to ask you to consider the series of detailed points that exist made to question whether the two Libyans are still properly to be regarded as the murderers. In my assessment however, the Crown case to the effect that the Libyans achieved the destruction of Flight 103 over Lockerbie by introducing in Malta an unaccompanied bag containing the bomb for transit to Frankfurt and subsequent transfer has always been highly questionable and circumstantial.

There is a strong body of evidence from Air Malta to the effect that no unaccompanied bag did travel to Frankfurt carrying an interline tag showing the ultimate destination of New York. For reasons a British lawyer finds extraordinary, Chief Judge Platt chose to exclude that evidence from the consideration of the Jury in the New York civil damages trial.

Even if that evidence is disregarded, it has always seemed to me inherently improbable that sophisticated terrorists would adopt a method which required an unaccompanied bag containing a bomb to travel undetected through Malta Airport, then through Frankfurt and then by transfer at London Heathrow onto the Boeing 747 which was ultimately destroyed. The prospects of discovery, inadvertent detonation on some non-US flight or failure to make a connection, makes that scheme full of uncertainty. Such a plot becomes even less likely given that it is known that in late 1988 an Arab terrorist group had a bomb maker in Germany [RB: Marwan Khreesat] who had been detected fitting explosives in a radio of the same type which is said to have contained the Lockerbie bomb…

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Bombshell book

[This is the headline over an article published in the current issue of Private Eye (No 1421), page 37. It reads as follows:]

If former Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill believed his new book about the Lockerbie bombing would end the controversy surrounding the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, he was wrong.

The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice, provides an intriguing insight into the double dealing of the US and UK governments, whose ‘deals in the desert’ with Colonel Gaddafi were agreed against the backdrop of Megrahi’s release ‘on compassionate grounds’. But in the book MacAskill demolishes a central pillar of the prosecution case against Megrahi, the only man convicted of the atrocity. He concludes that Megrahi did not, as claimed, buy the incriminating clothes used to pack the bomb suitcase from a Maltese shop – the direct link between Megrahi and the bomb.

He then renders the conviction doubly unsafe by revealing the contents of material which has been kept secret under a controversial public interest immunity (PII) certificate signed in 2008 by the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Then known only to originate from a foreign country, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) had identified the material as potentially important to Megrahi’s defence. The Crown’s failure to disclose it at Megrahi’s trial in 2000 was one of the commission’s grounds for granting the appeal. Under the PII, the commission could not reveal the contents, leading to accusations that the government was involved in a cover-up. (Eye 1205).

MacAskill, who signed Megrahi’s release back to Libya, now reveals that the document in question was a letter from the late King Hussein of Jordan to then prime minister John Major, blaming the atrocity on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). Eye readers will recall that members of the group were the original suspects. Some had been caught in Germany two months before Lockerbie, apparently preparing an airliner attack.

Bomb maker Marwan Khreesat later confessed to having built five bombs designed to detonate at altitude. Two were concealed within Toshiba radio-cassette players, one of which was never recovered. The Lockerbie bomb was also contained within a Toshiba radio cassette player - although a different model. Suspicions of PFLP-GC involvement were strengthened because Khreesat’s bombs were designed to detonate between 30 and 50 minutes after takeoff. The Lockerbie bomb on Pan Am flight 103 exploded 38 minutes after the airliner left Heathrow on 21 December 1988.

Despite admitting building aircraft bombs, Khreesat was freed by a German court a fortnight after his arrest and allowed to return to his native Jordan. He was later revealed to be an informant for the German and Jordanian intelligence services, which added weight to King Hussein’s letter to prime minister Major.

MacAskill seeks to downplay the letter’s significance, saying it was sent soon after Lockerbie and before the police investigation switched focus from the PFLP-GC to Megrahi in 1990. This is not the case. It emerged during the appeal hearings that the letter was sent in 1996 – long after the investigation had changed tack.

In his book MacAskill thus underscores two of the six grounds which the SSCRC decided rendered the conviction unsafe. In an interview on Scottish television he even conceded it may ‘unsafe’, but said he was still convinced of Megrahi’s guilt. Not only is some of his reasoning based on untested assertions, untested evidence and in places on the discredited testimony of CIA supergrass Majid Giaka, but as a lawyer he should know that is not how the criminal justice system works.

The book has led to calls for a further appeal against conviction and for a far reaching inquiry. Police in Scotland are already investigating allegations of criminal misconduct made by the Justice for Megrahi campaign against some of those involved in the Libyan’s conviction – including allegations of withholding evidence from the defence. The book now raises questions about who else shared MacAskill’s doubts over the safety of elements of the case and for how long.

MacAskill may himself yet be in hot water over the breach of the PII certificate. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was still considering the contents of his book.

The dodgy timer fragment

22 June 1989:

“In his affidavit Mr [Ulrich] Lumpert implicitly admits having committed perjury as witness No. 550 before the Scottish Court in the Netherlands. He states (para 2) that he has stolen a handmade (by him) sample of an ‘MST-13 Timer PC-board’ from MEBO company in Zurich and handed it over, on 22 June 1989, to an ‘official person investigating the Lockerbie case.’ He further states (in para 5) that the fragment of the MST-13 timer, cut into two pieces for ‘supposedly forensic reasons,’ which was presented in Court as vital part of evidence, stemmed from the piece which he had stolen and handed over to an investigator in 1989.”

From The Lumpert Affidavit, posted on this blog on 29 August 2007.

22 June 1990:

“When interviewed for a Dutch TV documentary in 2009 [Richard Marquise] insisted that PT35b had never been taken to the US. This claim was echoed by the former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, and by [Scottish Senior Investigating Officer Stuart] Henderson. Henderson then amended his position, saying that the fragment had never been in ‘the control’ of the US investigators. He had chosen his words carefully, because the truth, as he must have known, was that PT35b was taken to the FBI forensic lab in Washington DC on 22 June 1990, in order to compare it with the MST-13 timer held by the FBI’s Tom Thurman; indeed, Henderson was one of the officers who took it there. It was strange that this fact could have slipped the minds of both the head of the FBI investigation and the chief prosecutor responsible for the Lockerbie indictments.

“The Washington visit was crucial, as it enabled Allen Feraday and the Scottish police to confirm that PT35b matched the MST-13 timer…”

From John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury, pp 165,66.

Further details can be found on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s PT35B website, particularly The Chronology of PT/35(b): 22 June 1990.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Mebo evidence at Camp Zeist

[The following are two entries for this date in 2000 on the Libya: News and Views news aggregation website:]

The co-owner of a Swiss firm suspected of supplying a timer for the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 told the Lockerbie trial on Tuesday circuit board fragments found by investigators may have been tampered with. Prosecutors say one of the timers sold by Swiss firm Mebo set off the fireball that demolished the airliner in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. “They have been modified, I swear they have been modified,” Mebo co-owner Edwin Bollier said after peering through a magnifying glass at charred fragments from a circuit board prosecutors said was found among the debris of the Boeing 747. Bollier said his firm did not necessarily supply the timer and the fragments could have come from counterfeit copies. [Reuters]

The defense in the Lockerbie bombing trial Monday accused the co-owner of a Swiss firm said to have supplied a timer used in the explosion of covering up a possible link with Palestinian terrorists. Prosecutors say a timer sold by the Swiss firm Mebo to Libya triggered the 1988 explosion that downed Pan Am Flight 103, killing 270 people. But the defense pointed the finger at Palestinians with links with former communist East Germany's Stasi secret police. Mebo co-owner Erwin Meister acknowledged under intense cross examination that Mebo had a long history of supplying espionage equipment to the Stasi and sold timers to East Germany as well as to Libya. Meister also conceded that he and business partner Edwin Bollier did not tell police investigators during initial questioning that they had supplied timers to the Stasi. But he said that was just an oversight. “You concealed from the authorities that Mebo had supplied MST timers to the Stasi,” defense lawyer David Burns told Meister. “That is why you accused Libya, to deflect attention away from the PLFP-GC.” [CNN]

Monday, 20 June 2016

Pan Am insurers sue Libya and Megrahi

[What follows is excerpted from a report that appeared in The Herald on this date in 2004:]

Lawyers acting for the insurers of the failed Pan American airline next month will ask a Scottish court to rule quickly on a claim of more than £600m in losses incurred by the company following the Lockerbie bombing.

In what may be one of the largest damages claims in Scotland, aviation underwriters of the firm, which filed for bankruptcy in 1991, are claiming Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the convicted bomber, and the Libyan state are liable for damages of £192m, plus interest, for the loss of the aircraft and other financial losses incurred.

The legal team has lodged a motion for summary decree at the Court of Session, arguing that there is no defence and that Megrahi's conviction at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001 proves liability. It wants the claim to be settled without a full hearing. (...)

Libya is vehemently defending the action and denying all involvement, despite the fact that Tripoli has accepted some responsibility for the atrocity and agreed to pay record levels of compensation to the relatives of those who died.

Megrahi, serving a life sentence in Barlinnie prison, has consistently denied all responsibility for the bombing. He is awaiting a decision from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) after applying for the right for a fresh appeal.

A team of Scottish lawyers is planning a robust defence to the civil action based on the grounds that the conviction was unsound and that there is a continuing investigation into the case by Megrahi's lawyers and the SCCRC.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Libya are expected to claim that any civil action would prejudice the hope for a criminal appeal and would be premature on the grounds that Megrahi could have his conviction overturned.

In the lawsuit following the 1988 terrorist bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 270 people, the victims' families proved that the airline acted with wilful misconduct, and Pan Am's insurers were forced to pay out more than £282m.

A New York Federal jury ruled in 1992 that PanAm had been guilty of wilful misconduct because it had repeatedly ignored warnings that its baggage-security system was inadequate.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the aviation underwriters subsequently lodged a civil action for more than £168m against Megrahi and the Libyan state in the early 1990s, on the grounds that countries do not have the right to sovereign immunity under Scots law.

The action was suspended because of the emergence of criminal proceedings against Megrahi and Fhimah. If the civil action now goes ahead, it would be the highest litigation claim in Scotland (...)

Eddie MacKechnie, the lawyer for Megrahi, said the main issue was to prove Megrahi's innocence.

[RB: The Court of Session action was settled on 18 February 2005: see Jonathan B Schwartz Dealing with a "rogue state": the Libya precedent, pages 568-69, footnote 92. It appears from an Associated Press news agency report on the website of The Washington Post that the settlement involved a payment in excess of US$31 million.]