Sunday, 26 March 2017

Megrahi scapegoated

[What follows is the text of a column by George Galloway that was published in the Daily Record on this date in 2012:]

I've never believed the Lockerbie verdict that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.
Now the long hushed-up, 800-page report on the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has concluded that a miscarriage of justice almost certainly occurred.
The contents of the report had been known to those in the know - the Scottish government, senior lawyers, the dogs in the street even - for more than five years.
It hasn't been published on the spurious grounds that there were data protection issues involved.
I ask, in passing, has anyone ever been convicted under the Data Protection Act?
The report details six different grounds on which Megrahi could have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. I prefer the words fitted-up.
The whole report is now available on various websites, but basically the conclusion is that crucial evidence was not disclosed to the defence.
This includes a cover-up of secret intelligence ­documents and uncertainty over the date on which Megrahi was supposed to have bought clothes in Malta.
And the fact that the key witnesses against him had been paid £1.9million to testify, and one of the two Maltese brothers had a seen picture of Megrahi stating he was the bomber before he picked him out at an identification parade.
It's right that the report should be belatedly published, the follow-up should be an investigation of those who conspired to have Megrahi scapegoated.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

SCCRC Statement of Reasons published

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in The Guardian on this date five years ago:]

Scotland's Sunday Herald has published a report that was kept secret for years, which could have cleared the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

The Herald gave two reasons for publishing the full 821-page report, by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, on its website.

First, it had obtained al-Megrahi's permission. Second, it believed publication was in the public interest.

Though the Crown Office regards the publication of the document as unauthorised, there were prior indications from senior law officers that the paper would not be prosecuted for doing so.

The Herald would doubtless point out that there is a public interest defence for breaches of the Data Protection Act.

It also ensured the protection of confidential sources and private information by making a number of redactions.

The paper's decision was welcomed by Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, who had previously called for the grounds for al-Megrahi's appeal to be published.

Al-Megrahi, a Libyan, was convicted for the 1988 bombing - in which 270 people died - and jailed for murder in 2001.

He lost his first appeal and dropped a second shortly before he was released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds.

[RB: The SCCRC Statement of Reasons can be read here.]

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Crown Office and Lockerbie

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

How do you solve a problem like Crown Office?

For at least two-and-a-half years the issue of publication of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s Statement of Reasons in the Megrahi case has been a matter of public and political concern. The Scottish Government first produced a Statutory Instrument The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Permitted Disclosure of Information) Order 2009 which (so it was said) was intended to facilitate publication. When that, as could have been -- and was -- widely anticipated, did not have the desired(?) effect, the Scottish Government introduced the Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review)(Scotland) Bill which is currently before the Scottish Parliament. This is also so hedged about with conditions that publication of anything useful under it is in the highest degree unlikely.

But wait! All of this fevered activity was completely unnecessary.  All that needed to happen was for the Lord Advocate to grant to the SCCRC immunity from prosecution under section 194J of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, the provision which makes it a criminal offence for the SCCRC to publish its reports.This the Lord Advocate did yesterday.  If, as we have been assured from the outset, the Crown Office and the Scottish Government devoutly wished the Megrahi Statement of Reasons to be published, why was this step not taken long ago?

This is yet another indication that something is very seriously amiss at the top of the Crown Office, as is the disinformation that the Crown Office is now assiduously disseminating.

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein:

How do you solve a problem like Crown Office?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How should you describe Crown Office?
A flibbertijibbet!  A will-o'-the wisp!  A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell it,
Many a thing it really ought to see.
But how do you make it stay
And listen to all you say
When deaf and blind it chooses now to be?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Crown Office
To make it fit to work for you and me?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A welcome departure

[What follows is an item posted on this date in 2016 on Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph’s Lockerbie Truth website:]

Scotland's Lord Advocate [Frank Mulholland] is to step down from his position as Scotland's leading law officer. Click here for more…

His decision comes just days after a media conference held in Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth conference centre on 16th March, chaired by representatives of Justice for Megrahi.

At that conference there were calls for the Lord Advocate to consider his position, following a special police investigation - Operation Sandwood - into allegations of criminality [by police and prosecutors] and a key forensic witness during the Lockerbie trial of Libyan Baset al-Megrahi.

It is understood that the Operation Sandwood report will be available for consideration in approximately two months time. [RB: It is now expected later this year. Justice for Megrahi's liaison group has regular meetings with the investigation team and is confident about the rigour of the complex investigation.]

Recently in an unusual move, the National Scottish Police Force has appointed an independent QC to advise it on the Sandwood inquiry because it felt unable to ask Crown Office lawyers to assess the evidence of alleged wrongdoing against certain Crown officers.  Click here for more on this story.

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2000 for the Lockerbie bombing, in which 259 passengers and eleven townspeople were killed by a bomb placed on flight Pan Am 103.

[RB: Frank Mulholland QC was installed as a judge of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary on 15 December 2016. His disgraceful comments about Justice for Megrahi’s criminality allegations gravely compromised the Crown Office’s position in relation to Operation Sandwood.]

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gaddafi hails Libya Lockerbie "victory" at UN

[This is the headline over a report that appeared on the BBC News wbsite on this date in 1998. It reads as follows:]

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has expressed his thanks to the many countries which expressed support at the UN debate this weekend over ending the sanctions imposed against Tripoli for the Lockerbie disaster, and said Tripoli had won both the legal and political battle over the case.

"On behalf of all the Libyan men and women, I extend my warmest thanks to the friendly and brotherly countries, the UN members and to the International Court of Justice, the main legal instrument of the world.
I also thank the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement," Gaddafi said in a speech broadcast on Sunday on Libyan TV.

Gaddafi said he was addressing "all the speakers who took the floor yesterday at the Security Council".

"On behalf of the Libyan people and all the peoples who are convinced that the strength of law will prevail over the law of force, I extend to them my thanks, respect and gratitude," Gaddafi said.

"The Libyan people received massive support for their just cause and their confrontation against the forces of injustice represented by Britain.

I would like to express this gratitude for this world support which I regard as the support of the century for a small country in its confrontation against superpowers which are coveting our wealth." Gaddafi went on:

"Yesterday there was an international trial in which, principally Britain and America were in the dock. World states made accusations against these two states.

"We, Libyans, won the legal battle at the International Court of Justice, and yesterday night we won the political battle at the Security Council when a third of the organization's members, who were able to speak, spoke.

“Perhaps the other two thirds would have spoken in support of Libya.
When they spoke, they supported the Libyan stance, the Libyan policy and the Libyan people," Gaddafi said.

"What did the ICJ say? It said that the Lockerbie incident - Pan Am flight 103 - was a legal and not a political case. This is the first ruling. It is a criminal case which does not concern the Security Council. It said that it came under the Montreal Convention and not under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Therefore, the resolutions which were literally imposed on the Security Council against the Great Jamahiriyah under Chapter 7 are unlawful under the ruling of the ICJ.

"The falsification, which we rebelled, demonstrated and protested against at the time, has become evident. Now, God be praised, it is being confirmed by the ICJ. It confirms the falsification of the claim that international security was under threat," Gaddafi said.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lockerbie questions for the FBI

What follows is an article originally posted on this blog on this date in 2012.

What the SCCRC should have asked the FBI

[This is the heading over an item posted today by John Ashton on his Megrahi: You are my Jury website.  It reads as follows:]

On 18 March Scotland on Sunday ran an article headlined Megrahi probe ‘failed to speak to FBI agents’, which reported criticisms of the SCCRC by FBI officers Oliver ‘Buck’ Revell and Richard Marquise. [RB: See here and here.]

It states:  Oliver “Buck” Revell, the former associate deputy director of investigations for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, has reacted angrily to the examination into the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). In an e-mail seen by Scotland on Sunday, Revell expressed frustration that no-one from the FBI was consulted by the SCCRC when it compiled its report into the safety of Megrahi’s conviction … In his e-mail to government and legal officials in Scotland and the US, Revell complained that the SCCRC failed to interview members of the FBI for its Statement of Reasons. The e-mail pointed out that the original Lockerbie investigation was carried out by Scottish police, Scotland Yard, the German BKA and the FBI. Revell added: “I don’t know what the SCCRC expects to determine when it is not even interviewing the actual investigators involved in solving this terrible crime.”
Marquise said:  “I don’t know if you can say you have done a comprehensive report unless you speak to key people. To me it is an incomplete report whatever they are going to publish. They never did speak to the people who might be able to shed some light on whatever it is that they were looking to find out. If you are going to say you have done a complete investigation, you should talk to everybody who was key, and I like to think people in the FBI were key. I like to think some people in the CIA were key and they could and should have been interviewed.”
While neither man shed any light on what the FBI investigators could have told the commission, we might infer from their comments that the Bureau held further evidence of Abdelbaset’s guilt. Of course, it almost certainly didn’t, because any such evidence would have been handed to the Crown.
That said, I share Revell’s and Marquise’s disappointment that the SCCRC failed to interview anyone from the FBI, as many important questions remain unanswered. For example:
1. What did FBI agent John Hosinski discuss with Tony Gauci when he met him alone on 2 October 1989?
2. What did Senegalese official Jean Collin reveal when interviewed in the US in December 1990?
3. Was the content of Collin’s interview revealed to the Scottish police? And, if not, why not?
4. Why did the FBI’s Tom Thurman ‘front’ for the CIA in relation to the identification of the timer fragment?
5. According to FBI agent Hal Hendershot, Thurman had a laboratory in Lockerbie within days of the bombing. What forensic work did he undertake and was that work shared with the Scottish investigators?
6.When, in June 1990, Thurman demonstrated to the Scottish police that PT/35b matched the control sample MST-13 timer, why did he not reveal that he was already aware that the timers were made by Mebo?
7. Why was Hendershot aware of the contents of the Toshiba manual fragment PK/689 before it was examined for the Scottish police at RARDE?
8. Why was the FBI able to investigate debris item PI/1389 (a blue T-shirt, which, according to the FBI’s Bonn legal attache David Keyes, showed blast damage and the imprint of the grills of two radio speakers) before RARDE?
9. What information did Hendershot, Thurman and Bob Howen uncover in relation to the crystals used in the MST-13 timers? In particular, were they able to establish the date of manufacture of the crystal used in the control sample timer K-1, which was recovered from Togo and which Thurman used for comparative purposes with the fragment PT/35b?
10. Regarding the episode at Frankfurt airport, witnessed by FBI agent Lawrence Whittaker and DI Watson McAteer, in which a baggage handler apparently entered a bag into the automated transit system without recording the transaction, why was Whittaker’s trial testimony at odds with McAteer’s statement S3743A?
11. How many FBI FD302 reports by Lockerbie field agents were handed to the Crown? (Only a handful were provided to the defence.)
12. The US Department of Justice has stated that only three reports were produced in relation to the FBI’s inquiries in Malta. Given the centrality of Malta to the case, why were there so few?
Perhaps Mr Revell and Mr Marquise can answer these questions.
The article is also notable for the following quote by Marquise:  “On the issue of witnesses being paid, no witness [was paid] to my knowledge. What some police officer or FBI agent might have told somebody in the corner in a dark room in the middle night that I don’t know about, I can’t vouch for that. But everybody that worked for me were under orders that they were not allowed to tell people that they could get money for this case. So, as far as I know, nobody was promised or paid money to testify.”

The SCCRC report states, at paragraph 23.19:  Enquiries with D&G [Dumfries and Galloway Police] have established that, some time after the conclusion of the applicant’s appeal against conviction, Anthony and Paul Gauci were each paid sums of money under the “Rewards for Justice” programme administered by the US Department of State. Under that programme the US Secretary of State was initially authorised to offer rewards of up to $5m for information leading to the arrest or conviction of persons involved in acts of terrorism against US persons or property worldwide. The upper limit on such payments was increased by legislation passed in the US in 2001.
According to DCI Harry Bell’s diary, on 28 September 1989, FBI agent Chris Murray told Bell that he (Murray): ‘had the authority to arrange unlimited money for Tony Gauci and relocation is available. Murray states that he could arrange $10,000 immediately.’  Murray would not have said these things unless he believed that the offer might have been put to Gauci, yet, according to Marquise, “everybody that worked for me were under orders that they were not allowed to tell people that they could get money for this case.” So, was Murray acting against Marquise’s orders? And, if so will he be held to account? Again, maybe Marquise and Revell can enlighten us.

Monday, 20 March 2017

International pressure for neutral venue Lockerbie trial

[What follows is excerpted from a press release issued by the United Nations Security Council on this date in 1998:]

The Security Council this morning heard of a proposal by the League of Arab States aimed at resolving the situation for which the Council had imposed sanctions upon Libya following the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (...)

The proposal offers three options for the trial of the two Libyan nationals suspected in the Lockerbie bombing -- they could be tried in a neutral country chosen by the Council, at the World Court in The Hague by Scottish judges, or in a special tribunal to be created at The Hague. The League's Observer at the United Nations said the proposal had been formulated in consultation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Under its resolution 748 (1992) and 883 (1993), the Council imposed a wide range of aerial, arms and diplomatic sanctions on Libya pending its renunciation of terrorism and its action to ensure the appearance of those charged with the Lockerbie bombings before the appropriate courts in the United Kingdom or the United States. (...)
Many speakers today drew attention to two recent decisions by the International Court of Justice on cases submitted by Libya against the United States and United Kingdom. In those cases, Libya held that those countries did not have the right to compel it to surrender the suspects. Libya also argued that the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation authorized Libya to try the suspects itself. The Court found that it had jurisdiction to deal with the merits of the cases, that the Libyan claims were admissible, and that it would take action to consider them.
Addressing the Council, the representative of Libya said his country had been suffering from collective sanctions for the past six years, without a court judgement or a legal basis for them. Like the families of the bombing victims, Libya was anxious to have the two suspects brought to trial in a just and fair court in a neutral country and to uncover the truth.
He said his Government had urged the suspects to appear before a Scottish court, but they had refused on their lawyers' advice, stating they had already been condemned in the United Kingdom and the United States as a result of biased media coverage and official statements. Libya asked that the suspects be treated in the same manner as the American citizen accused in the Oklahoma City bombing, whose trial venue had been transferred from the state where the crime was committed.
The representative of the United States said that the World Court's rulings involved technical, procedural issues and in no way questioned the legality of the Security Council's actions affecting Libya or the merits of the criminal cases against the two accused suspects. It had simply said that the parties must now argue the legal merits of the case. While the case was proceeding, Libya must comply with its obligations under the Council decisions and turn over the two suspects for a fair trial.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed the hope that the OAU and the Arab League would not be used to undermine the Council's resolutions, and that their influence would eventually be used to bring about Libya's acceptance of international law and justice for the victims. He said an expert mission sent by the Secretary-General had concluded that the Scottish legal system was fair and independent, that the accused would receive a fair trial under the Scottish judicial system, and that their rights would be fully protected during all phases of the trial proceeding in accordance with international standards.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Mandela announces Lockerbie suspects to surrender for trial

[What follows is excerpted from an address by South African President Nelson Mandela to Libya’s Congress of the People on this date in 1999:]

It is with great admiration for the Libyan people that I can today announce to the world that Libya has decided to write to the secretary-general of the United Nations to give a firm date for the handing over for trial in the Netherlands of the Two Libyan nationals named as suspects in the Lockerbie case.

At the outset, we must make a point which one would have assumed in this modern day needed no making. We are speaking of two people suspected of a crime, not of people proven guilty. Too often the impression is given that Libya is harbouring convicted criminals. As a world which believe in justice and which is committed to due legal process we must cling to the principle that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I wish to take the liberty of referring in some detail, for the benefit of yourselves and the world, to the text of the letter that the Libyan authorities will be addressing to the Secretary-general. I have the letter in my hand.

I am confident that the Secretary-general will understand and pardon me for publicising the contents of a communication to him before he receives it. We do so because the writing of this letter has taken great courage and self-sacrifice on the party of Libya, and because King Fahad, Crown Prince Abdullah and I take responsibility in your presence and before the Libyan people for our part in that decision.

We therefore want you and the world to know that we, the leadership of Saudi Arabia and of South Africa, put our honour before you as guarantee of the good faith that we believe the leadership of the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the Security Council had pledged in this regard.

The letter starts by expressing the Jamahyria's thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the secretary-general, myself as President of South Africa, and the those of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahad bin Abdulaziz al Saud and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, to find a just solution to the Lockerbie issue, from which Libya has suffered for more than ten years.

The letter then states, and I quote (but I must first state that the Leader had entrusted to me the choice of the precise date): "The Jamahyria agrees to ensure that the two suspects would be available for the Secretary General of the united Nations to take custody of them on or before 6th April 1999 for their appearance before the court."

This, the letter states, is based on the following points which had already been agreed:

  1. A Scottish court shall by convened in the Netherlands for the purpose of trying the two suspects in accordance with Scottish law and based on the agreement reached between the legal experts of the United Nations and Libya, and with the presence of international observers appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations. The Jamahyria would wish that this be done also in consultation with the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  2. The suspects if convicted will serve their prison sentence in Scotland under UN supervision and with assured access to a Libyan Consulate to be established in Scotland in accordance with the arrangements reached with the British government.
  3. The sanctions imposed on the Jamahyria will be frozen immediately upon the arrival of the two suspects in the Netherlands. Thereafter the sanctions will be lifted upon submission, within 90 days, of a report by the secretary-general to the Security Council stating that the Jamahyria has complied with the Security Council's resolutions.

The Jamahyria, in this letter, also seeks to bring again to the attention of the secretary-general, the following points:

  1. The Jamahyria, as it has stated before on numerous occasions, opposes all forms of terrorism and condemns all acts of such heinous criminality. The Jamahyria recalls that it has itself been a victim of terrorist acts which could not be condoned by any religious, human or international laws.
  2. The Jamahyria pledges co-operation with the investigation, the procedures and the trial, within the framework of Libyan laws and legislation.
  3. The Jamahyria reiterates what it had previously declared regarding compensation in the event of the two suspects being found guilty by the court and a final verdict being reached.

In the light of all the above, the Jamahyria states its view in the letter that the Security Council should pass a resolution with regard to this arrangement in a form binding on all concerned parties.

That is the essence of what is in the letter.

King Fahad, Prince Abdullah and I believe that, with those undertakings, Libya has taken the issue that has beset us for so long, to a new phase. The Libyan people can rightly claim that they have made major concessions, putting aside understandable considerations of national sovereignty for the betterment of international relations and for a world of greater normality.

We have no doubt that all other parties will respond with equal magnanimity to this development so that the issue can be resolved speedily. We are particularly hopeful that these undertakings will put the secretary-general in a position to expedite his report to the Security Council to have sanctions against Libya finally and fully lifted. We hope that all members of the Security Council including Permanent Members will redouble their commitment to restore normality to international relations.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

We have not seen the end of this case

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Scotsman on this date in 2002:]

The legal expert who brokered the Lockerbie trial is helping the Libyan government to lodge a fresh appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, it emerged yesterday.

Professor Robert Black, a law lecturer at Edinburgh University, flew to Tripoli the day after Megrahi’s appeal was rejected last week.

He said he regarded the case as a miscarriage of justice because the court did not consider all the available evidence. "We have not seen the end of this case," Prof Black added.

Thousands of people marched through the Libyan capital yesterday in protest at the decision of the appeal court judges to uphold the conviction of Megrahi. Riot police supervised demonstrations outside a UN office.

A statement handed to a UN representative said Megrahi’s life sentence "contradicts international laws, as it was handed as a result of political pressure aimed at settling account with the Libyan revolution."

Prof Black was invited to the country by the Libyan government’s Lockerbie Committee, which is planning to lodge an appeal through the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. It was he who proposed the idea of trying the Lockerbie suspects in a neutral third country, which was the breakthrough which led to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi agreeing to hand the two accused over for trial in the Netherlands.

Megrahi was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, resulting in the deaths of 270 people, and lost his appeal last week.

Fresh doubts over his conviction were raised with claims that senior police officers covered up the discovery of important evidence in the wreckage of the Boeing 747.

Mary Boylan, 53, a retired Lothian and Borders Police officer, said she found a CIA identification badge among the debris but was told not to make a record of the find in her notebook.

Megrahi was found guilty of loading an unaccompanied suitcase bomb in Malta that was later transferred on to the Pan Am aircraft, which exploded en route to New York.

The Libyan government has said it will appeal the ruling to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

Prof Black said: "I am sure that at some point they will actually make an application to the Scottish Commission which deals with miscarriages of justice. The commission could then refer it back to the appeal court.

"I predict the grounds for that would be that evidence is emerging that has not yet seen the light of day. There is a hell of a lot more evidence about Lockerbie that appeared at neither the trial nor the appeal."

Libya, which is still subject to stringent UN sanctions over the Lockerbie bombing, faces a claim of up to 1.3 million compensation from relatives of each of the victims.