Sunday, 23 November 2014

Pan Am 103, Iran Air 655 and Christine Grahame MSP

[Christine Grahame MSP has over many years fought staunchly to have the truth about Lockerbie uncovered. Here is just one example taken from an item posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]

An SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament has called for an international inquiry to be established to examine the full circumstances that led to the blowing up of Pan Am 103 in December 1988 and the shooting down of Iranian Flight 655, by the US navy five months before the Lockerbie attack.

Christine Grahame MSP believes that the two incidents are “inextricably linked” and expressed a hope that an internationally backed inquiry would lead to the real perpetrators of both attacks being brought to justice. Ms Grahame said:

“Amongst all the furore surrounding Abdelbaset al Megrahi’s release from prison in August, the wider substantive issues have been left obscured.

“I and many others who have examined this case believe on the evidence we have seen that the murder of 270 people over Lockerbie in December 1988 was a revenge attack sponsored by the Iranians in response to the shooting down of one of their passenger jets, Flight 655, five months earlier by the US navy. That vessel, the USS Vincennes, entered Iranian waters in a deliberately provocative move, before firing a surface to air missile at a schedule passenger flight taking Iranian pilgrims [to] Mecca.

“The US claim that this incident was an ‘accident’ simply does not hold water. It was, like the attack on Pan Am 103 five months later, a crime against humanity that targeted civilians and in the Iranian incident led to the deaths of 290 passengers.

“I am today calling on an international inquiry to be established to consider and examine these two inter-related atrocities and I would hope that ultimately this may lead to some effort being made to bring to justice those responsible.

“I accept that the US failure to be a signatory to the International Court of Criminal Justice makes it unlikely that the officers of the USS Vincennes or their Commander in Chief at the time of the blowing up of Flight 655, will face any due legal process. That will also be the case for the Iranian Government officials who authorised and sponsored the attack on Pan Am 103. Nonetheless such an inquiry would help expose the reality of what took place and the hypocrisy of those who are arguing that justice has been served in the Pan Am 103 attack by the wrongful conviction of Abdelbaset al Megrahi.”

Ms Grahame has today (Monday) lodged a parliamentary motion at the Scottish Parliament which calls on an independent inquiry to be established and urges relevant Scottish public authorities, such as the Crown Office and police, to co-operate fully with it.

Text of parliamentary motion:

International Inquiry, Pan Am 103 and Flight 655

That the Parliament supports the establishment of an international inquiry into the circumstances that led to the blowing up of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988 that murdered 270 passengers and urges all relevant Scottish authorities to co-operate with it; further supports that such an inquiry should also consider the relationship of that atrocity to the shooting down of Iranian flight 655 over the Straits of Hormuz five months before by a US warship, which claimed the lives of 290 passengers, and urges the international community to pursue, investigate and bring to justice all those ultimately responsible for these two terrorist attacks, which it considers constitute crimes against humanity.

[RB: The motion appears to have received support only from the following MSPs: Dave Thompson, Bill Wilson, Bob Doris, Bill Kidd, Jamie Hepburn.]

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ave atque vale: Michael Matheson and Kenny MacAskill

[Here are a few press reactions to the departure of Kenny MacAskill as Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the arrival of Michael Matheson:]

The Herald: One of the big surprises of Nicola Sturgeon's new Cabinet was the appointment of Falkirk MSP Michael Matheson to the justice portfolio.

While the departure of Kenny MacAskill from Government had been widely expected, few had predicted his successor would be the previous Minister for Public Health.

Mr Matheson, a former occupational therapist, has little background in law, although he did serve as shadow deputy minister for justice from 1999 until 2004 and had a stint on the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee over roughly the same period.

The keen mountaineer, who served as a regional MSP for Central Scotland between 1999 and 2007 before winning his constituency seat, is said to have impressed behind the scenes with his performance as a minister and a demeanour described as "calm and unflappable".

His appointment marks a departure from the approach of Mr MacAskill, a lawyer by trade but whose policies did not always find favour among the legal profession.

In an eventful seven years as Justice Secretary, Mr MacAskill came under scrutiny for the freeing of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, on compassionate grounds and the creation of the single police force.

More recent controversies included his plan to scrap the centuries-old need for corroboration in criminal cases and the use of armed police officers on routine duties.

The proposal to end the need for corroboration was put on hold in April following an outcry from lawyers while the policy of allowing armed police to respond to routine calls was reversed last month, prompting new calls for Mr MacAskill to resign.

The Scotsman: When asked about the departures of [former Cabinet Secretary for Education] Mr [Mike] Russell and Mr MacAskill, she [First Minister Nicola Sturgeon] said: “Both of them felt they’d made a big contribution, that the time was right for them to demit ministerial office.”

From his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to the routine appearance of armed police on the streets, Mr MacAskill’s reign at the justice department had been mired in controversy.

When pressed on whether his departure was an acknowledgement that the government had got things wrong on justice, Ms Sturgeon said: “I pay tribute to Kenny MacAskill. Kenny MacAskill is the justice secretary who has ensured that there are 1,000 more police officers on the streets of our country and has presided over a fall in crime that has led to the position where crime is now at a 40-year low.

“He has significant achievements to his name and he should be very proud of that.”

The Times (Magnus Linklater): Two signals have been sent out. The first is overt: Ms Sturgeon had made it clear that she wants to see more women in positions of power. She now has a cabinet that has a 50 per cent female to male ratio.

The second is more subtle, but no less important. This, she is saying, is a post-Salmond cabinet. Not only have two of his senior ministerial colleagues — Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, and Mike Russell at education — gone altogether, but she has promoted Roseanna Cunningham on to the front bench; history will recall that Ms Cunningham is far from being Alex Salmond’s favourite SNP colleague; in 2004, he came back from Westminster to ensure that she was denied the leadership.

The aim is to have a working cabinet rather than an exercise in propaganda. It echoes the message Ms Sturgeon gave out during her first Holyrood appearance as first minister, when, quite deliberately, she held back from the Salmond ritual of denigrating opponents and castigating Westminster. If that is the pattern to come, it is a welcome one. The demise of Kenny MacAskill as justice secretary was almost inevitable. He had lost the confidence of the legal establishment because of his unyielding stance on corroboration, and a series of decisions that had raised questions about his judgment. Michael Matheson, who replaces him, was, for five years, shadow deputy justice minister, so will know that he has a lot of ground to make up to win back the authority of the office.

The Guardian: Another newcomer is Michael Matheson, who replaces the benighted Kenny McAskill as justice secretary. McAskill had weathered a controversial tenure which saw him draw criticism for his handling of the Megrahi case, the creation of the single Scottish police force, and his attempts to reform the laws on corroboration.

The departure of McAskill, as well as Mike Russell from education, signals a generational shift away from the “79 group”, an SNP faction from the 1980s which included previous first minister Alex Salmond.

The Daily Telegraph: Kenny MacAskill, the man who freed the Lockerbie bomber, was the most high profile casualty as Nicola Sturgeon announced her new ministerial team. (...)

Following a string of controversies, Mr MacAskill had been hotly tipped to lose his job.

He will be remembered as the man who caused an international outcry in 2009 by freeing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

The Libyan intelligence agent was released on compassionate grounds on the basis that he had terminal cancer and only three months to live. He was given a hero’s welcome in Tripoli and lived there with his family for two years and nine months before dying of prostate cancer.

His release was criticised by Barack Obama and infuriated American relatives who lost loved ones in the atrocity. The decision meant he spent less than eight years in jail for the worst terrorist atrocity on British soil in which 270 people died.

Mr MacAskill also infuriated the legal profession last year when he announced plans to scrap the historic principle of corroboration that requires evidence from two sources in criminal cases.

In recent months, he has been widely criticised following the arming of police officers on routine patrols following the creation of the single national police force. A public outcry resulted in an about-turn on the policy by Police Scotland.

He also oversaw the merging of the country’s eight regional forces into Police Scotland, amid fears over centralisation and a loss of local accountability.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Kenny MacAskill, Lockerbie and Megrahi

[The departure of Kenny MacAskill as Cabinet Secretary for Justice has been confirmed. His part in the saga that is the Lockerbie affair since his appointment in 2007 can be followed on this blog here.  A very short selection of highlights follows:]
Sunday, 30 August 2009 Mandela supports MacAskill decision
Thursday, 10 February 2011 Lockerbie: some shrapnel
Thursday, 1 March 2012 Salmond backs minister on Megrahi
[The new Cabinet Secretary for Justice is Michael Matheson MSP. He is not a lawyer, but that is not a complete departure from precedent. Cathy Jamieson (then MSP, now MP) held the office from May 2003 to May 2007 in the Labour/LibDem administration. One potential drawback of having a non-lawyer in this position is that too much influence on justice policy and practice may come to be exerted by the Scottish Law Officers.

Talking of which, in her ministerial reshuffle Nicola Sturgeon has not as yet taken the step of rectifying the constitutional affront (not to mention governmental idiocy) perpetrated by her predecessors (SNP and Labour) of appointing Crown Office staffers as the Scottish Law Officers. However, unlike other Scottish Ministers, the appointment and removal of Law Officers requires the approval of the Scottish Parliament (under the Scotland Act 1998, section 48). So perhaps an appropriate parliamentary motion is already being drafted. It would be the single most important thing that the new First Minister (who is herself a lawyer) could do for the Scottish justice system.]

Justice Secretary MacAskill expected to lose job in Scottish Cabinet reshuffle

[What follows is taken from an article published in today’s edition of The Scotsman:]

Kenny MacAskill is expected to be the most high-profile casualty when Nicola Sturgeon puts her own mark on the SNP administration by reshuffling her cabinet.

Last night, Ms Sturgeon was putting the finishing touches to the make-up of her team, amid intense speculation Mr MacAskill will lose his job as justice secretary.

Ms Sturgeon’s aides indicated the reshuffle would happen “very shortly” and there were strong signs that the announcement will be made today.

Mr MacAskill has defied numerous calls to quit during his controversial spell in charge of the justice department.

A signal that he was finally on his way out emerged at Holyrood yesterday.

Fielding questions for the first time as First Minister, Ms Sturgeon pointedly failed to defend the justice secretary when Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie suggested “everyone knew he was going”.

Ms Sturgeon responded by listing some of the Scottish Government’s justice policies, but failed to mention Mr MacAskill.

After First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman was asked why she had not denied Mr MacAskill faced the sack. He said: “I am not going to indulge in fevered speculation. The First Minister will confirm her line-up very shortly.” (...)

Last night, the SNP’s opponents were taking it as read that Mr MacAskill will go. (...)

Ever since Mr MacAskill freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, his time at the justice department has been dogged by controversy.

[RB: Kenny MacAskill has not been a distinguished Cabinet Secretary for Justice. His stonewalling and prevarication over the need for an independent inquiry into the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial has been disgraceful. The feebleness of his excuses for refusing such an inquiry has been pitiful. The refusal to appoint an independent investigator to look into Justice for Megrahi's allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial was shameful. One thing he cannot justly be criticised for, however, is his compassionate release of Megrahi (though the procedures that he chose to adopt in reaching his decisions on prisoner transfer and compassionate release are open to censure).]

Thursday, 20 November 2014

It remains a mystery how Megrahi came to be convicted

[On this date in 2000, the Crown at Camp Zeist closed its case against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhima. In an article that I wrote at the time for The Lockerbie Trial website, I attempted to assess what the evidence led by the Crown might be held to establish:]

What could the Crown be held to have proved?

On the assumption that the witnesses who have so far given evidence which is favourable to the Crown case are accepted by the judges as being credible (ie honest and truthful) and reliable (ie accurate in their observation and recollection of events) and having regard to the matters that have been agreed between prosecution and defence in Joint Minutes, it is possible that the following might be held to have been provisionally established, always subject to any later contrary evidence which may be led by the defence.

1. That the seat of the explosion was in a particular Samsonite suitcase (which contained clothing manufactured in Malta and sold both there and elsewhere) at or near the bottom of a particular aluminium luggage container (AVE 4041).

2. That the bomb had been contained in a black Toshiba RTSF-16 cassette recorder.

3. That a fragment of circuit board from an MST-13 timer manufactured by MeBo AG formed part of the timing mechanism which detonated the bomb.

4. That MeBo AG supplied MST-13 timers to the Libyan army, and may have done so also to other customers such as the East German Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit (Stasi).

5. That the first-named accused, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, was a member of the Libyan intelligence services; was known to the owners of MeBo AG; was involved, in an official capacity, in obtaining for Libya electronic equipment (including timers) from MeBo; and that a company of which a Libyan intelligence operative was a principal for a time had office accommodation in the premises occupied by MeBo in Zurich.

6. That Megrahi possessed and used Libyan passports in false names.

7. That Megrahi, on occasion under the false name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad, visited Malta on a number of occasions in 1988, including the night of 20/21 December.

8. That Megrahi arrived in Malta by air from Tripoli with a hard shelled brown suitcase at some point in the two or three weeks following 7 December 1988. [RB: This evidence came from Abdul Majid Giaka whose testimony on this and all other issues, except the structure and membership of the Libyan intelligence services, was ultimately held by the judges to be wholly lacking in credibility and rejected.]

9. That some weeks before 21 December 1988 a person who “resembled a lot” Megrahi, but who also “resembled a lot” Mohamed Abu Talb (a Crown witness named in the special defence of incrimination lodged by the defence) bought in Malta items of clothing that the Crown claims were in the suitcase that contained the bomb.

10. That in 1986 a conversation took place between Megrahi and Abdul Majid Giaka regarding the possibility of a piece of unaccompanied baggage being inserted onto a British aircraft at Malta. In the course of that conversation Megrahi used the words “Don't rush things.” [RB: This evidence, along with most of Giaka’s testimony, was ultimately rejected by the judges as wholly lacking in credibility.]

11. That the second-named accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhima, travelled by air to Malta on 20 December 1988 and departed by air the following day.

12. That Fhima was then in possession of a permit (obtained when he was station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines) which allowed him access to airside at Luqa Airport.

13. That Fhima when he was station manager for LAA (which he ceased to be some time before the Lockerbie bombing) kept blocks of plastic explosive in his desk drawer at Luqa Airport. [RB: This evidence emanated from Giaka and was ultimately rejected by the judges as lacking in credibility.]

14. That a diary kept by Fhima contained entries for a date six days before the Lockerbie bombing referring (a) to the arrival of Megrahi in Malta from Zurich and (b) to getting tags from Air Malta.

15. That a piece of interline baggage arrived at the luggage station at Frankfurt Airport used for baggage destined for flight Pan Am 103A (the feeder flight to Heathrow) on 21 December 1988 at a time consistent with its having been offloaded from flight KM 180 from Malta.

16. That it would have been theoretically possible for a suitcase to be introduced into the interline baggage system at Luqa, although there is no documentary record of any such piece of baggage on Air Malta flight KM 180 to Frankfurt on 21 December 1988.

Apart from the consistency in timing referred to in paragraph 15 and the theoretical possibility mentioned in paragraph 16, no evidence has been led which could be held to establish that the Samsonite suitcase containing the bomb was launched on its fatal progress from Malta (as distinct from being directly loaded onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, or starting its journey at Frankfurt).

[RB: Having regard to the above and to the rejection by the court of the testimony of the mercenary fantasist Giaka, it remains a mystery to me how, at the end of the trial, Megrahi came to be convicted, particularly after the defence’s meteorological evidence established to the very highest degree of probability that the purchase of the clothing on Malta took place on a date on which Megrahi was not on the island.]

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The text of the Lumpert affidavit

[It has been suggested to me by a regular reader of this blog that in the light of recent posts referring to the Lumpert affidavit and the alleged fabrication of timer fragment PT-35b, it would be useful to have the text of the affidavit available here on the blog. A copy of the original affidavit in German can be found here on the MEBO Ltd website. What follows is a translation by me, making some use of the English-language version also to be found on that website:]

of Mr Ulrich Lumpert, electronic engineer,
ex-employee at company MEBO Ltd Telecommunication
8004 Zurich / Switzerland, between 1978 and 1994.

Ex a witness during the trial 'Fhimah, Al Megrahi'
(Lockerbie-case) 2000 in Kamp van Zeist NL.

Personal data
Name: Ulrich Lumpert;
Date of birth: 20 September 1942;
Occupation: electronic engineer;
Residence: (...), Kt. Zurich / Switzerland

The following facts, which correspond to the truth, were signed by Mr Ulrich Lumpert on 18th July 2007.

1. During the examination by the Bundespolizei (Federal Police) "BUPO" Switzerland, FBI and Scottish Police present in Zurich in 1991
the examination of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) (Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation) by Commissioner Fuhl in Konstanz / Germany 1991
as well as
in the "Lockerbie Trial" in Kamp van Zeist 2000,

I had testified as witness No 550 and stated in the record, that of the 3 pieces of hand-made prototypes MST-13 timer PC-boards the third MST-13 PC-board was broken and I had thrown it away;

ULRICH LUMPERT, 8122 Binz / Kt. Zurich / Switzerland
Page 2  U.L.
I built two functioning MST-13 Timers with the remaining 2 PC-Boards, which were delivered to the GDR State Security Service (STASI) by Mr Bollier;
The MST-13 PC-Boards consisted of 8 layers of fiberglass and were brown in colour.

2. These statements recorded by me were not correct.

I confirm today on 18th July 2007 that I stole the third hand-manufactured MST-13 timer PC-board consisting of 8 layers of fiberglass from MEBO Ltd and gave it without permission on *22nd June 1989 to a person who was an official investigator in the "Lockerbie case".

3.  At this *time I did not know that the MST-13 timer PC-board was used for a specific purpose in connection with the attack on PanAm 103, otherwise I would have requested permission from one of the owners of M/S Mebo Ltd (Meister or Bollier) to release the MST-13 PC-board.

4. In addition I handed over without permission a summary of the production films, hand-stuck templates and the blueprints of the MST-13 timer production in a yellow evelope to Det Superintendent James Gilchrist, Scottish Police during a *visit to Zurich in June1991.
(* according to Mebo: without the necessary sanction of the Swiss law enforcement).

5. Reason why I did not explain the true background before the court proceedings. I have been living in an indescribable condition of depression of and fear since my second examination by the police in 1991.

I got a shock and was in a significant state of anxiety when I was shown the photograph with the apparent MST-13 timer fragment by the "BUPO", FBI and the Scottish Police, surprisingly for the first time in *mid January 1991, which was apparently found in Lockerbie and they confronted me with the fact that this MST-13 timer fragment was found in Lockebie and was a part of the ignition device of the suitcase with explosives, which caused the Boeing 747 Pan Am Flight 103 to crash, killing 270 people.

ULRICH LUMPERT, 8122 Binz / Kt. Zurich / Switzerland
Page 3  U.L.
*According to Mr Bollier`s statement he was shown photographs of the MST-13 timer fragment (No.PT/35, PT/35(b) etc.) on 23rd April 1990 by "BUPO" and on 15th November 1990 by FBI and the Scottish Police.

Although the portrayed MST-13 fragment at this time itself, had been sawed into two pieces apparently for forensic reasons, it did not escape me that the MST-13 fragment on the police photograph (No. PT/35(b) came from the non-operational MST-13 prototype PC-board that I had stolen; this because there are clear characteristics e.g. on a specific soldering terminal, a relay had never been soldered.
The soldering terminal was flat and clean at this place.

Take note: I saw the photograph with the illustration of the non-processed originals, apparently the MST-13 timer fragment under "Evidence No. PT-35, image 9 from , for the first time at MEBO Ltd after the "Lockerbie- Appeal 2001", before my first Affidavit.

I clearly recognize the scratched remnants of the soldering tracts on this enlarged digital police photograph. I had nothing to do with the letter "M" (possibly an abbreviation of Muster 'sample'), which appears.

When I realized that the MST-13 PC-board, after it was handed over by me without permission was misused for deliberate politically criminal "action", it was clear to me that I was stuck "in the middle of it" and decided to keep quiet, for it could have been extremely dangerous for me as an unintentional "bearer of secrets".

I am sorry for the consequences of my silence at that time for the innocent Libyan Mr Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, sentenced to life imprisonment, and for the country of Libya.

ULRICH LUMPERT, 8122 Binz / Kt. Zurich, Switzerland
Page 4  U.L.
With the information known to me I would like to put an end to the accusation that Libya is responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy by "manufacturing" MST-13 timer-link with criminal intent.

6. The reason why I reveal this fundamentally important information only today:

I would like to use this opportunity to clear my conscience, because I cannot be prosecuted for stealing, delivering and making false statements about the MST-13 timer PC-board, on grounds of statutory limitation.

7. The time is right for this, because action for a 2nd appeal has been granted in the "Lockerbie Case" on account of "Miscarriage of Justice".

I would also like to apologize to Mr Meister and Mr Bollier, MEBO Ltd for the damage caused to their prestige.

I herewith declare that the contents of the Affidavit are true.

4 pages.
Zürich, 18.07.2007
(U.L.)  Ulrich Lumpert
Only valid for the German Affidavit

Official Certification
This is to certify that this copy corresponds exactly with the document (4 single pages) shown to us this day and declared to be the orginal.
Zurich, this 18. 07. 2007
B No. 2070
Walter Wieland, certifying officer