Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Widespread implications for the meaning of justice

[What follows is excerpted from a report published today in the Irish Mirror:]

Oscar-nominated film director Jim Sheridan wanted to work again with Daniel Day-Lewis in his next drama – but the actor wouldn’t come out of retirement.

Sheridan is spearheading a new Sky drama with his daughter Kirsten on the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which will be based on the search for justice by Dr Jim Swire and his wife Jane whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the Scottish air disaster.

The Mirror can reveal Sheridan is busy casting for the highly-anticipated project – but wanted Daniel Day-Lewis to play a lead role in the drama, after the pair worked together in Sheridan’s award-winning My Left Foot.

Day-Lewis retired in 2017 saying: "It was something I had to do".

He said at the time: “I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t." (...)

Set for release next year, the five-part TV series Lockerbie is in the early stages of production – but Jim and Dr Swire are writing all episodes of Lockerbie, while Naomi Sheridan will guest-write one.

On December 20, 1988, all 259 passengers and crew died when a bomb planted on board Pan Am Flight 103, from Frankfurt, Germany to Detriot, exploded.

A further 11 residents in the town of Lockerbie also died when the plane crashed, bringing the total number of fatalities to 270.

Dr Swire campaigned for the truth behind the attack as he fought for justice as he was a spokesperson for UK Families Flight 103, a group of families who lost relatives in the bombing.

In 1990, in a bid to demonstrate a lax in airport security, Swire carried a fake bomb onto an British Airways flight from London Heathrow to JFK in New York and then on a plane from New York to Boston.

He lobbied for a solution to the difficulties in bringing the suspects to trial.

During his fight for justice, Dr Swire went on to meet Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, who in 2003 accepted responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the families of the victims. [RB: What Libya accepted was "responsibility for the actions of its officials". The full text can be read here.] 

He later advocated for the retrial and release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was originally convicted for the crime.

The series was commissioned by Gabriel Silver, Director of Commissioning for Drama at Sky Studios and Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content at Sky UK.

"The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks that continues to have widespread implications for the meaning of justice in the US, Scotland and Libya," said the Sheridans in a previous statement.

"Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster, and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story, and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

How did Pan Am Flight 103 explode?

[This is the headline over an article published yesterday on the Rebellion Research website. It is a fairly typical, superficial, American account of the Lockerbie case. However, it contains the following interesting paragraphs:] 

According to the US Justice Department: 

“In the winter of 1988, [Abu Agila] Masud was summoned by a Libyan intelligence official to meet at that official’s office in Tripoli, Libya, where he was directed to fly to Malta with a prepared suitcase. He did so, where he was met by Megrahi and Fhimah at the airport. After Masud spent approximately three or four days in the hotel, Megrahi and Fhimah instructed Masud to set the timer on the device in the suitcase for the following morning, so that the explosion would occur exactly eleven hours later. 

"According to the affidavit, the suitcase used by Masud was a medium-sized Samsonite suitcase that he used for traveling. Megrahi and Fhimah were both at the airport on the morning of Dec 21, 1988, and Masud handed the suitcase to Fhimah after Fhimah gave him a signal to do so. Fhimah then placed the suitcase on the conveyor belt. Masud then left. He was given a boarding pass for a Libyan flight to Tripoli, which was to take off at 9:00 a.m.” 

The bomb was a hidden plastic explosive concealed inside the audio cassette player within the cargo section, set to be exploded when the plane achieved 31,000 feet high altitude. 

[RB: It appears that the author of the article cannot make up his/her mind whether the explosion was detonated by a pre-set timing device or by a barometric pressure device (or by both?).]

Saturday, 2 April 2022

"Gaddafi and Megrahi both told me he was innocent"

[What follows is excerpted from a long article by Peter Oborne published today on the Middle East Eye website:]

In a wide-ranging interview with Middle East Eye following publication of her memoir, The Colonel and I: My Life with Gaddafi, [Daad] Sharab talked about how the Libyan leader sent her on secret missions around the globe, during which she dealt directly with US President George HW Bush and visited alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in jail. (...)

Talking to MEE at her London home, Sharab excoriates former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who she says spoke highly of Gaddafi when the pair met privately over an intimate dinner in New York - only to publicly gloat later when the dictator was killed. (...)

She dismisses another western leader who embraced Gaddafi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as “a vulture hovering over Libya”.

When asked by MEE to explain, she said that Blair “made a deal with Libya to make money for his country, and not to be fair” - an apparent reference to the so-called “deal in the desert”, agreed with a handshake between the leaders in a tent outside Tripoli in 2004.

The deal cemented security and intelligence ties between the countries, including the British-orchestrated rendition of Libyan dissidents by the CIA to Tripoli - and also secured trade and oil deals for British firms.

Sharab says she “never fully trusted” Blair’s motives, even though she says he had a warm relationship with Gaddafi. (...)

Blair’s relationship with Gaddafi had been made possible by Libya’s admission of responsibility in 1999 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York in 1988, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew, along with 11 people on the ground.

With Libya identified as a possible culprit in the weeks after the bombing, Gaddafi sent Sharab as his envoy to then-US President George HW Bush, who told her to deal not with the United States but with the British.

Eventually a deal was struck, with Libya accepting responsibility and paying $10m to each of the families of the dead in return for the removal of sanctions.

Megrahi, an alleged former Libyan intelligence officer who had been made a suspect in the case since 1991, was handed over to stand trial at a special Scottish court convened in the Netherlands and jailed for life in 2001.

Sharab insists that the deal was “all about money, not justice,” adding that the West needed a “victim to blame”, while Gaddafi wanted “a way out of the mess of sanctions”.

She told MEE that Gaddafi told her “they framed Libya and he had done nothing. He said if he had done it, he would admit it, but he didn’t do it.”

Speculation over who was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing has continued in the decades since Libya admitted responsibility.

In 2014, an Al Jazeera investigation alleged that an Iranian-funded Syria-based Palestinian organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), had carried out the attack to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in the Gulf in 1988.

Sharab is deeply sympathetic to Megrahi, who she visited in prison in Scotland prior to his release on compassionate grounds in 2009 after a terminal cancer diagnosis. He died at home in Tripoli in 2012.

Today she says that the West framed an “innocent man” who resembled a “mild-mannered accountant”.

She attacks Gaddafi’s son Saif for publicly taking credit for Megrahi’s return to Libya. She says he was barely involved in his release and “never once bothered” to visit Megrahi in jail.

MEE put to Sharab the claim, made by Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil in 2011, that Gaddafi personally ordered the bombing.

She replied: “He knows nothing. He was minister when Gaddafi was president. Why would you work with the guy if you were sure he did that?”

“In my eyes,” states Sharab, “Al-Megrahi was the 271st Lockerbie victim.”

She accuses British intelligence of knowing the truth about Megrahi - but covering it up. Asked by MEE for evidence to support this assertion, she said it was “based on what Gaddafi told me and what Megrahi told me in prison. Both said he was innocent. And if Megrahi was guilty Britain would not have released him.”

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Wrongful conviction with falsified evidence

[What follows is taken from the Very Rev Prof Iain Torrance's obituary of the Rev Dr John Cameron in today's edition of The Scotsman:]

In retirement, desperate to maintain an active brain, he turned to the newspapers. Over the years he took pleasure in being able to reach more people through his letters than he ever did from the pulpit and built a loyal following. He used to send these to me, always with the email heading, ‘Warblings’ or ‘More Warblings’. He was particularly proud to have supported his friend Margo Macdonald in her efforts to legalise Assisted Dying in this country, as well as Abdul Basset Ali al-Megrahi and his wrongful conviction of the Lockerbie bombing with falsified evidence. And I know that Abdul Basset Ali al-Megrahi used to send John Christmas cards from Barlinnie in gratitude for his kindness.

Friday, 18 March 2022

New TV series on Lockerbie bombing

[What follows is the text of a report published today on the website of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard:]

A new five-part TV mini series based on bereaved father Dr Jim Swire’s search for justice over the Lockerbie bombing is being created.

To be called “Lockerbie,” it is being written by Academy Award nominees Jim Sheridan (In The Name of The Father, My Left Foot) and Kirsten Sheridan (In America, Dollhouse) with information from the book The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice which was written by Dr Swire and Peter Biddulph, along with multiple other sources.

Dr Swire and his wife Jane lost their beloved daughter, Flora, in the air disaster in 1988 and have been outspoken activists in the search for “truth and justice” over the bombing ever since.

Dr Swire is also no stranger to Lockerbie which he has visited on a number of occasions and was at the 30th anniversary memorial service in Dryfesdale Cemetery.

His campaign has taken him to the sand dunes of Libya to meet face-to-face with Colonel Gaddafi, to 10 Downing Street to meet with successive Prime Ministers and to the corridors of power in the US where he worked with the American victims’ groups to mount pressure on Washington for tighter airport security, well before 9/11.

The series is expected to air in 2023 on Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy. It will stream on Peacock in the US. NBC Universal Global Distribution will be handling international sales.

It is expected to explore events from 1988 to the present day, “while providing an intimate account of a man, a husband, and a father who pushes his marriage, his health and his sanity to the edge”.

Writers Jim and Kirsten said: “The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks that continues to have widespread implications for the meaning of justice in the US, Scotland and Libya.

“Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Dad of Lockerbie victim 'will never stop trying to get the truth'

[This is part of the headline over a report published today on the Daily Record website. It reads in part:]

Lockerbie campaigner Dr Jim Swire has said he’s behind a new TV drama about the atrocity because he will never stop trying to get to the truth.

His daughter Flora, 23, was a passenger on Pan Am Flight 103 that blew up 31,000ft above Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

Thirty-three years on from Britain’s worst terror attack, Jim and his wife Jane, 82, are helping with a new Sky mini-series based on his memoir and the couple’s tireless search for justice.

Jim, 85, said: “When I first decided I would risk going to see Colonel Gaddafi, who I and everyone else believed was virtually the devil-incarnate and the originator of the atrocity at Lockerbie, I remember wondering, ‘What would Flora think of me if I should die now?’

“I’m sure she would have thought, ‘At least my father is trying to find out the truth about why I was murdered.’

“This TV series is another part of that journey and I’m sure Flora would approve of it too.”

Just after the tragedy, some family members of those who died launched a campaign for truth and justice.

Jim became the public face of the group and accused the UK and US governments of a cover-up.

His investigations and ongoing battle to uncover what happened saw him not only meet Gaddafi several times but meet successive prime ministers and even befriend Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who he believes was wrongly convicted of the bombing.

Last year he published a memoir with writer Peter Biddulph, The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search For Justice.

The story has inspired a five-part TV series which will be written by Academy Award nominee Jim Sheridan, who directed My Left Foot, and his daughter Kirsten Sheridan.

The drama will focus on Jim – and how his fight for justice pushed his marriage, health and sanity to the edge. (...)

Jim, who has a family home on Skye, said: “If we can draw attention to the failures that happened in this case, and if we can do anything to improve on those failures, then that’s always worth striving for, even if it brings a little discomfort to those who lost loved ones in this catastrophe.”

Screenwriters Jim and Kirsten said: “Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster, and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story, and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Just fancy that ...

This is the headline over a letter in the current issue of Private Eye I am grateful to John Ashton for drawing it to my attention.

John's Cover Up of Convenience co-author was, of course Ian (not David) Ferguson.

Friday, 25 February 2022

Lockerbie bombing TV drama to go into production this year

[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

A major new TV drama based on the Lockerbie bombing and the long search for justice by Dr Jim Swire and his family is to go into production this year.

Sky is joining forces with an American streaming service to make the five-part series, which is expected to be aired next year.

It is being written by Oscar nominees Jim and Kirsteen Sheridan, the Irish father-and-daughter writers and directors, whose credits include In The Name of the Father and In America.

The series will explore the impact of the disaster on the Swire family following the loss of their 23-year-old daughter Flora in the disaster.

It has been announced less than a year after the publication of a book charting Dr Swire’s efforts to establish the truth about Lockerbie.

He has led a campaign that maintains the only man ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. (...)

As well as Sky and Peacock (NBC Universal’s streaming service) the Lockerbie drama is also being co-produced with the Universal Studio Group.

An official announcement on the series from Sky and Peacock states: “All 259 passengers and crew were killed when the bomb exploded over Lockerbie 38 minutes after take-off, with a further 11 residents losing their life as the plane came down over the quiet, Scottish town.

"Thirteen years later, in 2001, Libyan national Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime and later released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

“Shortly after the Lockerbie bombing, one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, some families of the victims joined together to launch a campaign for truth and justice.

"Among them was Dr Jim Swire, whose campaign has taken him to the sand dunes of Libya to meet face-to-face with Colonel Gaddafi, to 10 Downing Street to meet with successive prime ministers and to the corridors of power in the US where he worked with the American victims’ groups to mount pressure on Washington for tighter airport security, well before 9/11.”

Jim and Kirsteen Sheridan said: “The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks that continues to have widespread implications for the meaning of justice in the US, Scotland and Libya.

“Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster, and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story, and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

Jim Sheridan has been linked with a Lockerbie film or drama for years.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2014, two years after Megrahi passed away, he said: “It’s scary what they didn’t reveal to us at the time. It doesn’t really matter, the people are dead and you can’t bring them back to life. But in the future, we need clear investigations of these things.”

Monday, 31 January 2022

How long, O Lord, how long?

Twenty-one years ago today the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist convicted Abdelbaset al-Megrahi of the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie disaster (and acquitted Lamin Fhimah). The unjustness of the Megrahi conviction was demonstrated in two of the earliest postings on this blog: see Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result and The SCCRC Decision. The conviction has also since then been fatally undermined by John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury and Dr Morag Kerr’s Adequately Explained by Stupidity? Just how much longer are we going to have to wait until this shameful blot on the Scottish criminal justice system is expunged?

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Explain guilty verdict at Lockerbie trial

[This is the headline over a letter by Rev Dr John Cameron published today on the website of The Courier and Advertiser. It reads as follows:]

The guilty verdict issued on January 31 2001 by the three Scottish judges – Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean – at the conclusion of the Pan Am 103 trial was unsound by all normal legal criteria. After 84 days of controversy, questionable evidence as well as weeks of adjournments, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was found guilty of the atrocity while his sole alleged accomplice, Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted on all charges.

In their 82-page verdict, the three law lords – who had acted not only as judge and jury but all too often as prosecutor – exposed the weakness of the prosecution case and how they ignored a mass of contradictory forensic and circumstantial evidence when it suited them to bring a guilty verdict against Megrahi. Significantly they rejected out of hand the defence argument that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) was responsible.

Initial police investigations suspected it was a reprisal for the shooting down of an Iranian plane with 290 civilians on board by the US warship Vincennes six months before Lockerbie. There was a money trail between Iran and the Syrian-backed PFLP-GC however, in 1990, then-US president George H Bush placed huge pressure on Margaret Thatcher to drop this line of inquiry.

Mrs Thatcher later refused a public inquiry on the grounds that it was against the “national interest”.

The question remains as to why there was such a discrepancy between the standards applied to defence arguments implicating Iran, Syria et al and those employed by the prosecution against the two Libyans. The latter’s case was just as circumstantial and unconvincing, a fact acknowledged in part by the acquittal of Fhimah.

I suspect an explanation as to why a guilty verdict was delivered lies far in the future and should be sought in the political rather than the judicial arena.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Divergent views on Colin Boyd as Lord Advocate

[The following are excerpts from a report published today in The Herald:]

Jack McConnell tactlessly told his elected colleagues in the Scottish cabinet that he valued the advice of an unelected minister more than theirs.

The then Labour First Minister somewhat ungraciously rated the input from the Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd, above that of his fellow politicians.

The admission came at the Scottish cabinet of October 4, 2006, when Lord Boyd announced he was standing down after six years in post as “the longest serving Lord Advocate for more than a century”.

He said that the trial of the Lockerbie bombing suspects in 2000 and 2001 at the special court in the Netherlands had been a major achievement for the Scottish justice system.

Lord Boyd led the prosecution of the two Libyans accused of the 1988 atrocity. (...)

Mr McConnelll said it was “impossible to overstate the importance” of Lord Boyd’s role in the Lockerbie trial and conviction, and also saluted his court reforms.

“There was no one whose judgment as a Cabinet colleague he had valued more.”

[RB: Lockerbie campaigners did not share Jack McConnell's views about Colin Boyd. Here are some comments published on the occasion of his resignation:]

"Colin Boyd tried to balance what was known to his prosecution team of the famous ‘CIA telegrams’ in the court at Zeist, in the knowledge that the ‘star’ prosecution witness (Giaca) was also a worthless CIA quisling. His struggles to meet his clear duty to truth and justice and fair dealing with the court and the defence, made a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look cool and sagacious. Meantime his predecessor in office had made the wise choice of lolloping off to the safety of a secure burrow in the nick of time." Dr Jim Swire

"I believe that history will view Colin Boyd’s reign as Lord Advocate as a shameful period where the independence of the Lord Advocate was sacrificed to the will of his political masters. 

"Two cases dominated his tenure – the Lockerbie Bombing and the Shirley McKie case. In both cases he stands accused of weakness and vacillation in the face of political pressure and a complete failure to act as, ‘the watchdog for justice’ – the role assigned to him by Lord McCluskey. 

"His dramatic overnight resignation in October 2006 has been seen by some as the captain jumping ship to save his skin. I hope that this accusation will be thoroughly tested during the planned judicial enquiry into my daughter’s case and in any future enquiry into the Lockerbie disaster." Iain A J McKie

[RB: Further, largely critical, accounts of Colin Boyd's performance in the Lockerbie case can be found herehere, and here.]

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Areas of criminality in the Lockerbie disaster

[I am indebted to the Rev'd John Mosey for allowing me to post these reflections prompted by the thirty-third anniversary of the death of his daughter in the Lockerbie tragedy:]

Having just passed the thirty third anniversary of the murder of our nineteen year old daughter, Helga, when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb, I cannot but help consider the complex and muddy pond of events which have dominated such a large portion of our lives.

Along with Dr Jim Swire, I was the only victim’s relative who attended the whole of the trial and both of the appeals. I also attended numerous debates at the Scottish parliament and was partly responsible for presenting the case to the SCCRC. Looking back, it seems clear to me that three serious crimes were committed and possibly several subsidiary criminal acts. The only one that has been dealt with is the making and planting of the bomb which destroyed PA 103 with 270 people on board for which the Libyan, Megrahi, was charged and found, wrongly in the opinion of many, guilty.

As I sat in that court in Holland it became quite clear that two other equally, if not morally worse, serious crimes had been committed for which the perpetrators had not been arraigned. Subsequent revelations and discoveries have massively strengthened that opinion.

The first of the two became clear very early on. Our UK government and the agencies which are set up for the protection of the people had a huge amount of information telling them clearly that this attack was going to happen in the very near future. This included phone calls, intelligence, information from the German government and police (including a photograph). However, they did neither of the two things which they were obliged to do. They made no serious attempt to prevent it or to warn the people (except, perhaps, Pik Botha’s South African delegation?). This amounted to either gross negligence or evil complicity and, certainly, a dereliction of duty. In my opinion they are just as guilty of my daughter’s murder as the bombers; and they were supposed to be on my side!

The second involves the same body, our UK government. By their and the US government’s interference in the availability of evidence in the trial and the appeals they became, in my untutored opinion, guilty of perverting the course of justice. Again, this crime showed itself during the trial but has been more clearly defined by subsequent events. Important documents which could have thrown enormous light on the case were withheld; important information was redacted and the appeals were so set up that they were banned from considering vital new evidence because it had not been led in the trial: the break-in at Heathrow on the night before, the make-up of the timer fragment, the possible bribery of witnesses for example. For this huge crime no-one has been charged.

All of this furtiveness and secrecy clearly indicates that these people have something very dodgy that they wish to hide. This world’s courts may yield to their influences but there is coming a higher court and the truth will be out.

Summary  There are a number of aspects of the “Lockerbie Disaster” which could be regarded as containing, at the very least, morally criminal elements which ought to be looked into.

1. - The “who, how and why’s” of the placing of the bomb on the aircraft.

2. - The total lack of serious security provided by Pan Am.

3. - The failure of the political and intelligence people to heed the many warnings and protect the public. Either gross negligence or complicity.

4. - The decisions to warn some but not others. (South African delegation?)

5. - The switching of blame from Iran/PFLP-GC to Libya.

6. - The constant refusal by the political and legal people to allow any transparency and to manipulate the Scottish legal system to attain this end sometimes by banning certain documents and other evidence.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

RIP Archbishop Desmond Tutu

[I am saddened to learn of the death today at the age of 90 of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who was a convinced and long-time supporter of the Justice for Megrahi campaign. What follows is an article posted today on Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph's Lockerbie Truth website:]

Today's sad news about the death of former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu holds a feature common to much of the media in the UK and USA. 

The selective amnesia of certain media editors is clear: Effusively praise those issues in which Tutu agrees with your agenda, and ignore those in which he opposes.

And so it is, once again, with the campaign for an inquiry into the factors surrounding the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and subsequent trial.

On the 15th March 2015 we reported that a petition had been submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the Justice for Megrahi group of bereaved relatives. That petition was rapidly and publicly supported by prominent personalities around the world. The petition, even after six years, still runs current on the Scottish Parliament's agenda.

Among those signing in support of the petition was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He proved to be a strong supporter of the imprisoned Baset al-Megrahi and a South African colleague Nelson Mandela.  Mandela's support for al-Megrahi, too, remains ignored by the main British and US media. 

On 15th March 2015 we published the following post: [Names in alphabetical order].

Campaign for the acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi and an official inquiry into Lockerbie

A petition requesting that the Scottish authorities undertake a comprehensive inquiry into Lockerbie is supported and signed by the following world renowned personalities. All support the campaign for acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi, who was in 2000 convicted for the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103.

Kate Adie was chief news correspondent for the BBC, covering several war zones 
on risky assignments. Currently hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme 
From Our Own Correspondent.

Professor Noam Chomsky has spent most of his career at the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is currently Professor Emeritus, 
and has authored over 100 books. In a 2005 poll was voted 
the "world's top public intellectual".

Tam Dalyell, former Member of British Parliament and Father of the House. 
An eminent speaker who throughout his career refused to be prevented 
from speaking the truth to powerful administrations.


Christine Grahame MSP, determined advocate of the Lockerbie campaign.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye magazine.

Father Pat Keegans, Lockerbie Catholic parish priest at the time of the tragedy. 

 Mr Andrew Killgore, former US Ambassador to Qatar. Founder of Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.

John Pilger, former war correspondent, now a campaigning journalist and film maker. 

Dr Jim Swire.

Sir Teddy Taylor, British Conservative Party politician, MP from 1964 to 1979. 

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa. 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Terry Waite. Former envoy for the church of England, held captive from 1987 to 1991

Ms Kate Adie (Former Chief News Correspondent for BBC News).
Mr John Ashton (Author of ‘Megrahi: You are my Jury’ and co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Mr David Benson (Actor/author of the play ‘Lockerbie: Unfinished Business’).
Mrs Jean Berkley (Mother of Alistair Berkley: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Peter Biddulph (Lockerbie tragedy researcher).
Mr Benedict Birnberg (Retired senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners).
Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
Mr Paul Bull (Close friend of Bill Cadman: killed on Pan Am 103).
Professor Noam Chomsky (Human rights, social and political commentator).
Mr Tam Dalyell (UK MP: 1962-2005. Father of the House: 2001-2005).
Mr Ian Ferguson (Co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Dr David Fieldhouse (Police surgeon present at the Pan Am 103 crash site).
Mr Robert Forrester (Secretary of Justice for Megrahi).
Ms Christine Grahame MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).
Mr Ian Hamilton QC (Advocate, author and former university rector).
Mr Ian Hislop (Editor of ‘Private Eye’).
Fr Pat Keegans (Lockerbie parish priest on 21st December 1988).
Ms A L Kennedy (Author).
Dr Morag Kerr (Secretary Depute of Justice for Megrahi).
Mr Andrew Killgore (Former US Ambassador to Qatar).
Mr Moses Kungu (Lockerbie councillor on the 21st of December 1988).
Mr Adam Larson (Editor and proprietor of ‘The Lockerbie Divide’).
Mr Aonghas MacNeacail (Poet and journalist).
Mr Eddie McDaid (Lockerbie commentator).
Mr Rik McHarg (Communications hub coordinator: Lockerbie crash sites).
Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
Mr Marcello Mega (Journalist covering the Lockerbie incident).
Ms Heather Mills (Reporter for ‘Private Eye’).
Rev’d John F Mosey (Father of Helga Mosey: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Len Murray (Retired solicitor).
Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church).
Mr Denis Phipps (Aviation security expert).
Mr John Pilger (Campaigning human rights journalist).
Mr Steven Raeburn (Editor of ‘The Firm’).
Dr Tessa Ransford OBE  (Poetry Practitioner and Adviser).
Mr James Robertson (Author).
Mr Kenneth Roy (Editor of ‘The Scottish Review’).
Dr David Stevenson (Retired medical specialist and Lockerbie commentator).
Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
Sir Teddy Taylor (UK MP: 1964-2005. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
Mr Terry Waite CBE (Former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and hostage negotiator).

Friday, 24 December 2021

Peculiar reluctance to examine the whole of the available evidence

[Here are two pieces written by Dr Jim Swire to mark the thirty-third anniversary of the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie:]

Those of us who lost family members in the Pan Am 103 disaster of 21st December 1988 just want to know the truth about why the disaster happened, why our innocent families had to die, why it was not prevented and who was responsible.

33 years later we still need those answers and believe that grievous mistakes were made both before and after the blow fell. We are therefore intensely grateful to those who, like some of us, are incredulous about the conviction of a man on such evidence and prepared still to seek the truth

The extraordinary tale of a bomb allegedly transferred from the hand of the Libyan, the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in Malta depended, at his trial in Zeist, upon the evidence of a shopkeeper Toni Gauci, who thought Megrahi “looked a lot like” the man who had bought some key clothing from his shop.

Not only is it now known that Gauci was paid about $2,000,000 for giving evidence that supported the conviction of Megrahi, but from police evidence it is now known that Gauci knew before the trial had even started that serious money would be on offer.

The inducement to give evidence by offering a witness wealth beyond his dreams, if that evidence would support a conviction, sounds to me like bribery or at least an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Of course to openly accuse the US Department of Justice of such criminal behaviour was never going to add muscle to the US/UK ‘special relationship’. But it was the UN’s special observer at the Zeist trial, professor Hans K√∂chler of the IPO in Vienna who said and wrote that the proceedings there did not in his view represent a fair judicial process.

We believe that Scottish justice failed even to enforce its own rules at Zeist and that the massaging of the subsequent appeals has been a deep scandal which has allowed crucial defects, particularly in some of the forensic evidence, to remain inadequately examined in any court of law.

This dreadful business requires a full enquiry chaired and defined now by those unafraid of the power wielded by those states still awed by the historic rhetoric of the iron lady and her successors in the Anglo Saxon world.


[RB: An edited version of this second item has been published today on the website of The Herald.]

Recent evidence quoted in the press reveals that both the UK and US legal authorities were deeply nervous about the quality of the evidence of identification concerning the late Mr Abdelbaset al-Megrahi provided by Mr Tony Gauci the Maltese shopkeeper.

The Scottish police work in Malta leading to this evidence was obtained under the leadership of Harry Bell.

Harry Bell had been keeping a contemporaneous diary, which was irregular.

Giving evidence under oath in the Zeist court Mr Bell perfectly honestly revealed the existence of his diary which was at home in Glasgow.

To the astonishment of some relatives, present in that Zeist court, Mr Bell was not told to go home and get it.

Later that diary was made public.

It appears that Mr Bell knew that an offer of $10,000 ‘for his immediate needs’ was available for Mr Gauci from US Rewards for Justice [sic] funds with essentially unlimited rewards to follow. Mr Gauci is now known to have received $2,000,000.

The diary also reveals that Mr Tony Gauci and his brother were aware of and deeply interested in, the immense financial incentives. 

Wouldn’t you, dear reader, also have been?

Yet Mr Tony Gauci’s was the only supposedly genuine identification of Mr Megrahi as being involved, through the latter’s alleged buying of clothes from Gauci's shop on a certain date. 

Having failed to explore the contents of Mr Bell’s diary there in court, there seemed to some of us to be a peculiar reluctance on the part of the court to examine the whole of the available evidence. To us laymen it was almost as though Mr Megrahi’s guilt rather than innocence was a given. 

I can only agree with Professor Robert Black QC’s comment: “It is now more obvious than ever that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. An independent inquiry should be instituted into the case by the Scottish government, the UK government or both.” 

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Doubts over witness led to fears Lockerbie trial would collapse

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Prosecutors in Edinburgh and Washington feared the case against the Lockerbie bomber would collapse if their concerns over the integrity of the star witness were made public, declassified documents have revealed.

The papers show that senior Scottish and US officials privately raised doubts over his reliability and are set to trigger fresh claims of a miscarriage of justice.

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was sentenced to 27 years by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands after being found guilty of masterminding the 1988 atrocity in which 270 people were killed.

The testimony of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed he sold clothing — believed to have been wrapped around the bomb — to a man resembling al-Megrahi, proved pivotal to securing his conviction in 2001. However, concerns were raised about the “soundness of Gauci’s identification” and the UK and US feared the case would founder if this became known.

The new information, disclosed last night, on the 33rd anniversary of the terrorist attack, has renewed calls for an appeal against al-Megrahi’s conviction.

Hans Koechler, who served as the UN’s independent observer at his trial, said: “I am even more convinced that a miscarriage of justice occurred.”

A report of a meeting between Alan Rodger, then Scotland’s lord advocate, and Robert Mueller, US assistant attorney-general, in Washington in 1992, states: “If it became known we or the US were sending people to check on the soundness of Gauci’s identification that would signal that we did not have a case on which we could confidently go to trial. The US Department of Justice maintained that they could not go to trial on the present identification.”

Gauci was the sole witness to link al-Megrahi directly to the bombing of Pan Am 103, over the town of Lockerbie.

In 2000 he told a panel of judges that al-Megrahi “resembled a lot” a man who bought clothes from his shop. But in 1992 a letter from the Crown Office to Mueller raised doubt. “Further inquiries concerning the identification made by the shopkeeper Gauci could be seized upon by those in Malta, Libya and elsewhere hostile to the conclusions of the investigation.” In 2007 it emerged that the US had paid $2 million to Gauci.

Robert Black, professor emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, who masterminded the trial, said: “It is now more obvious than ever that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. An independent inquiry should be instituted into the case by the Scottish government, the UK government or both.”

The Crown Office said it would be inappropriate to comment further while leave to appeal (by al-Megrahi’s son Ali) is being considered by the UK Supreme Court. Police Scotland have confirmed that their investigation remains live. (...)

The confidential documents also show that British officials threatened to veto Malta’s application to join the EU if they did not back their demands over the Lockerbie bombing.

The UK and US insisted that the bomb which exploded over Scotland 33 years ago was loaded on to Air Malta flight KM-180, which left the island for Frankfurt on December 21. They contended it was then taken to London and transferred to Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives. The Maltese authorities strongly disputed this version of events, insisting it was technically impossible.

Their stance provoked considerable anxiety. A March 1992 memo to the Foreign Office from diplomatic staff in New York states: “We understand that the Maltese government is considering stating publicly that the allegation that the bomb was planted in Malta was not proven and instructed their ambassador to the UN to explain this to non-aligned members of the Security Council. We hope the Maltese government will think carefully on this and reconsider its position. The US embassy here have told us that their embassy in Valletta has been instructed to take action at the highest level.”

The Maltese were then told the UK would not support their attempt to join the European Community (EC), the precursor to the EU. (...)

The following month British officials noted with satisfaction: “Malta will now comply with mandatory sanctions, while not agreeing with them.”

Guido de Marco, Malta’s justice minister at the time of the bombing, wrote in 2010 shortly before his death that there had been “so much room for error” in the British version of events.

Officials ordered to monitor ‘troublesome’ relatives of victims

An independent investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity launched by bereaved family members posed “great potential for trouble” and should be carefully monitored, government officials were told. (...)

In 2018 relatives of the Lockerbie bomb victims told The Times they had been repeatedly bugged by the security services after official documents suggested that they needed “careful watching”.

The Rev John Mosey, a church minister who lost his teenage daughter, Helga, in the bombing, said that after speaking publicly his phone calls were often disrupted and documents relating to the bombing had gone missing from his computer.

Jim Swire, a GP who became the public face of the campaign to secure an independent inquiry into the atrocity, reported similar intrusions and deliberately included false information in private correspondence, only for it to appear in the press days later.

Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, said: “I cannot believe that a supposedly decent country could behave in such a way towards grieving people whose only crime was to seek the truth.”

[RB: It is no surprise that those at the top of the Lockerbie prosecution team in both Scotland and the United States were gravely concerned about the quality of the evidence that Tony Gauci would give at Camp Zeist. What is surprising is that the prosecution was prepared to proceed to trial in reliance on that evidence, and that the judges at the trial found that Gauci's evidence amounted to an identification of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and that it was credible and reliable. Had they not done so, there was insufficient evidence in law for Megrahi to be convicted. 

The most rigorous analysis of Gauci's statements before and during the trial has been provided by Dr Kevin Bannon: Here is part of what he found:

"The development of Tony Gauci’s statements from his first police interviews in September 1989 through to his testimony in court, reveal his recollections systematically developing in favour of the Crown narrative, in increasing contradiction of all his freshest recollections.

"... it is not merely the case (as has often been stated) that Gauci’s evidence was contradictory, but that in every aspect, it changed in favour of the Crown narrative, in some instances quite drastically. Gauci’s original, freshest recollections about the appearance of the Libyan purchaser and the time of his visit, would have, and should have, categorically eliminated al-Megrahi from suspicion.

"Gauci’s testimony, the centrepiece of the case against al-Megrahi and, by implication, the principal Libyan connection to the crime, simply has no integrity whatsoever - nevertheless he was given a substantial financial reward for his latter evidence. These discrepancies render the entire case against al-Megrahi invalid."

Had the newly released documents been available before the most recent appeal, it is possible that the Megrahi family's lawyers could have made use of them in their case. But I see no realistic prospect of a further posthumous appeal. It is now more than ever obvious that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. What should now happen is that an independent inquiry should be instituted into the Lockerbie case by the Scottish Government, the UK Government or both in tandem. There is much evidence now available that has not been considered in any of the Scottish Lockerbie appeals, in part because of the highly restrictive rules governing what material can be made use of in Scottish criminal appeals. Only with an independent inquiry is there a possibility that the false narrative supported by the shameful conviction of Megrahi can be rectified.]