Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Libya crushes hopes of Lockerbie bombing trial

[This is the headline over a report published in The Guardian on this date in 1999. It reads as follows:]

Hopes for a handover of the Lockerbie bombing suspects faded yesterday after Libya insisted that, if convicted in a Western court over the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland, the two men would have to serve any prison sentence in their own country and not in Scotland, as Britain and the United States demand.

In what sounded like the definitive word on a crucial issue, Libya's foreign minister, Omar al-Muntasser, said there was 'no alternative' to imprisonment in Libya.

With Washington pressing for stronger economic sanctions against Libya over the Lockerbie affair - which took 270 lives in the worst case of terrorism in contemporary British history - the blunt statement could mean the collapse of months of delicate international negotiations.

Mr Muntasser was reacting to a declaration by Robin Cook, Britain's Foreign Secretary, that there was 'no alternative' to the two accused being imprisoned in Scotland if found guilty in a trial in the Netherlands.

The Libyan minister's unequivocal public remarks are highly significant because he has been seen in the past as a moderate who was privately ready to accept the British and American conditions for finally bringing to justice the Libyan intelligence officers alleged to be the bombers - Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

'There is no alternative to serving any sentence in Libya,' he said flatly. 'If we were to accept that they be jailed in Scotland, we would have accepted such a trial years ago.'

Only last week Mr Muntasser had given the impression that agreement on a handover was 'very close', in talks in Tripoli with Lord Steel, the Liberal Democrat peer, and Sir Cyril Townsend, chairman of the Council for Arab-British understanding.

'I discussed all the options with Mr Muntasser and he did not say this,' Lord Steel said yesterday. 'This is why people despair of negotiations with the Libyans, because they keep giving these contradictory statements.'

Sir Cyril said: 'We came away with the impression that it was more likely than not that the two would be handed over for a trial.'

It was only six months ago that Britain and the US agreed to a third-country trial. They did so because they recognised that the sanctions were being eroded - especially by African and Arab states, some of whom have secretly been receiving Libyan cash support or cheap oil.

Britain argues that having long demanded a trial in a third country, Colonel Muammar Gadafy, Libya's leader, should now send his men to the Netherlands.

Both sides now say that Tripoli has accepted that the United Nations sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992 would be effectively 'lifted' as soon as the suspects were extradited to the Netherlands, where a former Nato air base near Utrecht is being prepared for a trial.

[RB: The two suspects surrendered for trial at Camp Zeist on 5 April 1999, less than two months later. Reading between the lines of Libyan officials’ Lockerbie statements was a talent that was greatly under-developed in British journalists.]

Monday, 8 February 2016

MacAskill book ‘likely to focus on politics behind Lockerbie’

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of The National. It reads as follows:]

Campaigners who believe Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing have said they doubt if a former justice secretary’s book on the atrocity will shed any further light on it.
Kenny MacAskill’s book will likely give his version of the period leading up to the release the terminally-ill Megrahi on compassionate grounds, and the subsequent international condemnation of the decision after the Libyan agent went on to live for a further three years.
It is said to include new details about MacAskill’s own investigation into the bombing, but Iain McKie, a retired police officer and leading member of the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) group, told The National he doubted that the MSP was cashing in on the case: “I would certainly hope that’s not the case. Surely anything of that nature should have been revealed long before now.
“I think it is more likely to focus on the political machinations surrounding the disaster both at home and abroad, but it is another indication that this is not going to go away.
“Reports on two police inquiries have still to be published, there is a documentary planned for later in the year and there is another book, and I think the relatives – for whom I have the deepest sympathy – deserve to know the truth.”
Robert Black QC, professor emeritus of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, who is a native of Lockerbie and a prominent member of JfM, added: “I very much doubt that Kenny’s book will add anything substantial to the sum of human knowledge on Lockerbie.
“I know it’s said that he’s conducted his own investigations, but I find it difficult to believe he can have uncovered anything that hasn’t already been brought into to public domain by Dr Morag Kerr (Adequately Explained by Stupidity: Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies) and John Ashton (Megrahi: You Are My Jury).
“If he has discovered evidence pointing to the guilt of others (Libyan or non-Libyan) or that in his view confirms the guilt of Megrahi, then he’s duty bound to have passed this on to the police and/or the Crown Office (who say that Lockerbie remains an open investigation) who would undoubtedly adjure him not to go public with the evidence.
“I find it utterly impossible to believe that a former Cabinet Secretary for Justice would ignore such a request or instruction.
“I therefore suspect that the book will deal virtually exclusively with Kenny’s role in the run-up to Megrahi’s compassionate release.”
American Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora in the bombing, said she was sceptical about the book.
“Do we really think MacAskill will tell us the truth?
“It will just be an exercise in self-serving and some attempt to protect what he thinks is his legacy,” she said.
“I find it disgusting.”

Megrahi's first appeal

[What follows is the text of a report by Gerard Seenan in The Guardian on this date in 2001:]

The Libyan intelligence officer who was jailed for life for the Lockerbie bombing yesterday lodged an appeal against the conviction.

Lawyers for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, 49, filed the appeal at the high court in Edinburgh. If leave to appeal is granted, five judges will decide within six months whether Megrahi's conviction should stand.

Robert Black QC, the Edinburgh law professor who was the architect of the trial, said it was unlikely that Megrahi would be denied the right to an appeal.

Last week Megrahi was sentenced to life, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 20 years, for the murder of the 270 who died in the Lockerbie bombing. In their ruling the judges said there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Megrahi had planted the bomb in a suitcase on a plane leaving Luqa airport in Malta. The suitcase was loaded on to Pan Am flight 103 in London.

But the judges conceded the evidence before the court was open to interpretation.

Grounds for the appeal will not be made public until the full hearing, which will be held in Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in May at the earliest.

But it is unlikely that there will be any fresh evidence and Prof Black said the appeal would likely be made on any of three legal grounds.

Ground A would be that certain findings, including the acceptance that Megrahi bought the clothes which surrounded the bomb, were not justified by the evidence. Ground B would be that the evidence does not justify the findings in fact that there was a piece of baggage which was sent unaccompanied from Malta to Heathrow. The third ground would be that the evidence as a whole does not justify proof beyond reasonable doubt of guilt.'

Since the return to Libya of Megrahi's co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, who was acquitted, there have been protests against Megrahi's conviction.

[RB: Megrahi’s legal advisers did not adopt the lines of appeal that I suggested. What they did do, and how disastrously it turned out, can be read here (section entitled THE APPEAL). It was only after this appeal failed that Megrahi belatedly sacked the legal team that represented him there and at the trial.]

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Pan Am 103: Lockerbie verdict politically motivated

[This is the headline over an article by Steve James and Chris Marsden that was published on the World Socialist Web Site on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

The guilty verdict issued on January 31 by three Scottish judges at the conclusion of the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie trial is unsound by all normal legal criteria.
The trial of the two Libyans accused of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 began on May 3 last year. It was held under Scottish law at a specially constructed court in the Netherlands. With the agreement of the defence and prosecution, the case was heard without a jury before a bench of three Scottish judges. On January 31, after 84 days of evidence and controversy, and many weeks of adjournments, Abdelbaset Ali Muhammad Al-Megrahi was found guilty of planting a Semtex-packed cassette player on board the Boeing 747, which destroyed the plane, killing its 259 passengers and crew, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents. However, his sole alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted on all charges.
The Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing was an indiscriminate terrorist attack upon innocent air travellers, many of whom were US students returning home for the Christmas holiday. But the horrific nature of the crime must not be allowed to obscure the fact that the prosecution case against the two Libyans was an extremely weak one, which under normal circumstances would have been thrown out of court. Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, has said he was "absolutely astounded" that Al Megrahi had been found guilty. Black said he believed the prosecution had "a very, very weak circumstantial case" and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would "convict anyone, even a Libyan" on such evidence. This view is supported by some of the families of UK victims of the bombing, who are calling for a public inquiry to find "the truth of who was responsible and what the motive was".
In their 82-page verdict, the Scottish judges—Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean—expose the weakness of the prosecution case and how they ignored, or simply dismissed, a mass of contradictory forensic and circumstantial evidence in order to bring a guilty verdict against Al Megrahi.
Significantly they rejected in its entirety the defence argument that other individuals and groups—namely the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)—were responsible for the bomb, on the grounds that the evidence against them was circumstantial and inconclusive.
This raises the question, why was there such a discrepancy between the standards applied to the defence's arguments seeking to implicate others for the bombing and those employed by the prosecution against Al Megrahi? The case against the two Libyans was no less circumstantial and flimsy, a fact acknowledged in part by the acquittal of Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. Under Scottish law, moreover, it was possible to return a verdict of “not proven” that would free but not completely exonerate Al Megrahi on the basis that the court could not accept his guilt "beyond reasonable doubt".
An explanation as to why a guilty verdict was delivered must be sought in the political rather than the judicial arena. The demonisation of the “rogue state” Libya has long played an important part of US policy in the Middle East. Libyan leader Colonel Gadhaffi's anti-imperialist rhetoric, his regime's support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israel all drew the ire of the US, which designated Libya a "terrorist" nation in 1979. In 1986 the US bombed Tripoli and Benghazi, in an action launched from British bases that killed Gadhaffi's daughter. The US imposed unilateral economic sanctions the same year, and led the calls for UN-approved sanctions to be imposed in 1992.
It is against this political background that the Lockerbie investigation and eventual trial must be evaluated. Initial police investigations focused on the claim that it was a reprisal attack for the unprovoked US shooting down of an Iranian Airbus six months before the Pan Am bombing, in which all 290 people on board were killed. This possible reprisal was alleged to have been financed by the Iranian regime, which had hired the Syrian backed PFLP-GC to carry out the Pan Am bombing. In 1990, however, the Republican administration in the US, led by President George Bush, placed maximum pressure on the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher in Britain to drop this line of inquiry. According to relatives of those killed in the disaster, Thatcher refused a public inquiry at this time, on the grounds that it was against the "national interest".
Accusations of Libyan responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing first emerged during US preparations for the assault on Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. In their efforts to assemble support for military aggression against Iraq by NATO, US officials shuttled frantically around the various Arab regimes in the Middle East. Secretary of State James Baker visited Syria on numerous occasions in 1990 and Bush himself pronounced that Syria had taken a "bum rap" over the bombing (i.e. that it was not responsible).
Libya, which stood out in opposition to the US attack on Iraq, became the focus of political and media blame for the Lockerbie bombing. In 1992 a UN resolution imposed economic sanctions against Libya after it refused to hand over Al Megrahi and Fhimah for trial in Britain or America, and demanded compensation payment be made, should the Libyans be found guilty.
Washington and London never expected Libya to hand over its own citizens, including at least one of its intelligence officers, Al Megrahi. But this became possible through the efforts of Gadhaffi's regime to initiate a rapprochement with the West, and the major European powers in particular. From 1994 onwards, Tripoli repeatedly offered its citizens up for trial, provided only this was on "neutral" territory.
Over the next few years, Gadhaffi sought to cultivate the support of the European powers. He acted as mediator in conflicts such as the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudanese civil war and the war in Sierra Leone—while signing numerous oil and other commercial deals with Italian and French companies.
Resolving the outstanding issue of Lockerbie became essential for the US and Britain if they were not to be left out of the rich pickings now being made available in Libya, a country whose oil reserves are equivalent to those of the US. Negotiations commenced in earnest in 1999, culminating in the suspension of UN sanctions against Libya on April 5, after the US, Britain and Libya agreed on the hand-over and conditions for the trial of the two men in the Netherlands.
The US continued to take a harder stance against Libya than Europe. It did not agree to the lifting of UN sanctions, and opposed the efforts of Britain and others to restore diplomatic relations—demanding that Libya "end and renounce all forms of terrorism" and "acknowledge responsibility for the actions of Libyan officials" with regards to the Pan Am bombing. But it nevertheless did offer the prospect of a normalisation of relations in future. In a 1999 speech to the Middle East Institute, a US foreign policy think-tank, for example, Ronald Neumann proclaimed that "Libya's surrender of the Pan Am 103 suspects for trial and the ensuing suspension of international sanctions have changed the political landscape of the last ten years... Libya is not Iraq. We do not seek to maintain sanctions until there is a change of regime in Tripoli. We have seen definite changes in Libya's behavior, specifically declining support for terrorism and increasing support for peace processes in the Middle East and Africa."
A rapprochement with Libya had to take place on US terms, however. This meant accepting the validity of US assertions of Libya's guilt for the bombing, even seeking to solicit a public acknowledgement of this from Gadhaffi. In order to justify more than a decade of US-led hostilities against Libya, therefore, it was essential that at least one of the defendants was found guilty, despite the threadbare character of the case against them.
It is impossible, on the basis of the evidence presented in the Netherlands, to ascertain who was truly responsible for the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing. Al Megrahi's guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt, but nor was his innocence. Nothing presented definitively ruled out Libyan involvement in the bombing, but nor did the trial exclude the possible involvement of Syria, Iran or several Palestinian groups. Of all the possible scenarios, the one, which received least scrutiny, was the possibility raised by some interested parties that the bombing was the inadvertent product of a CIA operation that badly backfired. But the purpose of the trial was never the search to expose the truth about this terrible attack. Instead the verdict provides the US with the necessary propaganda vehicle through which it can continue to exert maximum pressure on Libya to accede to its demands, and thereby strengthen America's grip on the entire Middle East region.
Gadhaffi has so far refused to accept American calls to acknowledge Libya's guilt regarding Pan Am 103 and has even promised to release new information proving Al Megrahi's innocence. But he has not done so yet, however. Given that it was Gadhaffi who agreed to hand over the two accused in 1999, his outrage seems largely designed for domestic consumption. It is also directed against what he no doubt sees as the failure of the US and Britain to honour their tacit agreement to limit the matter to a criminal trial of the two individuals accused, and not to use it to continue attacking his government. Given the bellicose stance of the newly installed Bush administration regarding Middle East policy, such fears appear well founded.

Kenny MacAskill accused of ‘cashing in’ with book on Lockerbie bomber release

This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Sunday Post. It reads in part:]

The former Justice Secretary has been accused of cashing in after he signed a publishing deal which will see him give his account of the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but served just eight years of his sentence before being freed in 2009 because he had cancer and doctors said he would be dead within three months.

It is understood the book will see MacAskill give his version of the period building up to releasing Megrahi and the international condemnation of the decision to free the Libyan intelligence agent, who went on to live for three more years.

MacAskill’s move last night sparked outrage from American Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora.

She said: “I view this book with extreme scepticism. Do we really think MacAskill will tell us the truth? It will just be an exercise in self-serving and some attempt to protect what he thinks is his legacy.

“I don’t care what he has to say, how tough the decision was or any of that.

“There has been this sort of industry grown up around Lockerbie, much like we see with many other disasters or terrorist incidents, where people make money from books or films.

“I find it disgusting frankly.”

She added: “I stand by my view that the release of Megrahi was a disgusting capitulation.

“The man murdered 270 people and lived on for years after we were told he was at death’s door, it was an embarrassment to your government.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “The SNP bent over backwards to set Megrahi free and a lot of people are still angry about that fact.

“It’s scandalous that Kenny MacAskill now feels the need to make money out of this case. Once again, it’s the victims’ families and friends who are set to suffer.” (...)

Megrahi, who always maintained his innocence, was found guilty of the bombing in 2001 and seven years later it was revealed the Libyan had “advanced stage” prostate cancer.

The then Justice Secretary MacAskill released Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, sparking international condemnation with US president Barack Obama branding the decision “a mistake”.

MacAskill said he stood by his decision and would “live with the consequences”.

The veteran SNP figure and former lawyer is stepping down from Holyrood next month after 17 years as an MSP to pursue a “third career”. (...)

One SNP insider said: “Kenny couldn’t speak about the issue as frankly and freely as he would have liked at the time because he was in government.

“Any suggestion he is cashing in is wide of the mark.

“There is a lot to tell, much of which couldn’t be told at the time, so I think it is right that people get to hear the back story to such a momentous decision.”

Mr MacAskill confirmed the book deal when approached by the Sunday Post on Friday but declined to comment further.

[RB: I find it mildly amusing that UK news media seeking comments from Lockerbie victims’ families always approach US families (and usually one particular person, whose comments can be guaranteed to be colourful) rather than UK relatives whose contributions are usually more measured.

A report on the Daily Record website contains the following quote from a UK relative:]

Pam Dix, whose brother Peter died in the atrocity, yesterday said: “I am baffled as to what he can add to the extensive debate on ­Lockerbie and what his own investigation could consist of that could be of any substance.”

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Kenny MacAskill secures deal to write Lockerbie book

[This is the headline over a report by David Leask published in today’s edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]

Kenny MacAskill is set to publish a book revealing details about his own investigation into the Lockerbie bomb attack.
The former justice secretary has signed a deal with a major London publisher that will focus on far more than just Mr MacAskill's own personal involvement in the case.
In 2009, he released Libyan security operative Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the crime, on compassionate grounds.
The veteran politician - who stands down as an MSP next month - will use years of experience, insight and contacts to shed light on Scotland's biggest crime of the modern era.
Mr MacAskill said: "I can confirm I have a contract with Biteback to publish a book on Lockerbie and that I am represented by Caroline Michel."
Biteback, which is owned by tycoon Brian Ashcroft and Conservative commentator Iain Dale, specialises in major political books.
Recent publications include Lord Ashcroft's controversial biography of David Cameron Call Me Dave, the autobiography of UKIP leader Nigel Farage and the independence referendum memoires of Alan Cochrane, the Scottish editor of the Daily Telegraph.
The book will be the latest to try and unravel why Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in to a Scottish town, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 people on the ground, in December 1988.
It will view the single event as part of a far wider process that began long before the bombing and continues to the present day.
Mr MacAskill was tight-lipped about details to be revealed in the book. But Lockerbie-watchers will look out for hints of diplomatic intrigue surrounding Lockerbie and the remarkable effort to have Mr Megrahi brought to justice.
Mr Megrahi died in Libya in 2012 continuing to protest his innocence. Scottish and US law enforcement agencies are convinced Libya was responsible for the mass murders.

Libyans target embassy in Lockerbie protest

[This is the headline over a report that appeared in The Guardian on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

More than 4,000 angry Libyans protested outside the British embassy and the UN building in Tripoli today, as they continued to press for the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber to be overturned.

The demonstrators clashed with police and carried coffins bearing the phrases "these are the victims of the American raid" and "American civilisation means killing children", referring to the 1986 US airstrikes on Libya that killed 37 people, including the adopted daughter of the country's leader Muammar Gadafy.

The Foreign Office confirmed that there was a demonstration outside the building in Tripoli, but a spokeswoman declined to comment on reports that Libyan riot police beat protesters and sprayed tear gas at the crowd who were trying to break into the building.

She said: "At no time was the embassy breached. Staff safety is our first priority and we made clear to the authorities the need to ensure the security of our diplomatic premises was maintained."

The Foreign Office now plans to revise its advice on travel to Libya, although no specific changes were revealed.

Today's protest was the latest demonstration of the public outrage that followed the conviction of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on Wednesday for the bombing Pan Am Flight 103.

The Libyan intelligence agent was jailed for life for murdering the 270 people who died when the New York-bound airliner exploded over the Scottish town in 1988.

His co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, was cleared of the atrocity and returned home to Libya to a hero's welcome from Colonel Gadafy.

Since then, Col Gadafy and Mr Fhimah have been insisting that Megrahi is innocent, while his countrymen have taken to the streets to protest against his conviction.

Last week, Col Gadafy promised that he would come forward with new evidence yesterday, which, he said, would leave the three judges who unanimously convicted Megrahi with three options - to resign, admit the truth or commit suicide.

But Col Gadafy's rambling speech in Tripoli yesterday produced no new evidence. Instead, he hit out at the judges, Britain and the United States, and he accused British police of planting evidence to secure the conviction.

In a speech lasting more than two hours, he described Megrahi, who was ordered to spend a minimum of 20 years in a Scottish prison, as "a kidnapped hostage", adding:"Keeping him is a terrorist act."

Friday, 5 February 2016

Was this really the best we had to offer?

[What follows is the text of a letter from Dr Jim Swire that was published in The Herald on this date in 2010:]

Flaws in evidence at Lockerbie trial

The Chilcot Inquiry has examined the role of the Blair government’s Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, allegedly converted to believing the Iraq war to be legal following “consultations in the USA”.

Should not the Lockerbie inquiry, when we get it, examine why the government of the day chose to ignore the words of its Lord Chief Justice, and appointed [Alan] Feraday to supply the forensic input to the Lockerbie trial?

Mr Feraday was criticised by the Lord Chief Justice in the case of R v Berry (1991). He declared that the nature of his evidence was dogmatic in the extreme and that he should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in this field. Also, the Home Office has paid compensation from the public purse to Mr Berry because he was jailed on the erroneous evidence of Mr Feraday.

The Lockerbie case depended heavily upon a piece of timer circuit board allegedly recovered from the wreckage and labelled “PT35B” presented to the court by the same Mr Feraday, who also had consultations with the USA.

Assuming the British Government wanted the Lockerbie trial to reach a fair verdict, was this really the best we had to offer?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Architect of Lockerbie trial attacks guilty verdict

[This is the headline over a report by Jenny Booth that was published in The Sunday Telegraph on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

The Scots law professor who masterminded the Lockerbie trial in
the Netherlands has launched a scathing attack on the judges for
finding the defendant guilty on "very, very weak" evidence.

Professor Robert Black described the decision by three Scottish
judges to convict Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, a Libyan
secret serviceman, of the murder of 270 people when Pan Am flight
103 exploded over Lockerbie as "astonishing". He warned that the
bomber stands a better-than-average chance of being acquitted on
appeal.

Professor Black, a former judge with 13 years' experience and
Scotland's leading expert on criminal procedure and evidence, said
that in his view the Crown case had failed to comply with strict
Scottish legal rules - tougher than English law - that evidence be
corroborated.

Professor Black said: "I thought this was a very, very weak
circumstantial case. I am absolutely astounded, astonished. I was
extremely reluctant to believe that any Scottish judge would convict
anyone, even a Libyan, on the basis of such evidence." Professor
Black's reservations will fuel the concerns of bereaved families that,
despite the criminal trial, the truth is yet to emerge about the
Lockerbie bombing.

At a hushed press conference in London the day after the verdict,
Martin Cadman, whose son Bill died in the bombing, said: "We
have our doubts about the guilt of Megrahi and that will have to
remain the subject of any appeal to come. The appeal will hold us
up for another year or so before we can have an inquiry into the
truth of who was responsible and what the motive was."

The chief spokesman for the families, Dr Jim Swire, a former army
explosives expert, produced a bomb timer to illustrate why he
found it hard to believe the Crown's version of events. He said that
the timing of the explosion, 38 minutes after the aircraft took off
from Heathrow and while the jet was still over land, made the bomb
more likely to have been detonated by a crude pressure-activated
timer, such as those used by the Palestinian terror group operating
in Germany under the command of Ahmed Jibril, than by a
sophisticated 999-hour electronic timer of the type bought by
Libyan secret services from MeBo, a Swiss arms firm.

Professor Black's concerns are likely to be seized upon by Colonel
Muammar Gaddafi to back claims of Libya's innocence of the
bombing.  Professor Black devised the unique format of the
Lockerbie trial, which was held in a neutral country without a jury,
and campaigned alongside the bereaved families for its acceptance
by Libya, America and Britain.

Megrahi has a further 11 days to lodge an appeal, which would
probably be heard in the same courtroom in Camp Zeist, in front of
a bench of five judges, over about two weeks in late summer. The
appeal bench is expected to be chaired by Lord Cullen, Scotland's
second most senior judge. Under ordinary circumstances, barely a
handful of appeals against conviction ever succeed in the Scottish
courts, but Professor Black said that the unique circumstances of
the trial meant that Megrahi stood a better chance.