Friday, 24 February 2017

Libya says it 'bought peace' with Lockerbie deal

[This is the headline over a report published on the South African Mail & Guardian website on this date in 2004. It reads in part:]

Libya’s Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem has said that Libya only agreed to pay compensation for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing to “buy peace”, according to a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday.
Ghanem also told BBC radio’s flagship Today programme there was no evidence that a Libyan was responsible for the shooting of a British policewoman 20 years ago, an event which led to London breaking off diplomatic relations with Tripoli.
Libya formally accepted responsibility in August 2003 for the bombing of New York-bound Flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, southwest Scotland, and agreed to pay $2,7-billion in compensation to families of the 270 victims.
The following month the United Nations Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Libya.
“We thought it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed to compensation,” Ghanem said.
“Therefore we said, ‘Let us buy peace, let us put the whole case behind us and let us look forward’,” he added.
His comments could damage the former pariah state’s relations with Britain which have improved dramatically since Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi announced in December that his country had given up the bid to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
Tripoli and London formally re-established diplomatic relations in 1999. (...)
In a sign that Libya was slowly being accepted back into the international fold, it was announced during Shalgam’s visit that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would visit Gadaffi “as soon as convenient”.
No date was fixed for the meeting and the British Foreign Office was unable to confirm in which country such a meeting might take place. Ghanem said a Blair visit to Libya would be important because he could see the country for himself rather than hearing about it from others. The British prime minister would be made very welcome, he added.
He also said Gadaffi would consider visiting Britain if he was invited.
Ghanem called for the United States, which has existing sanctions against Libya, to take his country off its list of states sponsoring terrorism.
[RB: A transcript of the full interview can be read here.]

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The court was misled

What follows is the text of an item published on this blog on this date in 2013:

Dr Jim Swire calls on Scottish Government to institute inquiry into Crown Office Lockerbie failings

[What follows is the text of a letter sent on 21 February by Dr Jim Swire to Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill:]

Almost a year ago, the book Megrahi: You are my Jury was published in Edinburgh. Much of the key evidence it contains derives from the prosecution’s own documents, some of them only shared with the defence a few weeks before Mr Megrahi withdrew his appeal. The book and other sources contain material which demonstrates that the Crown Office and their agents behaved in ways contrary to the proper prosecution of a case under Scottish Criminal law. Two outstanding examples amongst many others are the emergence, and reliance upon, the circuit board fragment known as PT35b with its ‘pure tin’ plating, and the concealment of the break-in evidence from Heathrow airport.

This letter is not an attack upon the verdict. It is a request to you to investigate what errors were made by the prosecution during the conduct of the investigation, the trial and in the subsequent years, and also in the SCCRC investigation.

It was claimed by the prosecution that PT35b had been found within a police evidence bag, and that it had come from the crash site. Yet we now know that this fragment simply could not have come from the timer circuitry of the Lockerbie bomb, if that bomb had been driven by a Libyan timer as cited.  The plating metallurgy is simply irreconcilably different.

Even the Crown’s forensic officer Feraday’s marginal notes show he was aware of the plating discrepancy long before the trial, by 1991 in fact, before the indictments had even been issued. Yet he signed a forensic document claiming that the fragment was ‘similar in all respects’ to the Libyan boards.

The work initiated by Feraday on PT35b, showed the plating discrepancy and was  available to the prosecution  long before the trial. The police did not pursue this matter with Thüring, who have confirmed that their sole plating process was with the tin/lead alloy as on DP347a, a sample Libyan type board. Finally the scientific evidence provided to the defence by Dr Chris McArdle and Dr Jess Cawley just before Mr Megrahi went home, confirmed the ‘pure tin’ plating of PT35b but also proved that proximity to exploding Semtex could not alter tin/lead plating to resemble ‘pure tin’ plating. This was work the prosecution had failed to initiate.

The court was thus misled into believing that PT35b could have been part of one of the Libyan timers which the prosecution had cited. The adoption of this belief was due to the failure of the prosecution to share all relevant evidence with the defence or the court, and to initiate all the appropriate testing. That belief is now demonstrably false.

As you are aware, Kenny, since you have had access to their materials, the SCCRC also knew that the prosecution had withheld evidence from the defence, but did not seem to realise that Thüring simply had no equipment capable of manufacturing circuit boards using the ‘pure tin’ process, failing to understand that in the industry ‘tinning’ refers equally to tin/lead as to ‘pure tin’ plating.

No other origin for PT35b other than the wreckage was ever suggested in court. PT35b was an optically perfect copy of circuitry demonstrated by the prosecution to have been present on the cited Libyan boards. The Crown Office and its agents were responsible for the sanctity of the evidence chain and the evidence bags. No one knows whence PT35b could have come, where it was made nor how it came to be found in the police evidence bag. All we know is that PT35b’s origin could not have been from a Libyan owned timer as cited by the prosecution.

I found that two weeks ago neither the Crown Office nor the police had even bothered to contact the Thüring firm’s Urs Bonfadelli, nor the scientists responsible for the discovery that PT35b’s plating could not have been changed even by a Semtex explosion, in all the more than eleven months since the book was published. Why not?

The concealment of the PT35b plating discrepancy by the Crown’s chief forensics officer, Feraday, the police and the Crown Office, allowed the court to presume that PT35b must have been part of a cited Libyan owned timer, when it clearly could not have been. The relevant documents were available to the prosecution long before the trial, but only discovered by the defence after the trial was over.

In February 2012 the Lord Advocate himself invited us relatives to a meeting in London to explain new moves being made in the criminal investigation. I chose to ask him for an explanation as to why the Heathrow break-in evidence had not been passed to the defence and the court as part of the relevant evidence. He claimed he had also wondered why, but did not know the answer. I then asked the current Chief Constable of the Dumfries and Galloway police, to see if he could discover the answer on our behalf. He did so most courteously and promptly. His letter is enclosed. It shows that the Dumfries and Galloway police of the day knew of the break-in from January 1989, kept this to themselves for a full decade, passed it to the Crown Office only in 1999 and then, together with the Crown Office, kept it hidden from the defence and the court until after the trial was over. Why?

The evidence concerning the break-in only surfaced in 2001 after the trial  had finished. Even then the only reason it did so was that the Heathrow guard who had discovered the break-in was bold enough to ask publicly why his evidence had been ignored by the court.

The prosecution appears to have failed us all in this case, the Heathrow break-in and the PT35b plating are but two of many other examples. There is a special obligation upon Governments to make available the evidence to the families of victims of murder. There is also an obligation upon our prosecution service to bring fair and prompt justice upon murderers. Thanks to the failures of the Crown Office, and their searchers as your prosecuting authority, it falls to your Government to investigate all these failures. I therefore request that you immediately arrange for  the creation of a properly endowed and objectively led inquiry into the apparent failings of the Crown Office in prosecuting this dreadful case, selecting as members and chairperson individuals acceptable as impartial to the relatives and to the people of Scotland.

I will make this letter available to the Scottish public also. They too deserve to know whether steps are now to be taken by their Government to explore the performance of the Crown Office prosecution in this  case and to enact legislation to curtail any future such deviation from their duty, as may be found by such an inquiry.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Investigators to travel to Malta to seek new evidence

[What follows is excerpted from an article published in the Malta Independent on this date in 2009:]

A delegation from the Scottish Crown is due to travel to Malta in the very near future to “actively seek the consent for disclosure” of sensitive documents that could determine a the outcome of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi’s appeal, the High Court in Edinburgh was told on Friday.

The delegation will be looking for previously undisclosed documents related to statements given by a friend of Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, David Wright, who in 1989 raised concerns over Gauci’s identification of al-Megrahi.

The news comes amid arguments presented by al-Megrahi’s defence team, which contended evidence given by the potential witness in the Lockerbie bombing investigation could have undermined the prosecution’s case, but had never been presented in court or given to the defence team. (...)

Gauci claimed that on 7 December 1988 he had sold the former Libyan intelligence officer the clothes later found inside the suitcase holding the bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing all 270 people aboard.

Al-Megrahi’s defence team argued on Friday that evidence given by a friend of Gauci, a certain David Wright could very well have scuttled the prosecution’s case but the evidence had never been presented in court or handed over to the defence team.

Wright was said to have approached the Maltese police in September 1989 and the officers in England in December with a statement contradicting Gauci’s evidence.

Defence counsel Maggie Scot argued that Wright had given a “remarkably” similar description to that used by Gauci to implicate al-Megrahi in the bombing of another unrelated sale made by Gauci at his family’s shop, Mary’s House in Sliema.

But, Ms Scott argued that the details of Wright’s statement, which could contradict and possibly negate Gauci’s evidence, had never been presented in court and that the defence team had never even seen it.

But, Ms Scott argued that the details of Wright’s statement, which could contradict and possibly negate Gauci’s evidence, had never been presented in court and that the defence team had never even seen it.

Speaking in court on Friday, Ms Scott said, “Mr Wright gave statements to police in England saying he was a friend of Mr Gauci and that he had witnessed a transaction at Mr Gauci’s shop which bears a remarkable resemblance to the sale to the two men Mr Gauci described.”

Al-Megrahi’s defence is demanding that the previously undisclosed evidence it believes will help free their client be made available in time for the commencement of the appeal hearing, due to begin on 27 April.

Such evidence includes any documents related to Wright, as well as any documents showing Mr Gauci had been interested in a financial reward for his evidence.

Al-Megrahi’s lawyers are also asking for video footage of the identification parade in which Gauci had singled out al-Megrahi, as well as the details of those who had been selected to participate in the parade.

In addition to Malta, the Crown will also be approaching other foreign sources, but stressed some of the material being requested could have security implications in the respective countries should it be made public.

The call for documents related to Gauci’s interest in a financial reward for positively identifying al-Megrahi comes amid claims that Tony Gauci and his brother Paul were paid millions of dollars each by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as a reward for their help in convicting al-Megrahi, claims the FBI vehemently denies. (...)

Al Megrahi was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and although he lost a previous appeal against his conviction in 2002, the SCCRC in June 2007 referred the appeal back to court after it found six grounds that may have constituted a miscarriage of justice. Grounds mainly related to Gauci’s evidence.

In approving a new appeal, the Commission had found “there is no reasonable basis in the trial court’s judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items from Mary’s House took place on 7 December 1988” as Gauci had claimed.

Although it had been proven that al-Megrahi had been in Malta on several occasions in the month in question, it had determined that 7 December 1988 was the only date on which he would have had the opportunity to make the purchases from Mary’s House.

New evidence given to the Commission concerned the date on which Christmas lights had been turned on in Tower Road, Sliema near Mary’s House. Taken together with Gauci’s evidence at the trial and the contents of his police statements, the date indicates that the purchase of the incriminating items had taken place before 6 December 1988 – when no evidence had been presented at trial to the effect that the al-Megrahi was in Malta before the date.

Yet more new evidence given to the Commission indicated Gauci, four days before the identification parade at which he picked out al-Megrahi, had seen a photograph of al-Megrahi in a magazine article linking him to the bombing.

The Commission found that Mr Gauci’s exposure to the photograph, so close to the date of the identity parade, “undermines the reliability of his identification of the applicant at that time and at the trial itself”.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tony Gauci expressed an interest in receiving money

[On this date in 1991, DCI Harry Bell wrote a memorandum to the Chief Investigating Officer headed Security of Witness Anthony Gauci, Malta. The memo is worth reading in full. What follows is a brief discussion of one part of it, taken from The Times of Malta:]

A document seen by the Scottish [Criminal Cases] Review Commission which reviewed the Lockerbie trial proceedings shows that star witness Tony Gauci had shown an interest in receiving money. (...)

The document was a memorandum dated February 21, 1991, titled Security of Witness Anthony Gauci, Malta, that consisted of a report sent by investigator Harry Bell to Supt Gilchrist just after Mr Gauci identified Mr Megrahi from a photo-spread six days earlier.

The memorandum was never disclosed by the prosecution during the trial.

Mr Bell discusses the possibility of Mr Gauci’s inclusion in a witness protection programme. The final paragraph, however, makes reference to a different matter: “During recent meetings with Tony he has expressed an interest in receiving money. It would appear that he is aware of the US reward monies which have been reported in the press.”

Monday, 20 February 2017

A preventable disaster

[I am grateful to the Rev’d John Mosey, whose daughter Helga died on Pan Am 103, for allowing me to reproduce here a piece written by him a few nights ago:]

Thoughts in the night

Regarding the “Lockerbie” atrocity, there has been no full and independent inquiry into all relevant matters before and after the event. This has resulted in a situation where not all of the three major parties with obvious responsibilities in the matter have been thoroughly examined and made answerable regarding their behaviour.

The Airline, PanAm, have, to some extent, faced examination and paid for its wretched security with a pay out under the Montreal Convention and subsequently with its very existence.

The perceived perpetrator, Libya, has been brought to court, tried and has paid out considerable compensation to the relatives of the dead and their lawyers and to the world through violent sanctions imposed on the nation.

The third party with serious responsibilities is a composite body which is mainly composed of the two governments and their agencies who had a duty of care towards their citizens. I refer to the USA and the UK and the agencies they employ for protection from those who would harm us. This party, or any part of it, has not been thoroughly investigated regarding the executing of its responsibilities in this matter nor been charged with making any reparation at all.

Considering that there were at least fourteen clear warnings in the weeks and months running up to the disaster including a photograph of the bomb which our Department of Transport sent to Heath Row security in the Christmas post (It arrived after the event!) and a phone call on the 5th December to the US embassy in Helsinki saying that there would be a bomb in a Toshiba radio cassette player on a PanAm flight between Frankfurt and New York and giving a time window of two weeks which only ended the day before the 21st December should not these two governments be held to account for the way they handled such valuable information?

This was, in the words of Sherif Principal John S Mowat QC who led the Fatal Accident Inquiry, “a preventable disaster”. If this is true should not those who had the information and the ability to prevent it but did absolutely nothing, except to warn some of their embassy staff, be chargeable? They should, at least, be subject to a full and independent inquiry and, if found guilty, be required to pay considerable compensation. Such funds could well finance any legal assistance given.

“Lockerbie” happened either because the relevant authorities failed to take their responsibilities seriously or because they conspired to deliberately let it happen. In either case should they not be brought to some sort of justice and required to pay for their crime? . . . . But it isn’t going to happen, is it!

MI6 warned of Syrian-sponsored attack on American target

[What follows is a brief extract from an article by Cal McCrystal about David Yallop that was published in The Independent on this date in 1993:]

Stranger still was a meeting with Abu Nidal in a suburb of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. At 10am, the bald, bloated terrorist was drunk and talkative, acknowledging an Iraqi role in the 1982 attempted murder of Slomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to London, and suggesting that a Syrian-sponsored attack on an American target was imminent.
Returning to London, Yallop warned MI6 of the threat. 'To my astonishment the MI6 agent was far more interested in Nidal's drinking habits.' Less than two weeks later Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York was blown up over Lockerbie.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Libya and its lost years

[This is the headline over an article published today on the Arab Times website. It reads as follows:]

Years after the Lockerbie crisis in which Libya was implicated, several international bodies attempted to contain the crisis and set up effective solutions for ensuring an acceptable end. This was after charges were officially leveled against Libya’s regime for bombing down Pan-Am Flight 103 on the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland, which was a catastrophe unprecedented in modern history.
I remember one of the initiatives that were pioneered by the United Nations Secretary General at that time Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who visited Tripoli several times with the aim of finding solutions, especially after the delay by Libya in taking responsibility for this horrific crime.
The regime, which was led by the late Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi, had the same governing structure that most of the countries apply apart from the populace rule, which Gaddafi claimed to be the rule of law in Libya where people rule through conventions and committees with the difference being in just the titles.
In short, Colonel Gaddafi did not see himself as the leader. He did not consider himself as the leader of the people of Libya. Instead, he saw himself as a strongman who does not possess the power to take decisions but that the decisions were in the hands of Libyans, when in reality, even a small boy in Libya knew that everything was in the hands of Colonel Gaddafi.
Back to the story of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who had set several appointments to meet the Libyan officials, but all such efforts were not fruitful. The only person who could have an effective word on the issue was Gaddafi, who continued to claim that the decision is in the hands of the people and not with him.
The day when Cuellar finally managed to meet Colonel Gaddafi and after the pompous reception he received, he was amazed by how Gaddafi agreed to everything he said. It even would have appeared as though Cuellar will score the solution without using any of the artilleries he had armed himself with in order to deal with the situation if Gaddafi had disputed on any of the points listed in the agenda concerning the Lockerbie incident.
Given that the world was waiting for this issue to be solved, and that the solution seemed to be just around the corner waiting for the end of the meeting and the announcement of the decision, Colonel Gaddafi shocked the UN Secretary General by telling him, “I totally agree with everything you have said, but the decision is not in my hands”. He said the authority is for the people and he is only managing the people but they are the ones with the final say.
The UN Secretary General effortlessly attempted to make Gaddafi realize the magnitude of the issue and convince him that only Gaddafi can settle this issue. However, all he received was hidden mockery without any actual display of effort to reason about the situation.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi suddenly gave in to almost all provisions that would lead to the solving of the Lockerbie crisis, including payment of unprecedentedly huge compensations to the victims. It seemed as though Gaddafi felt he will be next after the fall of Sadaam.
Gaddafi’s preemptive moves to compensate the Lockerbie victims did not come of any help to him. In fact, it paved way for his fall in February 2011 after 40 years in power, becoming the first victim of the so-called “Arab Spring”.
The Gaddafi-Lockerbie story teaches us one important lesson – Despite the structure you choose to rule your country, the titles you give yourself and your governing structure do not mean much as far as the international community is concerned. Such titles can only dupe the populace.
Gaddafi is no more; his regime is way gone; his country is completely destroyed because of foolish and cheap politics which was based on interference in the affairs of other countries, conspiracies and support of terrorism.
I wish stability in politics, security and economy for the new Libya. It deserves stability and its people deserve the best after what they have lost between political feuds and war. I don’t know until when Libya will continue to lose itself and to what level the situation will go.

Crown fights to keep Lockerbie evidence secret

[What follows is the text of a report in The Herald headlined Crown fights to keep 48 pieces of Lockerbie trial evidence secret that was published on this date in 2009:]

Prosecutors are trying to keep secret 48 pieces of evidence relating to the Lockerbie trial, including a secret fax that could discredit a key Crown witness.
Lawyers for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 bombing, yesterday began a challenge over material they believe will free their terminally ill client.
But the Crown Office and the UK Advocate General are fighting against disclosure, claiming that in some cases the evidence does not exist.
The Herald can today reveal that the first item on the list is a fax which, the Libyan's defence team claims, places a fundamental question mark against the original trial testimony of Tony Gauci, who sold clothes later found in the wreckage of PanAm 103 at Lockerbie.
Judges at Camp Zeist were told that the first "photoshow" with Mr Gauci took place on September 14, 1989, while the fax at the centre of yesterday's proceedings is allegedly dated six days earlier.
Megrahi's team believes that confusion and disparity further compromises the integrity of a man described as an "important witness" at the trial.
His QC, Maggie Scott, revealed that the appeal, due to start on April 27, will be based on fresh evidence, the Lord Advocate's failure to disclose and irregularities in how evidence was obtained.
She said: "The predominant theme is Tony Gauci. He is the centrepiece in a sense."
Another previously unseen fax from the Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) or committee, which was set up after Lockerbie to investigate the case and included representatives from Scottish forces and the security services, refers to a meeting between Mr Gauci and FBI agents when Scottish police were not present. However, no record or statement has been shared with the defence.
Another JIG fax referred to yesterday indicates that there are other missing statements in relation to Mr Gauci, saying he saw the key clothes purchaser the day afterwards, and identified him as someone other than Megrahi.
That document refers to concerns among the Scottish police at the time that "the witness was trying to please them".
The defence also claims that the Crown pre-trial precognition of Mr Gauci was missing and was only recently discovered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. The defence is also seeking "undisclosed information about discussion of reward money".
This is thought to relate to undisclosed discussions that Mr Gauci and his brother, Paul, could be influenced by the rumour of financial remuneration.
Ms Scott warned that there was a "reasonable" or "real" possibility that the Crown's failure to hand over the material could constitute a breach of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, relating to a person's right to a fair trial.
She explained that, in its written responses to the defence, the Crown had argued that in some cases the calls for information were too wide, in others that the information does not exist and/or that it is not relevant. The hearing continues until at least tomorrow.
The Crown has not yet responded, but is understood to be refusing to disclose details of the September 8 photoshow, along with 47 other areas of information.
Megrahi's appeal itself could last at least 12 months.
Megrahi, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, is determined to clear his name but it is far from certain that he would survive such a long appeal case.
Libyan authorities have been encouraged to apply for a prisoner transfer to allow Megrahi to spend his remaining time with his family.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Megrahi and Fhimah appear in court in Tripoli

[What follows is excerpted from The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau Report No 6:]

On 18 February 1992, al-Megrahi and Fhimah appeared in a Tripoli court to face a "routine investigative hearing. (...)  Abdul Taher Zawei, Councillor to the Supreme Court, said that under Libyan and international law there was no basis for their extradition. Criminal proceedings could be started in Libya, but this had so far proved impossible because neither the USA nor the UK authorities had responded to his requests to hand over copies of the evidence in their possession".
(Keesing's Record of World Events, Volume 38; p 38,791).

[RB: Here is what I have previously written about this:]

Libyan internal law, in common with the laws of many countries in the world, does not permit the extradition of its own nationals for trial overseas.  The government of Libya accordingly contended that the affair should be resolved through the application of the provisions of a 1971 civil aviation Convention concluded in Montreal to which all three relevant governments are signatories.  That Convention provides that a state in whose territory persons accused of terrorist offences against aircraft are resident has a choice aut dedere aut judicare, either to hand over the accused for trial in the courts of the state bringing the accusation or to take the necessary steps to have the accused brought to trial in its own domestic courts.  In purported compliance with the second of these options, the Libyan authorities arrested the two accused and appointed a Supreme Court judge as examining magistrate to consider the evidence and prepare the case against them.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, the UK and US governments refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claimed to have amassed against the accused, who remained under house arrest in Libya until they were eventually handed over in April 1999 for trial at Camp Zeist.

[RB: This famous photograph is from that court appearance:]

Friday, 17 February 2017

Extensive lying, fraud, perjury, bought witnesses

[On this date in 2013 Swedish journalist Anders Carlgren published on his website an article headed Lockerbie - Yet Again the Clues Lead to a Palestinian Terrorist Group. It reads in part:]

Just two months before the Lockerbie bombing, West German police had cracked down on a terrorist cell outside of Düsseldorf, apprehending 17 members of none other than PFLP-GC. The most important find was four Semtex bombs build into Toshiba radios.

But a fifth bomb had gone missing, and it turned out that it had been hidden by the bomb builder of the terrorist cell, Marwan Kreeshat. The legendary European correspondent for ABC News Pierre Salinger later interviewed Kreeshat in prison. In that interview Kreeshat said that he was convinced that it was precisely his bomb that had brought down Pan Am Flight 103. It is also documented that during the fall of 1988, great sums were transferred from Iran to the German terrorist cell, in several batches via a variety of Middle Eastern banks.

But the Palestinian-Iranian trail sudden went cold and non-existent in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. That invasion and the first Gulf war entirely changed the direction of the investigation, documentably at American request. During the preparation for the war, it was important to keep both Syria and Iran calm. The PFLP-GC was now entirely uninteresting and – unexpectedly – the rogue state Libya was pointed to as responsible for the act. The United Nations complied with a request to impose extensive sanctions against Libya.

One of the persons no longer under investigation was the Swedish-Palestinian Mohammed Abu Talb, then a resident of Uppsala. He had entered Sweden on a false passport. Abu Talb probably had ties to the German terrorist cell, as he and three other Swedish-Palestinians repeatedly traveled to places like Frankfurt and Munich. Abu Talb had a background as chief of bodyguard forces in Lebanon and in Syria, and in the Soviet Union he had received training in handling targeting robots.

Today many investigators and relatives of victims are convinced that Abu Talb obtained the fifth Semtex bomb and had it loaded onto the airplane in Frankfurt, where Pan Am 103 had begun its route. It was determined that the bomb-containing suitcase had been loaded without belonging to any passenger.

Three years before the Lockerbie bombing, in 1985, Abu Talb along with three Palestinian co-conspirators were behind the bombing of a synagogue in Copenhagen and similar bombs against airplane companies in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, both of which caused much death and destruction.

In May 1989 the four terrorists were apprehended in Sweden, and December 21st, one year after Lockerbie, Mohammed Abu Talb and Marten Imandi were sentenced to life prison. The two others received significantly milder punishments.

Investigations showed that Abu Talb had been in Malta during the fall of 1988, and that Marten Imandi had stayed in Malta for a longer period. In the Uppsala home of Abu Talb, police also found a calendar with a circle around December 21st. And in a recorded wiretap , the Abu Talb’s wife was heard saying to someone else: ”get rid of the clothes immediately.” A suitcase similar to the one holding the bomb was found at that person’s residence.

Both Abu Talb and Marten Imandi are now free after having had their life sentences converted. Abu Talb was also sentenced to deportation, but is nevertheless still in Sweden, as the government cannot decide which country he is to be deported to – Egypt, Syria or Lebanon. He has repeatedly applied to have his deportation cancelled, most recently last year, but his application was turned down every time. Marten Imandi, however, cannot be deported, as he is a Swedish citizen.

But this Swedish trail to the Lockerbie bombing has never been followed to the end, after the US and Great Britain surprisingly pointed to Libya as the guilty party. After many long and hard negotiations, Moammar Gadaffi agreed to turn over two Libyans to a special Scottish court located at an old military base in the Netherlands. After two rounds of mock trial, one of them, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, was convicted to 27 years of prison. Gadaffi paid 2.7 billion dollars to the relatives of the victims. The sanctions were lifted, and in return, Great Britain obtained profitable oil contracts. Al Megrahi was returned to Libya in 2009, where he died later from prostate cancer.

We know today that the owner of the shop in Malta, Tony Gauci, who sold the clothes found in the bomber’s suitcase, lied when he pointed out Al Megrahi in a confrontation; he had been shown a picture of Al Megrahi in advance. We also know that Tony Gauci received two million dollars from the US for testifying in the two mock trials. There are many other errors and repeatedly changing explanations in his testimony.

Abu Talb was also forced to testify during the trials, but he denied any kind of involvement, and claimed that he had been babysitting in Uppsala at the time. That alibi, however, has never been verified.

A year ago, Scottish newspapers published an 800-page report of the investigation from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which had been classified since 2007. The report pointed out extensive lying, fraud, perjury, bought witnesses and other mistakes during the legal process.

Mohammed Abu Talb and his terrorist associates in Sweden and Germany do not enjoy immunity from the Scottish authorities. Therefore there are good reasons to resume investigation of the Swedish-Palestinian trail.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Jack Straw and the UK-Libya prisoner transfer agreement

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in The Herald on this date in 2008:]

Earlier this week, in a letter to The Herald, Mr [Jack] Straw insisted that Scottish ministers would have the final say on whether to transfer the Lockerbie bomber, following claims that he was a pawn in a recent £450m oil deal with Libya.
However, his comments unleashed renewed criticism from the Scottish Government for failing to explain why Westminster had not obtained an order specifically excluding Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi from the infamous "deal in the desert" made by Tony Blair last year.
Professor Robert Black, one of the architects of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist, yesterday accused the Westminster Government and former Prime Minister Blair of being "disingenuous" and dishonest about the prisoner transfer agreement.
He said: "When the UK Foreign Office entered into negotiations with Libya for a reciprocal prisoner transfer agreement, both sides were perfectly well aware that the only Libyan in a British jail whom the Libyans had the slightest concern about was Megrahi. The Libyan negotiators believed, and were known to believe, that the agreement they were drafting would cover Megrahi.
"The London government did not have the courtesy to inform the Scottish Government about these negotiations and later said the agreement would not cover Megrahi. This was at best disingenuous and, at worst, an outright lie."
It also came to light yesterday that the prisoner transfer agreement has not yet been officially signed off, and Mr Salmond is now pushing for Mr Straw to go back to Libya to persuade them to incorporate a clause specifically excluding Megrahi.
A source close to the First Minister said: "Mr Straw needs to go back to Libya and ensure that what they promised comes to pass. The prisoner transfer agreement should include a clear and specific exemption in relation to the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. This was the position they signed up to." (...)
Whitehall has repeatedly denied that Megrahi, who is serving 27 years in Greenock Prison for the attack, was part of the arrangement signed by the former Prime Minister. However, Libyan officials and lawyers have maintained that Megrahi was a key part of the discussions, which have been ongoing since 2005.
The agreement means any Libyan serving their sentence in the UK, and who has no pending appeal, could return home. However, under the law, those serving sentences in Scottish prisons can be moved only with the permission of Scottish ministers. (...)
Fall-out from ‘deal in the desert'
How did the row about the potential prisoner transfer of Megrahi start this week? Jack Straw wrote to The Herald to clarify the Westminster Government's position. He said that any decision to move Megrahi lay in the hands of Scottish ministers.
Why did he write the letter? He was responding to a letter published in the paper from Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy, which raised concerns about what Tony Blair may have promised Colonel Gaddafi during their "deal in the desert" in which the two leaders agreed on reciprocal extradition and transfer of prisoners.
What is the prisoner transfer agreement? A draft "Memorandum of Understanding on the pursuit of agreements on judicial co-operation" was signed by the British and Libyan governments in June last year when Mr Blair was visiting Colonel Gaddafi. It referred to "extradition and prisoner transfer". No prisoner is named, but the memorandum states: "The UK government will seek to obtain the agreement of all three jurisdictions within the UK in each of these cases." The final agreement has not yet been signed.
Why does the Scottish Government believe it is important for Megrahi to be specifically excluded from the agreement made between Libya and Westminster? The original international agreement, which allowed Megrahi to be put on trial at a special court at Camp Zeist, also stated that any person convicted would serve their full sentence in Scotland. Alex Salmond was not told about the "deal in the desert" until after the new agreement had been drafted, despite the fact Megrahi is held in a Scottish jail. Ensuring the Libyan serves the full sentence here, he believes, is vital to maintaining the integrity of Scots law. If Megrahi fails to win his current appeal, unless he is excluded from the agreement, he could push for judicial review of a decision to hold him in a Scottish prison, a fact Mr Straw has acknowledged in a private letter to Mr Salmond.
Why could he make a case for judicial review? Judicial review is a High Court procedure for challenging administrative decisions of public bodies. If Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill were to refuse a transfer request, Megrahi could challenge that decision in the courts. He could, for example, argue that all other Libyan prisoners in the UK had been moved and that the decision to keep him was unfair.
Why could Mr Straw not secure an exemption for Megrahi? Westminster officials argue that Libya turned down the request and point out there are no exclusion clauses in similar agreements with at least 100 other countries. They argue it would be almost impossible for Megrahi to win a judicial review.