Thursday, 30 October 2008

Lockerbie questions demand an answer

This is the headline over an article in today's issue of The Times by Magnus Linklater, the newspaper's Scotland Editor (and the editor of The Scotsman in the bygone days when that title was still a serious and responsible journal).

The article reads in part:

'You do not have to be a conspiracy theorist to recognise that nagging questions have gnawed away at the Lockerbie case since the first investigations began. The veteran campaigner, Tam Dalyell, who describes himself as a “professor of Lockerbie studies”, is convinced that neither al-Megrahi nor the Libyan Government had any involvement. He, along with the Rev John Mosey and Dr Jim Swire, who both lost daughters in the atrocity, believe that there has been a spectacular miscarriage of justice.

'They have raised questions about basic evidence in the original case. They have challenged eyewitness accounts offered by the chief prosecution witness, the Maltese shopowner who originally identified Megrahi as a suspect. They have raised doubts about the forensic evidence, and have pointed out that al-Megrahi, a civilised and intelligent man, is a most unlikely terrorist.

'Last weekend, their campaign was given fresh impetus when Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent, reported that Abu Nidal, the Palestinian terrorist responsible for some of the worst attacks of the 1970s and 1980s, may have been working for the Americans before the invasion of Iraq. Secret documents - the very phrase is a conspiracy idiom - written by Saddam Hussein's security services state that he had been colluding with the Americans trying to find evidence linking Saddam and al-Qaeda. Abu Nidal's alleged suicide in 2002 may have been an execution by the Iraqis for his betrayal.

'From this tenuous connection stems the idea that the US security services may have had previous contacts within Abu Nidal's terrorist organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which many experts have long believed was the real perpetrator of Lockerbie.

'Mr Dalyell, who thinks there may be some weight to this theory, points to incidents such as notices that went up in the US Embassy in Moscow in the days before the bombing, warning diplomats not to travel on PanAm flights, and how senior South African figures were hauled off the plane before the flight, almost as if there had been advance warning.

'For me, this kind of evidence strays into the territory of “the second gunman theory” that bedevilled the Kennedy assassination. But there is one aspect of the case that I have never understood: why was it that, for the first 18 months of the investigation, Scottish police, US investigators and European security agents were convinced that the perpetrators were Abu Nidal's PFLP? And why was it that, in the run-up to the Gulf War, when good relations with Syria and Iran were important to Western interests, attention switched abruptly from Abu Nidal's terrorists, and on to Libya?

'These matters have never satisfactorily been explained, and in the interests of common justice they should be addressed. For the sake of the Flight 103 victims, for the wider interests of Western security, and for the man now dying in a Scottish prison, there is a need for a proper inquiry. It does not have to be as wideranging as the Warren Commission that examined the Kennedy case, but it does need to be international, and to have US backing. The appeal in Edinburgh next year will examine legal aspects of the case, but it cannot extend to the wider issues that demand resolution.

'Just possibly a new president taking office next January will find in his in-tray persuasive evidence pointing to a reopening of the case. There are powerful moral reasons for dusting it off and asking a basic question: who was responsible for Britain's worst terrorist outrage?'

The full article can be accessed here.


  1. While all this is interesting there are a few basic facts which all the "wise" men seem to have wrong. First, Abu Nidal is really Sabri al Banna who had his own group--Abu Nidal. Al Banna was not the leader of or part of the PFLP-GC. The PFLP-GC principally targeted Israel and Israeli targets, not western targets. Al Banna on the other hand did--as evidenced by his attack at the Rome and Vienna airports in 1985 and attack on a Pan Am flight in Pakistan in 1987. The United States was certainly one of his targets and was an early suspect in the Lockerbie bombing. It should also be noted that al Banna was a former resident of Libya and had been supported by Gaddaffi. However, all one needs to do is follow the evidence-- the timer found at Lockerbie was made by a Swiss firm and only 20 were ever made and ALL of them had been given to the Libyans. Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence officer which was proven at trial (not just a "civilized and intelligent man" as claimed in your article) who rented space for his operations from the Swiss firm. The vast majority of radios which contained the bomb had been procured by a Libyan official the year before Lockerbie and this same official had inquired about "getting a bag onto an American or British plane" in 1986. In December 1988 the Libyans were trying to quickly find timers in the weeks before the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103. No one has ever explained why Mr. Megrahi had been in Malta on December 20-21 for about 12 hours although he denied it. He also denied he was a Libyan intelligence officer but this too was proven in court. Mr. Fhimah could never explain why he made a note to himself to get "taggs" from Air Malta in the days before the bombing.
    I am not aware of any contacts any US Government officials may have had with Al Banna in the days leading up to the war in Iraq but do know he was a wanted terrorist in the United States.
    I wish all the conspiracy theorists would get over it. Not everything that happens involves a conspiracy by "the government." Sometimes the truth is far less exciting and boring even. I guess that is what makes the truth all that difficult to accept

  2. A truth that Richard Marquise obviously finds difficult to accept is that the court found Mr Fhimah "not guilty" of murder.

    It's a fair bet that had the charge of "conspiracy to murder" not been dropped towards the end of the trial, the verdict for both Mr Fhimah and Mr Megrahi would have been "not guilty" (or at least "not proven").

    And, following the evidence as presented by Mr Marquise, why weren't Messrs Meister and Bollier of Mebo charged as "co-conspirators"?

    Similarly, in respect to the Libyan official, who bought all those radios in 1987 and inquired about "getting a bag onto an American or British plane" in 1986, does Mr Marquise have a theory as to why he was not charged with "conspiracy to murder"?

    Gives a whole new meaning to the term "conspiracy theorist", doesn't it?

  3. Dear Mr. Marquise,
    ex FBI specially agent and task Force chief in the investigation of the Lockerbie-Affair. Today it shows clearly, why you in your aggressive and loud interview in the film " The Conspiracy files: Lockerbie", to accuse absolutely that Libya and Mr Al Megrahi keep guilty for the Lockerbie-Tragedy. ..
    Most of your investigation results are fantasies and intentionally malicious deliberate assertions (wishful thinking)! I will show you in my future book, "BOMSCOT" the truth facts. More information on the web:
    Apology for my bad English, by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd, Switzerland

  4. Mr Linklater seems incredulous that the US Security Services would have contact with (Ahmed Jibril's) PFLP-GC prior to the bombing. Yet the group's bomb-maker and the Police's initial prime suspect (and in my view still most likely to have built the IED) was revealed at Camp Zeist to have been a CIA "asset". Their Lordships took this as evidence of his innocence.

    He also thinks it "improbable" that the US Security Services knew in advance of the bombing. Why is it improbable? Were they not expecting a response to the "Vincennes Incident". Would the authorities necessarily try to prevent the bombing of a civilian airliner or in the unique circumstances of the "Vincennes Incident" were they prepared to accept "an appropriate response to the magnitude of the American Crime", pretend retaliation had not occurred, exploit the bombing for unrelated political objectives and "move on"? Isn't this precisely what happened?

    Richard Marquise (whose views I respect) points out that nobody has explained (secret agent) Megrahi's presence in Malta on the 20-21st Dec.1988 and sees this as evidence of his guilt. But the bomb wasn't in Malta - there is not a shred of evidence that it was. It is irrefutable that it was placed in luggage container AVE4041 before flight PA103A arrived from Frankfurt.

    So what is the significance of Megrahi's presence in Malta? Mr Marquise stresses the evidence but it is the conclusion he draws is based on the assumption of Megrahi's guilt. If you didn't assume moral rectitude precluded official collusion you
    could also draw a different conclusion - that Megrahi's presence in Malta was the signal to introduce the bomb at Heathrow and is evidence that the Secret Services knew in advance flight PA103 was to be destroyed.