Monday, 19 July 2010

Megrahi inquiry 'is kicking BP while it's down'

The BP spill and a senate inquiry in the release of the Lockerbie could overshadow David Cameron's visit to the US. But former UK Libyan ambassador Oliver Miles tells Channel 4 News the al-Megrahi inquiry is a case of kicking BP while it is down. (...)

You told Channel 4 News last year that you thought there had been a deal on al-Megrahi's release. How would it have worked?

The problem is this: why did Megrahi and Libya decide to abandon the appeal. It was probably Libya rather than Megrahi, because Megrahi was very ill and had given the Libyans full powers to act on his behalf.

The obvious reason for abandoning it was that it was a precondition under the prisoner transfer agreement – but the PTA wasn't actually used. And under Scottish humanitarian arrangements, it wasn't a precondition. It means we're left with an unanswered question as to why he abandoned it.

So there's a mystery there. The only half-solution I can think of is that someone convinced the Libyans or Megrahi that this was the only way he’d get a ticket home.

And has UK-Libya trade improved since al-Megrahi's release?

UK trade has improved. That's a fact if you believe the statistics. But whether one can link it to Megrahi or any other political factor, I would doubt.

The position I probably was taking last year and my feeling now is that if this had gone wrong, it would have had a serious negative impact on relations, including trade.

Put it this way. I was in Libya in May leading a delegation of British business people, and Megrahi wasn't mentioned - and I would have been amazed if he had been.

What will the US Senate inquiry reveal?

It seems to be there is no basis for an inquiry at all. Why are they raising this? The answer, to be blunt, is because of BP? Everybody knows that BP s a baddie, and when they're nearly down, this is the time to kick them.

Libya knows the only way it can achieve a boost in oil production is by bringing in the world's biggest oil companies – that’s the country has signed a deal with BP, with Shell and with Exxon Mobil as well.

[From a report on the Channel 4 News website.]


  1. The reports I recall from last year indicated that Megrahi had taken the decision to abandon the appeal himself. His solicitor said on TV that he had been pressurised. He himself said it had been indicated to him that this would improve his chances of being released. That he wanted to clear his name but with such a short time left to live he had no alternative.

    The timing was extremely suggestive. The news reports prefigured everything that happened. Megrahi will withdraw his appeal, Megrahi will be granted compassionate release. And it was so.

    If this was all about oil, there was no need to release him so early if his prognosis was really for a year or more. However, with the appeal due to come back to court in November, they could hardly have delayed much longer if they wanted to persuade him there was no point trying to hang on until then.

    And Labour were so keen to smooth the way that the released Ronnie Biggs on 6th August to provide a nice precedent. Ronnie is still alive too. Where is the international outrage about that?

  2. Your parallel with Ronnie Biggs is an excellent one, Rolfe!

    Could it be that the media are pressing the "ignore" button whenever Rolfe opens her mouth?

  3. Could it be that posting on internet forums and blogs, and even writing to newspapers, isn't likely to get anything you say noticed?

    Tell you what. 6th August seems to be the one-year anniversary of Biggs' release. Good time to demand answers on that one I think. Was his release (refused only a month earlier) expedited to provide a nice precedent to encourage the release of Megrahi?

  4. There are two ways to look at this. The Megrahi aspect is there to kick BP while it's down. And on the other hand, BP's momentary moral pariah status is being used to taint the Megrahi case again in people's minds. If he's so innocent and non-evil, why was the EVIL company trying to get him released? Something like that.

    Rolfe: I've got Aug 6 marked on my calendar.

  5. Rolfe, I've just read some very wise things you've written on the Randi blogsite.

    Would ypu care to repeat them here? Especially the bit about Mr Megrahi only really being convicted as an accessory, and since the other gent charged was acquitted (not even a not proven verdict) he (Fhimah) must have been clean.

    Remember also, that the conspiracy charge against the two was withdrawn when it seemed Fhimah was to be acquitted.

    So of what was Mr Megrahi convicted? Why couldn't the judges have seen how illogical they were being.

    Your point on Ronnie Biggs is sensible. He was released on compassionate grounds just before Mr Megrahi, simply because that dreadful shower of an inJustice Secretary, Jack Straw, would have found it too embarrassing to have been seen keeping Mr Biggs in jail (one death, at most, and then not murder) when the perpetrator of 270 deaths went free.

    But keeping the Straw nose clean is what it's about, and I remind the ex-Foreign Secretary that he had UN sanctions removed against Libya only in respect of Pan Am 103, quietly forgetting they had been imposed in the names of 103 and UT-772. But what's a mere 170 deaths to a machine politician.

  6. Charles, I was just talking about the Summary of Grounds of Appeal 1 & 2 as published on Megrahi's web site.

    The Trial Court did not convict the appellant as the principal perpetrator – there was no finding that he was responsible for introducing the IED into the airline baggage system and thus onto Pan Am 103. He was convicted as an accessory on the basis that he assisted in carrying out part of the common criminal plan to commit the crime. The only act found to have been carried out by the appellant which could amount to participation in the crime was the purchase of clothing which was found to have been in the same suitcase as the IED.

    This isn't about Fhimah - Fhimah was acquitted because there was no evidence he was at the airport that morning, or had anything to do with the bombing. It seems to be something to the effect of "conspiracy with persons unknown".

    There was no evidence of how the bomb (allegedly) got on KM180, and certainly no evidence that Megrahi had put it there. The idea seems to have been some kind of covert operation by persons unknown, and Megrahi being there was somehow facilitating it. Or something like that.

    The reasoning seems to have gone something like this. The MST-13 fragment and the SF-16 manual (and perhaps Gauci's guess as to the nationality of the clothes purchaser) show this was a Libyan operation. Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence operative, and bought the clothes, and he was at the airport that morning, so he must have been mixed up in it.

    However, he didn't buy the clothes, that's perfectly clear. Take that out, and there's no direct evidence connecting him to the bombing at all, even if you leave the rest in place. No evidence that he wasn't just passing through the airport on other business at the relevant time.

  7. To continue, the circularity of the argument can be demonstrated several ways, one of which is the court's decision to accept Gauci's identification of Megrahi. The thing is, Gauci didn't identify Megrahi. The closest he ever got was to say he resembled the purchaser. By the time of the identity parade in 1999, there had been so much publicity that half the population of Camp Zeist could probably have picked Megrahi out. Paul had been coaching Tony, using photographs. Even so, the best Tony could manage was to say Megrahi wasn't the purchaser but looked a bit like him.

    The judges acknowledged it wasn't a definite identification, but decided to take it as close enough, because Megrahi was a JSO officer who had been at the airport at the time the bomb bag was put on KM180.

    But hang on a minute, what reasoning did they use to determine that the bomb was carried on KM180? In that respect, they had only one piece of evidence suggesting that might have happened, and that was the bag coded at Frankfurt. The judges decided there was no evidence that had been a coding error, so declared it real. However, in doing so they thus declared the virtually certain fact that no unaccompanied case was loaded on KM180 to be false.

    This was a serious error in logic. There was no evidence at Frankfurt that the item was a mistake or a mis-code. There was however irrefutable evidence at Malta that it must have been a mistake or a mis-code. The probability weighting that should have been done was between the chance of the Luqa records being wrong, or the Frankfurt record being wrong. The Luqa records passed every test. The Frankfurt records were the subject of more shenanigans than an East German ladies' weightlifting team, and even if taken at face value a mistake or mis-code was quite clearly possible. Such mistakes could and did happen.

    Why did the judges choose to believe that anonymous computer entry was the bomb bag coming from Luqa, in spite of everything? Because Megrahi was at Luqa when the plane left.

    If you don't believe me, read the court judgements. The uncertain not-the-man-but-looks-like-him identification is Megrahi because he was at the airport when the bomb bag was put on board. The bomb bag was put on board at Luqa because Megrahi was there at the time (and probably because he bought the clothes).

    Acquitting him after all that three-ring circus was just more than they could take, I think.