[What follow are excerpts from an article in today's edition of The Christian Science Monitor.]
But to Richard Marquise, the lead FBI investigator into the bombing, the public doubts expressed about Megrahi, who was convicted by a tribunal of three Scottish judges in 2001, are puzzling and frustrating. In his 31 years at the FBI, Mr. Marquise said he's rarely seen a "stronger circumstantial case" than the one against Megrahi, who was also caught repeatedly lying to investigators and reporters. "There's nobody else that I'm aware of anywhere in the world that has such evidence pointing to their guilt," he says. (...)
Marquise says that "there were other people that we strongly believed were involved in terms of the planning process and ordering process.... Megrahi was the guy who was assigned to get it done. We think at least six were probably involved if you only had to make an intelligence case, but in terms of making a criminal case, we didn't have strong enough evidence." (...)
But many remain unconvinced -- though, as Marquise and others point out, there's no evidence to support any of a myriad of alternative theories about his guilt. One popular alternative theory, advanced most recently by The Herald newspaper of Scotland on Friday, is that Mohammed Abu Talb, an Egyptian convicted of carrying out other attacks in Europe in the early 1980s on behalf of a Palestinian group, carried out the bombing.
The Herald writes that the "Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is understood to have uncovered new evidence that strengthens the case against Talb" without actually explaining how this is "understood" or what additional evidence, if any, exists to tie him to the murders. The article also asserts that Mr. Talb was "arrested in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103" in 1989.
Marquise says that last assertion is false and that Talb's arrest in 1989 dealt with a different terrorism case. While Megrahi was proven to have traveled to Malta on a false passport (which he had originally lied about), and to [have] been there on the date that the explosive was placed on the plane, Talb was in Sweden at the time.
The key piece of evidence against Megrahi was a fragment of the timer used for the bomb at Lockerbie, which was of an unusual design. "There were maybe as many as 25 of these timers ever made -- 20 really with a couple of circuit boards left over," says Marquise. "All 20 were hand-delivered to Libyan intelligence."
Another theory floating about is that the British government squashed possibly exculpatory evidence about Megrahi at the time of his trial and has been hiding it ever since. The Guardian newspaper quoted a Scottish human rights lawyer last week as saying that there is a "secret intelligence report" that "is believed to cast serious doubts on prosecution claims that Megrahi used a specific Swiss timer for the bomb."
Again, it isn't clear who believes this or how they could possibly know such the contents of a "secret" document.
"I don’t know if some of these people are reading too many of these spy novels or what," says William Chornyak, another former FBI investigator. "But a lot of the people making these suppositions simply weren't there. It's easy to say, 'I'm going to assume there's some secret document' ... that proves Megrahi is innocent. But where is the document?"
Mr. Chonyak says he's "absolutely" convinced that Megrahi's conviction was accurate. "The evidence is pretty specific, the guy even admitted using a phony passport, and he was caught lying. If a guy is going to lie in one instance, and you have the documentation that proves he lied, he’s going to continue to lie."
"I feel bad for the families," says Marquise. "They got partial justice."
[Readers are invited to compare the above with Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result and The SCCRC decision.
Caustic Logic's commentary on The Christian Science Monitor article can be read here on The Lockerbie Divide blog.]