Saturday, 21 August 2010

Why was terrorist Talb cleared over Lockerbie?

[This is the headline over an article by Lucy Adams in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

A convicted killer who many believe is the real Lockerbie bomber has been freed from prison in Sweden, prompting calls for a new investigation into Palestinian links to the atrocity.

Mohammed Abu Talb, who was serving a life sentence for other terror attacks in Copenhagen and Amsterdam using explosive devices, was the original suspect for the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 until 1990, when attention switched to Libya.

The Egyptian-born militant then served as a prosecution witness at the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, when he denied defence claims that he was the killer of the 270 people at Lockerbie in 1988.

However, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is understood to have uncovered new evidence that strengthens the case against Talb, who was allegedly funded by Iran to blow up the plane in revenge for the American cruiser USS Vincennes shooting an Iran Air flight out of the sky on July 3, 1988, killing 290 people.

On the first anniversary of Megrahi’s release yesterday, Swedish authorities confirmed publicly for the first time that Talb had been released from Malmo prison after serving 20 years.

Because his whereabouts is now unknown, and he is widely thought to have returned to the Middle East, campaigners who believe Megrahi has been unjustly treated are concerned that a key chance to interview Talb has been lost.

The Herald has previously revealed that Talb could be tried if Megrahi were to be formally cleared. An appeal against Megrahi’s conviction could still be mounted even after the death of the Libyan, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer.

Eddie MacKechnie, Megrahi’s solicitor from 2001-2006, said it was now time to refocus on what really happened, rather than obsessing about Megrahi’s early release. “There was more evidence at the time to implicate Talb and his associates than Megrahi,” he said. “I know that many police officers at the time were concerned that the investigation shifted to Libya when there was no evidence of Libyan involvement.

“The relatives deserve to know whether there has been a cover-up of any kind. We need to have a full and independent inquiry into what happened, and it needs to look at the Palestinian connection.”

Professor Robert Black, QC, the architect of the Lockerbie trial, said: “I support Mr MacKechnie 100%. Clearly the Palestinian connection deserves to be looked at and a full inquiry needs to be held.”

A leading CIA figure also called for the Palestinian connection to be reinvestigated. Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer assigned to the Middle East, told The Herald that an appeal or public inquiry was now needed. “I talked to the SCCRC and they were very clearly focussed on the Palestinians and the Iranian connection,” he said.

“There is no doubt that Abu Talb was an asset controlled by the Iranians and questions need to be asked about how he ended up as a prosecution witness. He was definitely not a reliable witness and what we need now is what the SCCRC report says, what intelligence there was, and what the connections were.”

The SCCRC report refers to the recovery of official records from various organisations in Italy. These are thought to relate to Talb, who travelled between Cyprus, Rome, Malta, and Frankfurt in the run-up to the bombing.

Evidence not heard at the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands has revealed that the CIA thought Talb was the man responsible, and that police found clothes, including a blue babygro similar to one found at Lockerbie, when they raided his flat in Germany.

Police also found a calendar with the date “21 December” circled. In addition, Talb’s wife was recorded in a wiretapped telephone call warning another unidentified Palestinian to “get rid of the clothes immediately”.

In May 1989, Talb was arrested in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. At Camp Zeist, defence counsel alleged the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, and the lesser-known Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They said Talb was linked to both terrorist groups.

In his testimony, Talb told the court that he ended “all activities relating to Palestine at the end of 1982”. He was jailed along with three other men for the bombings in Denmark and the Netherlands, which killed one man and injured many others, but his life sentence was later commuted to 20 years.

[The release of Abu Talb from prison in Sweden was first reported on 18 October 2009 by Marcello Mega in an article in The Mail on Sunday.]


  1. Well was it one bunch of insidious ragheads or the other? This misses the central point - that agencies of the Western Governments colluded in the bombing.

    Here is a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" question - the bombing of flight PA103 was planned in which city (a)Tripoli
    (b) Damascus
    (d) Washington.

    Phone a friend.

  2. 50-50 take two away... (a) and (b)

  3. You are still in the game! I regard it as a joint venture between Ieanian pragmatists or moderates and western intelligence agencies.

  4. Well I'm not convinced of Western assistance in helping facilitate and cover for the attack until after it happened.

    And as for Talb, I have mixed feelings. He's certainlynot Megrahi, but like him was "identified" by Tony Gauci despite looking nothing like the purchaser he first described. He was in the sights at one point, and ultimately led the investigation to Malta where they coincidentally found Megrahi, who fit in with all the fabricated clues already in motion.

    OTH, he has reported PFLP-GC connections, possibly Abu Elias even, a conviction for other terrorism, some type of Maltese clothes, a date circled on his calendar that matches both the bombing and his sister-in-law's delivery of a baby.

    So I dunno... but he's been freed recently and has sort of disappeared. That's odd.

  5. You don't think retaliation for the "Vincennes Incident" was expected and planned for? Clearly "Autumn Leaves" is evidence to the contrary. Abu Talb may have been involved in a plan to blow up one or more aircraft on the 26.10.88 and may have been instrumental in moving the "Lockerbie" bomb from Neuss to London but he didn't build the bomb (Marwan Khreesat almost certainly did) and as far as I am aware Abu Talb didn't put the brown samsonite in AVE4041 PA at Heathrow.

    Is it not curious that the family of the CIA's D/Ops Thomas Twetton were substantial beneficiaries of the "Libyan solution"?

  6. Baz: "You don't think retaliation for the "Vincennes Incident" was expected and planned for? Clearly "Autumn Leaves" is evidence to the contrary."

    Who was that directed at? It seems to be me, but I meant to suggest no such thing.

    I do agree he was in the right spot, depending if the alleged connections are true. But Megrahi was in the wrong place at the right time too, and we all agree he was framed. I'm just saying maybe Abu Talb was too.

    Any "primary suspect" in this case the CIA/FBI/Scottish police ever publicly pointed to is, "in my submission", suspect, given the intensive cover-up and denial of truth then in operation. My guts say they wouldn't want to point, even then, at someone they genuinely believed was involved.

  7. Yes Adam I was picking up on your comment that "I am not convinced of western assistance in helping facilitate and cover for the attack until after it happened".

    It is a legitimate point of view. You may be right that the plan to implicate Megrahi and Libya was improvised after the bombing essentially to make the best of a bad situation. It is not my view.

    The essential point I was making is that the alternative to Megrahi's guilt is not simply that the culprits were other terrorists such as the PFLP-GC but something even darker and more horrible. That at the least agencies of Western Governments knew the flight was doomed before it took off.

    I was challenging the almost universally held assumption (even by Lockerbie sceptics such as yourself)that if the authorities knew of a plan or conspiracy to bomb an airliner they would do all in their power to prevent it. My premise is that "Lockerbie" solved the crisis posed by the "Vincennes Incident"and served the interests of western Governments.

    Have you ever seen the movie "Fail Safe" (or read the novel)? Although fiction it is the perfect parallel for what I believe transpired.