Tuesday, 12 October 2010

'Justice dies when the law is co-opted for political purposes.'

[This quotation forms the sub-heading over the account published today on the website of The Guardian of an interview with Gareth Peirce to mark the forthcoming publication (on 1 November) of her book Dispatches from the Dark Side: On Torture and the Death of Justice. The following is an excerpt from the interview:]

The story of the treatment of Giuseppe Conlon's corpse, when staff at Belfast Airport refused to handle the coffin, is told on the final page of Peirce's book: "His body was flown back to England three times. A British army officer, after Conlon's body was flown to Belfast a fourth time, informed the undertaker, 'It is on that plane but it is not coming off. The problem is the press have been notified and we can't be seen to be handling the body of an IRA man.'"

Peirce relates this incident not just to show how a lie can pursue an innocent man after his death, but to draw a parallel between the treatment of Giuseppe Conlon and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan jailed for the Lockerbie plane bomb in 1988 in which 243 passengers and 16 crew were killed. Giuseppe, she writes, was wrongly convicted on disputed forensic scientific evidence, as later was al-Megrahi.

Peirce has no doubts that the Libyan, like the Conlons, was fitted up for a crime he did not commit by a British state prioritising its own supposed interests over justice. She writes: "Only a simpleton could believe that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi . . . was not recently returned to his home in Libya because it suited Britain considerably to have him do so. The political furore has been very obviously contrived, since both the British and American governments know perfectly well the history of how and for what reasons he came to be prosecuted."

There is, Peirce argues, "clear and compelling evidence" linking the bombing to a Palestinian splinter group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which at the time hired itself out to regimes known to sponsor terrorism, notably Syria and Iran. On this account, Lockerbie was a tit-for-tat response to the US shooting down an Iranian plane and killing 290 passengers, including pilgrims flying to Mecca, in July that year. For two years, the Lockerbie investigation focused on that link. Then something changed, and the Palestinian splinter group was no longer in the frame for Lockerbie.


  1. Iran's clear link to Pan Am Flight 103 of 21 December 1988 actually goes via the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia (15% owned by Iran).

    In March 2010, I put seven questions to the Head of the FBI's Lockerbie Task Force and to Scotland's Senior Investigating Officer about the targeting of that particular flight. Here is question number 7:

    Does the fact that the Rössing uranium mine is part-owned by the Iranian government, who were clandestinely receiving shipments of Namibian uranium oxide in 1988-1989, make it likely that Iran targeted Bernt Carlsson on PA 103?

    Richard Marquise and Stuart Henderson have yet to respond to any of the questions.

  2. That is an extraordinarily thought-provoking article, and I'm deeply saddened to see Patrick once again grabbing the first comment spot to push his spurious South African agenda.

    Sine Prof Black hasn't given a link to the full article, it's here.

    I cannot commend the article highly enough, even though I think some of Miss Peirce's take on the Lockerbie investigation is a little simplistic.

  3. (*Whispers* Oops: I never realised Gareth Pierce was a woman.)

  4. Sorry for omitting the link to the article. I've now inserted it.

    I just haven't been myself since my beard was compared unfavourably to Robert Forrester's.

  5. Vanity thy name is Robert Black : )

  6. I'm surprised Ms Peirce doesn't see the connection between Libyan support for the IRA and the plan to blame Libya, a plan that I believe was made long before the Gulf War and possibly before the bombing itself.