Saturday, 2 April 2011

'Koussa told me Lockerbie wasn't Libya's fault' – Dalyell

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

Former MP and veteran campaigner Tam Dalyell says the high-level Libyan defector who arrived in the UK this week told him the Gaddafi regime had not been responsible for the Lockerbie bomb and pointed the finger at Palestinian terrorists.

Mr Dalyell also claimed that Scottish authorities could not be trusted to question former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa, who has been a key figure in the Gaddafi regime for most of its 42 years. (...)

He is being kept in a safe house and has been questioned by MI6 officers and diplomats, but the Crown Office in Scotland is still pressing its claim to interview him about Lockerbie.

Mr Dalyell, who has long campaigned to find the truth behind the murder of 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988, held a one-and-a-half-hour meeting Mr Koussa at an Inter Parliamentary Union conference in Syria in March 2001.

The former MP said: "He asked to see me and we met along with John Cummings, who was then the MP for Easington. He wanted to discuss how to bring Libya back into the international community.

Obviously, Lockerbie played a large part in our discussions, but when I asked him about it, he said ‘that was none of my doing'."

Mr Dalyell maintains the real perpetrator of the crime was the Iranian-funded Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Ahmed Jibril, although the main suspect, Abu Nidal, was probably tortured to death by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2002.

The organisation has been linked in a conspiracy theory involving a tacit agreement between the US authorities and the Iranian regime to allow a tit-for-tat revenge attack following the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes, with the loss of 290 lives .

Mr Dalyell told The Scotsman: "When I asked him [Koussa] about Nidal and Jabril, he said ‘you may not be wrong'.

"I do believe he knew a lot more about what happened than he was willing to tell me."

Despite the former spymaster's formidable reputation, Mr Dalyell said he found him "extremely friendly and frank".

"Other people have described him as scary, but I saw none of that," he said. (...)

But Mr Dalyell did not believe the Scottish authorities should be allowed to speak to Koussa. He said: "I think that two generations on, the officers at Dumfries and Galloway police force will be under terrible pressure to justify the investigation carried out by their predecessors."

He was more scathing about the Crown Office, which he has criticised for its handling of the case of Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, the only man found guilty of the attack, a conviction Mr Dalyell has claimed was wrong. "As I have said before, I believe that at times the Crown Office has been duplicitous about this," he said. "So they would be the wrong people to question him."

He said British diplomat Sir Richard Dalton was best-qualified to lead the questioning of Gaddafi's former close aide.

The Crown Office said it did not wish to comment on an "individual's comments" but that it was still in discussions with the Foreign Office regarding interviewing Mr Koussa over the Lockerbie bombing.

A spokesman said: "We are liaising with the Foreign Office regarding an interview with Mr Koussa. As with any ongoing investigation, we will not go into the details of our inquiries which includes the dates of interviews with any individuals."

[This story has now been picked up by the Libyan Enlish-language newspaper The Tripoli Post.

Moussa Koussa has also in conversation with me denied that Libya was responsible for Lockerbie. The response to this from those still blindly convinced of the truth of the official version of events will, of course, be "He would say that, wouldn't he?"

The following are excerpts from a report in today's edition of The Herald:]

A friend of Moussa Koussa, who claims he helped to co-ordinate his defection to the UK, has said the former Libyan foreign minister will be very co-operative in giving key evidence about the Lockerbie bombing.

Noman Benotman, who now works as an analyst with the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-terrorism think-tank, made it clear that Koussa would be willing to open up to the British authorities about Libya’s past involvement in international terrorism, including the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives. (...)

Mr Benotman, who said he helped Koussa escape from Tripoli, said it would “not be an issue” for the UK Government to get information about Libyan-sponsored terrorism, including the bombing of a UTA flight in Niger in 1989.

He said: “It’s going to be very easy to handle all these issues regarding Lockerbie, UTA and the IRA as well. It’s not a problem, I’m sure about this.”

He said Koussa “is the regime – everybody knows that” and that he was one of only five people during the last 30 years who was close to Gaddafi.

“I want to emphasise ... why he chose London. It’s very important. He believes in the system of justice regardless of the outcomes. He is very co-operative regarding crucial intelligence,” added Mr Benotman, who was the leader of the jihadist and anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group before he worked for the Quilliam Foundation.

First Minister Alex Salmond said police want to talk to Koussa “on the basis of information that might be provided” and that there was no suggestion at this stage that he was being treated as a suspect.

“Nonetheless, there is every reason to believe that this individual can shed light on the Lockerbie atrocity and the circumstances that led up to it,” Mr Salmond said.

[The Herald has an editorial on the Moussa Koussa "defection" issue which can be read here.

I find it more than a little surprising that a person who was "the leader of the jihadist and anti-Gaddafi Islamic Fighting Group" should be a friend of decades-long Gaddafi loyalist and henchman Moussa Koussa. As for helping him "to escape from Tripoli", Moussa travelled to Djerba in Tunisia in an official Libyan Government car, accompanied by Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, one of Gaddafi's most trusted counsellors.]

No comments:

Post a Comment