Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Stand by for dodgy evidence to emerge

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

So, it seems Gaddafi is, at last, vanquished. The welcome exit of Libya’s dictator could have some unwelcome consequences, not least for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi whom I, and many others, believe was wrongly convicted.

President Barack Obama has reportedly asked Libya’s rebel leaders to capture the terminally ill 59 year-old so he can be sent to face justice in the US. This would be as illegal as it would be inhumane – not that legality has been a pre-condition of recent US foreign policy.

It’s far more likely that he will become the victim of disinformation.

It will not be the first time. On February 22, 2011, I posed the following rhetorical question on Professor Robert Black’s Lockerbie blog: “What’s the betting that, sometime in the next few weeks, the following happens: 1) In the burned-out ruins of a Libyan Government building, someone finds definitive documentary ‘proof’ that Libya and Megrahi were responsible for Lockerbie and/or 2) A Libyan official reveals ‘we did it’.”

I pointed out that the case against Megrahi was now so thin that only such concoctions could save it.

Within 24 hours the country’s newly defected Justice Minister, and now leader of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told a Swedish newspaper: “I have proof that Gaddafi gave the order on Lockerbie.”

Gaddafi may be an appalling tyrant, but there is no more reliable evidence that he was behind the Lockerbie attack than there was that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

Mr Jalil knew the claim would help distance him from his old boss and win him friends in Washington and Whitehall.

His knowledge that the prosecution case was beyond repair probably accounts for why he later told a newspaper that Megrahi “was not the man who carried out the planning and execution of the bombing”, but was “nevertheless involved in facilitating things for those who did”.

Any credibility that this gained him was, however, destroyed by his claim that Megrahi had blackmailed Gaddafi into securing his release from prison by threatening to expose the dictator’s role in the bombing, and had “vowed to exact revenge’” unless his demand was met.

The notion that Megrahi held any power over Gaddafi was ludicrous: he was reliant on Gaddafi’s Government to fund his appeal and to shelter his family in Tripoli, so would have been insane to attempt blackmail.

Other senior defectors’ “Gaddafi did it” claims are equally dubious.

One of them, Abdel Fattah Younes, was so distrusted by some of the rebels that they killed him, while another, the ex-ambassador to the UN, Abdul Rahman al Shalgham, has previously denied Libya’s guilt.

So too has the mysterious Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s supposed terrorist godfather, who was reported to have helped the Scottish police with their inquiries.

If the official account of Lockerbie is true, this was like Radovan Karadzic helping the Srebrenica massacre investigation.

But it’s almost certainly not true, which is probably why Mr Koussa remains free.

And it’s why we should expect more dodgy evidence to emerge from newly liberated Tripoli, in particular, stories that patch over the gaping holes in the prosecution case.

I once said to Megrahi that I expected to read that he had made a deathbed confession. I was joking, but I’m not now.

*John Ashton is the author of Megrahi: You are my Jury, which will be published later this year.

[An editorial in the same newspaper reads in part:]

It will be a Herculean task to ensure that victory is not followed by revenge and reprisal but, if anarchy and mayhem are to be avoided in a post-Gaddafi Libya, justice must be seen to be done. Such even-handedness should also be applied to the internationally sensitive position of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing by a Scottish court convened in the Netherlands. Far too many questions about that terrorist atrocity remain unanswered.

However, Megrahi was released from custody in Scotland by the Scottish Justice Minister and allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal cancer and was expected to live for only a few months. Since that was two years ago and Megrahi remains alive, the anger that accompanied his release in some quarters has intensified. That is understandable, particularly on the part of relatives of those who were killed. Nevertheless, the calls for him to be extradited for imprisonment or retrial in the US should be resisted by Western powers who preach the importance of transparent application of the law.

Yesterday’s statement from David Cameron’s office that the Prime Minister believes Megrahi “should be behind bars” amounted at best to muddying the waters. Lest Mr Cameron needs reminded, he has no jurisdiction over a prisoner released under the Scottish justice system. What purpose would be served by sending him back to Scotland now that the Scottish Government is planning legislation to enable the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to publish the six grounds for a possible miscarriage of justice?

The priority should be to establish the truth about who was responsible for plotting and carrying out the attack on PanAm 103 and why. The best hope lies with the capture and questioning of Col Gaddafi. However unlikely he is to reveal the murky secrets of his four-decade dictatorship, he should nevertheless answer for his actions to the ICC. It will be the test of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) and the rebel forces to deliver the despot to international justice.

[In an article in today's edition of The Independent, Robert Fisk writes: "How soon will the world be knocking on the door of the supposedly dying Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber – if indeed he was guilty of the crime – to discover the secret of his longevity and of his activities within Gaddafi's secret service? How soon will the liberators of Tripoli get their hands on the files of Gaddafi's oil and foreign ministries to find out the secrets of the Blair-Sarkozy-Berlusconi love affairs with the author of the Green Book? Or will British and French spooks beat them to it?"

This blog has today been accessed from within Libya, for the first time in several weeks.]


  1. Gaddafi vanquished? The fat lady ain't even begun to sing yet!

    Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam has however spoken: "Screw the international criminal court."

    And, on 5 April 2011, in an interview on BBC Radio 4's 'Today Programme', Saif al-Islam insisted: "The British and the Americans they know about Lockerbie. They know everything about Lockerbie. So there's no secret anymore about Lockerbie."

    Which begs the question: was there a 'Lockerbie conspiracy' by Thatcher and Reagan?

  2. So too has the mysterious Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s supposed terrorist godfather, who was reported to have helped the Scottish police with their inquiries.

    If the official account of Lockerbie is true, this was like Radovan Karadzic helping the Srebrenica massacre investigation.

    But it’s almost certainly not true, which is probably why Mr Koussa remains free.

    I was subjected to a barrage of abuse on twitter yesterday for inquiring as to why Koussa was a free man. This guy had established an account two days before and most of his/her tweets were devoted to vociferous attacks on people who were criticising one-time flunkies of Gaddafi. Naturally, it might be a random citizen - or, as I've theorised, his wife - but I'd be intrigued if there were others suddenly whitewashing their legacy.

  3. In the light of Jim Swire's fear that Mr Al Megrahi may be "rendered" to justice in the US should he be applying for asylum in East Renfrewshire?

  4. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr.1713.rtf. (google translation, german/english):
    The Rebel Chairman of National Transitional Council (NTC Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, now have the chance to the international media, to preside Proofs that Colonel Gaddafi have orchestrate the "Pan Am 103 bombing" --- And the evidence, that Abdelbaset Al Megrahi have introduced a "Bomb-Bag" on Air Malta, flight KM-180 at Luqa Airport, on 21st December 1988.

    Sweden news paper "Expressen" reporter in Libya, Kassem Hamade, taped the interview of Abdel-Jalil, which was conducted in Arabic, on 23rd February 2011. Jalil say, "Colonel Gaddafi ordered the "Lockerbie bombing" on 1988". He did not describe the proof...

    Is the bombing of Libya the US/UK Revenge for the alleged participation Libya's on the Pan Am 103 atrocity ?
    Then please Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, give the order to the Scottish Parliament to open the fiiles of the Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission (SCCRC) and the document under Natinal Security (PII).
    If the (SCCRC) documents speak against Libya, it would not be a problem for the Scots to opening the secret files, right ?
    Mustafa Abdul Jalil ex Minister of Justice is a liar for momentane to keep his HEAD POSITION...
    He was (unofficially, the Secretary of the General People's Committee) under Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.
    Now the 'Scottish Fraud' in the 'Lockerbie-Affair' against Libya is forensically provable !
    The new forensic pictures from the highly respected “Forensic Institute of the Canton Police”, Zurich/Switzerland was sent to Scotland to GSI. GOV. UK Criminal Law and Licensing, Mr. Walter Drummond-Murray.
    Evidence subject with digital photos is also publicated on URL: www.lockerbie.ch

    The honour of Mr. Al Megrahi and the prestige of People Libya's must be finally repaired. Libya and its Official Al Megrahi have nothing to do with the Lockerbie Tragedy! The Scottish "Lockerbie-Trial" in Kamp van Zeist, was far from fair and proper...

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland

  5. One of my favourite pieces of dodgy evidence appeared on John Ashton's own website. This was an affidavit from a Lebanese seeking political asylum in Sweden. (The important details of his place and date of birth were not stated).

    Apparently he had been employed by the Lebanese Forces (at the time a Phalangist militia) to check people's passports on the Jounieh Ferry. (How passengers would have reacted in reality to some Ned demanding to see their passports can only be imagined.)

    This "witness" was shown a photograph of Khalid Jafaar
    Astonishingly after more than a decade he recognised him as a passenger on the Jounieh Ferry. (And people thinks the identification of Megrahi by Gauci was dodgy!)

    Further on arrival at Larnaca he remembered that the Cypriot Police sent a marked car to the Ferry to escort Jafaar.(Couldn't this youth get on or off any form of public transport without an armed escort?) Presumably the point of this affidavit was to corroborate Lester Coleman's claim of having seen Jafaar at the DEA office in Cyprus.

    In normal circumstances it would seem odd to take a twelve hour Ferry journey when he could have flown (if of course he ever went to Cyprus.)

    However this trip was before December 1988 (according to "The Maltese Double Cross" Jafaar departed Lebanon for the last time from the Airport where according to the narrator's claims he was given a Toshiba radio-cassette full of heroin by some unspecified Hezbollah leader who also promised Jafaar he could marry his sister!)

    The Jounieh Ferry was the only means of international travel for the Christian community East Beirut who could not cross the Green line to get to the Airport (and live). Similarly the idea of a nominal Shi'ite from the Bekaa Valley crossing into East Beirut to catch the Ferry is utterly preposterous.

    Obviously only a cynic would think this affidavit was just cooked-up to "prove" something for which Ashton had no actual evidence. Probaby in Rolfe's world just an innocent mistake.