Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Lockerbie bomber’s confession ‘a translation error’

[This is the headline over a report published today (behind the paywall) on the website of The Times.  It reads in part:]

Scottish prosecutors are seeking a copy of an interview with the Lockerbie bomber, in which he appeared to admit that he had played a role in the atrocity.

A spokesman said last night: “We are aware of the interview with [Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi] which was partly broadcast on yesterday’s news. We are also aware that Megrahi is reported as having said in that interview that his role in the Lockerbie bombing was exaggerated.

“Dumfries and Galloway police have been instructed to obtain the whole interview. Once available the translation will be checked for accuracy.”

However, supporters of al-Megrahi claimed yesterday that his apparent admission was a mistranslation.

After the interview, conducted with Reuters news agency from his sickbed in Tripoli, al-Megrahi was widely quoted as saying that his role in the bombing had been “exaggerated”, a word that seemed to suggest that he had been involved in the atrocity. Hitherto he had always protested his innocence.

Robert Black, QC, Professor of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh, maintained that the interview had not been translated correctly and that the Arabic word used by al-Megrahi was a different one, which meant to “invent or fabricate” rather than “exaggerate”. [RB: I myself speak no Arabic. I was informed by an Arabic speaker that the word used was "echtera" ( اخترع ) which means "invent, concoct, fabricate".]

Professor Black said: “Far from being a confession, this was actually a vehement denial of any involvement.”

The Reuters news agency, which carried out the interview at al-Megrahi’s home this week, stood by its translation.

The Times, which has studied the original Arabic quoted by Reuters, has established that al-Megrahi used the word “kabbirni” which literally means “made my name bigger” — that is, he meant that the West had made his role seem bigger than it was. Al-Megrahi’s Scottish-based lawyer, Tony Kelly, intervened to warn against interpreting the comments made in the interview as a confession. “He was clearly in some distress and he is on medication, therefore subjecting these comments to any great scrutiny is unfair,” Mr Kelly said.

Al-Megrahi used his first interview in two years to criticise his trial in The Hague, which ended with his conviction for the 1988 terrorist act. He described the proceedings held in the Dutch court under Scots law as a farce and branded prosecutors “liars”.

“The facts will become clear one day, and hopefully in the near future. In a few months from now, you will see new facts that will be announced. The West exaggerated my name. Please leave me alone. I only have a few more days, weeks or months. All my work was administrative. I never harmed Libyans. I didn’t harm anyone. I’ve never harmed anyone in my life,” he said. [RB: Even if "exaggerated" is an accurate translation of the Arabic, this passage does not, on any fair reading, amount to a confession of involvement in the destruction of Pan Am 103.]

Al-Megrahi’s lawyer said that the revelations that al-Megrahi referred to in the interview would be contained in the Libyan’s memoirs, which are due to be published in the near future. The Lockerbie bomber’s autobiography will contain details of the appeal he was planning to make against his conviction. (...)

Al-Megrahi also revealed that one of the relatives of a Lockerbie victim is helping him to secure powerful new drugs that could help prolong his life.

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter, Flora, in the bombing, believes that al-Megrahi is innocent and has offered to help him locate medicine that could help his condition. Dr Swire said: “I don’t believe this man murdered my daughter so I’m happy to help, and as a doctor I can’t discriminate — if someone needs help I must give it.”

[A letter headed The truth must be fearlessly pursued from Dr John Cameron in today's edition of The Scotsman contains the following:]

The performance of the Italian forensic team [in the Amanda Knox case] was deplorable and on a par with that seen in the prosecutions of Detective Constable Shirley McKie and Megrahi. Yet Italy can be proud that its system is self-righting while our judiciary still struggles to admit culpability in the manifestly unsafe verdicts on McKie and Megrahi.

[A letter from David Flett in the same newspaper reads as follows:]

Mr Megrahi promises us fresh new facts in the coming months that will add to his claim of innocence.

Could he perhaps be referring to publication of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) report?

It's ironic that while we lambast Westminster, Libya and the USA for not revealing all information in their possession we here in Scotland keep hidden the findings of a four-year independent investigation into the case.

It's obvious to me that all our politicians and our own justice system lack the stomach to pursue the Lockerbie truth.

So it was therefore further disappointing to see our very own Scotsman newspaper appear to misquote Megrahi and suggest a "confession" had taken place, adding yet another untruth to the mountain of untruths.

1 comment:

  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011: Clearing up the "Lockerbie Affair":

    The exculpatory evidence that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi can have nothing to do with the real bombing of PanAm 103 and can be read after opening the SCCRC-files.
    There is now an opportunity that Libya's "NTC" can demand from the Crown Office reciprocal rights (International Legal Assistance) -- in order to open the secret files of the Scotish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission and the statement of police-officer, witness (alias) "GOLFER".

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL: