Thursday, 6 October 2011

Trial by fury…

[This is the heading over an item posted late last night on bensix's Back Towards The Locus blog. It reads as follows:]

It always surprises me how poorly headlines can reflect the facts they purport to digest. I guess it shouldn’t, though. That’s not always their purpose. In yesterday’s Telegraph, for example, I saw the reader-seizing  headline
Lockerbie bomber: my role in attack has been exaggerated
The Independent plumped for
My role was exaggerated, says Lockerbie bomber
The implication is that Megrahi admitted to a role in the attack but not as large a one as has been claimed. In its editorial the Scotsman ran with this…
"…what he apparently said was the West 'exaggerated' his involvement – if so, hardly the ringing denial some of his apologists would have hoped for or expected. As has long been suspected, it seems to confirm his involvement at the very least as part of a team rather than a mastermind."
This, however, is the quote we’re given to support this theory…
"The West exaggerated my name."
This sounds ambiguous but the idea that it’s an admission of guilt is premised on a huge assumption. It asserts that he’s been made to seem like somebody he’s not – that, alone, isn’t an admission of anything; it’s merely a denial. The fact that he’s consistently maintained his innocence leads me to feel that if he’d own up to the crime he’d do it less vaguely. (And, besides, if he was complicit I doubt he’d have had a minor role – obviously I don’t know how the man’s brain works but then he could have surely owned up and received a shorter sentence.)

This quote may be relevant…
"In a few months from now, you will see new facts that will be announced."
This might be a reference to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report, which cast doubt on Megrahi’s prosecution and was set to be released last month.

I’m still drawing no conclusion as to what transpired in December 1988. Clearly, though, I’m a minority there.


  1. اخترع means to invent. This comes from two Libyan sources.

  2. This is a full transcript of the interview with Reuters television with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi translated from the Arabic:

    On the truth of the bombing

    "The head of the Lockerbie victims committee, Dr (Jim) Swire, has visited me in jail. The governor of the jail said this is the first time that the family of victims visited a person who is convicted for this case. He told me very clearly that we are not really convinced of your conviction. 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. I don't want to speak about that because there are people who are looking after that themselves. They reached their conclusion already. The day before yesterday, Dr Swire sent me an e-mail to tell me that there is a new medicine. Poor guy, he is trying to help me. He told me how to get this medicine."

    On Camp Zeist

    "Camp Zeist Court is the smallest place on earth that contains the largest number of liars. I suffered from the liars at Camp Zeist Court more than you can imagine."

    On the Libyan Revolution

    "Don't get me into the mess of February, March or April. I'm a simple person, more simple than you can imagine. The West exaggerated my name. Please leave me alone. I only have a few more days, weeks or months. I want to die in my house, among my family. I wish from God that I will see my country united, with no fighting or war. I hope the bloodshed will stop in Libya. I wish all the best for my country."

    On his medical treatment

    "I was treated badly when I came back. During the latest incidents, especially in the last month, I have a shortage of all my medicines. My doctor tells me to look for medicine like anyone else despite the agreement between us and Britain."

    On his wish for Libya

    "I wish that all Libyans will stop the bloodshed."

    On his treatment in Libya

    "Until now, I have a problem with medicine. Now there is a Tunisian person who is trying to find alternative medicine. I have only four tablets and after this it will finish. It will finish in four days. I have an injection that I have to take on October 4. Me and my family and my friends are trying to bring me the medicine from outside. Why is this the way I am treated? I didn't harm anyone. I've never harmed anyone in my life."

  3. This is a full transcript of the interview with Reuters television with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi translated from the Arabic (continued):

    On his condition

    "I don't have any problem with anyone. I don't know anything about the February 17 Revolution. I don't know about this occasion. I don't listen to any news because I am sick. You keep asking me what do you think, what do you believe - I don't really care. I'm a sick man. For me, I'll meet God any minute. I'm a sick person. I'm very tired. I don't even know who those February 17 men are. I'm in bed but I can still hear the airplanes overhead and we cannot sleep because of the shelling."

    On the attack on his home

    "My house was raided. They smashed through the door and they got in. My cars were stolen. My personal car, my wife's car and the cars of my sons were confiscated. The main door was smashed. They introduced themselves sometimes as rebels of one person and then half an hour later another group came saying they represent fighters from another rebel group."

    On his work for Libya

    "I'm suspended from work. I don't have a job. I don't have any job. I didn't harm any Libyan. I did not insult any Libyan. I challenge any Libyan to come out and say this man did something wrong to me. I was only doing administrative work (at the intelligence), which didn't have any relation to Libyans."

    What his family say

    His wife Aisha said: "We want them to let us live peacefully. We don't need anything from them. This man has only a few days left to live. Leave him to die in peace. Honestly, they (the new regime) insulted us."

    His son Mohammed said: "We suffered a lot during the last few days. They come and raid the house at night, in the early morning, at no fixed time. They just enter the house at anytime."

  4. Ruth: No one is disputing the meaning of the word (اخترع). The question is whether Megrahi said that, as Prof. Black claimed, or said something else. The answer: Black's claim is false.

    The STV version of the video, unlike the one released by the Telegraph, does show Megrahi's reference to what the West did to him، But he does not say the word (اخترع) at all, he says (كبرني) which means "enlarged me" or "magnified me" or "made a big deal out of me" or "exaggerated me" as in exaggerated my worth/importance/reputation. No mention at all of the word (اخترع). Megrahi was trying to argue that he should not be targeted by the rebels as an important agent of the Gaddafi regime.

    Again, the word (اخترع) is irrelevant. It was not said by Megrahi. The claim that Megrahi said (اخترع) is a falsehood injected into the debate by Prof. Black, and there is not the slightest bit of evidence to support it. No one needs to explain anything about (اخترع) except the inventor of this falsehood, Prof. Robert Black. If Scotland had a worthy press, they would be holding Black to account. But before you could have a worthy press, you must have a sober public that can distinguish fat from swelling.

  5. "Black's claim is false."

    Unless you can document that RB has made further statements that this:

    I am informed that the Arabic word used by Mr Megrahi in the interview was اخترع
    which translates, not as "exaggerate", but as "invent, concoct, contrive, think up, manufacture, fabricate".


    you can document that RB in fact did receive no such information from anyone

    you, Suliman, are the one making a false statement, and in an insulting language too.

  6. Today, I received this e-mail from Lockerbie campaigner Dr Jim Swire:

    Dear Patrick,

    I am grateful to you for this [full transcript of al-Megrahi's interview with Reuters television].

    A short letter which I sent to the TIMES (London) might amuse you. I don't think they published it. Maybe Murdoch has a sense of humour block, but it was fun to write.

    I have passed your translation to our lawyers.

    There never did seem to be justification for the interpretation about exaggerating Baset's role.

    Now I wonder how that came about......

    Thanks again,

    Jim S.


    Letters editor, the TIMES
    10 Oct 2011

    Not sent to any other paper, for publication in whole or part if thought appropriate.

    Yesterday the Times carried an article headlined "Lockerbie bomber: my role in the atrocity was exaggerated" (English edition TIMES 4 Oct 2011).

    Today there is no comment in the English edition, but your Scottish edition carries an article headlined: "Lockerbie bomber's confession a 'translation error'" (Scottish edition the TIMES 5 Oct 2011).



    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 'The Little Prince' wrote, "Language is the source of misunderstandings."

    In order to avoid future possible translation errors for those seeking the truth on this issue, please could you ask your Arabic experts for the correct Arabic translation for the English word 'Scapegoat'?

    Seekers after the truth might want to use it with accuracy in the future.

    Yours faithfully,

    Dr Jim Swire,
    father of Flora murdered at Lockerbie 21/12/1988


    A machine translation of 'scapegoat' into Arabic is كبش الفداء but an authenticated phonetic version would be useful, as alas the writer has no knowledge of this beautiful language.

  7. Patrick: كبش sounds like "kebsh" and means ram. The second word الفداء sounds like al-fidaa' and means The Sacrifice. The two words together mean Ram (of) The Sacrifice.

    SM: Actually the reasoning you present borders on an insult to human intellect. Is it possible you learned logic and argumentation in a department of Islamic or Catholic studies? When I say Moses was spreading falsehoods, it places no burden on me to prove that no burning bush was talking to Moses. It places the burden of proof on Moses to back up his own claims. Prof. Black was spreading a falsehood. The claim that Megrahi used the word (اخترع) is a false claim. The introduction of that false claim into the discussion is entirely the doing and the responsibility of Prof. Black. Saying he heard it from unnamed sources, or dreamed of it, or received it from the Viking Gods, means absolutely nothing. And in fact, he said he was "informed" of it, which means a lot more, but where you learned logic, they may not teach the difference between information and data. The false claim was introduced by black unattributed, and therefore it is done on his authority, and it is all his until proven otherwise. No one is under any obligation to prove that Black did not hear any such thing. That would be ludicrous, but probably not so in the places where you learned logic. Why Black injected the falsehood into the debate is a different question, but there is no question about his ownership of it. If you want, you can take a crack at why Black was injecting such a falsehood into the debate. Did he get press coverage after all?