Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Justice not served: Those involved with Pan Am Flight 103 still troubled by al-Megrahi’s release

[This is the headline over a long report in today's edition of The Daily Orange, the newspaper of Syracuse University, New Jersey, thirty-five of whose students died on Pan Am 103.  It contains quotes from Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc (not himself a Lockerbie relative), Susan Cohen (mother of one of the Syracuse students) and Brian Murtagh, a US Justice Department prosecutor at the time who worked on the case and, indeed, formed part of the Lord Advocate's prosecution team in the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.  The views of Mr Duggan and Mrs Cohen are well known.  I therefore confine myself to reproducing the sections relating to Mr Murtagh (wrongly given as "Murtaugh" in the article itself).]

The Scottish and U.S. governments worked to study evidence from the site of the bombing, said Brian Murtaugh, then a Justice Department prosecutor. Pieces of cloth, metal from the aircraft and the remains of the suitcase that held the bomb were recovered, he said. A storekeeper in Malta said he sold the clothes that were recovered from the site to al-Megrahi. A double agent stepped forward with testimony, although Murtaugh said it was later discovered that the witness exaggerated his involvement. (...)

Murtaugh, who worked on the case for more than two decades, said if al-Megrahi had been tried in the United States, it would have been less likely for him to be released on compassionate grounds.

"A life sentence in the federal system means a life sentence," he said.

Through all the conflict, as well as the confusion of a foreign legal system, families of the victims wanted to be involved. The Justice Department funded flights to Scotland and provided access to al-Megrahi and Fhimah's trial, and closed-circuit televisions were set up in New York. (...)

 After 23 years, the case remains open. Few have details on how the crime was orchestrated. Gadhafi died at the hands of his own people in October and al-Megrahi still claims his innocence.

The Scottish and U.S. governments continue to investigate the case with the hope of finding more people involved. Someone had to make the bomb; someone else must have delivered it, Murtaugh said.

Closure may be impossible, he said, but people still want to know what happened.

"Trials are an imperfect vehicle to bring justice in a sense of making the victims whole," Murtaugh said. "We can never make them whole. We can never bring back the decedent."


  1. Despite all of the inconsistencies there seems to be a huge divide between what people "knowledgeable" about the case in the U.S and what people knowledgeable of it in the UK think.
    PA103 was something that while interested me, I never actually looked into the ins and outs of it (I was only 10 in 1988). As the news of Mr Megrahis conviction was broadcast in 2001 I as quite happy to believe he was guilty. The more I dug however the more I started to realise there was something not right about the conviction at all. Yet "knowledgeable" people such as Mr Duggan either haven't bothered to scratch the surface of the Lockerbie case and blindly go along with what they're told to believe by Uncle Sam or do know of the discrepancies yet choose to ignore them rather than acknowledge that the U.S government has lied to them for 23 years.

    I would never proclaim that I know more than anyone but maybe Mr Duggan doesn't know as much as he told George Galloway he did??

  2. If you actually listen to what Frank Duggan says in the interview with George Galloway, you will find he was absolutely factually wrong on every single point.

    Why is this? Is it possible he really knows so little about the case he is being paid to advance? I find that hard to believe. I speculate that he simply says whatever comes into his head when being interviewed or giving statements, trusting that his apparent position of authority and "speaking for the families" will lead to the listeners believing him as opposed to the people who really do know what they're talking about.

    We have it again in this article, from Brian Murtagh. "A storekeeper in Malta said he sold the clothes that were recovered from the site to al-Megrahi." If that were true, and reliable, would any of us be spending five more minutes worrying about whether Megrahi's conviction was just?