Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Megrahi book raises new questions over Lockerbie

[This is the headline over an article by Lucy Adams, chief reporter, in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

"This book," said Reverend John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter in the Lockerbie bombing, "is the tipping point."
The book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, raises many questions about the investigation and conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. It covers a range of information in detail and draws on eight key areas.
1. The allegation
It is claimed pressure was applied to Megrahi to drop his appeal in August 2009 in order to return home. In the book Megrahi says it was a "terrible" decision to make but he felt he had no choice.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill refuted Megrahi's claims again yesterday. [RB: Kenny did not refute the claims: he denied them.]
2. The timer fragment
At the Camp Zeist trial, it was agreed a fragment of circuit board found at the Lockerbie crash site came from an MST-13 board manufactured by Swiss company Mebo and Thuring. Mebo revealed it had sold 20 such timers to the Libyans and this became a significant part of the case against Megrahi. However, the book claims the fragment found at Lockerbie was covered in 100% tin, while the timers sent to Libya were made from an alloy of tin and lead. It is alleged the Crown failed to disclose this discrepancy.
3. The Iranian connection
Megrahi says he does not want to "point the finger of blame at anyone else", but much of the material drawn together will lead readers to believe Iran funded the PFLP-GC [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command] to carry out the bombing, in retaliation for the USS Vincennes shooting down an Iranian passenger jet and killing all 300 people on board in 1988.
The initial investigation into Lockerbie in 1989 all pointed towards the culpability of a German cell of the PFLP-GC. There is much within the book, including a statement by bomb-maker Marwen Khreesat which appears to confirm this view. Much of the evidence incriminating the PFLPC-GC was not disclosed at the trial or appeal.
4. Reward money and the reliability of witnesses
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) was concerned that Tony Gauci – the Crown witness who said he saw Megrahi buy clothes which were later identified as having been near the bomb – was offered a reward by the US Justice Department. We now know his witness statements were more inconsistent than previously disclosed. The book also reveals that Edwin Bollier, who ran Mebo and testified against Megrahi, was very interested in "the reward money".
5. Undisclosed evidence
The SCCRC unearthed statements, police reports and other documents which had never been shared with the defence team. Part of the reason the case was referred back for a fresh appeal was the non-disclosure of evidence. Two of the documents still remain a secret because the UK Government claims publicising them would be a threat to national security.
Since the trial, Scots law has been challenged at the Supreme Court and the policy of non-disclosure has been changed.
6. Forensics anomalies
The forensics case against Megrahi was critical. The book reveals anomalies, contradictions, and arguments between police, the forensics team, the CIA, and the FBI. It claims information was withheld by the CIA and says anomalies later found in the forensic evidence from the Ministry of Defence Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment "cast doubt on the overall reliability" of some of the forensics reports.
Other items were not contained within the forensics reports, including a small piece of circuit board from a radio cassette bomb found in a car belonging to Hafez Dalkamoni, of the PFLPC-GC, in Germany – something the defence team only learned about years later.
7. The Bedford suitcase
The Crown claimed forensic analysis of the Pan Am jet's fuselage showed the suitcase containing the bomb was in the second layer of luggage – indicating it had come from a feeder flight, rather than Heathrow.
However, the defence's review of the evidence focused on a brown suitcase seen by Heathrow baggage loader John Bedford before the Frankfurt feeder flight arrived. The trial judges described Mr Bedford as a "clear and impressive witness" but said there were many items of luggage not dealt with in detail in the evidence.
A police document, not disclosed to the defence, suggests the Bedford suitcase could have been the primary suitcase.
Subsequent to the trial and appeal, evidence emerged of a break-in at Heathrow the night before the bombing. Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the tragedy, has campaigned for a full inquiry into that break-in.
8. Why Megrahi used a coded passport when in Malta
The Crown has always made much of Megrahi's use in Malta of a false passport under the name Abdusamad. Chapter 2 of the book, entitled Before the Nightmare, explains Megrahi's work importing embargoed cars, soap, cigarette lighters and aviation parts. He says it was government practice to issue coded passports to those involved in importing embargoed goods.

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