Monday, 25 February 2013

Libya and Lockerbie: the imperfect match

[The following are excerpts from an article headed Libya and Lockerbie: The Imperfect Match - Part 1 published on 22 February on Robert Exley’s blog The London Upstart Web:]

To summarise why the Lockerbie disaster still remains relevant over 24 years on, in terms of death toll it is still the worst single terrorist atrocity and act of mass murder to have ever been perpetrated in the UK.  Even the heinous acts perpetrated upon London’s transport network on 7/7 back in 2005 or any single act during the IRA’s mainland bombing campaign - which carried on for over two decades - have not surpassed it in this respect.  On December 21st 1988 all 259 passengers on board Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York perished, along with a further eleven killed as the plane crash-landed on Sherwood Crescent in the small town of Lockerbie in South West Scotland.  In subsequent years there were two further known deaths in relation to the disaster - both from the Flannigan family, whose house disappeared within the 30ft crater caused by the plane crashing to earth, that led to the deaths of the two parents Tom and Kathleen Flannigan and their daughter, 10 year old Joanne.

David Flannigan, 19 years old at the time of Lockerbie, had been living in Blackpool as a result of a family argument but was due to return home for a Christmas reconciliation.  His younger brother Steven, aged 14, had also survived as he had taken his sister's Christmas present - a new bicycle - to be checked over by a neighbour, just minutes prior to the Pan Am jet landing on and destroying his family home.  David was to die just five years later as a result of heart failure from drink and drug abuse.  Steven – who also spent the following years struggling to come to terms with his loss - was to pass away at the age of just 26, due to falling asleep on a railway track after consuming 14 pints of alcohol after a night’s heavy drinking back in 2000. (...)

It is impossible [to overestimate] the pain and human misery caused by this incident which occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago.  On 31st January 2001, over a dozen years on from the incident, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi – a former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines was convicted in relation to the Lockerbie bombing.  Originally sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation he serve at least twenty seven years, he ended up serving eight in total and was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds due to being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, of which he was to die from last year, around the same time as when Gaddafi’s regime collapsed.  His co-accused, Lamin Khalifa Fhimah however was found not guilty in light of evidence that he was in Sweden at the time of the sabotage and could not have been a participant.  [RB: There was no such evidence. Fhima was acquitted largely because the judges were not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that, even if he assisted Megrahi to launch the suitcase containing the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 on its progress from Luqa Airport in Malta, he knew that the suitcase contained a bomb. See Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result, paragraph 1.]

Despite only one man ever having been convicted, there are very who few believe that an operation such as the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 could ever have been carried out alone, hence why the International Criminal Court would be anxious that Abdullah Al-Sennusi be in their custody rather than face summary execution at the hands of the new regime in Libya.  Also important is that the Scots police are now granted access to Libyan files. There are however serious questions as to whether the authorities are actually looking in the right place to find the answers that will finally prove who was behind the Lockerbie bombing.
It’s true that every tragedy, from the mass murder of 9/11 to Princess Diana’s untimely death, has several conspiracy theories that have subsequently sprung up around them.  It is however odd that the number of people who do not fully believe either the official explanation for how the tragedy came about, or the validity of the conviction against Al-Megrahi be not just so extensive but number among them people with a considerable degree of credibility about them. For instance, among those who have put their names to a 2010 petition put before the Scottish Parliament for a wide ranging inquiry into Pan Am 103 and its aftermath include the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Noam Chomsky, former Father of the House of Commons Tam Dalyell MP, Professor Robert Black QC, journalists Paul Foot, John Pilger and Ian Hislop, veteran Tory MP Sir Teddy Taylor and BBC reporter Kate Adie – a list of petitioners who would not usually be considered as David Icke-esque ‘cranks’ or ‘wackos’.

A considerable number of the relatives of the deceased have even held that Al-Megrahi was innocent of all charges levelled at him.  In particular, the Reverend John Mosey, who lost his nineteen year old daughter Helga in the disaster, was quoted as stating that ‘I came away (from the trial) 80 to 90 per cent convinced that this man was not guilty. It was very clear that there was political interference’.  Mosey, along with several other of the victims’ relatives such as Dr Jim Swire - whose daughter Flora perished in the disaster – have even formed the Justice for Megrahi (JFM) Group with the specific purpose of clearing his name with regard to Lockerbie.

The series of articles that will follow on Lockerbie do not purport to provide answers as to who was actually behind the bombing itself.  They do however intend to highlight and raise perfectly valid questions into what we know about events surrounding that night in the hope that one day answers will finally be forthcoming, particularly in the form of an independent enquiry that the relatives – and it might be added the general public of the UK and US – have been denied by the powers that be for far too long.  The second part will critically assess the allegations against Libya in relation to Lockerbie, as well as the arguments that have been put about in several quarters that have long contested Libyan involvement in the atrocity.   

1 comment:

  1. A major reason why Lockerbie is unfinished business is because the disaster happened in Scotland and was adopted by the nationalists as a totemic justice issue against Westminster.

    And further progress was made following the success of the SNP within devolved Government, but this has stalled now they realise it is in fact a justice issue against Washington.

    But it was devolved Government and a radical party within Scotland that made the difference.

    A similar situation arose in London after the 7/7 attacks.

    In response to the Government’s refusal to hold a public enquiry (we can only guess why), the devolved GLA Assembly insisted on organising its own enquiry into the matter.

    The enquiry restricted itself to looking at the aftermath of the bombs, rather than the plot itself, but this much was achieved because of political rivalry between the GLA and Government and because the GLA had the means to do (some of) its duty.

    But if there was a large and growing radical group on the GLA I suspect 7/7 would have been adopted as another totemic justice issue and used to acquire more devolved powers from Westminster.

    And as in Scotland, it would then stall to avoid upsetting Washington.