Thursday, 7 March 2013

Intolerable lethargy

[The current edition of Private Eye (issue 1335) contains the following article, which I have copied from John Ashton’s website Megrahi: You are my Jury since it does not yet appear on the magazine’s own website:]

David Cameron and Scottish police and prosecutors hoping to unearth material relating to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing have all left Tripoli empty-handed. Libyan justice minister Salah al-Marghani told the Telegraph last week: “The matter was settled with the Gaddafi regime. I am trying to work on the current situation rather than dig into the past.”

While the Scottish authorities are, by contrast, trying to put an upbeat spin on last month’s meetings with Libyan ministers and officials, saying they hoped for further progress, the apparent break should give Dumfries and Galloway detectives time to follow up more tangible leads. It is more than a year since new forensic evidence came to light which in effect destroyed not only the prosecution case against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, but also any positive links to Libya itself. Police have still not been to see the two UK scientists whose findings come from a re-examination of crash debris. Dr Jim Swire, who has campaigned tirelessly find out exactly how his daughter, Flora, came to die in the bombing, and who was responsible, is now preparing a case for a full independent inquiry, calling the police, Crown and government failure to properly investigate the new evidence a ‘dereliction of duty’.

Eye readers may remember two experts, Dr Chris McArdle and Dr Jess Cawley, showed that the most important forensic evidence recovered from the debris of Pan Am 103 – a fragment of timing device circuit board said to match those known to have been supplied to Libya – was in fact fundamentally different. The plating metal on the two boards was different. On the debris fragment, it was pure tin and on the boards used in the Libyan timers, it was a tin/lead mix.

The new evidence would have formed a major part of Megrahi’s appeal, had he not – because of his advanced cancer - abandoned it in order to return to Libya to die with his family. Instead it was detailed in the book, Megrahi: You are my Jury, by John Ashton, a researcher, writer and one of the Libyan’s defence team. But if the blast fragment was no match for Libyan timers, where or who did it come from?

Cameron will no doubt continue to avoid calls for an inquiry by maintaining that Scottish police are “looking further into the issues around the Lockerbie bomb”, and protracted wranglings with the Libyans buys more time. It is, of course, always possible that detectives could unearth some material in Libya that provides a link to Gaddafi and the sophisticated plot to blow up a passenger aircraft – he was, after all, no stranger to state-sponsored terrorism.

Ever since the dictator’s overthrow, various Libyan defectors and politicians, including Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Gaddafi’s former justice minister who later headed of Libya’s National Transitional Council, have promised “proof” of Gaddafi’s involvement. And yet it has still not been forthcoming.

Another was Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s intelligence chief at the time of Lockerbie and the man who London and Washington always claimed was behind the atrocity. After his defection he was interviewed in London by Scottish police. But curiously for a man, once thought to be a mass murderer, his assets were unfrozen and he was allowed to leave the country.  Newspaper reports suggested that Koussa had in fact long been a useful MI6 asset, which if true, just raises more questions about the government’s approach to Lockerbie.

The only Lockerbie-related document confirmed to have come out of Tripoli since the revolution is a private letter from Megrahi himself, written while he was in jail, to Libya’s then intelligence chief and Gaddafi’s right hand man, Abdullah al-Senussi.  It was found by Wall Street Journal staff among other “apparently untouched” papers in Senussi’s ransacked office. In it Megrahi maintains his innocence, claiming fraudulent information had been passed to investigators by “Libyan collaborators” and saying British and American investigators ignored “foul play” and irregularity.  He gives details of his lawyers’ efforts to prove his innocence.

That Megrahi should seek to convince of his innocence, the very hit man who should have known all about the bombing and who carried it out, (if the Crown’s case is correct) again raises fundamental questions about the conviction.

As Jim Swire says in the latest of a series of letters to David Cameron, the Crown Office and the Scottish government, last month:  “There is thus now no remaining credible link between the take off of the Lockerbie flight from Heathrow airport with the bomb on board, and the island of Malta, or the hand of Megrahi. It is now over 24 years since my daughter Flora was murdered at Lockerbie. As her father I have a right to know who murdered her and why her life was not protected. Such lethargy as this is intolerable”.

[The relevant Private Eye page can now be viewed here.]


  1. Bit of a muddle really. Para. 2 claims that "new forensic evidence came to light which in effect destroyed not only the prosecution case against al-Megrahi but also any positive links to Libya itself."

    I thought other evidence did so decades ago.

    However if there is no link to Libya why the last three paragraphs intimating that Senoussi's execution would silence "a man who may hold some answers to Lockerbie". Answers to what?

  2. Good question.

    The spreading of confusion about Libya's possible involvement is common, even by people who rejects Megrahi's guilt. We keep seeing examples.

    This is most unfortunate. We have already seen, that one of the tricks we may encounter is to open a door for the uncertainty of Megrahi's guilt, but "well, Libya did it anyway, and that is the important thing".

    If people can be kept in the belief that surely Libya did it, how many would care deeply if the bomber was named 'Al-Megrahi' or something else?

    The implication of Libya is, as far as I know, exclusively based on:

    - the evidence used for convicting Megrahi.
    - the fact that Libya paid compensation to victims.
    - very loose and unspecific comments from some Libyan officials, as reported by the press, unsupported by any evidence, even that the person speaking should be in any position to know anything.
    - the fact that Scottish authorities make a trip there.

    If I am missing something I'd like to be informed.

    Otherwise, given what is now known about Megrahi's case, any implication of Libya is in the thinnest air thinkable, and should be avoided.

  3. SM

    All of which leaves the Crown Office open to all sorts which Frank Mulholland rejects at every opportunity while hurling allegations at others who simply want justice.

    Oh what a tangled web.........