Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Maltese Foreign Minister sure al-Megrahi was innocent

[A report in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times reads as follows:]

Foreign Minister George Vella said this evening that he was sure that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing 25 years ago, was actually innocent.

The comment was the most direct by a serving Maltese foreign minister about the controversial conviction, based around the evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper and his brother.

Speaking on Times Talk, Dr Vella said the government did not intend to point fingers at one country or other, but in view of the evidence that was emerging, he personally felt that the case needed to be heard once more before new judges in the interests of justice, not least that of al-Megrahi, even though he had now passed away.

However, as a country, Malta had good relations with the countries involved, including the US and the UK. The situation in Libya had also changed in 25 years, and Malta therefore had nothing to gain in pushing the case once more.

Dr Vella said his personal belief was that the bomb which downed the Pan-Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie in Scotland was a revenge attack after an Iranian passenger aircraft was shot down by a US warship in 1988.

Earlier in the programme, lawyer Giannella de Marco said there was never any evidence to back the claim that the Lockerbie bomb was loaded on an Air Malta flight from Malta to Frankfurt and then to London for the Pan-Am jumbo.

All the luggage loaded on the Air Malta aircraft in question had been accounted for and there were no unaccompanied bags.

Dr Vella agreed, and said that once there was no evidence that the bomb started its journey in Malta, one could never find Malta-based Abdelbaset al-Megrahi guilty. Nor did it make sense that of the two accused, one was convicted and another one, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was acquitted.

With regard to reward money promised to Tony and Paul Gauci for their evidence in the Lockerbie trial, Dr Vella said that at no stage did the Gauci brothers actually request money.

Dr de Marco said there was evidence that the statements by the Gaucis changed several times, there was talk of reward money and money was given. Tony Gauci gave several versions of his description of Megrahi. One could not depend on a person who was inconsistent and was paid at the end of his evidence. 

Jim Swire, the father of one of passengers who died on the doomed Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, said he was convinced that the type of bomb used could not have been loaded on an aircraft from Malta or Frankfurt as it would otherwise have exploded earlier. 

[ A further report in the same newspaper reads as follows:]

Former Tourism Minister Michael Refalo said today that the way how the investigations ahead of the Lockerbie trial were conducted had led him to believe, early on, that there were people who did not want the process to reach its proper conclusion.

Dr Refalo recalled how his evidence, which contradicted evidence by Tony Gauci, was ignored. Mr Gauci had said, for example, that the Christmas lights were on whereas his diary entry showed how he had, as Tourism Minister, switched them on at a later date.

At one time, the investigators told him they could not question him earlier because they could not find him - even though he was a Cabinet Minister and thus easily traced.

Then he was told in 2008 that his evidence was lost.

Dr Refalo said he kept a copy of the evidence, but the investigators still wanted to hear the evidence all over again.

All these goings on led him to wonder about conspiracy theories, more so as the type of bomb used to down the Pan Am airliner was not supplied to Libya, but to Iran. 

The Scottish Criminal [Cases] Review Commission showed how Megrahi should have actually been acquitted.

Dr Refalo said that now that the Lockerbie findings had been discredited, especially where Malta was concerned, the government should not seek to reopen the case in any way.

[The following extracts from the programme can be viewed online:


  1. Not sure why Jim Swire rules out the bomb being loaded at Malta or Frankfurt, because it would have exploded earlier. A combination of a timer and a barometric pressure switch would have ensured that it went off where it did, unless there had been a huge delay from its scheduled departure.

  2. The evidence against the bomb having been loaded at Malta is absolutely overwhelming. The security at Luqa airport was excellent, all the records were available, and nobody has ever come up with any plausible explanation of how anyone could have smuggled an extra suitcase on board that flight AND LEFT NO EVIDENCE THAT IT HAD BEEN DONE AT ALL.

    The prosecution were rather vaguely implying some sort of grand conspiracy among the entire Air Malta ground staff to get the thing on board and then carry out a massive exercise in falsifying the paperwork, but despite years of investigation no evidence to support this was ever discovered, and nobody on Malta has ever squealed.

    Frankfurt is rather different. There were several ways the bomb could have been introduced there, because there was no bag-counting procedure in place like there was at Malta. There is no doubt someone could simply have added an extra case to the pile waiting to be loaded on the feeder flight or something like that.

    The reason that didn't happen is that the positive evidence that the bomb was in a suitcase seen to be present in the container while it was sitting in the interline shed at Heathrow, an hour before the feeder flight landed, is irrefutable. When the forensic evidence is properly analysed, an exercise nobody in the original investigation bothered to undertake, it is absolutely clear that was the case.

  3. Whether it was put on at Frankfurt or London, is another argument.

    But my point is that Jim Swire "said he was convinced that the type of bomb used could not have been loaded on an aircraft from Malta or Frankfurt as it would otherwise have exploded earlier."

    Which is not true, there are ways (that have been discussed at length on the internet) that the bomb could have been loaded before Heathrow and not detonated.

  4. Actually, Road Hog, that's not really correct. It would obviously be possible to make a barometric trigger that didn't go off until after the third take-off, but the devices being made by Marwan Khreesat, which is the type of bomb we're actually talking about, had no such capacity. In fact, I don't believe any such device has been recovered or implicated in any real-life event.

    You'd need some sort of extra gizmo to count the take-offs. Khreesat's devices didn't have anything like that.

    The way these devices worked was that the barometer sensed the take-off - the change from ground level pressure to "in-the-air" pressure, which happens on virtually all flights in the first ten minutes or so after take-off. Then the capacitor counted for a set time, in this case one imagines half an hour, and then the bomb would be triggered. Thus the plane was up at cruising altitude and well away from the airport before the explosion.

    Both KM180 and the PA103 feeder flight flew for more than 38 minutes that day. A Khreesat device functioning as they are understood to have functioned, would have gone off 38 minutes into any flight.

    The easy way to get PA103 to blow up using a device smuggled on to an earlier flight is simply to use a long-running timer. Set the timer to detonate at a time past the PA103 departure time, and you can see it off from anywhere in the world. That's what the investigators came to believe had happened.

    The problem with that is that PA103 left Heathrow on time, and yet only flew for 38 minutes. So what would have happened if the plane had been only 40 minutes late? A damp squib on the tarmac that would have messed up a few items of luggage and harmed nobody. That plane was due to be in the air for seven hours. Nobody cuts it so fine when they have that sort of leeway to play with.

    The fact is that the 38-minute explosion makes complete and total sense in the context of a Khreesat device with a 30-minute capacitor, loaded at Heathrow. It makes no sense at all in the context of a long-running timer with no barometric component.

    It may be possible to imagine barometric devices that could function like that, but the simple fact is that no such device has ever been shown to have been constructed, by anyone.

  5. It was a known fact that PA103 was due to take off at 'x' hours. So you set the timer part of the bomb trigger for that time - the timer overrides any other trigger, it is the master trigger.

    Once the timer is triggered, it defaults to the secondary trigger, the barometric switch, this is what would stop the bomb going off on the ground if it was delayed at Heathrow.

    So the plane could have been delayed for an hour and the bomb would have been fine.

    Again, I'm discussing where the bomb was put on, just that Mr.Swire's comment doesn't stack up, it is entirely possible to have had the bomb put on somewhere else, with the trigger set in that way.

  6. What you are describing is a hypothetical construct, and saying, it could have been done this way with this hypothetical construct.

    Jim Swire is saying that it could not have been done that way with a device of the type Marwan Khreesat was known to be manufacturing.

  7. But who has seen what Marwan Khreesat was constructing.

    My electro-mechanical and electronic knowledge is a little rusty, but even I could construct the aforementioned trigger type device.

    You would attach an electronic timer to an electro-magnet that would hold a reed-switch in open circuit.

    You would also have a barometric switch in series that also held the circuit in an open state.

    The barometric switch could do what it liked, it could not activate the circuit until the timer had closed the circuit.

    Whilst I'm not a bomb expert, I know I could put the electronics/electro-magnetic side together for a few pounds.

    I'd suggest regular bomb makers would have more experience than me.

    None of us know the 100% truth, we get what we are given and make the best educated guess from that. certainly it is easy to construct the triggers that I have described and I can't believe that someone like MK didn't have the knowledge/ability to set up that sort of trigger mechanism.

  8. Quite a lot of people in the BKA saw what Marwan Khreesat was constructing in 1988, and sadly for two of them it was the last thing they saw. (One was killed and the other blinded by the explosion.) He also had form as long as your arm.

    You're shifting the ground of the argument. Indeed it would be possible to construct such a device. However rather a lot was known about Marwan Khreesat's devices, and they weren't made like that. Jim Swire was merely saying that one of these devices, in the form that's known about, would have had to have been loaded at Heathrow.

    If there was reason to believe that the Lockerbie bomb had started at Frankfurt, or Malta, or indeed any of the other airports that might have been implicated if the cops hadn't developed acute tunnel vision (Warsaw, Bombay and Berlin for starters), then obviously that's the way the conversation would be heading. Indeed, it's a semi-reasonable explanation for the presence of an MST-13 timer in a context that suggests a barometric trigger - something Thomas Hayes speculated about at one point. (Though you do have to wonder, if you've got an MST-13, why not just set it for midnight GMT and be done with it?)

    But that's not where we are. We have no reason to speculate about the bomb having made more than one flight before exploding, indeed quite the reverse. We have very strong evidence the bomb wasn't loaded at Malta. We have positively irrefutable evidence the bomb was in a suitcase seen at Heathrow before the feeder flight landed. And we have a modus operandi consistent with a Khreesat device as they were known to exist, loaded at Heathrow. That's what Jim is saying.

  9. It's not just a single point in isolation.

    1. There is no evidence of any unaccompanied item having been carried on KM180, a finding strong enough to stand up as positive "evidence of absence".

    2. The man who was focussed on as having been present when KM180 departed is not the man who bought these clothes from Tony Gauci, so the idea that one of the terrorists was present at Luqa at the crucial time is out the window.

    3. While one of the 25 transfer baggage items on the PA103A computer loading list was compatible with an undocumented, unaccompanied item having originated from KM180, other items on the list were compatible with undocumented, unaccompanied items having originated from Bombay, Berlin and Warsaw. They weren't all the bomb, so why pick on KM180, especially in the light of 1 and 2 above? In fact the Frankfurt baggage records were such a shambles that nothing conclusive can be deduced from them.

    4. Analysis of the suitcase debris recovered at Lockerbie shows conclusively that the bomb was in a brown hardshell Samsonite suitcase which was positined on the bottom of the left-hand front stack of luggage in container AVE4041. That suitcase was seen in that position by a baggage handler, in the interline shed at Heathrow, an hour before the feeder flight landed, and he told the police about it in early January 1989.

    That is the context in which the point is being put forward, that the time of the explosion (and the way the device was constructed and concealed) is entirely compatible with a Khreesat device in the form they were known to exist, loaded at Heathrow.

  10. "so why pick on KM180"

    I didn't mention it, nor did I indicate anywhere that I believe that it is where it originated from. Not that I want to get dragged into a discussion on where it originated from, Frankfurt is my personal choice.

    "debris recovered at Lockerbie shows conclusively"

    And of course all the evidence we have been given, is completely truthful and unadulterated?

    By your own admission, the authorities have lied to us and covered stuff up, that can apply to all aspects of the produced facts and statements.

    Anyhow, we're getting sidetracked/strawman/red herring.

    My original point stands, it is very easy to construct a trigger mechanism, that would hold the bomb trigger by method of timer until well after the flight should have left Heathrow, the barometric trigger would have held it on the ground virtually indefinitely and then exploded at altitude.

    We will have to agree to differ on this one.

  11. I don't think we do differ on this one, fundamentally.

    I agree you're right about the possibility of a timer mechanism such as you describe being a possible way of over-riding a Khreesat barometric trigger until the suitcase had been loaded on to the transatlantic flight. (An MST-13 would fit the bill, too.)

    I was only pointing out that what Jim Swire said wasn't inaccurate, because he was talking about Khreesat devices as they are known to have been constructed. No such modification was ever found in the Khreesat devices recovered.

    (It's also, arguably, an unnecessary complication for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean it's impossible, obviously.)

    Sorry I misled you with my "so why pick on KM180?" remark. That was directed at the police, not you. Flights into Frankfurt from FOUR airports were identified as apparently contributing undocumented, unaccompanied items to the PA103A baggage manifest. (Warsaw, Malta, Berlin and Bombay) The police only followed up Malta.

    The physical suitcase evidence shows no sign of tampering. Hayes and Feraday's past form was in cherry-picking their data to present only what supported the police case, and making dogmatic unsupported statements which suited the police case. Not fabricating physical evidence.

    The suitcase fragments are very well documented, with standard police provenance records. And when this evidence is properly analysed, it shows clearly that the bomb was in the case loaded at Heathrow. This is exactly what the police did not want to have happened, so I can't honestly see anyone fabricating that evidence!

    In fact this is quite probably another example of what I noted above. The forensic scientists cherry-picking what they wanted from the evidence (PI/911), then dogmatically misinterpreting its significance to support the Crown case. PI/911 was said to have been from the bottom of the bomb suitcase, for no good reason at all other than "because I say so". It was actually from the top. Once you realise that, everything slots into place.

    This is classic RARDE misdirection. Actually faking stuff, not so much. Faking stuff that proves the direct opposite of what they wanted to show? I agree they weren't bright, but nobody is that stupid.