Sunday, 22 December 2013

Conviction of Megrahi "very shaky indeed"

[The media today contain many reports on the various events that took place yesterday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster.  The following is a selection:]

From The Independent:
'Megrahi was my friend. He did not kill my daughter': Lockerbie father says the British government is not telling the truth about the bombing

The father of one of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing has asked mourners to pray for the "innocent family" of the only person convicted of the worst mass murder in British history, as the nation marked its 25th anniversary.

In his address to a memorial service at Westminster Abbey yesterday evening attended by relatives of the victims, Dr Jim Swire also accused the British government of failing to tell "all the truth they know about this terrible tragedy".

Before the service, the UK, US and Libyan governments in a joint statement promised to work together to "reveal the full facts of the case", saying that they wanted "all those responsible for this most brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed".

Dr Swire said the Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – jailed for life for mass murder but released after eight years in prison on compassionate grounds, as he had terminal cancer – had "died my friend". He also repeated his claim that a convicted terrorist, an Egyptian now living in Sweden, was involved in the bombing.

Dr Swire said he had recently tried to confront that man. "All day long the curtains were drawn shut and the blinds down. Inside was a man who has spent his whole life as a terrorist. I believe he played a key role in the Lockerbie atrocity," he said. "Too afraid to answer the bell himself, he sent his wife to an upstairs window to threaten [me]."

Although he did not name the man, it is understood he was referring to Mohammed Abu Talb, jailed for life for carrying out terrorist bombings in 1985 in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but since released.

Dr Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was a passenger on the plane, has previously described Talb as "a life-long, proven terrorist". By contrast, Dr Swire said he once received a Christmas card from Megrahi: "In it, he had written, 'Dr Swire and family, please pray for me and my family.' He died my friend.

"Over Christmas, if you pray, please pray for his innocent family, but also for all those who wrestle with hatred, that they may be healed by God's love. Please pray also that we who will sit down at a Christmas table with chairs forever empty may find peace."

Dr Swire also denounced successive British governments. "I claim habeas corpus as I say in this ancient Abbey that I do not believe that our governments have told us all the truth they know about this terrible tragedy," he said.

Speaking yesterday to The Independent on Sunday, Dr Swire reiterated his call for a public inquiry. "If we are not granted an inquiry – and for goodness' sake we've been trying for 25 years to force an inquiry out of them with no results at all – we'll have to go to the European courts and take our own government to court for not meeting their obligations under human rights legislation," he said.

Megrahi's release in 2009 came after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission gave him leave to appeal for a second time, citing six reasons why there were serious concerns about his conviction.

Doubts about his guilt were fuelled on Friday, when it was revealed that Dr Richard Fuisz, a businessman and CIA asset, gave a sworn statement implicating Palestinian militants.

Under oath in 2001, Dr Fuisz told the original defence team that senior Syrian officials had told him that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which was based in Syria, had carried out the bombing. This evidence has never been used in a court.

John Ashton, author of Megrahi: You are my Jury, discovered the deposition by Dr Fuisz buried in the defence team's files. He said it was "hugely significant" and further undermined the case against Megrahi. "It's absolutely scandalous there's never been a public inquiry," he said.

Megrahi's brother, Abdel-Hakim Al-Megrahi, told the BBC that the family planned a posthumous appeal, and hoped the Libyan government would help fund it. "We wish for the truth to be revealed, and this is not just for our own benefit but also for the benefit of the families of the victims and for public opinion," he said. "We need to know who committed this horrible crime."

Professor Hans Koechler, the UN observer at the trial that convicted Megrahi, also called for an inquiry, but feared that "power politics [had] made it impossible for the families to find out what really happened". 

From The Sunday Herald:
Dr Jim Swire, the public face of the British families of the Lockerbie victims, has described Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the attack, as his friend and urged people to pray for the Libyan's family at Christmas.

Speaking at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey yesterday on the 25th anniversary of the atrocity, Swire, who also announced his intention to stand down as the UK's leading Lockerbie campaigner, described the bombing that killed 270 people, including his 23-year-old daughter Flora, as a "revenge attack".

His comments came as the British, American and Libyan governments pledged to work together to uncover "the full facts" of the bombing.

Megrahi was convicted in January 2001 and was given a life sentence. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, leading to a decision to free him under compassionate release rules. He died in Tripoli, Libya in May last year.

Swire said: "Nelson Mandela made forgiveness look easy. But even a truth and reconciliation commission cannot work unless first the truth is known.

"When I first met the late al-Megrahi face to face in Greenock prison, though he was a practising Muslim, he had bought me a Christmas card in the prison shop. In it he had written, 'Dr Swire and family, please pray for me and my family'.

"He died, my friend. Over Christmas, if you pray, please pray for his innocent family but also for all those who wrestle with hatred, that they may be healed by God's love. Please pray also that we who will sit down at a Christmas table with chairs forever empty may find peace."

Swire added: "In our family, Flora was our beautiful, vivacious first-born of three wonderful children. We are the lucky ones, in the UK and USA. Not only do we live in two of the most free and safe countries in the world but we relatives also had the joy of living with those we loved until their untimely deaths." (...)

Megrahi's family have said they plan to appeal against his conviction. Megrahi died last year protesting his innocence. Now his family hope the Libyan government can help fund the appeal process. His brother Abdel-Hakim al-Megrahi, said: "We want to appeal and we wish for the truth to be revealed. This is not just for our own benefit but also for the benefit of the families of the victims and for public opinion.

"We need to know who committed this horrible crime. But, as you know, we as a family cannot afford to pay for the appeals process.

"God willing, the Libyan government will do this, but it has to be launched by the family first."

Earlier this week, some of the British relatives of Lockerbie victims said they were considering making another appeal against Megrahi's conviction.

Swire, now 77, also told the Sunday Herald about his plans to step back from leading the British families' campaign for justice.

The retired GP said: "I never thought for a moment that we would be in this position 25 years later. We still don't have the truth. And, unfortunately, I can't campaign to get my daughter back. I've always tried to do what Flora would be proud of, she was a seeker after truth herself.

"But I have got to the point where I really have to cut back on it. It's time to relax and leave it to a younger person. The time has come for someone else to take over."

Swire added: "The 25th anniversary is no more poignant than any other, this is a loss we have to live with every day. Flora will never come back. But what makes this loss even harder is that - 25 years on - we still don't have answers."

He admits that the campaign has been a way of coping with the grief for his daughter.

Swire believes that the case against Megrahi was flawed, and has even referred to Megrahi as the "271st victim": "For 25 years, our calls for an inquiry into why Lockerbie was not prevented have been ignored and blocked at every stage. I believe that, eventually, yes, the Megrahi verdict will be overturned."  

From the BBC News website:
Former hostage Terry Waite has said he believes the conviction of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was "very shaky indeed" and has called for a further investigation into the atrocity.

Mr Waite spent nearly five years in captivity after being kidnapped by a cell linked to the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.

It has been claimed that Libya was wrongly blamed for the Lockerbie bombing, as part of a secret deal to ensure his release from captivity.

Speaking after a memorial service to mark 25 years since the bombing, he told the BBC: "I'm not sure we've got to the truth yet." 

From the Truth Frequency Radio website:
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing on Dec 21, 1988 – and a surprising mellow day of personal vindication for your host, Susan Lindauer! Today the Telegraph in London published the first mainstream press admission that the CIA has always known the PFLP headed by Ahmed Jibril was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103. I recounted the 25 year fight to expose the truth, including the sacrifices of Lester Coleman, author of the incredible book, Trail of the Octopus. After battling for years, today we triumphed.


  1. Also see my article at Lockerbie – the murder of Scottish justice. It contains nothing that ought to be new to regulars on this blog (unless I've inadvertently introduced errors), but the perspective on how we reached the present inexcusable state of affairs may be of interest.

    "The problem for Scottish justice isn’t that there are other, perhaps more persuasive, hypotheses about the Lockerbie bombing than the one adopted by the Crown Office. It isn’t even that there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the re-targeting of investigations towards Libya after the autumn of 1990 was prompted by foreign policy needs rather than by the requirements of justice. It is simply that Megrahi hasn’t been proven guilty, except in the eyes of those who believe that a legal conjuring trick is the same thing as proof."

  2. Thank you, Richard. I think your article is an excellent summary. I'll post an item about it on this blog later today (assuming Gannaga Lodge is not overwhelmed with hungry and thirsty travellers)

  3. Cripes! Jim said all that at Westminster Abbey? I'm kind of glad I was at Lockerbie.

    Nobody mentioned any names at Lockerbie. "The men who chose to carry out this atrocity" were condemned in strong terms, but nobody was mentioned by name. The sentiment was one all could agree on.

    The 2-minute-silence, unannounced, during the time when the people would have been falling to earth, was particularly moving.

  4. I fear Susan Lindauer's triumph may be premature. It has always been a semi-official narrative that following the "Autumn Leaves" arrests the PFLP-GC "handed-off" the bombing. (See the reported comments of Vincent Cannistraro in "On the Trail of Terror" which refers to Jibril supposedly boasting at a champagne party "they will never find out how I did it". Dr Fuisz's much vaunted "evidence" turned out to be little more than gossip.