Sunday, 8 December 2013

Is the real Lockerbie bomber in Sweden after spending 20 years in prison?

[This is the headline over a report, labelled “exclusive”, published today in the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express.  It reads as follows:]

A convicted terrorist accused of being the real Lockerbie bombing culprit has been traced as part of a new documentary marking the disaster's 25th anniversary.

Mohammed Abu Talb will feature in a special Al Jazeera programme - due to be screened later this month - after being tracked down living quietly in Sweden.

The 59-year-old Egyptian militant spent 20 years in a Swedish jail for terror attacks in Copenhagen and Amsterdam but was released in 2009 and until now his whereabouts have been unknown.

The investigation will reveal new information on the movements of Talb - once a prime suspect in the Lockerbie case - in the days before Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Scotland on December 21, 1988.

It is understood the potentially vital evidence did not come to light during the trial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - the only man to be convicted of the atrocity - and was not discovered during a review of the case.

Megrahi was found guilty at The Hague in 2001 after judges heard how clothes he allegedly purchased in Malta were said to have been wrapped around the bomb when it detonated killing 270 people.

But Talb, who was the focus of Scottish detectives early in the investigation, was also found to have been in Malta on at least one occasion in the months leading up to the attack.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission raised several concerns over Megrahi's conviction, most of which relate to his identification by shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who sold the clothes.

It is claimed, at one stage, Gauci identified the mysterious shopper as Talb.

The Commission also says evidence indicates the clothing was bought prior to December 7, the only date Megrahi could have made the purchase.

The latest revelation has been welcomed by lobby group Justice For Megrahi (JFM) which believes the former Libyan security officer was innocent and has long campaigned for his conviction to be overturned.

Speaking yesterday, JFM member Professor Robert Black, a lawyer who was the architect of the Lockerbie trial, said: "I haven't been involved in this documentary at all but I've heard from other sources that they have tracked down Abu Talb.” 

Following his arrest in May 1989, Talb's home in Uppsala, Sweden, was searched by police who found a 1988 calendar with the date of the ill-fated flight circled. In addition, his wife was secretly recorded ordering an unidentified Palestinian to "get rid of the clothes immediately".

Talb, who is said to have connections with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, denied any involvement and investigators focused their attention on Megrahi.

The documentary, If Not Megrahi, Then Who?, is directed and produced by Bill Cran and Christopher Jeans and will be broadcast later this month. It follows two previous programmes, called Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber and Lockerbie: Case Closed.

Mr Jeans yesterday said he was unable to discuss the documentary at this time, while an Al Jazeera spokesman confirmed the show was in the production stage but refused to comment further.


  1. I have always believed that Abu Talb was the purchaser of the clothes. Megrahi's first description matched him to the letter.

  2. I know you mean Tony Gauci's first description.

  3. I don't really agree. Tony Gauci's first description said the man was at least fifty and Abu Talb (like Megrahi) was in his mid thirties at the time. Gauci's description of the man's face was very vague and could match thousands of men. He was more specific about his build and body shape, but I don't know what Abu Talb's vital statistics are and I've never seen a full-length photo of him.

    More importantly, Abu Talb has (or he had then) a very pronounced limp. Gauci never mentioned a limp.

    The same goes for the idea that Talb was the man who infiltrated Heathrow airside with the bomb. A man with a pronounced limp isn't the person you choose to impersonate a baggage handler and walk about airside with a suitcase containing explosives.

    I also think it's vanishingly unlikely that the same man both bought the clothes and put the bomb on the plane. I'm not convinced Abu Talb did either, even if he was involved in the plot.

  4. "I also think it's vanishingly unlikely that the same man both bought the clothes and put the bomb on the plane."

    The assumption that the buyer would be likely to be in the plot springs from the starvation from evidence in the case.

    'When evidence is sparse we must elevate what we have to mean more'

    In the verdict they write:
    "If he was the purchaser of this miscellaneous collection of garments,
    it is not difficult to infer that he must have been aware of the purpose for which they
    were being bought."

    Here the judges link the presumption of Megrahi's guilt with the buying, a classic mistake when evaluating evidence.

    We need to investigate three independent statements:

    A. "The buyer of the clothes must have been aware of the purpose for which they were being bought."

    B. "'Being aware' is the same as being involved in the plot to murder"

    C. "Megrahi was the buyer"

    Establishing all of A, B and C clearly allows for a "guilty".

    - - -

    Let's accept 'B', even though the purchase of totally common, harmless and replaceable matters even if they buyer knows what they will be used for, does not always qualify for primary punishment.

    'A' is totally unestablished, as anyone can see. There is not a shadow of evidence.

    If 'C' could be established, we would have a situation where Megrahi would have been misinforming everybody. But innocently accused people will often deny evidence which they believe will cause a larger risk for their conviction. Given the imperfection of trials, this is a natural thing to do.

    "OK, I lied, I did buy the clothes, but I forgot them in a café. But if I had told them that they would have had just what they needed."

    Now guilty beyond reasonable doubt? This question must be the same as whether he is lying beyond reasonable doubt. Such a conclusion is very hard to justify.

    - - -

    Having bought the clothes in a bomb suitcase is important evidence, and may put you on a primary suspect list, but clearly not more.

    And had
    - Megrahi been established as the buyer of the clothes,
    - the Luqa-Frankfurt-Heathrow bomb theory confirmed,
    - with the timer from MEBO being used,
    - and Megrahis presense on Malta at the right time,
    yes, we would be beyond reasonable doubt, although it would not be difficult to imagine scenarios with an innocent accused.

    However, only one of those were established, and that was the presence of Megrahi (which was also the reason for his implication in the first place).

    The rest hangs somewhere between unproven and falsified, and while it has become even more so, the uncertainties were glaringly clear when the verdict was made.

    "We are aware that in relation to certain aspects of the case there are a number
    of uncertainties and qualifications. We are also aware that there is a danger that by
    selecting parts of the evidence which seem to fit together and ignoring parts which
    might not fit, it is possible to read into a mass of conflicting evidence a pattern or
    conclusion which is not really justified."

    Yes, and so the verdict is...?

  5. I don't go with the Talb premise either. But, hey, we're all happy bunnies down at JFM: not our job to dig the Crown Office out of its own iceberg.

    Pip, pip.

  6. I don't mind going along with the premise that the clothes purchaser was in on the plot and was one of the terrorists. It kind of seems likely, because that rather conspicuous purchase of brand new, locally manufactured, eminently traceable clothes looks awfully like a deliberate attempt to lay a false trail.

    But hey, who knows? If we had the foggiest idea who bought the clothes, we might be able to figure out a bit more. But since we don't, we can't.

    The judges' reasoning seemed to be that since Megrahi bought the clothes (dont' be silly!), and he was at the airplort when the bomb was put on board KM180, then these two points taken together showed he was complicit.

    However, the reason they went with the really flaky identification evidence was that he was the man who was at the airport when the bomb was put on board KM180.

    And the reason they went along with the interpretation of the incredibly confused Frankfurt baggage evidence that said there was an unaccompanied item on that plane was that the man who bought the clothes was at the airport when it departed.

    What do they teach them at these Scottish law schools? (Sorry, Professor.)

    We know Megrahi did't buy the clothes, because of the rain and the Christmas lights, not to mention him not really looking like Tony's description of the purchaser. We know the bomb wasn't put on board KM180 at Luqa that morning.

    This is so farcical, sometimes I could just scream.

  7. Megrahi’s conviction was debunked on the day it was delivered by the Judges themselves who said ‘we don’t know how you did it, but we find you guilty and you’re co-conspirator not guilty’!

    Perhaps the Judges were seeking to save their own souls on judgement day by making clear to the world that Megrahi was an innocent victim of a show trial.

    And US/UK and Libya all hoped for different reasons that Megrahi’s conviction would close the Lockerbie case with the truth lost in time.

    But we know the truth is closer to home because of the refusal to hold a public enquiry. Instead we have a phoney ‘live’ investigation and half-baked ‘plots to fit a theory’!


    Re. John Cameron’s blog – Forensic report on the Lockerbie bombing

    “Bedford said that Kamboj had told him he had added the two cases. When questioned by the police, Kamboj denied he had added the cases or told Bedford he had done so.

    This matter was only resolved at the trial when under cross examination Kamboj admitted that Bedford was telling the truth”.