Monday, 17 March 2014

The framing of al-Megrahi

[This is the headline over an article by Gwynne Dyer published today on the website of the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine, USA). It reads as follows:]

They lied, they’re still lying, and they’ll go on lying until Libya calms down enough to allow a thorough search of its archives. That’s what intelligence agencies do, and being angry at them for lying is like being angry at a scorpion for stinging. But we now KNOW that they lied about the Libyans planting the bomb on Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan airline official who was convicted of placing the bomb aboard the plane and sentenced to 27 years in prison by a special international court in 2001, was freed from jail in 2009 and sent home, allegedly dying from cancer and with only three months to live. He eventually did die three YEARS later, but it was a very peculiar thing for the Scottish government to do.

Megrahi was in a Scottish jail because Pan Am 103, en route from London to Detroit, had blown up over the Scottish village of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people aboard and eleven in the village below. But he clearly wasn’t dying when he was freed, and he had served less than a third of his sentence.

And there was something even more disturbing about the case. As a condition of his release, Megrahi was required to drop an appeal against his conviction that had been granted by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2007. [RB: Abandonment was not a condition of compassionate release. But it was a condition of prisoner transfer, which had also been applied for and which the Scottish authorities insisted must be dealt with contemporaneously with the compassionate release application even though lodged before it.  So perhaps it boils down to the same thing.]

The SCCRC listed no fewer than six grounds for serious concern about Megrahi’s conviction, including the fact that the US Justice Department made an undisclosed payment of $3 million to two Maltese citizens whose evidence had linked Megrahi with the suitcase that contained the bomb. If the appeal had gone ahead, Megrahi’s conviction would probably have been quashed.

That would have been deeply embarrassing for the Scottish authorities, especially since the evidence suggested there had been a deliberate attempt to frame the Libyan. But they did have the power to delay the hearing of his appeal for a very long time, and al-Megrahi was not a well man. So one can imagine a bargain being struck: his freedom for his silence.

Megrahi never stopped protesting his innocence, but he did withdraw his appeal, so the new evidence was never heard in court, his conviction was never canceled, and nobody was embarrassed. But why did the intelligence agencies pick on him in the first place.

Because they had to abandon their first working hypothesis, which was that Pan Am 103 was destroyed in late 1988 as tit-for-tat Iranian revenge for the accidental shooting down of an Iran Air plane with 290 people aboard by the US warship Vincennes earlier that year.

Since the Iranians didn’t have people in the right places with the right skills to do this job, US intelligence calculated, they paid some Palestinian terrorists to do it. The US even fingered the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, headed by Ahmed Jibril, as the ones who took the contract.

Nevertheless, somebody had to be punished or the intelligence services would look incompetent. The people who carried out the bombing for Iran had made some rudimentary attempts to put the blame on Libya, and the security services now started using that evidence to frame Megrahi. The evidence was full of holes, but the Libyan’s defense team did a poor job of exposing them, and he was convicted anyway.

The reason his defense team did so badly may have been that the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, had made a deal: in order to be released from a crippling trade embargo, he would admit the blame for the Pan Am bombing and pay compensation to the families of the victims. For that deal to stand, Megrahi had to go down. A few threats to his family back in Libya would have persuaded him to sabotage his own defense. [RB: I regard this scenario as straining credulity well beyond breaking point.]

So the original hypothesis was correct, and the Western security services probably always knew it was correct. They don’t care; the case is closed, and with Megrahi’s appeal canceled it will never be re-opened. But it is worth noting that he was an innocent man, not a mass murderer, and that his life was cynically destroyed by the same people who brought us the invasion of Iraq, mass surveillance, and so much more.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose commentary is published in 45 countries.


  1. The people who carried out the bombing for Iran had made some rudimentary attempts to put the blame on Libya, and the security services now started using that evidence to frame Megrahi.

    Now THAT's an interesting train of thought I could certainly go along with.

    Who was responsible for laying the trail of sweeties pointing to Malta, anyway?

  2. MISSION LIFE WITH LOCKERBIE, 2014 - Go to new facts on ground ... (google translation, german/english):

    Chaos and a complete Disarray in the Now "Free" Libya is a new reason for the Scottish examination authorities that under such circumstances, no new evidence of the PanAm 103 bombing, can be brought to light...
    A deal signed by the Lord Advocate falling on a two-day visit end of January 2014, to Libya has raised hopes more people will face justice for the "Lockerbie bombing".
    Frank Mulholland QC, who returned from the talks in Tripoli said - "the meetings we have Described as "EXTREMELY positive" - MEBO says: "that is a called diplomatic expression and means decrypted: "extremely NEGATIVE" !

    There is no substantial evidence that can be interpreted the former Gadhafi Regime and Al Megrahi, is responsible for the bombing on PanAm 103, over Lockerbie. All evidence which indicate Libya and Al Megrahi were manipulated or falsified, detectable !
    The former Gadhafi regime and Abdelbaset al Megrahi, have nothing to do with the Lockerbie tragedy.
    So now - justice for the unfortunately died Mr. Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage: