Saturday, 15 March 2014

Why politicians will ignore Lockerbie truth

[This is the headline over an editorial in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times.  It reads as follows:]

When Jim Swire, father of one of the Lockerbie victims, visited Malta last November he told this newspaper the truth about the 1988 terrorist attack will one day come out. “The question is whether I will be in a box by then,” the indefatigable campaigner said.

While the truth over the atrocity that killed Dr Swire’s daughter and 269 others in 1988 might never be fully admitted by the powers that be, an Al Jazeera documentary, aired last Wednesday, made a strong case for the increasing number of those who believe Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was not the Lockerbie bomber.

The documentary squarely pointed fingers at Iran, which wanted to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US navy ship in July 1988.

The Al Jazeera investigation also debunked the official story, on the basis of which the late Mr Al Megrahi had been jailed, that the bomb was loaded at Malta before being transferred to the ill-fated aircraft at Heathrow.

The theory is that the Lockerbie bombing was commissioned to a Palestinian terrorist group, the PFLP-GC, which had a cell in Malta at the time. The terrorist attack could have been plotted from a St Julian’s flat but the bomb was loaded at Heathrow, not Malta, as the court concluded, according to the documentary.

It might be 25 long years since the bombing occurred but the questions are now more pertinent than ever.

Did high-level involvement put obstacles to the truth by shifting the blame onto Libya? Was the CIA aware of who the guilty party was but then decided to go for a small pariah State for its geo-political motives?

Did it work the case in reverse so that the wrong man would be convicted? Did it merely coerce a Maltese witness with money to point at Mr Al Megrahi?

The American and British governments will undoubtedly dismiss the new findings as conspiracy theories and stick to the Camp Zeist trial conclusions. Despite the source of these claims, Scotland’s Crown Office said it was unmoved.

But unless the Western world wants to make a mockery of justice, then the case should be reopened. The question is: who will instigate it?

The world cannot seriously expect the US or Britain to push to reopen the case. With the US and Europe desperate to reach a new nuclear deal with a seemingly more open Teheran regime, discussions about Iran’s role in the Lockerbie tragedy at this stage will not be politically welcome.

Why would the US government want to admit it helped put the wrong man behind bars for Europe’s worst terrorist attack? And what about the money Muammar Gaddafi was forced to pay to the victims’ families to work his way out through tough sanctions?

Even the Maltese government, whose foreign minister declared in no uncertain terms that Mr Al Megrahi was a scapegoat, said it would not push to reopen the case.

In reality, there are so many potentially embarrassing banana skins.

But the pieces which were unravelled this week fit too well to allow us to merely shrug and move on.

This means it is down to the victims’ families to take the case forward and file the appeal Mr Al Megrahi wanted to start before he was released from a Scottish prison and sent home to die.

While it is understandable that our government does not want to ruffle any allied country’s feathers, it should collaborate in any way possible to facilitate any information our police and security services might still be privy to.


  1. I'm not sure I want any more of my money to be wasted on this . The dead are dead, nothing will bring them back. Yes, the trial looks flawed, but the only people to benefit from further investigations will be the lawyers.

  2. Hi,
    thank you for posting!

    > I'm not sure I want any more of my money to be wasted on this.
    > Yes, the trial looks flawed, but the only people to benefit from further investigations will be the lawyers.

    But do you think that the values you create, now and in the future, are rewarded equally, regardless of how corrupt your leaders are?

    Or do you think that the same people who lie and delay year after year in the Lockerbie case are honorable and noble in other contexts that would have more direct importance for you?

    That buddies helping buddies in the top comes to your advantage?

    There is a very convincing correlation between the general wealth and prospects of a country and the quality of its judicial system.

    Does that surprise you? I live in Thailand, where a few percent are insanely rich, hardly pay tax and change the laws to their financial benefit and transfer money out of the country. You can see whole schools where the budget is just enough for one shared computer.

    I think that even if it took 100,000 lawyers to clean it up it would still be a tremendous deal for the country.

    > The dead are dead, nothing will bring them back.

    You are right that the dead are gone. Nothing can be done for them.

    It is the living - the relatives, me and you - that need to see justice and changes.

  3. And Megrahi's family, and the victims' families who know at present that the truth has not been discovered.

    And what about truth itself? Does that count for nothing?

  4. We live in a world with huge and present problems, where maybe thousands of people die every day as a result of crimes in politics and business.

    Who will get our attention? The statement "How can you defend spending so much time on Lockerbie, when living people so desperately need your help" is very understandable.

    And the truth comes at a price, that may just not be worth paying.

    "Baiterboy"s point of view would probably be mine too, if it wasn't because the Lockerbie scandal would have importance for the world as a whole.

    Politics - there is hardly a point if view which will not have its justification. In this jungle the bad guys successfully hide out.

    But the Lockerbie case is glaringly simple. The conviction of Megrahi was nothing short of absurd, which is visible on school-kid level.
    And became even more so as as further evidence was revealed.

    Provable crimes was committed by trusted people in the system.

    Far beyond the borders of Scotland the case sends a warning:
    "You will be held responsible."

    That is my motivation.

    For people living in Scotland the importance is massive. Hardly anything is more expensive for a country than failing justice.

  5. And I live in Scotland, SM. Exactly.

    This case is SO egregious it simply cannot be allowed to stand. Never mind all the Mesbahi stuff people are currently getting aerated about, the investigator and especially the forensic failings are simply mindboggling. Primary school kid level, you are absolutely right.

    Bedford explained which order he loaded the interline cases into the container at Heathrow. Passenger arrival records therefore show more or less where each case was placed in the container, in the row at the back. It's as plain as a pikestaff which were the two cases sitting upright immediately behind the bomb suitcase. And the pattern of damage to both these cases shows that there was no other case below the bomb suitcase. Therefore the bomb was in the case Bedford saw at the front of the container, an hour before the feeder flight landed.

    A schoolboy could figure this out. But the RARDE forensics team simply stared blankly at the photos and came to no conclusions whatsoever. It's so obvious it's embarrassing.

    I am sick and tired trying to point this out. I spent four hours with Chris Jeans, producer of the Al Jazeera documentary, filming a detailed explanation which could probably have been edited down to five minutes, with skill. Chris died ten weeks later. The eventual film glossed over the detailed explanation, and relied mainly on my assertion that this was so.

    Even then, the assertion was there, and I think it was quite credible, but it has been given no prominence by Al Jazeera and no journalists have picked up on it.

    Is the entire country completely blind?

  6. One reason is surely that technical arguments are less appealing.
    'Iran did it, see, this group was paid, and this guy with insider knowledge said this and this' is easier to grasp. Exploded suitcases - too complicated!

    Is the entire country completely blind?

    This is why this case is so interesting. It is unique. I don't know any other where the official conclusion is so clearly indefensible.

    Still, fooling some of the people all the time...

    We very much choose our blindness, but the case has also been a tremendous eye-opener.

  7. I was re-reading my rebuttal to Magnus Linklater, and you know, even I couldn't get to the end. John was terribly keen that all Magnus's points should be addressed and I kind of went along with him on that. But it meant that the meaty bits were awfully near the end.

    Maybe a much simpler version would have been better. Maybe I need to try again. There is a reason we're kind to spiders in Scotland.

  8. I don't know any other where the official conclusion is so clearly indefensible.

    I think the conviction of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher runs it close. Maybe even surpasses it in some ways.

  9. It is the purpose of a justice system to arrive at truth, no matter the cost.

    There have been numerous examples of justice not serving the accused in a meaningful way. Locally, the Guildford Four or the MacGuire Seven, where the final verdict was not in favour of the convictions.

    In the US this is evidential of a systemic failure:

    You need more? There are lots more cases.

    The only protection you have as a citizen against wrongful conviction is bloody lawyers!

  10. And on that last point, read this and be afraid. Very afraid. (Caveat - English law.)

  11. Oh, and Douglas, check up on who was strongly criticised for partial disclosure of evidence and concealing exculpatory evidence in the case of the Maguire Seven. If you are conversant with the players in the Lockerbie case you will find him strangely familiar.