Friday, 11 July 2014

Governmental Lockerbie obstructionism nothing new

[During the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist (and during the subsequent appeal there) Ian Ferguson and I maintained a website, The Lockerbie Trial, providing daily commentary and analysis. It received an enormous volume of traffic, which was perhaps unsurprising given the shocking lack of media coverage of the trial and the atrocious quality of such that there was. Until late September 2000, almost five months after the trial started, Ferguson (who attended every day) and I had no access to the daily transcripts of the court’s proceedings. As from late September we were supplied with copies by a mole at Zeist.  Our attempts to persuade the authorities to give us legitimate access to the transcripts failed.  Here is what we wrote at the time about this matter:]

On Thursday, 15 June 2000,  Ian Ferguson sent to Jim Wallace QC MSP,  the Minister for Justice in the Scottish Executive, an e-mail in the following terms:
  "Dear Minister,
  "As a matter of some urgency, I would like to ask you to examine some issues relating to the trial taking place in Kamp Zeist in the Netherlands.  I have made it is known to the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC that in the interests of "Justice being seen to be done", that the transcripts of the trial should be made available on the Scottish Courts Website or some other site accessible by the public.  As I am sure you are aware, the transcripts are being made available via secure Website to relatives.  I along with many other journalists, who are not part of major media organisations, find that the costs of transcripts which can be made available to us is absolutely cost prohibitive, at £30.00 per day.  Being based in the United States and having covered this case extensively for many years including a major documentary, I do believe that the restrictions being placed on the transcripts do nothing for our system of justice.  The media coverage of this trial or lack of it to be more precise, is abysmal in my opinion and those few journalists like myself who are anxious to cover it are being severely penalised in our attempts to properly explore the proceedings in Zeist.  The Lord Advocate's Press Office has informed me that your office is the appropriate place to submit this request and I do urge you consider making these transcripts available as soon as possible.  This trial is not like any other Scottish trial.  The ‘man in the street’ is not able to stroll into the public gallery and watch the proceedings and I believe it is patently unfair to restrict the record of the proceedings whether it is by financial hurdles or any other method.
  "I look forward to receiving a speedy reply."
  When, after a week, no substantive reply had been received, Professor Robert Black QC on 22 June 2000 sent the following fax to the Minister and to Hamish Hamill CB, the civil service Head of the Department of Justice:
  "A week ago my co-editor on the website
communicated with you by e-mail regarding the possibility of making available to the public the daily transcripts of proceedings at the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist.  The quality of recent reporting of these proceedings in the media seems to me to make it imperative that, if the public are not to be seriously misled, those transcripts should be in the public domain. I shall give only two very recent examples of misleading reporting.
  "1. The BBC has recently been broadcasting (both on the airwaves and on the BBC Online website) that a witness, Edwin Bollier, has admitted in his evidence that his company manufactured the timer used in the Lockerbie bomb.  No other news agency or media organisation appears to have published this, for the very good reason that Bollier's evidence in fact contained no such admission.  But in the absence of a publicly available transcript, it is somewhat difficult to challenge the accuracy of the BBC's report.
  "2. Most of the Scottish media, both print and broadcast, reported that Bollier had said in his evidence that on 21 December 1988 he returned from Tripoli to Zurich via Malta.  In fact what he said was that he returned on a direct flight from Tripoli to Zurich, having originally thought that it might be necessary to travel via Malta.  Reuters got this right, and I have confirmed what Bollier said directly with a spokesman for the witness.  Once again, however, in the absence of a publicly available transcript, organs of the media are reluctant to accept the inaccuracy of their reporting.
  "All of this simply serves to underline the service that would be provided to the cause of accurate understanding if you were to arrange for the daily transcripts to be made publicly available."
  Four weeks after this fax was sent and received, the Scottish Executive Justice Department has just communicated a decision (having earlier omitted to accord Professor Black the courtesy of an acknowledgement).  That decision is that the request that daily transcripts be made publicly available free of charge should be refused.  This is highly regrettable, since the standard of media reporting of evidence at the trial has, if anything, declined even further in the past month:  instances of gross inaccuracy are given in Accuracy and the Media and Accuracy and the BBC: At It Again
  The joint editors of this website fail to understand what conceivable objection there can be to making available online to the public generally transcripts which are already available to the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie disaster.
  The reasons given for rejecting the suggestion are that the matter was the subject of careful discussion before the trial started; that the Justice Department is not anxious to make changes in those arrangements after the start of the trial; that the arrangements have been accepted and have settled down; and that some people have already taken advantage of the opportunity to obtain transcripts at a cost of £30 per day, which covers the cost of copying.
  It would be interesting to know just how many transcripts at £30 a shot have in fact been sold over the whole period of the trial to date, but we suspect that any attempt to find out would be met with the hoary old "commercial confidentiality" excuse.  In any event, if the £30 charge is intended to cover the cost of copying, it is impossible to understand what its relevance is when what is being asked for is not hard copy, but the posting of the daily transcripts on a website.  This is already done for the benefit of the families. What conceivable additional costs can there be in making the facility equally available to others?
  The coverage of the Lockerbie trial in the Scottish media has been abysmal. None of the Scottish newspapers has a reporter in attendance.  Nor does the BBC (though given the quality of their output on those rare occasions when one has been present, this may not be too regrettable).  The only western media organisation which always has a reporter present at Zeist is Reuters. The Scottish media predominantly rely on news agency copy from this source. It is nothing short of disgraceful that BBC Scotland and the Scottish daily broadsheets and tabloids do not have reporters present to cover what is, after all, the largest mass murder trial in Scottish, indeed British, legal history.
  In our small way, we on this website are seeking to compensate for the lamentable dereliction of duty on the part of the Scottish media.  We are doing so for no financial reward, and at considerable cost in time and money. The public service that we are providing is being impeded by the refusal of the Justice Department to permit access to the transcripts of proceedings, save at a charge of £30 per day.  Do they care?  Do they want the people of Scotland to be reliant on scanty and inaccurate media reports? Do they regard ignorance as being preferable to knowledge, and inaccuracy as preferable to accuracy?
  The people of Scotland, through their taxes, are paying for the bulk of the cost of the Lockerbie trial, including the state of the art Live Note transcription service which is being used for the first time in Scottish proceedings. But they are being denied access to what they have paid for, even though it could be made readily available on the Scottish Courts website at no additional cost to the taxpayer. Why?


  1. LIVE WITH THE LOCKERBIE AFFAIR, 2014, (only in german language)

    Die Strafverfolgung durch den ausser ordentlichen Staatsanwalt Felix Bänziger *(AB-BA) - gegen einen bekannten schweizerischen Staatsbediensteten und gegen Unbekannte im (Lockerbie Fall)- wurde durch den Angeklagten erneut durch Einspruch blockiert; obwohl in der Ermächtigungsverfügung der Strafuntersuchung, des Eidgenössischen Justiz- und Polizeidepartements (EJPD), vom 17. März 2014 - unter Rechtsmittelbelehrung, nachdrücklich steht: "Dieser Entscheid ist endgültig (Art.15 Abs.4 VG)"!

    Ed. Bollier & MEBO Ltd, sehen in diesr vorsätzlichen Handlung eine neue Rechtsverzögerung - warum ???
    MEBO zieht die angeblich verjährte Schadenersatzanzeige (Bundesgericht Entscheid) - in Kürze, an den Europäischen Gerichtshof (EMRK) weiter.
    NB.*(AB-BA) ist die Aufsichtskommission über der Bundesanwaltschaft.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Schweiz. Webpage:

  2. LIVE WITH THE LOCKERBIE AFFAIR, 2014, (google translation, german/english)
    The prosecution by the Extraordinary prosecutor Felix Bänziger * (AB-BA) - against a well-known Swiss government officials and against unknowns in (Lockerbie case) - was again blocked by the accused by the opposition; although in the authority available to the criminal investigation, the Federal Department of Justice and Police (EJPD), from March 17, 2014 - strongly under Right to appeal: "This decision is final (Art.15 Abs.4 VG)"!

    Ed. Bollier & MEBO Ltd. see again in this willful act of a new legal delay - why?
    MEBO pulls the allegedly statutory limitation compensation display (Federal Court) - in brief, to the European Court (ECHR) on.
    NB. * (AB-BA) is the Supervisory Commission on the Federal Prosecutor.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Schweiz. Webpage:

  3. Did the relatives get [and in what form] all the daily transcripts during the Zeist trial and did the same restrictive practice regarding daily transcripts apply [and did Reuters attend] at the Fatal Accident Inquiry?

  4. The BBC. Pushing a false agenda since - well I don't know really. Has it always been like this, and we just didn't notice?

  5. During the trial the relatives had access to a password-protected website on which the transcripts were posted daily. There was no such facility at the FAI (perhaps because the US Government wasn't contributing to the cost). I do not know if Reuters attended throughout the FAI, but it would surprise me if they did.

  6. Ian Ferguson can be a proper handful at the best of times, however, he listens, his heart is in exactly the right place and he is hellishly good crack. It is often quite impossible for him to get from one end of a sentence to the beginning of another without a barrage of expletives. But at least his dogs keep him under control.

    When he dies, hopefully not for a long time yet, his stone should be etched with the word: "WHY?"


  7. The bloke I'm talking of here Gets himself a room in some swish Glasgow hotel, gets himself a hire car and drives out to the central belt, opens the boot, dons his overalls and wellies, gets his spade out and digs up soil samples. He then takes said samples down to a trusted lab for analysis to find out exactly who is poisoning whom with their illegal affluent. That's Ian Ferguson. Does he take any public credit? No. You'd be damned lucky if you ever found his name mentioned anywhere.

    Oh, that's between entertaining himself in war zones and seeing his mates killed in front of him.

  8. Apologies. That clearly should have read 'effluent'. However, there is a certain irony in affluent, I'm sure you'll agree.

  9. If the relatives had to access a password protected website to see the daily transcripts then I presume the content was also protected by confidentiality rules.

    If so the relatives couldn’t legally pass the content on and no one receiving it could legally publish it without permission!

    A small group could risk prosecution for doing so, but presumably the primary motive behind the confidentiality rules was to control what the large mainstream media could report!

    And presumably this confidentiality would apply to the paper copies too, but making them ‘available’ ticked a [bogus] public access box!

  10. I love it when people pontificate about the law from a position of glorious ignorance.

  11. Dave for Pope! It's a dead cert. I can see the white smoke now!

  12. Ah, you're more tolerant than I am, Prof.

    Hey Dave, here's a wee present.

    Now please go away and read them. Every word, mind. And don't come back till you're finished.

  13. Dear Professor,

    Without a confidentiality rule [or copyright] what would be the point of a password-entry to a website, because the relatives could simply forward the content on [or password] to all and sundry, thus removing the need for a mole or expensive paper copies.

    Inevitably these transcripts would become available to individuals and small [brave and vital] campaign groups who could publish or reference them, but they could risk prosecution if this is done without permission.

    In practice the State would avoid doing so, because this would create martyrs and attract adverse publicity. Instead their preferred approach is to describe critics as conspiracy theorists.

    Their main concern would be in controlling what the mass-media that reaches millions has to say. This can be done through D notices and by the very real threat of punitive prosecution if they publish confidential information without permission.

    Hence the media settle for publishing official press releases that may be inaccurate.

    But if the website is confidential, surely this would apply to the paper copies too and their price [and length] was designed to deter people from buying them or reading them if they did!

    But making the paper copies available could be spun as an act of transparency when in practice it wasn’t and this approach has been effective in controlling media reporting.

  14. Dave, breach of an obligation of confidentiality is not a criminal matter, unless it relates to information covered by legislation such as the Official Secrets Act which the testimony at Zeist (and transcripts thereof) was and is not.

    Please leave legal analysis to people who know something about the law (like professors of law, for example).

  15. OK, but if confidentiality, copyright, threat of criminal or civil prosecution never played a part your left with a compliant media obeying a direct command [from someone] not to attend Zeist/FAI and agreeing to publish inaccurate reports – despite having nothing to fear from telling the truth!

  16. No, Dave, that isn't what you're left with.

    This thread is now closed, at least to you.

  17. To me, it sounds like a bunch of officious control freaks who never think about such things as justice being seen to be done and who's paying for all this anyway.

    And journalists being their usual lazy selves. In my experience, if you want the facts right you have to write it for them yourself, and even that's not guaranteed to work.