Thursday, 20 November 2014

It remains a mystery how Megrahi came to be convicted

[On this date in 2000, the Crown at Camp Zeist closed its case against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhima. In an article that I wrote at the time for The Lockerbie Trial website, I attempted to assess what the evidence led by the Crown might be held to establish:]

What could the Crown be held to have proved?

On the assumption that the witnesses who have so far given evidence which is favourable to the Crown case are accepted by the judges as being credible (ie honest and truthful) and reliable (ie accurate in their observation and recollection of events) and having regard to the matters that have been agreed between prosecution and defence in Joint Minutes, it is possible that the following might be held to have been provisionally established, always subject to any later contrary evidence which may be led by the defence.

1. That the seat of the explosion was in a particular Samsonite suitcase (which contained clothing manufactured in Malta and sold both there and elsewhere) at or near the bottom of a particular aluminium luggage container (AVE 4041).

2. That the bomb had been contained in a black Toshiba RTSF-16 cassette recorder.

3. That a fragment of circuit board from an MST-13 timer manufactured by MeBo AG formed part of the timing mechanism which detonated the bomb.

4. That MeBo AG supplied MST-13 timers to the Libyan army, and may have done so also to other customers such as the East German Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit (Stasi).

5. That the first-named accused, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, was a member of the Libyan intelligence services; was known to the owners of MeBo AG; was involved, in an official capacity, in obtaining for Libya electronic equipment (including timers) from MeBo; and that a company of which a Libyan intelligence operative was a principal for a time had office accommodation in the premises occupied by MeBo in Zurich.

6. That Megrahi possessed and used Libyan passports in false names.

7. That Megrahi, on occasion under the false name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad, visited Malta on a number of occasions in 1988, including the night of 20/21 December.

8. That Megrahi arrived in Malta by air from Tripoli with a hard shelled brown suitcase at some point in the two or three weeks following 7 December 1988. [RB: This evidence came from Abdul Majid Giaka whose testimony on this and all other issues, except the structure and membership of the Libyan intelligence services, was ultimately held by the judges to be wholly lacking in credibility and rejected.]

9. That some weeks before 21 December 1988 a person who “resembled a lot” Megrahi, but who also “resembled a lot” Mohamed Abu Talb (a Crown witness named in the special defence of incrimination lodged by the defence) bought in Malta items of clothing that the Crown claims were in the suitcase that contained the bomb.

10. That in 1986 a conversation took place between Megrahi and Abdul Majid Giaka regarding the possibility of a piece of unaccompanied baggage being inserted onto a British aircraft at Malta. In the course of that conversation Megrahi used the words “Don't rush things.” [RB: This evidence, along with most of Giaka’s testimony, was ultimately rejected by the judges as wholly lacking in credibility.]

11. That the second-named accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhima, travelled by air to Malta on 20 December 1988 and departed by air the following day.

12. That Fhima was then in possession of a permit (obtained when he was station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines) which allowed him access to airside at Luqa Airport.

13. That Fhima when he was station manager for LAA (which he ceased to be some time before the Lockerbie bombing) kept blocks of plastic explosive in his desk drawer at Luqa Airport. [RB: This evidence emanated from Giaka and was ultimately rejected by the judges as lacking in credibility.]

14. That a diary kept by Fhima contained entries for a date six days before the Lockerbie bombing referring (a) to the arrival of Megrahi in Malta from Zurich and (b) to getting tags from Air Malta.

15. That a piece of interline baggage arrived at the luggage station at Frankfurt Airport used for baggage destined for flight Pan Am 103A (the feeder flight to Heathrow) on 21 December 1988 at a time consistent with its having been offloaded from flight KM 180 from Malta.

16. That it would have been theoretically possible for a suitcase to be introduced into the interline baggage system at Luqa, although there is no documentary record of any such piece of baggage on Air Malta flight KM 180 to Frankfurt on 21 December 1988.

Apart from the consistency in timing referred to in paragraph 15 and the theoretical possibility mentioned in paragraph 16, no evidence has been led which could be held to establish that the Samsonite suitcase containing the bomb was launched on its fatal progress from Malta (as distinct from being directly loaded onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, or starting its journey at Frankfurt).

[RB: Having regard to the above and to the rejection by the court of the testimony of the mercenary fantasist Giaka, it remains a mystery to me how, at the end of the trial, Megrahi came to be convicted, particularly after the defence’s meteorological evidence established to the very highest degree of probability that the purchase of the clothing on Malta took place on a date on which Megrahi was not on the island.]

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