Saturday, 3 January 2015

Piece by piece, the major elements of the case are falling apart

The following is an item originally posted on this blog six years ago on this date:

[What follows is excerpted from a long op-ed entitled "20 Years Later, the Lockerbie Terror Attack Is Not as Solved as We Think" on the website of US News & World Report by Nathan Thrall, a well-known American writer on US politics and Middle East affairs. The full article can be read here.]

But though a chapter may have closed, the Lockerbie case is today further from resolution than it has been since the investigation began 20 years ago.

An official Scottish review body has declared that a "miscarriage of justice may have occurred" in the conviction of the Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The reviewers examined a secret document, provided to the United Kingdom by a foreign government and seen during Megrahi's trial by only the prosecution, that they said cast serious doubts on Megrahi's guilt. A new appeal of Megrahi's conviction is scheduled for this coming spring. The UN special observer appointed by Kofi Annan to Megrahi's trial, Hans Koechler, has declared that Megrahi was wrongfully convicted, as have the legal architect of his special trial, Prof Robert Black, and a spokesperson for the families of the British victims, Jim Swire.

Piece by piece, the major elements of the prosecution's case are falling apart. A high-ranking Scottish police officer has said vital evidence was fabricated. One of the FBI's principal forensic experts has been discredited. The lord advocate—Scotland's chief legal officer—who initiated the Lockerbie prosecution has called the credibility of the government's primary witness into question, stating that the man was "not quite the full apple short of a picnic." Another prosecution witness now claims, in a July 2007 sworn affidavit, to have lied about the key piece of evidence linking Libya to the bombing.So if the case against Megrahi and his government is so thin, why would Libya pay compensation to the families of Lockerbie's victims?

One answer came from Libya's prime minister. He told the BBC that his government took no responsibility for Lockerbie and had merely "bought peace," agreeing to pay compensation to the families of victims because it was the only means of ending the far more costly sanctions against his country. Saif al-Qadhafi, the Libyan leader's son and one of the regime's most prominent spokespersons, recently told CNN that Megrahi "had nothing to do with Lockerbie." When asked why his government would pay the victims of a terrorist act in which they played no role, Qadhafi responded, "There was no other way around. Because there was a resolution from the Security Council, and you have to do it. Otherwise, you will not get rid of the sanctions. It was very political. Very political."

Megrahi has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and may not live to see his second appeal. If he does live and his appeal succeeds, a new and independent international investigation — as has been called for by the UN observer to the Lockerbie trial — may commence. If it does, the investigators will return to the primary suspect of the first year and a half of the original investigation: a cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, whose bank account, according to a CIA officer involved in the investigation, received a transfer of $11 million two days after Lockerbie and whose leaders the investigators believed had been contracted by Iran to avenge America's inadvertent shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner carrying 290 passengers and crew.

Yet the more likely outcome is that Megrahi will die just before or after his second appeal and that with the closure of his death, like that of Libya's payments, most will forget that the Lockerbie case remains unsolved.

[On this blog, I headed the item “US media beginning to see the light”. One swallow does not a summer make.]

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