[On this date in 2004 the Pakistani newspaper Dawn published an obituary of the journalist Paul Foot, who had died ten days earlier. It was headlined A credit to his profession and reads in part:]
Another cause that Foot embraced was that of the Lockerbie victims' families, repeatedly expressing concern through much of the 1990s that in their supposed investigation of the case, the British and US governments were motivated by the need to score political points rather than a desire to find out the truth about the destruction of the Pan-Am flight over Scotland in 1988.
He noted that in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, the official line was that the bombing had been orchestrated by a Syrian-based Palestinian group at Iran's behest, in retaliation for the unprovoked shooting down of an Iranian passenger airliner by the US navy the previous year.
He wrote in 1995: "An interminable series in The Sunday Times in late 1989 named the gang, its leader, its bomb-maker and the Palestinian who had bought clothes in a Maltese boutique which ended up in the bomb suitcase."
Two years later, the blame suddenly shifted to Libya. By then Syria had signed up to the 1991 version of the coalition of the willing; it's co-operation was symbolically significant, so Hafez Al Assad could no longer be alienated. A different culprit therefore had to be selected.
Foot returned to the subject time and again, most recently in March this year, after the families of British Lockerbie victims complained that they had been taken for a ride by the government.
The families had backed Tony Blair's groundbreaking visit to the Libya on the grounds that it would yield some more details about how the attack was executed.The prime minister returned without any new information, nor any indication that the subject had even been broached with Libyan officials. In Foot's view, there was a simple explanation for this: Libya had nothing to reveal.
Making it clear that his opinion wasn't necessarily shared by the families, he concluded that Abdul Basit Al Megrahi, the former Libyan diplomat convicted and imprisoned for the bombing, is innocent "and his conviction is the last in the long line of British judges' miscarriages of criminal justice.
“This explanation is also a terrible indictment of the cynicism, hypocrisy and deceit of the British and US governments and their intelligence services. Which is probably why it has been so consistently and haughtily ignored."
Whether or not Foot's suspicions were well-founded, his dogged pursuit of the matter means that should the whole truth about Lockerbie ever emerge, he'll deserve a certain proportion of the credit.
[RB: Paul Foot’s Private Eye special report Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice can be read here.]