Monday, 27 July 2015

US Lockerbie relative attacks Francovich film project

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Herald on this date in 1994:]

The father of an American victim of the Lockerbie bombing has launched a bitter attack on documentary film maker Allan Francovich, who claims that his soon-to-be completed work on the destruction of PanAm flight 103 will make startling new revelations about the identity and background of the bombers.
In a letter in today's Herald, Mr Daniel Cohen, whose daughter Theodora was among the 270 people who died when the jetliner was bombed in December 1988, accuses Mr Francovich of being a ''Libyan dupe'' who is ''at best a journeyman film maker''.
The Herald reported last week that Mr Francovich's film was nearing completion. He maintained then that his efforts were being thwarted by a campaign to diminish his efforts and to undermine his professional standing.
He said anyone who challenged the official version of events, which was that the jet was bombed by the two Libyans subsequently charged by the Scottish and American authorities, was subjected to a tirade of abuse and harassment in the US.
Mr Francovich felt that the campaign was linked to Western intelligence agencies and also to the civil litigation involving PanAm and many relatives in the US courts.
However, Mr Cohen's position is at variance with that adopted by another relative, English GP Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora also died on flight 103. Last week, Dr Swire wrote to The Herald commending any attempt to investigate the affair further.
Yesterday, he said: ''I am sorry that the Cohens have taken this attitude but they lost a daughter at Lockerbie, as I did, and because of that I can forgive them anything. However, Allan Francovich, in the absence of anything else, is at least making the effort to inquire further and to challenge the current situation. Nobody else is doing that. Why not let him get on with it and then judge him on whatever he comes up with?''
Dr Swire, who is a leading campaigner on behalf of British relatives, added that the reason the affair was still wide open to speculation was because there had not been a trial of the two Libyans.
''However, the thing that makes me most angry about this whole affair is that there is continuing evidence to suggest that Western intelligence agencies were warned about what was going to happen. Francovich says he has hard evidence to this effect,'' he said.
''If it is true, I want the Western intelligence agencies to know that they can't just play about with evidence like this as if it was of no importance because at the end of the day a lot of people died.''
In Paris yesterday where he was continuing to work on the film, provisionally entitled Maltese Double Cross, Mr Francovich said the charges which Mr Cohen had levelled against him were those he had often made since filming started last autumn.
''He mentions my reputation as a film maker. Well it is probably not for me to say but my work has been shown at film festivals all over the world. I have won prestigious awards and my films have been shown on BBC and Channel 4.
''He says that our negotiations with Channel 4 for broadcasting the Lockerbie film were thwarted because we had been 'bragging' about the film. Frankly, that is nonsense. The negotiations were discreet in the extreme and I still maintain that they became public by means of telephone surveillance and because of a campaign mounted by someone acting on behalf of certain relatives' interests in the US,'' said Mr Francovich.
''Mr Cohen says that the British Government has never said that they were going to ban the film.
''Well, it wasn't me who originally said that they had. These were stories printed in the Scottish press quoting unnamed Government sources.''
Mr Francovich has also been accused by Mr Cohen of being funded by the Libyans. This follows the revelation that the Lonrho subsidiary which Mr Francovich says commissioned the film was itself partly funded by the Libyan Arab Finance Company.
Mr Francovich said yesterday: ''I can only say this over and over again. This is not a pro-Gaddafi film and the public will be able to come to their own conclusions when it is shown. Frankly, this assertion is probably actionable and it may well be that our production company's lawyers will have to take legal action if the Cohens continue with this campaign against me.”


  1. An upcoming book "Lockerbie: The Framing of Al-Megrahi" contains a chapter on the Francovich film, the tirade of abuse and FBI tricks to prevent its showing, and the full story of the discussion that took place in the Channel 4 studio after its showing.

    The chapter will be a surprise for those who have always accepted the British and American government version of the Lockerbie story.

    1. The aspect I'm interested in is whether Megrahi was just a convenient scapegoat who happened to be in the right place at the right time to have the crime pinned on him, or whether he was actively set up.

      The question of the two photographs may be important. The FBI approached Harry Bell with two photos of Megrahi, in January 1991. They claimed they didn't know what he really looked like so they didn't know which was the better likeness. However, one photo was clearly of much better quality than the other. So they used the poor-quality photo for the identity spread shown to Tony Gauci.

      They probably did that because the poor-quality photo looked more like the photofit of the clothes purchaser Gauci had prodiced more than a year earlier. However, there's more to it than that. The quality of the photo as shown is degraded even from the original picture, and the aspect ratio has clearly been altered to make the face seem broader and fatter than it really is - again, to resemble more closely the image in the photofit. (The original of the photo does look like Megrahi. The image shown to Gauci does not. The alterations stripped it of its recognisability.) How and when was the photo altered like that?

      And talking of altering pictures, the artist's impression also made to Gauci's specifications (and which he said was a better likeness than the photofit) originally showed someone with very dark skin. That picture was lightened at a later stage to bring it into line with Megrahi's much paler skin tone.

      But what about the colour photo they didn't use for the identity spread? It's a different print of the same picture that was used for the coded Abdusamad passport, but it clearly came from some ID document in Megrahi's own name. What was it and where and when did they get it? They then used it for all the Wanted posters, clearly realising it was a better likeness than the other one. But they never showed it to Tony Gauci.

      None of this has ever been explored or explained. Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. I thought it was a great film. Evocative, emotional, dramatic. You don't often find that in a documentary. It's just a huge shame that the entire premise was essentially a red herring.

    You have to wonder about some of the material Francovich uncovered. Was someone spinning him a line or hoaxing him for their own reasons?

  3. "Megrahi ... to have the crime pinned on him, or whether he was actively set up."

    The best argument against a set up is, that if it was, it could have been done a so much better.

    It was only because of some extremely willing judges, lost in their own excellence, that he was convicted.
    They didn't know the difference between 'being possible' and 'being proven'. "There are situations".... You know the rest. Adequately explained by stupidity? We can only hope.

    Bedford reports an unexpected brown Samsonite before anyone have a clue. Later it turns up that the bomb was in a brown Samsonite. Was Bedford's suitcase found, then?
    Total nonsense in the 'analysis' of the placement of the suitcase, and rearranging and who is asked and not asked.
    As you have pointed out so well.
    It goes on and on. If somebody ever ordered somebody to frame up Megrahi they should get their money back.

    - - -

    You have recently written that we should accept the possibility that the timer fragment fell out of the sky with Panam 103. But...

    Then either it was a part of the IED or it was not.

    If it was not, we get into huge difficulties. Shipped as a fragment, prepacked in burnt clothing, in some way that it would fall out in a manner so it could be mistaken for having been a part of the bomb?
    Hmmm. We need Dave back for this one, don't we? :-)

    So saying 'no' to that possibility, we have:
    The IED was _either_ based on a genuine MEBO timer (and the Sn-only issue has a natural explanation)

    _Or_ MEBO didn't make it, but somebody had made a perfect copy, down the the print layout, and the carved-out corner to fit in a particular box. Why would they do that?
    - Not for simple commercial reasons for sure. There are maybe people who would think that copying electronics involves copying the PCB layout in perfect detail. It does not, it in unlikely to ever have happened in the history of electronics. It is comparable to wanting to copy the dish from a famous chef and including the process of how he steps around in the kitchen.
    - Not to frame Libya - the chance that any piece of the timer would be found and recognized would never justify such an attempt.

    If we reject 'it was a perfect copy' we have, combining with your "The Bedford suitcase was the bomb" finding:

    There was a genuine MEBO timer with an Sn-only pcb-layer in the Bedford suitcase.
    It _was_ 'at a center of an explosion'.
    It _was_ set to approx. 7 p.m, with the risk that it might explode in a delayed plane on the ground.
    All the stuff with renumbered pages, 'Clothes' -> 'Debris' or 'the best I can do in such a short time' had innocent explanation or is at least not related to faking evidence.


    1. My brain hurts....

    2. Well, it's like this. Megrahi was delivered to the Scottish police as a potential suspect, by the FBI, who had a couple of photographs of him. The connection that was made by the Scottish police was through Tony Gauci, by persuading Tony to pick one of the photos as resembling the man who bought the clothes.

      At this stage the police didn't know about Megrahi being Abdusamad, or about him being at the airport when KM180 left, and they didn't find out either. The Abdusamad connection was known to the FBI, and at some stage they said to the Scottish police, hey we think there's a connection between Megrahi and this Abdusamad guy, it would be worth your while looking into this. It sounds to me as if the FBI knew about Abdusamad being Megrahi, and being at the airport at the crucial time, but they wanted the Scottish police to find out for themselves. Which they eventually sort of did.

      If you've suspected a person of a crime because of some connection not related to the actual scene of the crime, and then you discover he was at the scene of the crime as well, it's going to reinforce your conviction that you've got the right guy, no?

      I have a strong feeling the FBI knew a lot more about Megrahi than they were telling the police, and that they were in a sense leading the police by the nose to find stuff out for themselves that would lead them to the belief that Megrahi was involved in the bombing. Funny the way they were able to pull him out of the hat a few months after the investigation had decided it really ought to be changing tack and looking at Libyans.

      It's a bizarre sequence of events, really. Look, here's a couple of photos of a suspicious Libyan, can you find out anything more about him? Oh yes, Tony Gauci has identified him as the man who bought the clothes. [Time passes.] Eureka, he was also at the airport when KM180 departed.

      I don't honestly know where I'm going with this, I just think it's all bloody peculiar.

    3. I don't know what role the PCB that the fragment came from might have played in the bombing. I only observe that we have to consider tha possibility that it fell from the sky.

      I can't imagine anyone spiking the bomb with convenently misleading clues. The odds were against anything like that being found. The plane could have gone down in the Irish Sea (I'm not sure how likely that was, as I don't know whether the Daventry departure was standard for PA103 in the winter of 1988). Even as it was, lots and lots of stuff wasn't recovered. Only a fraction of the bomb suitcase was picked up for example. It seems senseless on the face of it.

      I think the renumbered pages are innocent. I don't know about Cloth -> Debris, but the handwriting expert seemed to think it was innocent. And I'm struggling to see that Feraday was aware that PT/35b was a retrospective plant, in the summer of 1991. His report on the metallurgy tests wouldn't have been written like that if he'd known. And for the lads and lassies memo to be a fake, he'd have had to have known.

      I don't have an answer. All I can see are problems. But there has to be an answer, we just have to test every fact we come across.

  4. You know, we really ought to be talking about Khaled Jaafar, given the subject of the main post. There was a guy with some very suspicious connections, if you like.

  5. The Maltese Double Cross really is an excellent, and appropriately poignant, documentary. I always thought the film was associated, or prompted in some way, by the book released the year prior, 'Trail of the Octopus'. And just like the book, in relation to the actual introduction of the bomb onto 103, Francovich's primary assertion in the film was clearly in error. Nevertheless he appeared to, and certainly the evidence collected by Autumn Leaves lent weight to his theory, reveal a darker underbelly to the whole case involving people and agencies who would no doubt rather things were left just as they were thanks very much. Whether the whole curious and sorry tale of Kahled Jaafar had any direct or indirect bearing on the whole story might be something to be properly probed again when the current wrongful conviction is overturned.

    1. Some people have actually stated that The Maltese Double Cross was the film of the book Trail of the Octopus but of course it wasn't. Lester Coleman was just one of many people who were interviewed in the film. There were similarities between what Coleman alleged and what Francovich alleged, but also some major differences.

      Francovich never at any point suggested a bag-switch. In his version, Jaafar was simply given the bomb to carry on board, as an unwitting mule. The whole thing is quite confusing, with Jaafar supposed to have had a blue Babygro among other things. As far as I remember, Coleman was a devotee of the Aviv bag-switch theory, where Jaafar was a drugs courier. The scam was said to be that he checked in an innocent case which would pass all the checks, but then at the departure gate O'Neil and/or Tuzcu would switch it for the case with the drugs in it which Jaafar would claim from the carousel in Detroit. However the substitute case had the bomb, not drugs.

      There are quite a few things wrong with the bag-switch idea, not least that since nobody was counting the luggage there was no need to switch anything, just add the extra suitcase. The DEA admitted they were sanctioning drug smuggling, just not on that day and not on that flight, so who knows.

      There are huge ramifications to all this in the network of middle eastern spying and terrorism that only occasionally break the surface of the narrative. John Ashton knows a lot about it but I don't. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Jaafar had been smuggling drugs (maybe Saviour Mallia too come to that), but again, who knows. The odd part is that Coleman claims that it was the news that Jaafar had been on the plane that immediately alerted him to what had been done. Of course, he's a bit of a kenspeckle character and he could have been jumping to conclusions.

      All that stuff about McKee and Gannon and so on is just plain weird though. I mean Coleman's assertion that they were manipulated on to the plane as a way of getting rid of them. (That's another boo-boo in the Francovich film. Gannon is both said to have travelled on the feeder flight as Jaafar's minder, and to have joined the flight at Heathrow. He actually joined it at Heathrow, having flown in from Larnaca. The guy who saw Jaafar off at the airport was called Ghannam though.) That flight from Larnaca wasn't a normal scheduled flight, as far as I know.

      Look, the bomb went on at Heathrow. Beyond that, I know nothing.