Monday, 28 September 2015

Giaka's evidence ends

[On this date in 2000 the evidence of Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka mercifully came to a conclusion. What follows is taken from’s contemporary report:]

Today saw the Libyan informer Abdul Giaka, endure his third day of questioning at the trial.

Much of the questioning today centred on money, starting with the $30,000 Giaka claimed he had saved. Richard Keen suggested that this money was made in illegal black market currency deals.

When questioned about how he supported himself when his salary from the JSO (Libyan Intelligence service) was stopped, Giaka answered that it was cheap to live in Libya. He denied the suggestion put again by Keen that the Black market money deals were the source of his income.

When Keen asked him if he had been promised a $4 million dollar reward, Giaka denied this although he admitted that he was aware of it.

Keen moved on to ask Giaka if he read much American literature and specifically had he read The secret life of Walter Mitty. The witness said he could not recall.

The Crown's attempt to rehabilitate Giaka and salvage even a modicum of his credibility failed miserably and Giaka finally left the witness box.

Later the court heard from witness number 689, Harold Hendershot a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Hendershot agreed that he had interviewed Giaka on board a US warship on July 14 1991 and on a number of other dates in Tyson's Corner, near Washington DC and on other dates in July and August.

Hendershot confirmed that on board the warship on July 14 Giaka had given him information regarding a suitcase.

Much of the detail of this information relating to the suitcase was vague and Giaka had not been able to specify the month he had seen the suitcase. Over the next few months further details emerged, he said.

During cross-examination by William Taylor, Hendershot was asked about Mohammed Abu Talb.

Taylor asked if the witness had attempted to interview Abu Talb in connection with Pan Am 103. Hendershot said the interview had been conducted in a prison as Talb was incarcerated. He could not recall Talb refusing to be seen by any American and only agreeing to speak to Swedish Police. Taylor asked where his notes were and the witness said that his notes were in Washington. Taylor said that his evidence was valueless without the notes and confirmed to the Judge that he may require to recall the witness after taking instructions.

Richard Keen referred to a number of trips made by Hendershot to Sweden in 1989 in connection with the Lockerbie bombing. These investigations involved obtaining search warrants from the Swedish police and Talb was named on the warrant. The Swedish Police executed the search warrants with Hendershot in attendance and he was asked if he remembered the recovery of a quantity of clothing manufactured in Malta from the home of Abu Talb. Hendershot did not recall this and said he did not believe he had made notes in respect of the search. Keen suggested it was unusual to have attended such a search without taking notes. The FBI special agent said that in foreign countries there were procedures that could uncover this information. Hendershot was asked if he recalled the recovery of watches and other electrical items, which were in stages of being, dismantled but he could not recall.

Hendershot could not recall whether Talb was in police custody or had already been convicted when he met with him. He said he did know he was at some point convicted of bombing incidents but said he did not know these had occurred outside Sweden. He was asked if he recalled the seizure of a calendar from Talb's house, which was relevant to Pan Am 103. This calendar, Keen said, had December 21 ringed or marked. The witness said that he did not remember but would presumably have noted this if it had been brought to his attention.

Keen suggested another reason Hendershot was in Sweden was because he had been informed of links between Talb and PFLP in Germany and the witness said he recalled travel between Sweden and Germany, which was believed to have something to do with the movement of explosives and the PFLP. Hendershot said he would be able to answer more fully if he had his notes with him.

Taylor asked him if he recalled that a reward was available in connection with the bombing of Pan Am 103. He said yes but could not confirm the exact amount but knew it was more than $1 million. Bill Taylor then confirmed that he would not require to recall the witness.

The next witness from the FBI spoke to money recorded spent on Giaka. In total payments of $110,800 had been made up to the present. (...)

Now you see him now you don’t. By the time the trial resumes Friday, Giaka is likely to be well on his way back to his US hideaway.

We may never know his thoughts on his camp Zeist experience, but his name will live on in the annals of Pan Am 103 as the most expensive witness ever to testify at any trial. This might have been acceptable if the evidence he gave was even remotely persuasive, but only the most blinkered of observers could say anything positive about Giaka's testimony.

The Department of Justice, who have touted Giaka as the greatest thing since sliced bread, will undoubtedly have some explaining to do when the dust settles.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, Giaka's contribution has been described as "totally useless" by one family member and a "complete waste of time" by another.

But should we be blaming Giaka or those who promoted him. It was clear from the moment that the CIA wrote the cables suggesting that he was providing no useful information that the FBI should have taken that assessment into consideration before making a lifetime commitment to protecting Giaka and his family.

So desperate was the FBI for anything that resembled evidence in the Pan Am investigation they jumped at the chance of getting Giaka, warts and all. They denounced any journalist or commentator who dared suggest that Giaka would prove to be a witness whose testimony was shot full of holes. They sang his praises and talked in glowing terms of having "dinner with Majid."

Today they dismiss his testimony to family members as "never having been really important in the scale of things."

We understand that the recriminations are already underway and if "buck passing" was an Olympic event there are certain DOJ personnel at Zeist who would be stepping up to collect gold.

"Poorest excuse of the day" prize has to go to FBI Special Agent Harold Hendershot, a senior agent who came all the way to the trial of the century and was overcome with a case of "I cannot recall". (He was unsure of many issues relating to Talb, which is surprising, considering Talb was at one time, THE number-one suspect for this bombing.) On top of this our intrepid FBI agent claimed that he had left his notes in Washington. Obviously Special Agent Hendershot missed the class at Quantico which dealt with "preparation for a trial."

[A verbatim transcript of Giaka’s evidence can be found here.]

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