Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Lockerbie: the politicization of justice

[This is the heading over an article by Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, published on his website on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]

The British police have decided to reopen the investigation into the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing on the pretext that there are new lines of inquiry and new names to investigate. On the basis of past experience, this suggests that we are about to witness a new bout of manipulation and blackmail aimed at more than one party and more than one state such as Libya, Iran and Syria. That justice will once more be politicized.
Abd-al-Basit al-Meqrahi demanded a retrial for years through his lawyers as there was irrefutable evidence of his innocence. But all his pleas were rejected and he was even forced to give up his lst appeal after he was faced with the ugly dilemma of choosing between going ahead with the appeal and remaining in jail or dropping it and returning to Tripoli to spend his last days with his family and children.
In December 2007, I went to Glasgow to meet Abd-al-Basit Al-Meqrahi, the main and only defendant in the Lockerbie bombing. He was a regular reader of our newspaper and had telephoned me several times. I spent more than three hours with him, during which I spoke very little in an office allocated to visitors. He wept uncontrollably with anger and grief as he swore vehemently that he was innocent of this charge and that it was pinned on him unfairly and wrongfully. He also stressed that he would not have hesitated for a single minute to admit openly that he had committed the crime if he had done it and would have then committed suicide out of shame.
I found myself before a man who bore the bitterness that only men with profound dignity have. This was particularly evident when he presented me with the prosecution's file, which contained full pages blacked out with ink for security reasons. The first time he appealed before the Scottish court was in 2002 but it was turned down when Dr Hans Köchler, the UN observer who attended the session said it was a clear act of aborting justice. Two new pieces of evidence appeared in 2007 confirming that the evidence was tampered with. The first was in September when Engineer Ulrich Lumpert, the Swiss eyewitness in the case, admitted before the Zurich policy officers that he lied about the detonators used in the bombing. One month later, in October of the same year, Al-Meqrahi's lawyers found out that a second eyewitness, the Maltese Tony Gauci, was paid 3 million US dollars by the American and British intelligence services to say that Al-Meqrahi bought the children's clothes which were wrapped around the bomb in the suitcase from his shop in Valetta (Malta's capital). This principal eyewitness now lives in Australia having emigrated there and become very rich.
Al-Meqrahi's release in August uncovered further proof of the "politicization" of justice. It emerged that there was a lot of haggling behind the scenes to barter the release of a sick man suffering from prostrate cancer with only three months to live in exchange for massive oil deals for British companies. The latter received billions of dollars in return for both three months of freedom for a man on his death bed and for enabling his country's authorities to score a media victory as they celebrated 40 years of seizing power.
Libya has yielded to this blackmail twice. Firstly when its authorities extradited Al-Meqrahi and paid out $3 billion in compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims, in addition to legal fees totalling hundreds of millions of dollars, and secondly when it gave up its programmes for weapons of mass destruction [WMD] giving the "two heroes" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Tony Blair and George Bush, a diplomatic victory when their claims concerning Iraq's WMDs were proved to be lies.
By paying out the money and destroying their nuclear, chemical and biological equipment, the Libyan authorities may have bought their freedom and lifted the unfair blockade imposed on them, but one thing is certain – they now face a new act of blackmail. The British police who are now to reopen the investigation of the Lockerbie case want to question eight other people, which means we are now facing a new and costly legal battle. The more significant point however, is the timing of the announcement about reopening the investigations. It has coincided both with the exacerbated US/Israel crisis with Iran over its refusal to hand over its enriched uranium to Russia and France, as well as the joint air exercises conducted by the USA and Israel, which included attacking potential nuclear targets and supplying bombers with fuel in midair.
We are facing a new chapter of a dirty intelligence game to prepare for a new war in the region. The victims will be hundreds of thousands of innocent people and the aim will be the same ones behind the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, namely, to secure Israel and oil sources and keeping the latter under US hegemony.
Abd-al-Basit Al-Meqrahi's name might disappear soon from the front pages because of his inevitable death from the prostrate cancer which has spread to all his body organs; but other names might appear soon, some of them Syrian, others Palestinian, and thirdly Libyan. A famous television channel is currently preparing a documentary proving that Iran, Syria, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command [PFLP-GC] were involved in the American "Pan Am" plane bombing over Lockerbie to avenge the American bombing of an Iranian civilian plane over the Gulf one year before. The painful thing is that Al-Meqrahi, with whom I sympathize very much and whom it is difficult for me to doubt the sincerity of his tears, will not be alive to witness his own vindication. His only consolation is that he will spend his last days with his sick mother (80 years old) and his children – he told me repeatedly that he was saddened that they grew up without him enjoying their childhood and taking them to school like other fathers.

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