Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Abu Talb in witness box at Lockerbie trial

[On this date in 2000 the BBC News website carried a report headlined Palestinian denies Lockerbie bomb link. It reads as follows:]

A convicted Palestinian terrorist has told the Lockerbie trial that he was at home looking after his children on the night of the bombing.

Mohammed Abu Talb is one of the men alleged by the defence to have carried out the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town in December 1988.

But, giving evidence after a series of adjournments at the trial in the Netherlands, he denied any involvement.

Talb is in prison in Sweden for bomb outrages against Jewish and American targets.

His evidence has been described as a "spoiler" by the prosecution to destroy claims made by the defence teams.

In a special defence, counsel for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah allege that the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and the lesser-known Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) were responsible for the bomb attack.

Talb is mentioned in this special defence as having links with both groups.
Prosecutors allege the two Libyans planted a bomb in a suitcase at Malta's Luqa airport and routed it onto a plane bound for Frankfurt which was eventually transferred to the ill-fated flight to New York.

Talb's evidence had first been expected in August, but that was prevented by a series of objections and adjournments.

These followed the handing over of a dossier of new evidence.

Defence lawyers said they needed more time to carry out further inquiries, but Lord Sutherland dismissed their objections to Talb being called while investigations into new evidence were carried out.

During his 80 minutes in the witness box, Talb told the court that on the night of the Pan Am bombing he was at home caring for his two young children.

He said his wife was at a hospital with her sister-in-law who was giving birth.

The defence objected to Talb's testimony, calling him a "spoiler witness".
They said his sole purpose was to blunt the force of the defence's cross-examination, which would have more force once additional information was obtained.

Lawyer William Taylor told the court the defence would be recalling Talb for cross-examination "at such time as we procure the information we need."

Talb, whose testimony is due to resume on Tuesday, also told the court that he had been a member of the PPSF since 1976.

[A report in The Guardian can be read here.]

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