Monday, 16 November 2015

The Senegal timer

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2000:]

A Libyan secret service agent alleged by the prosecution to have gathered explosives and detonators used to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 has been questioned at the Lockerbie trial.

Mansour Omran Ammar Saber is named as one of the "others" in the indictment against the two Libyans accused of carrying out the bombing in December 1988.

The Crown says Mr Saber and other Libyan agents provided the explosives, detonator and timer.

Alan Turnbull, for the prosecution, referred in particular to one incident in February 1988, when Saber was arrested at Dakar airport in Senegal.

He was said to have been beaten unconscious and held in custody for four months after explosives and timers were discovered, allegedly in his baggage.

The witness denied all knowledge of the explosives.

The prosecution says the timer was made by Swiss firm Mebo on the orders of the head of the Libyan Secret Service in 1985.

Mr Turnbull showed the court photographs of explosives, timers, wires and a gun, believed to have been confiscated from him on his arrival at Dakar Airport.

He questioned Mr Saber on how the timer had ended up at Dakar Airport at the same time as him.

"It's none of my business and I don't know anything about it," he replied.

Later, the focus moved to the so-called Autumn Leaves investigation by the BKA German police unit which resulted in the arrest of several Palestinians and the discovery of weapons, ammunition and explosives at a Frankfurt flat in October 1988.

Three members of the BKA unit appeared and defence lawyers sought to show that Palestinian groups were active and gathering weapons and explosives in Germany shortly before the Pan Am 103 explosion.

The defence has suggested the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) were involved in the attack on the Pan Am plane.

The prosecution continues its case on Friday and is expected to conclude on Monday or Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Lord Sutherland granted the defence a one-week adjournment for lawyers to consider their position and prepare arrangements for the appearance of defence witnesses.

The trial, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands, is now in its 70th day.

[The report on the proceedings of 16 November 2000 from Glasgow University’s Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit can be accessed here. The story of the Senegal timer can be followed here, on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s PT35B website.]

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