[This is the headline over a report that appeared in the Electronic Telegraph, issue 632, on this date in 1997. It reads as follows:]
Lockerbie campaigners in Britain and America are voicing concern over the US authorities' treatment of a renegade American spy who claims there has been a massive international cover-up over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103.
Lester Coleman, a former agent with the US Defence Intelligence Agency, provoked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic by claiming that the tragedy in which 270 people died was caused by an American drug "sting" operation in Lebanon that went badly wrong. He was serving in the Middle East at the time.
Mr Coleman and his family were forced to go into hiding in Europe after US intelligence chiefs ordered his arrest on charges of perjury. His supporters claim that the charges were brought because he had contradicted the official American view that Libya was responsible for the bombing.
But, after living in exile for six years and in failing health, Mr Coleman returned to the US at the end of last year intending to clear his name. He was arrested at Atlanta airport and has been held since at New York's Manhattan Detention Centre, which houses murderers, rapists and drug-dealers.
Numerous bail applications have been rejected, even though he has been diagnosed as suffering from cancer and the charges he faces are relatively petty ones.
Vivian Shevitz, his defence lawyer, last week wrote to the judge responsible for the case, condemning as "an outrage" the medical treatment Mr Coleman has received since being remanded in custody. Miss Shevitz claims that Mr Coleman, now in his sixties, has been denied proper medical care since being returned to jail a few days after undergoing surgery.
"The way the authorities are treating Coleman is a total overreaction," she said. "There is no justification for treating him like this. It suggests the authorities are afraid of something, and want to keep him quiet."
Dr Jim Swire, the spokesman for British relatives of the Lockerbie victims, said he was disturbed at how the US authorities were handling the case. "The gross maltreatment of Coleman by the American authorities appears to fit a pattern of the victimisation of people who challenge the official version that Libya was solely to blame for Lockerbie," he said.
Certainly, the manner in which various American intelligence agencies have reacted to Mr Coleman's claims over Lockerbie suggest they deserve a more thorough investigation than they have so far received.
When I interviewed Mr Coleman for The Sunday Telegraph in 1993 at a secret location in Portugal, he was escorted by an armed Scandinavian bodyguard who had been lent by a friendly European government that supported his claims.
In essence, Mr Coleman's story, as related in his book, Trail of the Octopus, is relatively straightforward. During the late 1980s, Mr Coleman was working for the Defence Intelligence Agency, based in Cyprus, then a major intelligence-gathering post for the Middle East. Part of his task was to spy on the activities of a second American organisation, the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mr Coleman claims that the DEA was operating a number of Beirut-based "sting" operations, by which agents allowed "controlled" deliveries of drugs from Lebanon to America through Frankfurt airport, in the hope of arresting US-based drug gangs. But Mr Coleman says the operation was infiltrated by Iranian-financed terrorists, who had been ordered to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airbus in July 1988: instead of placing a suitcase of heroin on the flight, they checked in a suitcase full of explosives.
Mr Coleman initially made these allegations in an affidavit to Pan Am during the airline's own investigation into the tragedy.
But it was only after he reiterated them in his book, which was published three years later, that the US intelligence establishment responded by accusing him of perjury.