Thursday, 17 March 2016

What Lockerbie evidence should be relied on, and what not?

[What follows is a further contribution from Kevin Bannon:]

Lockerbie: the PFLP-GC, the Helsinki warning, Marwan Khreesat, the 1988 Frankfurt bomb factory, the Goben memorandum, Iran, Syria ‘...and all that’ (after Sellar & Yeatman).

The history of the Lockerbie bombing can only be disseminated and understood from that which can be properly and reasonably established, not by uncorroborated hearsay and rumours. We know what was said at trial and in police statements because there are verbatim records. These confirm, for example, that Tony Gauci changed his eyewitness evidence - in every aspect - from a narrative that consistently ruled out the participation of al-Megrahi in the Lockerbie bombing, to one in which served to incriminate him. We know that these changes were made while the police were discussing among themselves the potential of rewards for Gauci - specifically to lubricate his testimony in favour of their suspect-profile. 

The forensic evidence is so profoundly unsatisfactory as to be farcical. A fragment of a time switch, which would link Gauci’s shop to the Pan Am 103 explosive device, and to Libya, was found in the Lockerbie debris on a date which is ambiguous. Both the means of its recognition as significant evidence and the identity of the investigator who first made this discovery – are unclear. The evidence label which annotated the items in the bag, later found to include the timer fragment, had been plainly falsified, but the police officer who admitted having “overwritten” it - and explained why he had done so - later expressed doubt that it was his “handwriting”. The alteration crucially changed the description of the evidence bag’s contents. The page number on which the item was logged in the chief forensic scientist’s notebook had been systematically altered for reasons which remain highly suspicious. The police photograph of the evidence items and its purported date, are inconsistent with other records and the picture is of such poor quality that essential details are unintelligible – contrary to the very purpose of police photographs. The crucial items of evidence – the timer fragment, the radio/cassette recorder which had enclosed it, the fragments of the suitcase which carried it – were not shown to have been tested for explosive residues. 

Incredibly, this catalogue of fiddling and negligence represents the core of the greatest forensic investigation in British criminal history!

This evidence eventually led to the conviction of al-Megrahi – who became a suspect only because of his reputed visit to Gauci’s shop – which transparently never took place. While the find of the timer fragment is generally accepted as almost miraculous, subsequent independent scientific tests on a control sample from the circuit boards supplied to Libya found it to be constituently different from the suspect fragment.

In court, virtually every component of al-Megrahi’s defence was apparently suspended, enabling his incrimination by the contrived prosecution evidence. He was advised to say nothing in his defence in the face of 230 prosecution witness testimonies against the defence’s three; the Crown brought 1,858 court productions to Kamp Zeist, compared with the defence’s seven. In his pre-trial examination, al-Megrahi (like his co-accused) was advised to reply to all 76 questions put to him with a stock refusal to respond, even when the accusations that he planted the bomb were put to him – such is a standard defence procedure in Scotland normally only applied for pathological criminals in open-and-shut cases heard before juries. 

The blatant contradictions in Gauci’s recollections were inexplicably skirted during his cross-examination while al-Megrahi’s counsel openly and repeatedly complemented Gauci on his honesty - at the outset of the appeal he even declared to the Bench, that Gauci’s honesty was above reproach. Other evidence of value to the defence was ignored or blatantly deconstructed. Finally, his advocate simply jettisoned the essential criteria on which al-Megrahi’s appeal might have been effective, even disabling the scope of the Bench to endorse the appeal – as their conclusions confirmed. 

Unfortunately these facts are not generally known because they have not been effectively disseminated; the popular perception is that some dispute al-Megrahi’s conviction, basing their doubts on ‘conspiracy theories’ – the well established euphemism for imaginative fantasies constructed around major crime narratives. In fact, the conspiracy theories in this case, are more steadfastly clung to by those who believe al-Megrahi was justly convicted, including CIA and FBI officials, who have enthusiastically posited al-Megrahi as representing only the tip of an iceberg of international conspirators. The otherwise straightforward narrative about corruption of due process has become lost in a mess of uncorroborated, vaguely intersecting plots, none of which were factually established either during the police investigation or the testimonies at Kamp Zeist. 

The recently posted Scotsman obituary of Lord Coulsfield - referring to the Kamp Zeist verdict as a ‘much debated subject’ and citing the Princess Diana and JFK stories - reveals precisely the detrimental effect of these alternative themes. 

When John Ashton presented ‘Megrahi: You are my Jury’ at the August 2012 Edinburgh book festival before a large audience, one of the first members of the audience to raise a question was a journalist who made plain his deep scepticism about Ashton’s book. This was Ian Black, the Middle East Editor of The Guardian - arguably the most influential individual in Britain concerning perceptions of Middle Eastern affairs. The Guardian is overwhelmingly the newspaper of choice among most Labour and Liberal MPs and academics, particularly in the humanities – a cohort among whom we would expect to find a rich seem of scepticism on this issue. However, I am not aware of significant commentary from these quarters - not even from the shadow cabinet - about this terrible miscarriage of justice, which has had dire consequences, ultimately helping precipitate the destruction of Libya itself.

I strongly believe that the inclusion of the international terrorist conspiracy in the Lockerbie bombing discussion are enormously damaging to the aims and objectives of JfM. In the first place, attempting to identify the actual perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing is a task a thousand times more complex than unravelling the embroidered ‘evidence’ brought against the late al-Megrahi. Secondly, placing these unsubstantiated theories in the same narrative as genuine, documented evidence reduces what is incontrovertible to similar obscurity – a fait accompli for the opponents of JfM. 

The documented facts of the Lockerbie case are very clear and require no supplement of ‘debateable’ half-baked anecdotes – especially those associated with the ulterior agendas of dis-informants, spooks with CIA connections - and even terrorists - a collective which did so much to frame Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. One none truth leads to two none truths and so on until someone see the light then the truth will appear soon.