Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Truth revealed on Lockerbie bomb timer

[This is the headline over a report published on the website of The Scotsman on this date in 2008. It reads as follows:]

The top-secret document at the heart of the Lockerbie bombing appeal confirms beyond doubt the bomb timer was supplied to countries other than Libya, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

The document also gives "considerable detail" on how the use of a small bomb concealed inside a radio-cassette recorder was consistent with Palestinian terrorists rather than Libyans, according to a prominent legal source who has seen the paper.

Important pillars of the Crown's case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan serving life for the atrocity, are "knocked down" by the contents of the document, added the source.

Last week, during a three-day hearing in Edinburgh, Scotland's senior judge, Lord Hamilton, and two of his colleagues listened to legal arguments about whether Megrahi's defence should be allowed to see the document, which was passed to the UK by a foreign power.

The UK Government, represented by Advocate General Neil Davidson QC, is opposing the defence application. Lord Advocate Eilish Angiolini has indicated she would hand it to the defence team but for the public interest immunity status afforded to it by Westminster.

The existence of the document emerged during the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's exhaustive three-year investigation into whether Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted of the murder of 270 people.

The information in the document was a key part of the Crown's case that the timer used in the bomb was supplied only to Libya. It also appears to confirm that the method of attack was typical of a Palestinian terror cell in Germany.

Scotland on Sunday's source confirmed: "The document dispels any doubts about the supply of MST-13s (timers] elsewhere."

He added: "There is considerable detail about the method used to conceal the bomb. The use of a small Semtex bomb concealed inside a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder was not linked to Libyan terror activity, but to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), the first suspects in the case."

The source conceded these matters had been "aired previously or pointed to by other evidence" but added: "(It] puts that evidence on another footing because it gives it 100% credibility because of where it comes from.

"I don't think, in itself, it either clears Megrahi or proves anyone else was responsible, but there is material that would undoubtedly be helpful to his defence and, in isolation, would lean away from the Crown's case and the verdict of the judges."

The source declined to reveal which country had provided the information. But, last night, another well-placed source said there were new and compelling indications that it may have been provided by Germany and contained information from an Iranian defector, Abolghasem Mesbahi. [RB: According to Kenny MacAskill in his book The Lockerbie Bombing the document in fact came from Jordan.]

The MST-13 timer used in the bomb was made by Swiss firm Mebo. Its co-owner, Edwin Bollier, has made it clear that the timers were supplied to others, including the Stasi, the former East German secret police. German intelligence would certainly be able to provide evidence of the Stasi's links to Mebo, and to the PFPL-GC's use of Semtex in Toshiba radio-cassette recorders.

In October 1988, two months before Lockerbie, the German secret police cracked a PFPL-GC cell operating in Neuss and recovered four such devices. The bomb-maker, Jordanian Marwan Khreesat, told German agents that a fifth device had been removed from the flat he was working in by the cell's leader, Hafez Dalkamoni, prior to their raid.

It was never recovered and many, including Khreesat himself, believe it was his device that brought down the flight over Lockerbie.

Mesbahi has provided the Germans with intelligence that has enabled them to clear up terror crimes, but he was discredited by the UK when he was put up as a potential witness at the trial of Megrahi and his co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who was cleared.

In 1996, Mesbahi claimed the bombing had been ordered by his former masters in Tehran, not Tripoli, and it is believed that the document was handed over to the Foreign Office later that same year.

There is growing suspicion among Lockerbie experts that the document could even provide the UK with a way to get Megrahi out of jail without facing a re-trial and thorough examination of aspects of the case that would embarrass the Crown Office and Westminster.

It is possible Megrahi will be freed this year on the fairly straightforward grounds published by the SCCRC. The normal practice in such a landmark case would be to order a retrial, but that has the potential to discredit the UK and the US on the world stage.

However, if Megrahi's conviction were quashed and the appeal court ruled he could not have a fair re-trial without the hidden material going to his defence, he would be freed on those grounds and the matter would eventually draw to a quiet conclusion.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter, Flora, in the Lockerbie bombing, said he was concerned that the document might prove to be more important than its contents. He said: "If the document is not available to the defence at the appeal, then that appeal will be seen around the world, quite rightly, as unfair.

"The significance is likely to be not in the content, but on the impact it will have on the process, unless we can crack the impasse we're in."


  1. This is confusing the hell out of me.

    The document is widely held to offer evidence that the PFLP-GC had access to MST-13 timers, therefore the inference that the presence of a shard of an MST-13 timer in the wreckage demonstrated that the atrocity was a Libyan operation was invalid. So far so good.

    This ties in with what we now know about the timer fragment, namely that it did not originate from one of the MST-13 timer units sold to Libya by MEBO. In fact, the fragment seems to be a very detailed and very good fake of an MST-13 timer PCB, marred only by the use of liquid tin to coat the circuitry - which suggests a one-off item, not one of a manufactured batch.

    So did this clever fake originate with the PFLP-GC? Possibly, but who made it and for what purpose? Someone simply making one or two extra items for use wouldn't need to go to the trouble of making such an exact copy - pointless solder resist coating on the back and all. It really does look like a deliberate counterfeit intended to pass as the genuine article rather than a simple functional copy.

    Also, none of this explains the basic conundrum. We're virtually certain the bomb was introduced at Heathrow. (Allowing only for a very slight chance it flew into Heathrow as unaccompanied interline luggage.) A detonation 38 minutes after take-off makes no sense in the context of a countdown timer, no matter who made the device. The time of the detonation fits with a barometric trigger, one of Khreesat's little nasties.

    Setting a countdown timer to detonate less than an hour into the flight, if it was on time, would have been far too big a risk. If PA103 had missed its slot at Heathrow, the explosion would have occurred harmlessly on the ground. Using an MST-13 instead of the capacitor also doesn't fit with the timing - if you have the opportuity of a delay longer than 30 minutes, you take it. Lose the plane and all the evidence in mid-Atlantic.

    So the MST-13 timer shouldn't be there.

    If has been said that it looks like a CIA plant, and it sure does. But how and when? The shirt collar must have fallen out of the sky. Examination of the chain of custody after that suggests pretty strongly that PT/35b was in the collar all along, renumbered pages and all.

    What the HELL is going on here?

  2. You have worked it out well Rolfe. The MST-13 timer shouldn't be there so somebody planted it. Now who would want to do that and why? The bomb was put on in Heathrow making a barometric timer the most sensible option and exploding 38mins into the flight. There is skulldugery going on here but how many people are part of it.