Wednesday, 1 June 2016

CIA Giaka cables and perverting the course of justice

[It was on this date in 2000 that two members of the Camp Zeist prosecution team viewed, at the United States embassy in the Netherlands, CIA cables relating to Abdul Majid Giaka. What follows is an excerpt from an article published in The Herald in March 2012:]

A key witness against Megrahi was a former Libyan Arab Airlines colleague, Majid Giaka, who was also a junior intelligence officer and CIA informant. At trial the defence were provided with partially redacted CIA cables about him.
After two of the Crown team had viewed almost complete cables on 1 June 2000, the Lord Advocate assured the court that the blanked out sections were of no relevance.
However, when less redacted versions were eventually released they cast further doubt on Giaka’s credibility. In their application to the SCCRC, Megrahi’s lawyers, who were not those who represented him at trial, argued that the failure to release the full, unredacted cables breached Megrahi’s right to a fair trial.
Remarkably, the SCCRC was not allowed to view the full cables, but having read the partially redacted ones, it commented:
It is difficult to understand the Lord Advocate’s assurances to the court on 22 August 2000 that there was “nothing within these documents which relate to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Mr Majid on these matters”. The matter is all the more serious given that part of the reason for viewing the cables on 1 June 2000 was precisely in order to assess whether information behind the redacted sections reflected upon Majid’s credibility.

[RB: These events form the basis of one of the nine allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial made by Justice for Megrahi and which are currently under investigation by Police Scotland. What follows is an excerpt from the section in JfM’s press outline relating to this allegation:]

The witness who testified to having seen Mr al-Megrahi and Mr Fhimah with the suspicious-looking suitcase [at Malta’s Luqa Airport] was one Majid Giaka, a Libyan national who had worked for the Libyan security services and who was a CIA informer. Giaka was originally the Crown’s star witness, and without his evidence it is likely that the indictments would not have been issued against the Libyan suspects in the first place.
Giaka’s testimony was originally contained in contemporaneous cables sent by his CIA handlers to Washington when he provided the crucial evidence - mainly in 1991. These cables were presented in court in a severely redacted form, raising the question of whether the redacted passages might contain information damaging to the Crown case. In June 2000 members of the prosecution team were for the first time allowed by the American lawyers present to see the cables in an unredacted form. The defence applied to the Bench to have similar sight of the cables, however this request was strenuously opposed by the prosecution.
During the course of the discussion of this matter, Lord Coulsfield specifically asked the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd whether the redacted passages contained anything which might possibly bear on the credibility of the witness Majid Giaka. The Lord Advocate then consulted a colleague on the prosecution team who had had personal sight of the unredacted cables. After receiving his reply, the Lord Advocate informed the Bench that “.... there is nothing within these documents which relates to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Majid on these matters.”
Despite this assurance the Bench did in fact order the unredacted cables to be provided to the defence team. The contents of the redacted passages demonstrated Giaka to be entirely untrustworthy, and by referring to these passages Mr Taylor for the defence was able to mount a successful challenge to the credibility and reliability of Giaka’s testimony. It is abundantly clear that the reassurance given to the Lord Advocate and passed on by him to the Court was wholly false. It was accepted by the court that there was no evidence at all to connect either accused to a brown hardshell suitcase, at Luqa or anywhere else.
This provides prima facie evidence of an attempt to pervert the course of justice on the part of those members of the prosecution team who were aware of the contents of the redacted cables, and gave the Lord Advocate information they knew to be false, knowing that he in his turn would communicate this false information to the Court.
These facts have been in the public domain since June 2000, and it is unclear why no action has ever been taken against those members of the legal profession responsible.


  1. I suspect that this disgraceful episode had already begun at least as early as February and was a factor in the sudden resignation of Lord Hardie. It strains one's credulity that the team responsible for prosecuting the biggest murder trial in Scottish legal history hadn't conferred about these documents much earlier. Did Lord Boyd really need to ask a colleague in court about it? I am not accusing him of looking for some professional cover, but it looks odd, almost incompetent, not to have discussed the matter earlier and not to have known the substance. I can't imagine, for example, new Lord Advocate Wolffe being so disinterested.

    1. You're not accusing Mr. Boyd of looking for some professional cover? Really? I'm not so restrained. The entire sequence of dialogue reads exactly like someone who knows precisely where the vulnerability is in the redacted sections ("the credibility of Mr. Majid") and seeks plausible deniability on that very particular point only.

      As to Andrew Hardie, well I don't suppose he's going to tell us. But apart from the Giaka issue I also wonder about the malarkey surrounding the suitcases. Bear in mind it was Hardie who led the Crown case at the FAI. If I recall correctly it was Hardie who conducted Amarjit Sidhu's evidence-in-chief. He of all people knew very well that Sidhu hadn't moved the suitcases that were already in the container when he took custody of it. Indeed, that point was vital to the FAI reasoning for ruling out the suitcase Bedford saw. (That case was on the bottom layer. It wasn't moved. Feraday was "adamant" that the exploding suitcase hadn't been on the bottom layer. Case dismissed, as it were.)

      But, if you take all the evidence into account, it becomes more and more compelling that the explosion was in the case Bedford saw. There is evidence that in about November 1999 the Crown was shifting its tactics to imply that the suitcases had indeed been moved, as the only way to get the Bedford case out of the frame. Hardie had argued the entire FAI proceedings on the basis of Sidhu's evidence that he hadn't moved these cases.

      I just wonder if he became so disturbed by the dishonest spin that was being put on the evidence that he quit. It may well have been an accumulation of things, since as you say he didn't quit until February 2000 or thereabouts.

  2. There was a touch of irony, Rolfe. The alternative, that Boyd's junior colleagues had been reading messages from the CIA and he hadn't, would betray a breathtaking incompetence or lack of interest that I can't buy into.

    I agree with your last sentence re Hardie.