Monday, 10 October 2016

Lockerbie accused 'given false passport'

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2000. It reads in part:]

The Lockerbie trial has heard that one of the accused was issued with a false passport after security service chiefs sent an urgent request to the relevant authorities.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, was given a "coded" passport in the name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamed, the Scottish Court in the Netherlands was told.

Maloud Mohamed Omar El Gharour, of the general passport and nationality department in Libya, said that in June 1987 his department received a letter from the external security services asking for a new "coded" passport for Al Megrahi.

Prosecuting counsel Alan Turnbull QC asked the witness: "What would you understand by a coded passport?"

Mr El Gharour said: "It means simply that the passport does not carry the original name of its holder."

He told the court that the letter requesting the passport asked for the matter to be dealt with "very urgently".

It said the name of the holder of the coded passport was Al Megrahi who was described as having the job of "collaborator civil".

However the profession listed for his false passport was to be "employee".

The false passport was issued on the same day as the urgent letter was received, Mr El Gharour said.

The Lockerbie indictment accuses Al Megrahi of travelling to Malta, where the bomb which blew up Pan Am Flight 103 is alleged to have originated, on various occasions in 1987 and 1988 using the false identity of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamed.

Carol Butler, of the British Immigration Services, told the court that stamps in the Abdusamad passport showed the user arriving in Malta on 20 December 1988 and flying back to Libya the following day.

The passport was not used again after 20 December.

In an unexpected development, Scotland's Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC told the judges on Monday it was impossible to proceed without further enquiries.


  1. The way that is written it comes over as if the coded passport was requested urgently in order to be used on 21st December 1988. I can't remember exactly when it was issued but it was a year or two before the bombing I think. Whatever it was requested for, it wasn't to go to Malta in December 1988.

    Megrahi said it was just lying around, he'd had it for a while and had used it on a number of occasions, and on this occasion he used it to conceal his journey to Malta from his wife, who disapproved of the decadent western fleshpots. So he left his own passport at home in his jacket pocket where she would check for it. Then she later found out what he'd been up to and threw a strop, so he defaced the coded passport in front of her and never used it again.

    It's such a telling little domestic story it really has to be true!

    1. Ah, my bad. I see it does give the date of the request as June 1987. A year and a half before Lockerbie. So whatever the purpose was, it wasn't bombing that airliner. Interesting how a false impression can be picked up though.

  2. From the verdict:
    "[87] On 15 June 1987 the first accused was issued with a passport with an expiry dof 14 June 1991 by the Libyan passport authority at the request of the ESO who supplied the details to be included. The name on the passport was Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad. Such a passport was known as a coded passport. There was no evidence as to why this passport was issued to him."

    '...there was no evidence...'

    Naturally, this statement has a level of incrimination, similar to a statement 'There is no evidence as to what reason the accused would be on the crime scene [so: other than to commit the murder]'.

    But was the accused/his defense ever [b]asked[/b] this very reasonable question?
    "Why were you there?"

    If not, it is trivially incorrect to bring it up.

    "It was used by the first accused on a visit to Nigeria in August 1987, returning to Tripoli via Zurich and Malta, travelling at least between Zurich and Tripoli on the same flights as Nassr Ashur who was also travelling on a coded passport. It was also used during 1987 for visits to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus. The only use of this passport in 1988 was for an overnight visit to Malta on 20/21 December, and it was never used again. On that visit he arrived in Malta on flight KM231 about 5.30pm. He stayed overnight in the Holiday Inn, Sliema, using the name Abdusamad. He left on 21 December on flight LN147, scheduled to leave at 10.20am. The first accused travelled on his own passport in his own name on a number of occasions in 1988, particularly to Malta on 7 December where he stayed until 9 December when he departed for Prague, returning to Tripoli via Zurich and Malta on 16/17 December. "

    Very interesting, and so?
    If something is to be inferred, as an argument towards the guilt of the accused, then state it, if it is not obvious.
    It is not, at least not to me.


  3. This "absence of evidence" occurs again a bit later:

    "There is no apparent reason for this visit [to Malta], so far as the evidence discloses."

    Nice if there would be an 'apparent reason' but there is not supposed to be.
    The prosecution must bring up the issue, showing that the defense has no good answer.

    "All that was revealed by acceptable evidence..."

    Why should it be "revealed" if nobody asks about it?

    "...was that the first accused and the second accused together paid a brief visit to the house of Mr Vassallo at some time in the evening, and that the first accused made or attempted to make a phone call to the second accused at 7.11am the following morning."

    Very interesting, and so?

    "It is possible to infer that this visit under a false name the night before the explosive device was planted at Luqa, followed by his departure for Tripoli the following morning at or about the time the device must have been planted, was a visit connected with the planting of the device."

    Master of the Universe in the noble art of inferring.

    "Had there been any innocent explanation for this visit..."

    Maybe there was.
    Is it again a demand for in-advance reversed burden of proof?

    "... obviously this inference could not be drawn.
    The only explanation that appeared in the evidence was contained in his interview with Mr Salinger, when he denied visiting Malta at that time and denied using the name Abdusamad or having had a passport in that name. Again, we do not accept his denial."

    I can't ever recall a judge referring to an interview with a journalist.
    Why is it even relevant, if not to demonstrate some bad character of the accused?
    The defense did not deny that Megrahi was on Malta, under that name.

    Lying to a journalist? The press is everything else than a court of justice.

    In Denmark government officials deliberately gave completely false information to the Danish parliament. Verdict: It was "necessary".

    Instruction for Scottish judges:
    Any evidence considered in a court case must have been brought forward by the prosecution during the trial.

    God, how all this is trivial.

  4. Megrahi wanted to go into the witness box to explain what he'd been doing on Malta that day and why he had the passport and so on. His lawyers wouldn't let him, afraid that clever questioning of a nervous defendant whose native language wasn't English would trip him up and trap him into saying something incriminating. Maybe it was a reasonable fear. Prosecution advocates managed to get Wilfrid Borg, Sulkash Kamboj and Joseph Mifsud to deliver isolated soundbites that could be represented as contradicting the rest of their evidence, and ran with these. The same might have happened with Megrahi.

    But as it was, not having Megrahi take the stand meant that no evidence could be led by the defence on these points. So the judges ignored everything said by Vincent Vassallo about his meeting with Megrahi and the carpet shopping and the thing about the wooden staircase and the business negotiations about Medtours, and said that wasn't admissible. All that was admissible was what Megrahi had said to Pierre Salinger when not under oath and in a very tricky predicament. Only what had been included in the documentary was counted, and the fact that editing decisions had put a particular spin on it ignored. The judges treated that interview as if it had been a formal police statement under caution.

    Yes, it's ridiculous.

    As is the statement, well if he had only given us some reason for going to Malta we couldn't have inferred that he went to plant a bomb. Really? He only had to say, in his own words, "I went to have a meeting with a view to investing in Vassallo and Fhimah's new company Medtours, and do a bit of shopping - I bought a carpet," and the judges would have said, "Well in that case we can't assume you planted the bomb." On what planet is that logic?

    Then when the story about what he did or may have done on Malta was finally told, instead of the journalists saying, well now we know why Megrahi went to the island and it wasn't to plant the bomb, the headlines screamed "Lockerbie bomber went to Malta for sex!" Ooh, it appears he was cheating on his wife so he was of bad character so obviously he must be guilty. Logic from the same planet as te judges, evidently,

    They were turning intellectual back-somersaults to find a way to convict him and they may not even have realised what they were doing. Read "Inquiry" by Dick Francis and you'll see what I mean.