Monday, 7 November 2016

The Goben memorandum

[What follows is taken from a report on the BBC News website on this date in 2000:]

Private talks are taking place as the defence team in the Lockerbie trial seeks more time to investigate new evidence.

The case was due to resume in open court on Tuesday but was delayed by a meeting in the judges' chambers. (...)

"The delay is now being caused by a hearing in chambers regarding letters of request," a spokesman for the Scottish court told reporters.

[RB: The principal letter of request sought by the defence related to the Goben memorandum. Part of a copy of this document had been disclosed to the defence, and they now sought the full version from the Syrian government (which in fact refused utterly to cooperate). The following is from a report in the Sunday Express on 8 July 2007:]

Documents viewed by the Sunday Express allege the plot began when a man named Mobdi Goben supplied material for the bomb to Hafez Dalkamoni, the leader of the PFLP-GC's European cell. He was then introduced to the alleged bomb maker Marwan Khreesat, by Elias, who has both Syrian and American passports.

Very little is known about Elias, but the defence insists he was paid in travellers' cheques by terror leader Dalkamoni in Cyprus, before he took delivery of the bomb in Frankfurt.  Elias was identified as the key suspect although it was never explored in court, even after documents about his role suddenly emerged during the trial.

The Goben Memorandum, said to have been written by a dying member of the PFLP-GC, was handed to the Lord Advocate detailing the group's activities and a confession about Elias. Elias was concerning the FBI before the bombing and was quizzed about cheques deposited in his bank. In August 1988 he met with agents, who knew he was Jibril's nephew. While the SCCRC said there is dubiety over whether Gauci had correctly identified al-Megrahi, documents show the shopkeeper had no such problems identifying Abu Talb.

[RB: The following is from an article by John Ashton in The Herald on 14 March 2012:]

Six months into Megrahi’s trial the Crown disclosed a transcript of a lengthy deathbed confession by Palestinian self-confessed terrorist Mobdi Goben. He claimed that the bombing was the work of his own group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC), a Syrian and Iranian backed faction who were the original prime suspects in the bombing.

The defence interviewed a number of Goben’s relatives and associates who were seeking asylum in Norway, plus a man whom Goben had implicated in the bomb plot.
However, the court refused a defence motion to request further information from the Syrian, Iranian, American and Swedish governments, and the allegations were never raised at trial. Megrahi’s SCCRC submission argued that the Crown’s approach to the matter breached his right to a fair trial.
The SCCRC raised the matter with Megrahi’s junior counsel John Beckett, who said that the Goben evidence would have been difficult to use. It also had access to undisclosed Crown documents, which, in its view, contained nothing the defence didn’t already know. It concluded: the Commission does not consider that the Crown’s handling of matters concerning the Goben memorandum gave rise to a breach of the Crown’s obligations … Accordingly, the Commission does not consider that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in this connection.
Goben’s claims remain unproven, but many who have studied the case, including the British Lockerbie relative Dr Jim Swire, continue to hold the PFLP-GC responsible for Lockerbie.

Mobdi Goben and PFLP-GC member, bomb-maker Marwan Khreesat, each implicated another group member, known as Abu Elias, in the bombing. (…)

A number of Megrahi’s unsuccessful submissions to the SCCRC referred to Abu Elias. Although the Commission could find no direct evidence of his involvement in the bombing, Abu Elias remains the prime suspect for many of those who doubt Megrahi’s guilt.

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