Monday, 5 December 2016

Lockerbie defence case begins

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

Lawyers for one of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing have begun presenting his defence at the Scottish court in the Netherlands.

They attempted to undermine allegations that a shopkeeper sold clothing, which was packed round the bomb that blew up Pam Am Flight 103, to one of the accused.

Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci had told the court that he sold clothes to a man - whom he identified in court as the first accused Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi - at his shop in Sliema on 7 December, 1988.

He alleged that Mr Al Megrahi had also bought an umbrella because it was raining at that time.

Charred fragments of the clothing were recovered from the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 and traced back to Mr Gauci's shop.

The prosecution has alleged that the garments were in the suitcase carrying the bomb which blew the plane apart, killing 270 people.

On day 76 of the trial at Camp Zeist, lawyers for Mr Al Megrahi called retired meteorologist Major Joseph Mifsud who worked in Malta's Luqa airport in 1988.

Mr Mifsud, the 230th person to give evidence at the trial, referred to weather records kept in December 1988.

He told the court that other than some light showers during the morning, there was no rainfall at the airport prior to midnight on 7 December that year.

He said this meant it was unlikely there was any rain in Sliema, 5km away at about the time the clothes were sold.

Defence lawyers also began to concentrate on the activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) during October 1988.

They have already indicated that they would produce evidence which would incriminate others, including the PFLP-GC.

FBI agent Edward Marshman read from transcripts of interviews with PFLP-GC member Marwan Kreeshat, who said he had made bombs for the organisation.

Mr Kreeshat was jailed for 18 years in his absence for his part in placing a bomb in a record player on an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1972.

He was eventually arrested by the Germans in October 1988, but released in December that year.

Mr Marshman, 42, told the court that Mr Kreeshat was interviewed at the headquarters of the Jordanian Intelligence Services in Jordan by FBI agents in November 1989.

Mr Kreeshat had explained that he was an agent of that intelligence service and was sent to Europe to infiltrate the PFLP-GC.

The court heard that Mr Kreeshat, who has refused to appear as a witness at the trial, was experienced in building improvised explosive devices (IEDs) within radio cassette recorders.

The PFLP-GC had planted them aboard aircraft using women as "unwitting couriers" to whom operatives would propose marriage after establishing a relationship.

They would then send the woman on ahead and give her an IED package to carry on board an aircraft, according to excerpts from transcripts of interviews with Mr Kreeshat read out in court.

The court heard that in October 1988, Mr Kreeshat was summoned to Germany where he met with colleagues and spent time shopping for electrical components and timers and working on building such devices.

He worked on five devices, the fifth of which went missing from his room after one of his colleagues came in while he was taking a shower.

He assumed his colleague took it away and the court also heard that Mr Kreeshat thought that device was a Toshiba radio cassette recorder.

The prosecution has alleged that the bomb which destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 was hidden in a Toshiba SF16 Bombeat radio cassette recorder and programmed to be detonated by an electronic timer.

However, reading from a transcript of the FBI interviews with Mr Kreeshat, Mr Marshman said: "He Kreeshat said he would not use an SF16 to build into an IED as there is not enough space inside.

"He said he would not remove any parts to get more space as then the radio would not work as it's supposed to.

"It is important it works so such a device would not be detected."

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