A commentary on the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am 103 disaster.
Thursday, 22 June 2017
Inconsistencies and contradictions of Lockerbie
[This is part of the heading over a lengthy item posted on this date in 2009 on the Ed's Blog City website. Reproduced below is the bulk of the text of the post.]
Since the release of the Dutch TV documentary, Lockerbie: Revisted, a number of curious unexplained inconsistencies in the accounts given by many of those who led the investigation have remained unchallenged. Officially anyway. The documentary maker Gideon Levy asked a number of important questions, crucial to the investigation and pivotal to the whole case, which were quite clearly not satisfactorily answered. Even more astounding, given the position and power of those in the investigation, some of the answers given by those entrusted to find those guilty of the bombing in 1988 directly conflicted with one another.
Mr Levy's first unexplained question relates to the PFLP-GC cell which was exposed by the German BKA and who's members were arrested in Neuss, Germany in October 1988, two months before the Pan Am bombing. They had been discovered with an array of weapons including a radio cassette manipulated into a bomb designed specifically for targeting aircraft. The key member of this group Marwan Khreesat, seemingly known to be the bomb maker, and part of a group planning on attacking American targets, was inexplicably released without charge and was thought to have left Germany for Jordan. After the bombing over Lockerbie, and it was determined that the bomb had been concealed in a radio cassette player, naturally suspicion focussed on the cell that had been exposed in Germany.
Lord Fraser, the former Lord Advocate entrusted in leading the investigation into the bombing, claims that the Scottish authorities were never given the opportunity to question Khreesat at any point with regard to any connection or knowledge about the Lockerbie bombing. Mr Khresat's involvement with the PFLP group and yet subsequent release can only be explained by deducing he was involved with very powerful individuals with the capability of securing such a release, and we can only conclude that the chance to question him was denied due to Khreesat's complex and unclear association with various intelligence and government agencies.
Richard Marquise, head of the FBI investigative team, states that he does not know why Khreesat was released by the Germans, and it is a matter Mr Levy should take up with the German government to clarify. Mr Marquise considers an explanation may be that Khreesat was working for the Palestinian group, as a bomb maker targeting US trains, bases and aircraft, but was also involved with the Jordanian intelligence services who enabled his release from Germany. Lord Fraser however, suggests that the only plausible explanation was that Khreesat was working for the Palestinian group while also involved with US intelligence therefore facilitating his release from Germany and proving someone who the Scottish authorities could not gain access to interview.
This in itself seems a disturbing chain of events and assumptions by those investigating the bombing of 103, and even more inexplicable to those who expect honest endeavour when seeking truth and justice from the investigators, especially given the nature of Khreesat's activities in Germany and his apparent history of expertise in bomb making. This cynicism is merely strengthened when Mr Fraser had stated unequivocally that neither he nor the Scottish prosecutors had ever gained access, despite repeated attempts, "they (the PFLP-GC cell) had simply disappeared", to interview Khreesat, while Mr Marquise seems quite indifferent to the fact that the German authorities had simply released a man of extremely dubious background clearly engaged in activities to cause serious harm to American citizens and institutions.
Mr Marquise does however state that to his knowledge Scottish prosecutors did in fact interview Khreesat, as did the FBI in 1989, clearly contradicting Lord Fraser's position, and that Scottish investigators were happy to accept Khreesat's word during an interview that he knew nothing of the Lockerbie bombing. That a key figure such as Khreesat, the man that according to Mr Marquise was "building the bombs", with the motive, method and capability of attacking US targets, and whether investigators had interviewed him or not, is not conclusively known to either of the two people leading the investigation, is simply incomprehensible.
Mr Levy then enquires about the possibilty of financial payments made to witnesses before, during or subsequent to the trial at Zeist in Holland where Al-Megrahi was found guilty. Inducement had been made to the public by the US authorities to "Give up these terrorists, and we'll give you upto $4 million" by the way of posters with photographs of the two Libyans, and presumably, naturally, by those investigating while interviewing suspects or witnesses. Even if not explicitly offered to those potential witnesses by investigators, the witnesses would be well aware of the financial reward that was available for the successful conviction of the two Libyan's.
Both Lord Fraser and Mr Marquise deny any financial reward, as promised in the posters and adverts issued, was made before or during the trial. However, while Lord Fraser is unaware of any payment subsequent to the trial, Mr Marquise will not comment. The only implication that can be made from this is that the reward offered before the trial and during the investigation was indeed paid to some witnesses after the trial. Any financial reward or inducement to those providing statements would surely render any testimony or information as lacking credibility and does not enhance the supposed search for 'truth' when life changing amounts of money are used as enticement.
So concerned with the implication of rewards to witnesses that Lord Fraser is reluctant to even comment on the suggestion that money was paid to witnesses after the trial without his knowledge.
The focus of the documentary then turns to the most pivotal and crucial piece of evidence found during the investigation and presented at the trial in Zeist. The fragment of microchip discovered 6 months (although the exact period has been disputed) after the disaster, and determined to be the most significant piece of evidence linking the bomb to a Swiss timer manufacturer who had links to Megrahi and Libya.
This particular piece of evidence, the microchip fragment, already somewhat controversial given the unexplained altering of the labels on evidence bags containing the 'charred' fragments, was examined and concluded had originated with the Swiss company called 'Mebo'. They had supplied these timers, it was claimed, to Libya, and Megrahi with his connections and dealings with Mebo, had used this timer in constructing the bomb which he then placed on a flight in Malta, later finding it's way onto the Pan Am flight from Heathrow.
Now it seems, neither Lord Fraser or Mr Marquise can conclusively explain who exactly made this identification of the timer fragment, and where this identification was made. In the UK or in Washington? By Mr Thurman or Mr Feraday? The fragment itself, or as part of the larger circuit board from where the fragment came? By photograph or the actual fragment?
Mr Marquise is certain that this evidence was transported from the UK to the US, and taken to the FBI labs in Washington, by a member of RARDE, thought to be Alan Feraday were the identification was made. The photograph of the tiny piece of fragment of the microchip (evidence PT35b) on a persons finger is claimed to be that of Thomas Thurman of the FBI, who was also the scientist who uncovered the microchips origin and connection to the circuit board made by Mebo. He claims in Mr Levy's film that the microchip was "brought over by UK authorities" to the United States were identification was made, and was conclusively re-identified in the UK by RARDE (Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment).
However, once again there are contradictions in the accounts given. Lord Fraser is adamant that no evidence recovered from the Pan Am debris has ever left his authority or the UK mainland. This would have compromised the whole investigation and could have resulted in accusations of manipulation and, or, contamination of any evidence purity. Detective Chief Supt Mr Stuart Henderson, head of the UK police investigation, also states that the evidence relating to Pan Am 103, any evidence, but specifically the fragment of microchip, never left the UK mainland, but in actual fact the US investigators and the FBI had travelled to the UK to identify the fragment at RARDE with Mr Feraday.
When the public are asked to trust the integrity of those we commend with providing the truth and justice our democratic society demands, expectations can be, on occasion, somewhat unrealistic. Especially when dealing with highly complex issues of international politics, international crimes of nation states and multi-national business corporations. The public however, do expect a genuine and honest search for these truths, and those we charge with this responsibility to fulfil those simplest and most honourable tasks to have carried out their duty, with conscience and integrity.
Those who died over Lockerbie, and the families of the victims deserve at least this. With the pain of a lost loved one however, the relatives of those who died have also had to endure the persistent inaccuracies, the constant contradictions, and the inexplicable decisions taken with respect to those who carried out the atrocity and how their government failed in their loved ones protection. Not by those who wish to seek conspiracies were there are none, and not by those who have ulterior motives for continuing to ask questions. But by the very investigators, police, professionals, experts, lawyers and those in power entrusted with upholding their faith in human kind and seeking justice in the supposed democratic nation we live in today. For those fundamental expectations and hopes are diminished with every conflicting statement, every unexplained area of the investigation, and every inscrutable and unaccountable decision taken by those with power in relation to finding the true perpetrators who organised and carried out the crime over Lockerbie in 1988.