Thursday, 10 May 2018

Lockerbie bomber’s conviction may well collapse

[This is the headline over an article by Kenny MacAskill in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

The Lockerbie saga continues and, as with the assassination of John F Kennedy, conspiracy theories will run for ever. It’s unsurprising that the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) has passed it through the first stage of their process, as Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction is questionable to say the least.

As the SCCRC found on the last occasion when they considered this a decade ago, there are issues to investigate. Not least the evidence of Tony Gauci, a man who it’s since been disclosed received substantial sums of money for his testimony. Of course, it doesn’t mean he was a liar, I’ve heard many say he was just a simple man who tried to help and only later discovered there was a reward available. 

However, given that it’s unprecedented in Scots Law and that the court in the same trial castigated the evidence of a paid CIA informer, it’s hard to see how it can be accepted. If it falls, then the case against Megrahi almost certainly collapses.

That doesn’t mean that those who prosecuted him or convicted him were at fault. In my view, all involved sought to act appropriately in what was an extremely difficult case. Nor does it necessarily follow that the court will exculpate Megrahi as I’ve always he had a peripheral role but wasn’t the bomber. It’s one thing to argue the conviction was unsafe but quite another to say that he had no involvement. 

It’ll also be interesting if it does return to court to see if new evidence is rolled out by the Crown. Since the fall of Gaddafi, the CIA and MI6 have obtained documentation from Libya, as well as locating key witnesses and removing them from the failed state. They’re now available but will they be produced? In particular will Moussa Koussa, Libya’s former Foreign Minister, appear? He defected with the help of MI6 and now lives in Qatar.

Conspiracy theories abound about who perpetrated the Lockerbie bombing, most are absurd though a few have more legitimacy. However, it’s surprising that people still question Libya’s involvement in the atrocity and the reasons are threefold. Firstly, all the evidence points to it. Secondly, Colonel Gaddafi admitted it, stating that they hadn’t planned it but accepting that they’d taken over its delivery. [RB: The only evidence that tenuously supports this claim is an account by Arnaud de Borchgrave of a private conversation with Gaddafi. On no other occasion is he ever reported as having accepted Libyan involvement in Lockerbie.]  He explained that if had they conceived it they wouldn’t have used Malta as the airport to place the fatal case on board, given its known use by Libyans. Thirdly, those who have succeeded Gaddafi in whatever semblance of government that has followed in that country have also accepted culpability, though they blamed it on the former despot’s regime.

Of course, what gives some credence to conspiracy theories is that Libya neither acted alone nor initiated it. As a former senior police officer once told me, using that euphemism from the Iraq war, it was a “coalition of the willing”. And that included Iran who put up a bounty for an American airliner to be bombed, following the downing of their own civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes just months before. It also included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which accepted the contract and had been planning an atrocity before being intercepted by German police just weeks prior in possession of Pan Am air tags, timetables and similar bomb-making equipment. Others including Syria would have known or been involved. 

This coalition mirrors the investigation into the atrocity which included not just US and UK law enforcement and security services but many others including the Germans and Israelis. 

Now there are some who persist that Megrahi was just some innocent abroad who happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Really? Flying in on a false passport never to be used again, initially denying ever being there and apparently travelling without any luggage. 

The specific evidence against him may be limited but the circumstantial evidence is compelling. He was a senior Libyan intelligence agent – head of security at Libyan Arab airlines. Not only did he carry out covert work for the regime but he was both a member of the Gaddafi clan and married into the family of another senior regime leader. (...)

Some have argued that the bomb was placed aboard at Heathrow but that’s rejected by the evidence though it’s been unhelpful that the Crown have yet to publish the police report into. [RB: The sentence breaks off here, leaving us no wiser about just what police report Mr MacAskill is referring to. Could it possibly be the report on Operation Sandwood?] More compellingly Pan Am went bust as a result of their security failings at Malta and it’s inconceivable that if there were any doubt that wouldn’t have been challenged. Money talks as they say! [RB: The security failings that led to Pan Am going bust were not at Malta Airport. IF the bomb suitcase started from Malta, it went from Luqa to Frankfurt on an Air Malta Flight, NOT a Pan Am flight. Pan Am's security failings were at Frankfurt and/or Heathrow.]

The initial prosecution was also against many more than just Megrahi and his co-accused Fhimah. They included far more senior figures and included the man believed to be the bomb-maker. All requests even by the defence in due course to speak to him were rejected by the Libyans, just as all demands for more senior accused to be handed over were rejected. [RB: This is false. No charges were ever levelled at any time against any Libyans other than Megrahi and Fhimah. No request was ever made by the United Kingdom or the United States at any time for other Libyans to be handed over.]

For a deal had been brokered by the United Nations between the US/UK and Libya that not only would the trial be under Scots Law, though at a neutral venue, but that there would be no regime change. In a nutshell the two accused offered up by Libya were the highest-ranking accused that the Libyan regime was prepared to release and the lowest level that the UK/US were prepared to accept. 

But, there’s more evidence available now and others that can be prosecuted. So rather than looking back at Megrahi’s conviction, maybe it’s time to look at new evidence and at other accused.

[RB: Kenny MacAskill has made most of these points before. They have been comprehensively refuted by James Robertson here and John Ashton here.]


  1. "Tony Gauci, a man who it’s since been disclosed received substantial sums of money for his testimony. Of course, it doesn’t mean he was a liar."

    But this is not the question either. When a football player receives money from a gang we do no longer ask if he maybe still did everything he could for his team.

    "Rewards"/"compensation" to trial witnesses is totally wrong, unless the amount only covers expenses, like lost time and travel. Millions of dollars is a bribe.

    "I’ve heard many say he was just a simple man who tried to help and only later discovered there was a reward available. "

    Not so much later, as it is well known for those who care about the evidence. 'A simple man', expressing the wish for payment at an early stage, and forgetting and remembering as needed.

    "Nor does it necessarily follow that the court will exculpate Megrahi as I’ve always [?] he had a peripheral role but wasn’t the bomber."

    Something has fallen out at the [?], maybe "heard", "said" or "believed".

    Not that it matters what MacAskill's superficial thoughts take him.

    As Moraq Kerr has overwhelmingly documented, the simple theory that the Bedford case was the bomb was met with poor investigation, forgetting (or avoiding) to ask the people who would have answers and instead providing complex argumentation out of thin air.

    Important information is strangely missing or suppressed all along the way - or simply being used for absurd conclusions, as even SCCRC managed to point out.

    Had it been a simple murder case it would have been thrown out immediately.
    As a major political affair and 279 deaths clutching to straws was needed.

    The involvement of notorious authorities and witnesses was not at all needed to hammer more nails in its coffin, but they did.

    1. About the bribing of Tony Gauci. I don't think this is such an irrelevant point. I don't want anyone to be left with the impression that Tony did sell the clothes to Megrahi, or even that he probably or possibly might have sold the clothes to Megrahi, but his evidence had to be rejected because money changed hands.

      The evidence that Megrahi was vanishingly unlikely to have been the clothes purchaser stands on its own merits, even if Tony had never received a penny and merely changed his story out of an altruistic desire to help the police nail the bad guy. In that sense I almost wish the bribery thing hadn't been discovered. It gives the guilters an escape hatch. It allows them to go on implying that the investigation was sound but in the end the conviction fell on a technicality.

      Sod that for a game of soldiers. Megrahi wasn't the person who bought these clothes, the bomb wasn't introduced at Malta which actually gives him an alibi for the crime, and whatever PT/35b was, it wasn't a part of one of the timers supplied to Libya. THAT'S why the conviction should fall.

  2. So the ground is being laid for the conviction to fall but for the authorities to retain the position "but we didn't get it wrong, he was involved, it was just a problem with admissibility of evidence."

    I note Kenny continues to maintain that the Heathrow introduction has been disproved. By whom? Certainly not by the trial court or the first appeal, neither of which heard the relevant evidence. The second appeal didn't even look at the issue. We seem to be back to Kenny having an inside track into the thinking of Operation Sandwood, which he declares has determined that the bomb was introduced at Malta.

    I don't believe him. I don't believe the policemen involved in Operation Sandwood would have told him their thinking on that point one way or the other. I also don't see how it's possible for anyone who has examined the evidence in any detail to fail to realise that the Bedford suitcase was definitely the bomb, certainly to a >99% probability level. Of course, Kenny hasn't examined the evidence. I put a copy of my book directly into his hands, but he has refused to read it. What does that say about his credibility as a commentator on this subject?

  3. "What does that say about his credibility as a commentator on this subject?"

    I am still impatiently waiting for somebody proving to be knowledgeable about details in the evidence and being willing to discuss it - and at the same time believing that we can conclude that Megrahi was involved.

    MacAskill isn't the exception, and no surprise. Success in politics is dependent on not wasting valuable time on studying too many details.

  4. DOSSIER LOCKERBIE 2018 > google translation, German/English:

    Be calmed, everything behind the scenes is crystal clear-it is about secured evidence scams with 2 pieces of rigged MST13 timer circuit boards (PT35) and false witness statements under oath, from official-to the detriment of
    Edwin Bollier/MEBO Ltd, the family of the late Mr. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and the state of LIBYA.

    Seid beruhigt, alles ist hinter den Kulissen glasklar - es geht um gesicherte Beweisbetrüge mit 2 Stück manipulierten MST13 Timer Circuit Boards (PT35) und falschen Zeugenaussagen unter EID, von Offiziellen - zum Schaden von Edwin Bollier /MEBO Ltd, der Familie vom verstorbenen Mr. Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi und dem Staat LIBYEN.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Telecommunication Switzerland, Webpage: