Sunday, 12 January 2020

"All the evidence points to Iran, including the words of its own president"

[The following is excerpted from an article by Marcello Mega headlined Bereaved father: Rouhani tweet is Lockerbie admission in today's edition of The Sunday Times:]

More than 31 years after his daughter was murdered in the Lockerbie bombing, Dr Jim Swire has condemned Police Scotland and the Crown Office for refusing to investigate a “confession” tweeted by Iran’s president.

Hassan Rouhani used his Twitter account last week to warn the West: “Never threaten the Iranian nation.”

He also referred to the 290 people killed on an Iran Air flight on July 3, 1988, less than six months before the Lockerbie bombing, when IR655 was shot down over the Gulf by a US warship, USS Vincennes.

At the time, Iran warned that the skies would run with the blood of Americans.

Investigators were building a case against Iran for most of the first year of the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing, which claimed the lives of 270 people. But changes in the region’s geopolitical relations with the West coincided with a shift in focus to Libya, and the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan agent, remains the only person convicted of the bombing.

Swire and some other relatives of the Lockerbie victims have never accepted Libya’s guilt, and Megrahi’s own family currently has a Scottish lawyer pursuing a posthumous appeal through the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

After the US air strike that killed Iranian military commander General Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, Donald Trump stoked tensions by referring to 52 further potential targets in Iran. Rouhani responded: “Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290.”

Swire said last night: “It’s been 31 years. There has been claim and counterclaim, but never before has anyone come this close to confessing responsibility.

“Of course, those who want to maintain the farce that Libya was responsible will suggest other explanations, but there are none.

“The president of Iran is saying that they avenged the deaths of the 290 killed on IR655. There is no other incident, no act of aggression by Iran, that could explain that claim, only Lockerbie.”

Police Scotland and the Crown Office maintained that all ongoing investigations were still directed at Libya, provoking Swire’s anger.

Swire said: “I am now 83 and my chances of seeing justice done for Flora and the 269 others who died diminish with every year that passes.

“I used to believe in Scottish justice. I promised Megrahi and Libya that he would have a fair trial under Scots law and I regret that very much because he was convicted on no basis in fact.

“It was a show trial, and they are now continuing the farce by concentrating on Libya when all the evidence points to Iran, including the words of its own president.”

He was also highly critical of the outcome of Operation Sandwood in which a high-level team of Police Scotland investigators spent years probing allegations made by pressure group Justice for Megrahi that prosecutors, police officers and crown experts had committed criminal acts during Megrahi’s trial.

To ensure independence from the crown, police took direction from an independent advocate — who has never been identified — and concluded in 2018 that there had been no criminality.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “This is a live inquiry and Scottish prosecutors have a number of strands of investigation which are producing intelligence and information supportive of the original trial court’s finding.” (...)

Rouhani did not reply to a tweet asking whether his tweet was a confession to the Lockerbie bombing. Nor did the Iranian embassy in London respond.

[RB: An editorial in today's edition of The Sun contains the following:]

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the 270 people who perished, believes Iran has come close to confessing to the bombing in a cryptic tweet.

We don’t know if Dr Swire is correct or not in his claims.

But it’s vital the ongoing inquiry into the bombing gives all leads proper consideration.

Dr Swire — and the other relatives — deserve no less.


  1. Police Scotland and the Crown Office maintained that all ongoing investigations were still directed at Libya [....]

    A Crown Office spokesman said: “This is a live inquiry and Scottish prosecutors have a number of strands of investigation which are producing intelligence and information supportive of the original trial court’s finding.” (...)

    This is actually quite depressing at this stage of the game. The decision that no criminal charges were to be brought as a result of Operation Sandwood does not mean that the forensics and the investigation were unambiguously correct. Mistakes can be made (and undoubtedly were made in this case) without criminality necessarily being provable, or even involved.

    The evidence presented to Operation Sandwood was very clear that the bomb was in a suitcase that was seen at Heathrow airport an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed, therefore it did not fly on KM180 from Malta to Frankfurt, therefore the entire basis of the case against Megrahi was false. It was also very clear that the so-called identification of Megrahi as the man who bought the clothes in the bomb suitcase was a clear case of witness cajoling, and that no eyewitness identification of a stranger, seen once in unthreatening and unremarkable circumstances nearly nine months before the witness was first asked to recall the incident and over two years before he made the identification can be considered to be better than chance. It was also clear that whatever the PCB fragment was, it was not what the investigators thought it was, and what they repesented it as to the court.

    Even if everyone involved in all this was acting with the utmost integrity, these facts still remain. The bomb wasn't introduced at Malta, Megrahi wasn't the man who bought the clothes, and nobody knows what the hell the PCB fragment was other than that its forensics don't match the composition of the boards in the timers sold to Libya.

    The police know this. Operation Sandwood spent years researching it. If they're still tunnel-visioning away trying to scrape up new evidence against Libya and Megrahi to bolster this collapsing case and refusing to consider or investigate any other possibility, then frankly I despair. They seem to have learned nothing from the string of high-profile miscarriages of justice that have been uncovered in the 30 years since Lockerbie, and the improvements in police procedure that were supposed to have been introduced to minimise the chances of these being repeated.

    But then I remember that this very same outfit (including some of the samwe actual people) railroaded Luke Mitchell in 2005, not just on flawed, misinterpreted and incomplete evidence, but on absolutely no evidence at all, and he's still in jail to this day. The handling of the witness Andrina Bryson in that case is an almost perfect replication of the handling of Tony Gauci, right up to the dodgy photospread with one picture that stood out, and policemen who knew the identity of the suspect.

    Talking to the officers of Operation Sandwood made me feel, for a little while, that the Scottish criminal justice system might be capable of recognising an error and correcting it. I fear that optimism was misplaced, and the tragedy of Luke Mitchell - which is objectively a far greater tragedy than the tragedy of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - is testament to that.

  2. how long ago was it that one of the Birmingham Six ( Gerry Conlan I believe) upon his release state that the biggest flaw with British justice was its inability to admit to a mistake.I do not believe that the British public are incapable of understanding that errors do occur, on the contrary I feel that people would expect there to be mistakes and admissions of such would far from harming British Justice only enhance its reputation for honor and protection of its people.

  3. There goes your theory that Iran cares about their planes being shot down