Tuesday, 14 September 2021

"Is this a case of deflected culpability for US military attacks?"

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Victoria Cummock on the Lessons of the Pan Am 103 Litigation published yesterday on the website of Corporate Crime Reporter:]

It was December 21, 1988 and Victoria Cummock was in Miami awaiting the return of her husband John Cummock from London for Christmas. (...)

Victoria Cummock was the mother of three young children, aged three, four and six.

Her husband never made it home.

Pan Am 103 was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board. A bomb was put on the plane before takeoff and detonated over Lockerbie.

John Cummock was at the front of the plane in seat 3A.

Victoria knew her husband was on the plane when she saw the iconic photograph of the crashed nose cone of the plane lying in a field in Lockerbie. 

In front of the plane on the ground, Victoria could see John’s attache case. She had given it to her husband as a gift.

For thirty-three years, Victoria Cummock has been seeking justice for her husband and for her family.

She is the founder and CEO of the Pan Am 103-Lockerbie Legacy Foundation.

“On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky,” Cummock recalled to Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last month. “It was a flight from London to New York that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. It scattered the contents of the plane and the people in the plane over 845 square miles. Eleven people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland were killed when two residential neighborhoods were set ablaze.”

“This attack against America created the largest recorded crime scene and remains the oldest cold case of mass murder in US and UK history.”

“Terrorists have targeted the United States for decades. And threats still remain a constant today. The response by our government to this attack has impeded due process, justice and accountability for those who perpetrated this act.”

“Tragically, the US government has never led the investigation or prosecuted anyone regarding this case. The US government abdicated the lead role of the investigation and prosecution to the Scottish police, which happened to be the smallest police force in the UK as well as the least funded.”

“There was a criminal trial in 2003 at the International Court at the Hague, under Scottish law. That was in 2003.” [RB: The trial ran from 3 May 2000 to 31 January 2001 and was held in a Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist near Utrecht.]

“I have always wondered, with America’s vast reach, power and might, why that wasn’t utilized to pursue justice and accountability for the murder of American citizens aboard Pan Am 103.”

“Aside from issuing criminal indictments in 1991 and criminal charges in 2020, the US has never pursued, arrested or prosecuted any suspect.”

“The family members wonder why the US quietly abdicated the lead role to Scotland, not even to the UK, and handed over full authority to Police Scotland, which had the smallest staff and least funded police force in mainland Britain, to lead an investigation and prosecution of international scope into multiple state terror sponsors and dozens of inter-continental suspects.” [RB: Police Scotland was formed on 1 April 2013. The Lockerbie investigation was conducted by Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.]

“Knowing the limitations of Scottish law, the differences between Scottish and American law in terms of admissibility of evidence as well as witnesses, and the fact that the terrorists did not attack Lockerbie, we have always wondered why allow Scotland to ultimately decide who, how and when to criminally prosecute the mass murderer of Americans.” 

“To date, only one Libyan suspect – al-Megrahi – was convicted and then released after eight years on compassionate grounds.” 

“There is still an ongoing posthumous appeal to this conviction. No one believes that if al-Megrahi did have a hand in this, that he could have acted alone to perpetrate an attack of this magnitude. But after decades of US pragmatic foreign policy, the true perpetrators of this attack will probably never be known. Informants and witnesses die, memories fade, and evidence deteriorates or disappears.” 

“We wonder if the real culprit for all terrorism is capitalism and the corruption and violence it fosters? Is political expediency for commerce, or business as usual, the only brand of American justice? Is this a case of deflected culpability for US military attacks such as the July 3, 1988 USS Vincennes warship missile shooting down of Iran Air flight 655, which killed 290 civilians in Iranian airspace?” 

Friday, 10 September 2021

Tony Blair, the deal in the desert and terrorism

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Aneela Shahzad headlined Tony Blair’s crimes that appears today on the website of Pakistan's The Express Tribune newspaper:]

Since US Forces started their final evacuation from Afghanistan, Britain’s ex-PM Tony Blair has been more distraught than anyone. Calling the withdrawal “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” and “in a manner that seems almost designed to parade our humiliation”, Blair reminded a retreating West that “Islamism… is a first-order security threat”, and this time the radical Islamist will be using ‘bio-terrorism’.

Mr Blair is being hailed by some as a possible replacement of Boris Johnson in the next elections, but Blair’s recent statements on Afghan withdrawal are surely more than just an election stunt, as they come from a man who has been instrumental in seeding wars around the Islamic world, like in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. (...)

Going back to 2004, three years after the US invasion of Afghanistan and one year after the invasion of Iraq, Blair connived with Barack Obama to intervene in Libya; and suddenly after decades of suspended diplomacy between the US/UK and Libya, it was decided that Blair would visit Libya to make the infamous ‘deal in the desert’, wherein in exchange for an oil deal with BP and cooperation on the War on Terror, the UK would return Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya and moreover all Libyan dissidents from Europe would be returned to Libya. In making this deal Blair laid the seeds of replanting UK-nurtured LIFG [RB: Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] into Libya, which would eventually become the rebel force that would topple Libyan cities on ground as Nato airpower would pound them from the skies.

This LIFG was composed of al-Qaeda members who had returned from the Afghan front after the end of the Russo-Afghan War, and had been given asylums in the UK. Meaning that Blair was the person responsible for the lodging and funding of these ‘Islamist’ ‘terrorists’ on Britain’s soil and their export into Libya!

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

The Forensic Explosives Laboratory and the Lockerbie case

The UK Government has today published an encomium on the Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL), now part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), but between 1986 and 2020 part of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE).  Anyone familiar with the forensic scientific evidence provided by FEL in the Lockerbie case may be forgiven for regarding today's tribute with a distinct measure of scepticism.

Material relating to FEL's involvement in the Lockerbie investigation can be found in this blog's items relating to Dr Thomas Hayes and Allen Feraday.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

MST-13 timer designer Ulrich Lumpert dies in Zürich

Edwin Bollier has announced on Facebook that Ulrich Lumpert died in Zürich this morning. Lumpert was the engineer employed by MEBO who designed the MST-13 timer that was allegedly used in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. 


On 29 August 2007 an item was published on this blog that contained the following:

"Ulrich Lumpert, an engineer at one time employed by MEBO in Zurich, gave evidence at the Lockerbie trial that a fragment of circuit board allegedly found amongst the aircraft debris (and which was absolutely crucial to the prosecution contention that the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 was linked to Libya) was part of an operative MST-13 timer manufactured by MEBO. In an affidavit sworn in Switzerland in July 2007 [available here] Lumpert now states that the fragment produced in court was in fact part of a non-operational demonstration circuit board that he himself had removed from the premises of MEBO and had handed over to a Lockerbie investigator on 22 June 1989 (six months AFTER the destruction of Pan Am 103).

"If this is true, then it totally demolishes the prosecution version of how the aircraft was destroyed, as well, of course, as demonstrating deliberate fabrication of evidence laid before the court."

Further information relating to Ulrich Lumpert and the Lockerbie case can be found here. 

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Many questions remain to be answered

[What follows is the text a letter by Iain McKie published in today's edition of The Herald:]

As an ex-police officer it is always fascinating to see a colleague (Chris Keegan, Letters, July 28), harking back to the good old days", while blithely ignoring the massive political, social, economic, cultural, philosophical and technological changes that have taken place in the intervening years. I certainly agree with Mr Keegan that the reliance on technology to reduce police presence on the ground in communities, while understandable, is regrettable and to my mind is likely to create an even bigger gulf between police and public.

However, he seeks to support his general thesis by pointing out that we have always had major events such as COP26 in Scotland and all were efficiently dealt with. Interestingly, he cites three such events, the 1981 Hampden football “riot’, the Papal visit in 1982 and the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, to support his alienation thesis.

Coincidentally I was involved in all three events and would be the first to agree that the police plan for the Pope’s visit was carried through efficiently and sensitively. However during the Hampden "riot", as the force media officer, I was one of the very few police officers on the pitch creating an extremely thin blue line between the rioting fans while watching, with some trepidation, various projectiles arching over my head. The next few months spent defending the police planning for the event, in the face of a barrage of political and media criticism, are still vivid in my memory.

As Secretary of the Justice for Megrahi group I am only too aware of the Lockerbie tragedy and while being the first to admit the commitment of front line staff at the scene, and during the aftermath, many questions remain to be answered in respect of the police investigation and eventual prosecution of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

We all reflect on the past in different ways, and of course I respect Mr Keegan’s opinions, but Police Scotland has had to change with the times. When I look at its response to the unprecedented, and at times unfair, operational demands made of it during the current pandemic I believe that, while much has been lost, we still have a police force to be proud of and policing principles worth sharing with the world.

.....

[The following is taken from an item published yesterday on the website of The Bookseller:]

Satirical magazine Private Eye will mark 60 years in October with the release of a celebratory book viewing six decades as they were recorded in its pages.

Private Eye: The 60 Yearbook, by the magazine's journalist Adam Macqueen, will be out on 2nd September 2021—the year which also marks the 35th anniversary of Ian Hislop's tenure as editor.

“From the Beatles to Brexit, JFK to Trump, the moon landings to the Mars landings, it tells the story of the past six decades as they were recorded in the Eye’s pages,” the synopsis reads. “The news stories you remember—and plenty you may have forgotten—are retold in cartoons, covers and the magazine’s legendary spoofs as well as extensive extracts from some of its best-loved features like Mrs Wilson’s Diary, Dear Bill and The Secret Diary of John Major.”

The book also tells the story of the headlines Private Eye made itself, from the earliest stirrings of investigative journalism exposing the Poulson Scandal and Ronan Point, through major miscarriages of justice like the Stephen Lawrence case and the Lockerbie cover-up.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Blair urged Mandela not to raise ‘sensitive subject’ of Lockerbie at 1997 summit

[This is the headline over a Press Association news agency report as published today on the website of the Central Fife Times. The following are excerpts:]

Tony Blair failed in his attempts to stop Nelson Mandela raising the Lockerbie bombing at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Scotland, despite being warned by aides the South African leader’s intervention over the terror attack would be “pretty disastrous”, new files show.

Downing Street officials warned the then-prime minister ahead of the 1997 summit in Edinburgh that Mr Mandela was visiting Libya, which later admitted responsibility for the airliner disaster, before heading to CHOGM, and urged Mr Blair to speak to him.

But Mr Blair’s efforts – including a personal letter to Mr Mandela a week before the CHOGM, urging him to “avoid a discussion” about Lockerbie – failed, and the enduring controversy over a failure to bring any perpetrators to justice ended up being one of the key themes of the leaders’ summit.

A tranche of previously classified files released by the National Archives at Kew shows a handwritten note from Downing Street aides urging Mr Blair “to speak to” his South African counterpart.

Mr Blair duly wrote to Mr Mandela, explaining the complexities of bringing suspects to justice, having resisted calls to hold a trial in a different country.

Mr Blair wrote: “Lockerbie is of course a particularly sensitive subject in Scotland because of the deaths on the ground of 11 inhabitants of the small town of Lockerbie, in addition to the 259 people on board the aircraft.

“So I hope we can avoid a discussion of the issue at CHOGM itself – we have a lot of other things to talk about.

“But I would welcome a further private discussion when we meet next week.”

The letter ended with the handwritten sign-off: “Very best wishes. Yours ever, Tony.”

Mr Blair’s hopes were in vain when Mr Mandela was asked about the subject, claiming justice would not be seen to be done if any trial was held in Scotland itself.

He said: “I have never thought that in dealing with this question it is correct for any particular country to be the complainant, the prosecutor and the judge.

“Justice, it has been said especially in this country, should not only be done but should be seen to be done.

“I have grave concern about a demand where one country will be all these things at the same time. Justice cannot be seen to be done in that situation.”

The move, however, provided an unlikely fillip for Mr Blair – as his subsequent invitation to meeting grieving families at Downing Street was seen as an intention to listen after years of refusal.

[RB: The events surrounding CHOGM and President Mandela's attitude towards a Lockerbie trial are described in The Lockerbie Bombing by Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph, pages 97 to 101. Further information can be found on this blog here and here.] 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Lockerbie incriminee Ahmed Jibril dies in Damascus

[Ahmed Jibril has died in Damascus at the age of 83. What follows is the report published today on the Middle East Monitor website:]

Ahmed Jibril, leader of Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command passed away in the Syrian capital Damascus yesterday at the age of 83.

Jibril and his family were forced out of Yazour neighbourhood in the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Yafa in 1948.

In 1965, he established the Palestinian Popular Front, which was later merged with other leftist Palestinian factions and became the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In 1969 he defected and formed the PFLP-General Command, which ten years later agreed to a prisoner swap with Israel

In 1979, the PFLP-General Command held a prisoner swap with Israel. Some 76 Palestinian detainees were released in exchange for one m Israeli soldier.

Jibril negotiated a prisoner swap between the PLO factions and Israel in 1985 when 1,150 Palestinian prisoners were released in return for three Israeli soldiers.

In 2002, Israel assassinated his eldest son Jihad in Lebanon.

Jibril was criticised for his support for the Assad regime in Syria, which didn't waiver in spite of the current war.

[None of the reports of Jibril's death that I have seen so far have mentioned his and the PFLP-GC's alleged responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. What follows is a report by Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Black in The Guardian on 4 May 2000:]

The finger of suspicion after the Lockerbie bombing was first pointed at Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, the very group implicated yesterday, more than 11 years later, by the two Libyan defendants.

In another extraordinary twist, they also implicated Abu Talb, once regarded by the Scottish police as a prime suspect but now a prosecution witness.

For years, western intelligence agencies believed in a simple explanation. The bombing was funded by Iran in retaliation for the mistaken shooting down of an Iranian airliner by an American warship, the USS Vincennes, over the Persian Gulf in July 1988, five months before the Lockerbie bombing.

It was assumed that the Iranians paid Jibril's Syria-backed group to carry out a revenge attack. The assumption appeared to be backed up by the arrest a few months before the bombing of 17 people in Frankfurt, where the bag containing the bomb is alleged to have been placed on the Pan Am airliner. It was reported later that those arrested in the operation, called Autumn Leaves, included Hafez Dalkamoni, a prominent member of the PFLP-GC with links to Palestinians in Uppsala, Sweden.

They also included Marwan Kreeshat, a Jordanian, found with explosives and a Toshiba cassette player in his car similar to the one believed to have contained the bomb that destroyed the Pan Am airliner. British intelligence was later astonished to learn that he had been released for lack of evidence.

Iran appeared to be further implicated in the bombing when a US intelligence report referred to Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, a former Iranian interior minister who supervised Iranian funding of Middle East terror groups, paying out "10 million in dollars in cash and gold ... to bomb Pan Am flight 103 ... in retaliation for the US shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus".

The existence of the report, which was given to lawyers representing Pan Am, became known in 1995. This was after the two Libyans were indicted and officials in Washington and London played down its significance, describing it as low-grade information found to be incorrect.

The trail to Talb began when he was linked to a car belonging to to one of those arrested in Frankfurt. Talb was found guilty at Uppsala in December 1989 of planting a bomb at a synagogue in Copenhagen four years earlier.

Swedish police were reported to have found at Talb's Uppsala apartment an air ticket from Malta to Stockholm indicating that he was on the island at the time children's clothes - part of the evidence against the two Libyans - were bought.

British Lockerbie investigators were also alleged to have found clothes bought in Malta during a later raid on Talb's flat. Also found there was a diary with December 21 1988 - the date of the bombing - circled. He was named in the Uppsala court as being suspected in Scotland of murder or as an accessory to murder.

Yesterday, Egyptian-born Talb was described in the Camp Zeist court as a member of the Palestine Popular Struggle Front and witness number 963 for the Scottish prosecution. The PPSF was founded in 1969 with backing from Syria, and split in 1981. One of its two founders, Samir Ghosheh, left in 1981 to join the mainstream PLO and is now a minister in Yasser Arafat's Palestine Authority in Gaza.

Experts said last night that the PPSF was defunct and that little had been heard of it for at least two years.

According to Israel's Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, the PFLP-GC, which rejects a political settlement with Israel, has maintained links with Syria, Libya and Iran, serving as a proxy for those states in attacks in the international arena. It was suspected of carrying out the bombing of a French airliner in 1989 over Niger.

Ahmed Jibril declined to comment last night.

Some commentators say that attention over Lockerbie turned to Libya when the west wanted to improve relations with Iran and Syria after the Gulf war against Iraq. Washington and London dismiss this as conspiracy theory.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The Tundergarth drugs suitcase

A persistent rumour relating to the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie involves the alleged discovery by farmer Jim Wilson at the Tundergarth site of a suitcase containing drugs. 

Here is a snippet from an article in The London Review of Books in 2007: "Jim Wilson, a farmer from the village of Tundergarth, reported shortly after the bombing that he had found in his field a suitcase packed with a powdery substance that looked ‘like drugs’. He last saw the suitcase when he handed it over to the police, he said; he was never asked about it again." And this is from the Morning Star in 2014: "Another farmer at Tundergarth Mains, Jim Wilson, found his fields were littered with bodies and debris from the airliner. The mess included a suitcase, neatly packed with a powdery substance that looked like drugs. Wilson was one of the first witnesses to give evidence when the fatal accident inquiry started in October 1990. Yet no-one asked him about the drugs suitcase."

The Rev'd John Mosey has today kindly provided me with the following account of this fascinating story.

Here is my recollection of events and conversations with farmer Jim Wilson regarding the finding of drugs on his land.

It was Mrs Wilson who first took us across their fields to the spot where our daughter’s body had fallen on land belonging to their close neighbour. This was in the very early days and a warm relationship grew up between us. Whenever we visited Lockerbie we would try to fit in a short visit to the Mains farm.

It was during one of these visits earlier in the year, before the Fatal Accident Inquiry which was held in October 1990 that, while we were drinking tea in the farmhouse kitchen, Jim asked me to go into the sitting room with him as he had something he wanted to tell me. We sat together on the sofa and, with some agitation and emotion, he said that there was something that he needed to tell someone about. I supposed, in a way, to “get it off his chest”.

He told me that one day shortly after the disaster he had come across a suitcase which had landed in either a bed of nettles or of brambles. (I don’t recall which). The lid had sprung open and he said that he was afraid that his animals might get their noses into it. He examined it a bit more closely and found, beneath a small layer of clothing, a broad plastic ‘belt’ (that was the word he used as he showed its approximate dimensions and format with his hands). He said and signified that the ‘belt’ was divided into compartments, each filled with a white powder, and was folded backwards and forwards in the suitcase. He told me that he licked his finger and tasted the powder adding, “it wasn’t sugar”. He continued to tell me that he phoned the police and they sent out a local police officer (he could remember the number on his uniform) accompanied by an American.The American was very angry that this case had been missed. They took it away handcuffed to the police officer’s wrist.

During the Fatal Accident Inquiry, (which I attended) Jim Wilson was questioned but this matter was not raised. I approached the government appointed lawyer who was representing our interests and he took me through the security into the court where I was received by two august gentlemen one of which, I was told, was the senior police officer in charge of the case and the other the Lord Advocate or Procurator Fiscal. (I forget which, but think it was the former.) [RB: John Mosey's description of this person leads me to believe that it was not the then Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.] I told them about my conversation with Jim Wilson and asked why this matter had not been raised. I was told that they would send senior officers up to Tundergarth to question Jim about it. Brian Gill QC, our appointed legal representative, said that if I continued to pursue the matter he would cease to represent me.

About a year later, towards the end of 1991 (probably on the 21st December) we visited the Wilsons and I asked Jim about the police visit following the FAI. He replied that they hadn’t been near him. There had been no visit.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Jim Swire's 32-year worldwide fight for justice

[Today's edition of the Daily Mirror newspaper contains a long article headlined 'My 32-year worldwide fight for justice for the girl I lost in Lockerbie bombing'. It reads in part:]

The one thing Jim Swire treasures the most also causes him the most pain. A 50-year-old tape recording, now transferred on to a compact disc, and carefully stored away in a special drawer in his Oxfordshire house.

In it, Jim is singing along with and his seven-year-old daughter Flora as she plays the guitar during an idyllic break on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. (...)

Flora had been flying to the US to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, and from where she planned to surprise her parents with the news she had been accepted for a coveted place to complete her medical training at Cambridge University.

But she never got to do either. Thirty-eight minutes into the long-haul flight, the airliner exploded as it flew 31,000ft over Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground. (...)

His world suddenly torn apart by grief, Jim, a GP, was determined to find answers, and set off on an unforgiving journey that would take him all around the world – including inside the desert tent of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.

More than 32 years later, and now aged 85, Jim is finally releasing a full account of all he discovered in a new book, The Lockerbie Bombing. His memoirs are also being made into a TV series, released next year. (...)

Jim dealt with his grief by spending every waking hour searching for information. And it wasn’t long before he began to suspect a cover up.

First, he came across a communication sent from German police to the British government in October 1988 - two months before the attack, warning that Palestinian terrorists were planning to explode a bomb on a plane heading to the US.

The information came after the arrest of a Palestinian bomb maker Marwan Khreesat, who was later released by a German judge. 

Next, he discovered a classified telex sent by the then British transport secretary James Jack to Heathrow airport, two days before the bombing, with a photo of the type of bomb they believed would be used, hidden inside a radio cassette player to make it difficult to detect on X-ray equipment.

Incredibly, the message told airport staff that if they had suspicions about any object it should be “consigned to the aircraft hold” – exactly where the Lockerbie bomb exploded.

Jim also discovered that, days before the disaster, a notice had been put up in the US embassy in Moscow warning staff of a threat to Pan Am aircraft in the run up to Christmas and advising them to rebook with another airline. (...)

Jim’s investigations led him to believe the Lockerbie bombing was actually ordered by Iran, in retaliation for an incident in July 1988, when American warship The Vincennes destroyed an aircraft in flight containing 290 pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

He believes Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who publicly swore revenge, commissioned a Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [-General Command], to take down an American plane.

He thinks that, despite knowing the truth, the US and the UK decided to blame Libya, an oil-rich country which was in America’s sights.

Convinced that Libya, and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in January 2001, wasn’t behind his daughter’s murder, Jim has visited the country, meeting Colonel Gaddafi several times and making friends with al-Megrahi.

Of his first meeting with Gaddafi, who was overthrown and killed in 2011, he says: “I was terrified. A GP from the middle of England shaking hands with the man who was supposed to be the devil incarnate. We met in his tent in the middle of the desert.

"We were surrounded by his female bodyguards holding AK47s and as I went over to him I could hear the safety catches all clicking off. We got on and even became friends.”

Does he now have all the answers he was so desperate to find? “Yes, but I don’t have the ability to do what I feel is desperately important to be done with those answers.

“I would love to go and talk to the Ayatollahs in Iran, and the men they used, and tell them I forgive them and explain why.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Evidence weak, key winesses highly suspicious

[What follows is excerpted from a long article by Dr Jim Swire published today on the Mail Online website:]

... in August [1989], the British and American relatives started a campaign for an inquiry into the bombing and I found myself appointed their British spokesman. I knew I couldn't just sit and think about Flora; I'd go mad. So I began to channel all my emotional energy into a campaign to find the truth.

As my recipe for survival, I searched tirelessly and single-mindedly for details of the political events that had led to the outrage. This led to extensive travels — to Malta, Germany, France, Sweden, the US and Libya — as the trail grew ever more murky.

I also campaigned to tighten up the lax airline security systems that had allowed the bombing to occur. At one point, I even flew to America with a fake bomb in my luggage — with a slab of marzipan doubling for the Semtex. No one challenged me, even when I took an internal flight in the US.

Eventually, in 2001, the former Libyan secret agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi — a man I passionately believed to be innocent — was convicted of the bombing. The verdict left me in such despair that I fainted in the courtroom. [RB: The only evidence that Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence agent came from Majid Giaka, a witness assessed by the trial judges as wholly devoid of credibility except, for some unexplained reason, on this one single issue.]

I'd watched every moment of the year-long trial, yet to me the evidence was weak, and the key witnesses had seemed highly suspicious.

It was clear by then that the intelligence services were concealing important evidence. Would I go to my grave, I asked myself, without ever knowing who murdered my daughter?

On August 20, 2009, al-Megrahi, who was suffering from prostate cancer, was released from his Scottish jail on compassionate grounds. Later I visited him in Libya as he lay dying.

He clasped my hands. 'I am going to a place where I hope soon to see Flora,' he said. 'I will tell her that her father is my friend.' He died barely six months later.

Even now, in spite of deeply compromised witnesses — two of whom were paid millions of dollars for their testimony — and disproven evidence, our repeated calls for an inquiry into our greatest terrorist atrocity in modern times have been rejected by multiple prime ministers from Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron.

So much evidence points to the bomber being a Jordanian terrorist, but that man was also a valuable CIA asset.

It's my belief that the US and British governments collaborated to pin the blame for Lockerbie on Libya, and that the two countries worked together to ensure any evidence undermining the case against al-Megrahi would never see the light of day.

Has there ever been a greater outrage with less action taken? Do transatlantic national interests trump all other values? Are the dead of Lockerbie not to be weighed in the balance?

Jane and I are now in our 80s — but we will not cease campaigning for the truth about the Lockerbie disaster to be revealed.

THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING: A FATHER'S SEARCH FOR JUSTICE by Dr Jim Swire, published by Birlinn at £14.99

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Verdict has inflicted catastrophic damage on Scotland’s criminal justice system

[What follows is excerpted from a long article headlined Lockerbie bombing: Murder victim’s father blames Iran for atrocity and accuses the West of ‘sinister’ cover up published today on the website of the Dundee newspaper The Courier:]

More than 32 years have passed since Jim and Jane’s hearts were torn apart by the terrible events that took place in the skies above Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.

A terrorist bomb, loaded into the hold of their beloved daughter’s New York-bound aircraft, exploded 38 minutes after take off from Heathrow Airport, murdering 270 people.

At first, Jim accepted American claims that Libya was responsible.

But during the trial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man eventually convicted of the atrocity, he began to have doubts. (...)

Over three decades, Jim’s search for the “truth” on behalf of Flora and all those who died has taken him from the corridors of power in London and Washington to the United Nations and Egypt, as well as to the inner sanctum of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Now having released his new book, co-written with Peter Biddulph, The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice, Jim explains why he remains disillusioned with the British and American establishment and why he firmly believes it was Iran – not Libya – that was responsible for the atrocity.

He also believes the 2001 Lockerbie trial verdict has inflicted “catastrophic” damage on Scotland’s criminal justice system.

“What matters most about Lockerbie is that 270 people died in a clear cut revenge attack launched at the behest of Iran, and our government both failed to take any notice of the warnings and failed to allow any inquiry into why the attack hadn’t been prevented,” says Jim, now 85, in an interview from his home in the North Cotswolds.

“It’s my view having studied the evidence very carefully over 32 years that the device never came from Malta, never came through Frankfurt airport but was delivered overland to Heathrow and put aboard there, despite the government having been warned about it.

“There’s plenty supporting evidence to show that, which leaves the question of how did it come about that the West mounted the trial that resulted in the conviction of one of one of those two Libyans when clearly that’s not how it was carried out at all?

“I think that’s a really sinister background.

“But the other thing that is monstrous, apart from the murders themselves, is the fact that for whatever reason the West, which really means America and Britain, decided that it was going to create an entirely false story to conceal the fact that they had other ambitions of the outcome from Lockerbie to serve some kind of purpose other than the truth.” (...)

He talks about his view – backed by Scots lawyers he’s spoken to – that the evidence at the Camp Zeist Scottish Court trial was “not coherent”.

While he thinks police in Scotland “did their best”, he believes a fundamental error was made when clothing wrapped around the bomb traceable to Malta was presented as evidence the bomb had come from Malta.

Jim believes that for geopolitical reasons, instead of looking for justice, politicians “wanted to divert blame away from Iran” and they “needed a scapegoat” which they found in Gaddafi’s Libya. Gaddafi admitted responsibility but maintained he did not order the attack.

Jim believes the conviction of al-Megrahi was “one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the history of Scottish law” and believes future historians will piece together “what really happened” when confidential documents are made public. (...)

Flora, a brilliant medical researcher just a day short of her 24th birthday, was on her way to see her boyfriend in the USA for Christmas when she was murdered.

Describing bereavement as a “life sentence”, Jim admits he and his wife quietly reflect on the children their daughter might have had and the career she might have led.

But as a member of that unwanted club of families who have been affected by terrorist atrocities, he also reveals one of the worst things that happened to him during the last 32 years was when he received an email from a relative of one of the American victims whose daughter had been killed on the flight – sent at a time when it was known al-Megrahi had incurable prostate cancer.

“What she said to me was ‘Dr Swire, you are a doctor over there. Will you speak to the doctors over there and tell them that we don’t want painkillers to be provided to Megrahi. We want that man to die in the utmost agony’.

“What that told me was that poor lady: the hatred she had for the man she at that time very reasonably believed had murdered her child.

“That was another victory for the terrorists – her personality had been destroyed by the hatred that had been generated by the terrorist atrocity.

“One of the things that all of this nonsense about Malta and Libyans and all the rest of it has done is deny us so far the ability to even forgive those who really did murder our children who in this case was essentially the Ayatollahs of Iran and their minions.

“To be denied that and to protect those people from the wrath of international justice is one of the most dreadful things to have fallen out of this, apart from the dreadful murders themselves.”

Thursday, 13 May 2021

"Hard to have confidence in the integrity of our law"

[What follows is excerpted from a review by novelist and journalist Allan Massie in today's edition of The Scotsman of Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph's book The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father's Search For Justice:]

It is now more than 32 years since a bomb placed in the cargo hold of a Pan-Am flight exploded over Lockerbie 38 minutes out of Heathrow, and 270 people were killed. One of them was Dr Jim Swire’s 23-year-old daughter Flora. Ever since, he has devoted his life to trying to establish who was responsible for the crime. He has, by his account, written here with the collaboration of Paul Biddulph, been thwarted at every turn. Consequently, he has developed a deep distrust of the British and American governments and their secret services, and, sadly, a like distrust of the working of the Scottish justice system, both the courts and the police. (...)

Obviously it was an act of terror. But who were the terrorists? From the start the assumption was that it was not the act of a lone terrorist group like the Red Brigade in Italy or the Badaar-Meinhoff gang in West Germany, but had been planned or at least authorised by a hostile state – a state hostile to the USA. The two favoured candidates were Iran and Libya, both of which had recent reason to plan the atrocity.

Meanwhile, the British Government refused requests to hold a Public Inquiry. Dr Swire was, and still is, naturally indignant. Yet, though there were other murky reasons for this refusal, the stated one was good. Can you properly hold such an enquiry, with witnesses on oath, without compromising an ongoing criminal investigation and any subsequent trial?

The investigation eventually focussed on Libya, and then on identified suspects. Where could a trial be held? Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh University proposed staging it a third country, but with Scottish judges and according to Scots Law. It seemed improbable that Libya would find this acceptable. With great courage, Dr Swire went to Libya himself, with a photograph of his murdered daughter, to make a personal appeal to the dictator, Colonel Gaddafi. Politics, and a desire to have economic sanctions lifted, persuaded Gaddafi to give way. Two suspects were therefore delivered to the Netherlands and the trial was underway.

As we all know, one suspect, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, the other not. Members off the bereaved American families expressed satisfaction, but, even as Dr Swire sat through the trial, his confidence in both the evidence offered and the verdict withered. This book tells us why. It tells, too, how he supported al-Megrahi’s appeals and requests for a re-trial, how he befriended him and called for his repatriation when he was diagnosed with cancer, and visited him in Libya before his death.

Though one distinguished Scots lawyer who observed the trial told me that on the evidence presented the only possible verdict had been delivered, an opinion which the Scottish courts have continued to uphold, it subsequently seemed clear that there were weaknesses it the Crown case and that the evidence of its chief witness was tainted and therefore cannot be thought reliable.

It is hard to read this book without concluding that Dr Swire is right, and that for reasons which are both understandable and shameful, successive British governments repeatedly obstructed the investigation and that they did so at the instigation of our American allies. That said, one has in any trial or account of an investigation to remember that things tend to be convincing when you are hearing only one side of the argument, one version of the story. This book recounts Dr Swine’s long and painful search for the truth about Lockerbie, and his version is persuasive. It is disturbing too because, if Dr Swire has it right, the Scottish judges who have now three times rejected appeals against the original verdict, have made it hard to have confidence in the integrity of our law. Lockerbie was a disaster; what caused it remains a mystery.

The Lockerbie Bombing, by Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph, Birlinn, 256pp, £14.99

Saturday, 8 May 2021

"Not a court of justice but a court of politics"

[What follows is excerpted from a very long article published today on the website of The Herald. The full article can (and should) be read here.]

[Dr Jim] Swire says his short-term memory is not so good, but on the details of the evidence around Lockerbie, on the events that devastated his life, he is as sharp as a tack. He believes he knows the story behind the bombing of Pan-Am 103 and that the wrong man was convicted, the wrong country blamed.

Fingers, he said, should have been pointed at Iran, who organised it through the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), not Libya. There was even a strong motive: revenge for the shooting-down of the Airbus carrying 290 pilgrims by the USS Vincennes. Swire no longer believes that the full truth will come out in his lifetime. The sadness and anger he feels is not just at the loss of his daughter – it is also the rage of disillusionment. He rails against the opacity of the British establishment, institutions in which he had faith.

“I was the son of an Army officer,” he says, “who had been trained to look after parts of the empire during his professional career in the Royal Engineers. I thought that the establishment was working for the protection, at the very least, of its citizens. My belief was that the establishment of the UK was honourable and sought right over wrong.”

He recalls: “It wasn’t really till the end of the Camp Zeist trial of Megrahi [in which he was found guilty] that I was forced to give up that fabulous belief. I realised that was not a court of justice but a court of politics that was being held to enable the Americans to achieve their aim of diverting blame to Libya, away from Iran. One of the things that really annoys me now is that Britain was acting as a lapdog for America.” (...)

In the months following Flora’s death, Swire submerged himself in a sea of information – including technical details of the bomb and its mechanism.

“I’ve always been interested in electronics. I learned a lot about nasty plastic explosives.” he says.

From early on, he became convinced that the bomb had been one whose timer had a pressure-related switch which would trigger shortly after take-off.

“Soon after Lockerbie I got hold of an illustrated brochure from West Germany which told the British Department of Transport that the German police had recovered some specialised bombs in an operation called Autumn Leaves,” he recalls.

“It told how these bombs had a switch that could detect a drop in air pressure when an aeroplane took off and that around seven minutes from the time the wheels left the tarmac it would switch the timer on in the bomb and that the timers ran for approximately 30 minutes.”

He did the maths. “That makes a total of 37 minutes from leaving the ground before the thing went off. It was exactly that timing, 38 minutes into the flight, at which Pan-Am 103 blew up.”

The explanation that the bomb involved was one with a long running digital timer, supplied by MEBO and including circuit board produced by the Zurich company Thuring, which was at the heart of the Megrahi conviction, is one he believes too elaborate. “I think of William of Ockham. He said the simplest explanation consistent with the known facts is the most likely to be true.”

He argues that the bomb was made by terrorists linked to the PFLP-GC and that the clothing from Malta was deliberately put alongside the bomb in order to mislead. “I think,” he says, “that it all worked out according to the plans that were laid by Iran through the use of their surrogate terrorist group, the PFLP-GC.”

Key evidence supporting his theory, published in his book, some of which comes from the John Ashton book Megrahi: You are My Jury, includes a metallurgical examination done by experts commissioned by the Megrahi defence team, which showed that the circuit board fragment used as evidence did not come from a particular set of bombs supplied by MEBO to Libya, as previously had been argued, because it contained the wrong metal coating.

They also question the reliability of the identification of Megrahi by Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, given records that show his attempts to get, and eventually receive, substantial money from the United States. (...)

The Lockerbie Bombing by Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph is published by Birlinn.

Aye Write: The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father's Search for Justice: Jim Swire in conversation with Kate Adie will be on May 21, 6pm.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

"It is likely that the perpetrators are still at large"

[A long and detailed article headlined The Lockerbie Bombing: The Tragic True Story of Pan Am Flight 103 by Dr Michele Gama Sosa has been published today on the American Grunge.com website. It is well worth reading. The following are the first two and the last two paragraphs:] 

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, a mere four days before Christmas, continues to vex intelligence and law enforcement agencies in Europe and the United States. Although Libya and one of its former intelligence agents have been held responsible, the identity of the perpetrators is still far from certain. Politics, corruption, and special interests have dogged the victims' attempts to find justice and closure for the horrific incident that killed 270 people during one of the most joyous times of the year.

Since the day of the bombing, different governments, individuals, and institutions have put forward a host of theories regarding the identity of the perpetrators. The list of the accused and their sponsors ranges from the United States to Iran. This is the true, convoluted, and tragic story of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, one of the worst air disasters in aviation history.

...

The Lockerbie case has taken numerous twists and turns. When justice appeared served, it was revealed that special interests and economic expediency had tainted the trials of the suspects. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's family has continued to fight his conviction posthumously, and on January 15, 2021, Scotland rejected an appeal to vacate al-Megrahi's conviction.

In light of the doubts surrounding al-Megrahi's conviction, it is likely that the perpetrators are still at large. Al-Marimi's indictment has provided a hope that perhaps the perpetrator can still be brought to justice. As time passes, though, many of those involved in the Lockerbie case have died. It is quickly becoming a race against time to find and sentence the perpetrators, if for no other reason than to provide closure to the families of the victims and end their three-decade wait for justice.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

A self-blinded justice system

[What follows is from an email sent today by Jim Swire to a friend and supporter. It is reproduced here with Dr Swire's consent:]

There has been one quotation that I have been strengthened by throughout the last 35 years. It's from John Donne:

                                                     On a huge hill,
Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
Reach her, about must and about must go,
And what the hill's suddenness resists, win so.
Yet strive so that before age, death's twilight,
Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.

I fear that the message of the last two lines is now upon us.

As for American contributions to the deception, I have long believed that there is no way we can puncture that bubble, fragile though it is.

For us, ... and so many others, now knowing the broad picture of the truth, is part of the healing process. But that healing is so severely damaged by the strutting pomposity of most of those who trumpet that the case is solved when so many of them must know it clearly is not.

Nor can we get away from the fact that a great deal of further evil has been unleashed upon the world by the obstruction to allowing the truth to get out. That obstruction has fostered some of the most malevolent characters in the terrorist world by shielding them from the threat of prosecution and has destroyed for a generation any prospect of peaceful progress for nearly seven million Libyans. By protecting the Ayatollahs of Iran from investigation the obstruction must also have reinforced the horrors that eighty three million ordinary people in Iran will have to face if they are ever to shake off the bands of religious impenetrability. Through ‘faith’ religious belief is used as a ‘reason' for abandoning the need to look with honesty at developments in the one world we actually live in, and some of whose intrinsic laws we are privileged to know.

A good example of such an individual was the policeman [Stuart] Henderson, who before he died said publicly in front of the US relatives  that he would like to wring the neck of anyone who disagreed with the Scottish police findings in the case. He is now dead but the consequences of his force’s mistakes continues to blight and sometimes destroy all those lives in Libya.

A self-blinded ‘justice' system in Scotland together with a police force there which has also been blinded to the failure of its own hypothesis, partly through a deeply flawed verdict, partly by unjustified belief in their own infallibility, sails on. Like their  justice system, that force will not listen to their voices when people originally with no axe to grind are raised in dissent. 

However, John Mosey and I along with other UK relatives of the innocent dead have always wanted to force something of benefit for the future to emerge from that horrible toll of avoidable deaths at Lockerbie. That is worlds away from a desire for revenge against those who got things so grotesquely wrong in the investigation, many of whom are now dead anyway. 

Now common sense (if I may be allowed so vague an entity at all) suggests to me that Henderson and his men fell into a deliberate trap set for the searchers by Ahmed Jibril in Damascus, in case any forensic evidence should fall into their hands after the crash, and that trap of course was the clothing readily traceable to Malta, inserted into the bomb suitcase. Common sense can also be stretched a little further to suggest that Abu Talb from the Jibril team was the probable buyer and provider of those clothes as part of Jibril's carefully organised plot.

The headlong chase to Malta which had to be based on the transfer of the bomb at Luqa (false), the transfer of a bag from the Air Malta flight to PA103A at Frankfurt (false) the transfer of the bag from PA103A to PA 103 at Heathrow (false) and the allegation that a MEBO MST13 timer had been used (false: based on a carelessly and fraudulently introduced fragment of circuit board clearly copied from the pattern of an MST13 board, but manufactured after the industry had switched to using lead-free plating technology in the early 90s).

Then one cannot ignore the concealment from the trial by the Crown Office prosecution team of the Metropolitan Police's findings of an airside break-in at Heathrow. We know that the Scottish police were informed of the Met’s findings by February 1989. Whether or not that break-in was the route by which the bomb came to be put aboard at Heathrow we cannot know, (and the proximity of Iran Air personnel adjacent to Pan Am provides an alternative route), but the break-in and its concealment from the trial court looks mighty like the deliberate removal of an obvious ‘reasonable doubt', which any criminal court ought to have had the opportunity to evaluate as the case unfolded in front of it.

Unfortunately however, failure to identify Iran as the initiating country skews the interests of justice between the nations if indeed there is any. 

But perhaps we should leave to Scotland’s friends from “ the auld alliance”, her own poet Robbie Burns, to her philosopher David Hume to a recent Scottish Justice Secretary and also to a scion of the cream of British diplomacy, the last words.

Here’s freedom to him that wad read,
Here’s freedom to him that wad write,
There’s nane ever fear’d that the truth should be heard,
But they whom the truth wad indite. -- Robert Burns																										
				
There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice. -- Montesquieu

In our reasonings concerning matters of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. ― David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission’s decision to refer the Megrahi case back to the courts really isn’t a surprise. Issues of concern in the Lockerbie bombing trial include not least the witness payments to Tony Gauci. So back the case goes and while it may resolve some aspects relating to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, I won’t hold my breath that it’ll cast any more light on Lockerbie. Sadly, this review will clarify some questions regarding Megrahi, but I very much doubt it’ll provide closure on Lockerbie.
Kenny MacAskill — Former Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2007–2014)

No court is likely get to the truth, now that various intelligence agencies have had the opportunity to corrupt the evidence.
Oliver Miles — Former British ambassador to Libya