Sunday, 27 November 2022

What is US covering up with Lockerbie? And why?

[This is the headline over an article by Martin Jay published recently on the Maghrebi.org website. It reads in part:]

There can be no better example of the old saying “a lie can travel half way around the world before the truth is even putting its shoes on” than Lockerbie. This tragic story of a US passenger flight brought down by a bomb over the small Scottish village just a few days before Christmas in 1988 is heart breaking on a number of levels. But the main one is that even to this day, the Americans continue to keep the huge lie alive: Libya’s involvement.

Just in the last week of November, still we see news reports from US media newswires writing about Lockerbie and continuing to promote Libya’s involvement when 34 years after the terrible event the evidence is so overwhelming to show that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing.

In recent days, it has been reported that a third man in the Lockerbie bombing – a Libyan intelligence officer with bomb-making skills – has disappeared, sparking worries in Libya that the Americans might restart a case against the country even though a previous agreement with the US is in place. The officer in question Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir al-Marimi who in 2020 was charged by US Attorney General William Barr a week before he left office during Trump’s presidency. Barr is the useful idiot who earlier during George W H Bush’s term in office charged in 1991, two Libyan nationals for the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

He is the idiot who Bush instructed to continue with the case against the Libyans when the US president actually knew by that time, through his own intelligence officers’ reports, that Iran was culpable with the aid of Syria. Bush didn’t want any heat from Syria’s Hafez al-Assad who he needed on his side for his Kuwait invasion in 1990, so it suited Bush senior to continue with the Libya charade which framed the two Libyan officers.

Megrahi was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds before dying of cancer in 2012. Subsequent to his death though a tome of evidence has been produced to show that the Scottish court in the Netherlands had acted improperly in sentencing him and that the link with Libya was manufactured by those who masterminded the bombing.

Moreover, both their cases have since proved by a number of leading journalists to be a grotesque travesty of justice and in all respects the two were ‘fall guys’ to a bigger plot yet to be exposed by mainstream media. The FBI, the Scottish police and the British government were all intent on putting the case together towards the two Libyans as America badly wanted to frame Gaddafi and so the fundamental flaw in the case – clothes in the suitcase supposedly coming from Malta – became the red herring which fingered the two Libyan agents. Even today, on the FBI’s website, the same astonishing lie rests at the heart of one of America’s biggest ever cover ups. The FBI, without a shred of evidence still claim that the suitcase the bomb came with, was placed on board the flight from Malta which has a large number of Libyan intelligence officers. Yet any number of investigations subsequently have proved that according to Frankfurt Airport records, this is untrue.

A number of British investigators (...) insist that the suitcase in question was actually loaded onto Pan Am 103 in Heathrow. (...) it certainly wasn’t placed on the flight from Malta. (...)

The initiative by the Americans, just two years ago, to pursue this third man is part of a greater cover up which started in the late 80s to frame the Libyans in preference to accusing Iran and Syria which US presidents still to this day fear. But it’s also about money. How much money would the American families get if they brought cases against the American government today?

Almost 34 years after Lockerbie, there is now ample evidence both from journalists, investigators and whistle blowers for those families to see the truth about Lockerbie which is so shocking that it would make Hollywood film makers turn it down as a movie script as it is so unbelievable. (...)

Libya was always an easy target to frame as western media had been priming its readers with fake news stories about Gaddafi’s terror attacks in the west, in most cases entirely falsifying evidence and framing him for many which were in fact carried out by other groups, the best example being the Berlin disco bombing of April 1986, which was in fact carried out by Iranian groups based in Lebanon. It suited Ronald Reagan very well to shy away from tackling Iran and Syria head on and cultivate the myth of Gaddafi as the ‘mad dog’ of the region and subsequent US presidents like Bush senior. But in reality the American public were being cheated on a grand scale, even to this day.

Although it’s not only the American public who are being fooled.

The Lockerbie case cost the Libyans great financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, as Libya paid compensation to the families of the victims estimated at $2.7 billion. Libyans fear the case could be reopened, leading to more financial losses. (...)

And so, to this day, the blame is put on the Libyans even though the mad dog Gaddafi is long gone. It’s the most easiest and logical way to keep the lie alive as just as Gaddafi was reluctant to destroy the myth of his involvement (as it boosted his credibility in the Arab world), even today there is no real accountability. Conveniently, Libya remains opaque, unaccountable and bereft of any free press that can dig for truth there and there is also a big question today as to whether some political factions there are happy to play the game the Americans want. There are even rumours that Marimi, who was in a Libyan jail, was handed over to the Americans in a secret deal. If this is the case, then the feral need to keep the Libya connection alive is as important today as it was in the late 80s. Just as then, US leaders were too afraid to point the finger at Tehran, they are the same today. Iran didn’t just get revenge for the downing of its Flight 655. It got payback on a scale it couldn’t imagine as the Libyan game that the US is still playing today shows that Iran has always been the winner in this dirty war.

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Libyan commentator's assessment of the Masud affair

[I am grateful to the distinguished Libyan journalist and commentator Dr Mustafa Fetouri for supplying this assessment of the Masud affair.]

Over the last two weeks I have tried to figure out what is going on in Libya concerning the situation of Libyan Abuajila Masud accused by the United States of being a culprit in the Lockerbie disaster. Since William Barr, the US Attorney General, publicly named him in December 2020 the man disappeared and little information has been obtained as to what is happening to him. Sorting out the real news from what is fake and lies in Libya today is very hard. It appears the entire political elite, government and the media they just addicted to lies. They simply lie even when there is no interest to do so. In the end I can say with a degree of certainty that: 

1.  Abu Agela Masud is indeed alive and he is living in the Abu Salim area just south of the capital Tripoli. He was released from Al-Hadba notorious prison sometime in 2017 after spending years there. That prison, until taken over after a day-long heavy fighting in 2017, was under the control of the terrorist group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). After he was forced to flee to Turkey I caught up with Kahlid Sherif, who used to be the director and top LIFG leader. I went to Istanbul in 2020 to meet him but he failed to show up. Through written message I asked him questions but he mostly refused to answer. In 2021, if I remember correctly, he was hosted on Clubhouse for a long session. I was kicked out of the room before I could ask all my questions. Even after that he refused to sit for an interview with me. 

2.  On the early morning of 17 November 2022, a group of armed men came to Masud’s house and took him away. His family, friends, and neighbours never knew where he is. They still do not. The government in Tripoli is silent. The House of Representatives, the Higher Council of State (consultative body), and the National Security Advisor (former judge) have rejected, in statements, all attempts to open the Lockerbie case while condemning the disappearance of Mr Masud. Ironically, their separate statements never actually, with certainty, said what is going on. None of them produced any reasonable narrative nor proof that the man indeed has been kidnapped let alone his whereabouts.  

3.  Mr Masud, has indeed been taken away. Who took him and where is pretty difficult to figure out. His family, in a statement, have confirmed this. But I suspect that the statement may not be true and authentic and actually written by the family. It simply does not sound right. I have been trying to contact the family but so far failed to do so.  

4.  The narrative/rumours (nothing is certain) go like this: the Tripoli government wants to please the US to remain in power. Foreign minister Al-Mangoush in November 2021 did hint in a BBC interview about the possibility of handing over Masud to the US. This is the first time the corrupt Tripoli government ever talked about Lockerbie. At the time I led a social media campaign, including several TV appearances on prominent Libya TV channels. The public reaction supporting me was huge and the minister was forced to clarify her comments. She even denied what was attributed to her in that BBC interview, despite the fact a video clip of that conversation was aired!  And then silence until the news/rumours broke last week. 

5.  Finally: I never believed that the US is serious about extraditing Mr Masud to stand trial. However I tried, I could not confirm that the Libyan side received any official request from the Americans to extradite the man. There are no indications that the Americans are really seeking him. One simple indication of that is the fact that, as of today, Masud’s name is not on the FBI list of most wanted. I recall in 1991 the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was on the top list as soon as he was indicted. Would the corrupt Tripoli government hand Masud over if it believed that could help it stay in power? It is unlikely, but such government is capable of committing almost any sin against the country and its people. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Libya to prosecute those involved in reopening of Lockerbie file

[This is the headline over a report published today on the Globe Echo website. It reads as follows:]

The Libyan House of Representatives stated that it would request the trial of anyone proven to be involved in the attempt to reopen the Lockerbie case file, on charges of “high treason,” announcing its categorical refusal to extradite citizen Abu Ageila Masoud to the United States, which accuses him of being linked to the bombing of the Pan American plane. that crashed over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988.

Fawzi Al-Nuwairi, the first deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, who presided over yesterday’s session, demanded that all those involved in the arrest of Abu-Ageila be prosecuted, judicially and politically, by all available and possible means.

The House of Representatives prepared a draft resolution regarding the kidnapping of Abu Ageila, considering that [behind] attempts to reopen the case file are “political reasons, and attempts to blackmail Libya with the aim of seizing its frozen funds abroad.”

[What follows is excerpted from an article published yesterday on the Tekdeeps website:]

In turn, the family of the Libyan citizen, Abu Ajila Masoud Al-Marimi, warned against reopening the Lockerbie case, and said that this would have dire consequences for the higher interests of the country, and that these attempts were made in order to reach illegal political goals at the expense of the interest of the country and the citizen.

In a statement, the family revealed the details of Bouajila’s kidnapping, holding the Libyan authorities responsible for his life, and demanded his immediate release and an end to these abuses.

The Abu Ajila family said that two Toyota cars carrying armed men in civilian clothes stormed their home in the Abu Salim area of Tripoli at 1:30 a.m. on November 16, 2022.

The statement indicated that the gunmen kidnapped the Libyan citizen, Abu Ajila Masoud Al-Marimi, and took him to an unknown destination, after assaulting him.

The statement continued: “Some political parties are trying to exploit the state of chaos and political division in order to raise the file of the Lockerbie case again, which was closed legally and politically under the agreement signed with the United States of America and Libya in 2008.” They deplore the silence of the Libyan authorities regarding what their son was subjected to, his abduction from his home and his enforced disappearance.

The statement held “the Libyan authorities fully responsible for the state of silence due to the government’s illegal actions and practices outside the judicial system, in the event that he is extradited to any foreign country.”

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

"Lockerbie cover up still haunts Libyans to this day"

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Lockerbie FBI cover up still haunts Libyans to this day, agent missing published today on the Meghrabi.org website:]

The Libyans are worried that the Lockerbie case against the country could be re-opened which could have financial implications towards the state and possibly even individuals.

News of the disappearance of former Libyan intelligence officer Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir al-Marimi raised fears in Libya that there would be attempts to reopen the Lockerbie case, which had been closed under a legal settlement between United States and Libya.

Marimi is accused by Washington of involvement in the 1988 bombing of a US passenger plane over Scotland. A bomb on board Pan-Am flight 103 killed all 259 people on board as it flew over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. Another eleven people were killed on the ground by falling wreckage.

In 1991, two Libyan nationals were charged in the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

Megrahi was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds before dying of cancer in 2012. Subsequent to his death though a tome of evidence has been produced to show that the Scottish court in the [Netherlands] had acted improperly in [convicting] him.

Moreover, both their cases have since proved by a number of leading journalists to be a travesty of justice and in all respects the two were ‘fall guys’ to a bigger plot yet to be exposed by mainstream media. The FBI, the Scottish police and the British government were all intent on putting the case together towards the two Libyans as America badly wanted to frame Gaddafi and so the fundamental flaw in the case – clothes in the suitcase supposedly coming from Malta – became the red herring which fingered the two Libyan agents. In reality, the bomb was placed on the flight in London by Syrian-linked Palestinian terrorists who were paid via third parties from Tehran.

The initiative by the Americans, just two years ago, to pursue this third man is part of a greater cover up which started in the late 80s to frame the Libyans in preference to accusing Iran and Syria which US presidents still to this day fear, to more recently to deter American families of the victims to pursue compensation claims against the US government for both its culpability in the cover up but also its own hand in Lockerbie.

Almost 34 years after Lockerbie, there is now ample evidence both from journalists, investigators and whistle blowers for those families to see the truth about Lockerbie. In short, Pan Am 103 was a ‘controlled flight’ which was carrying drugs placed on board by terrorist groups which Reagan needed to keep happy, while negotiating the freedom of US hostages in Beirut. Iran discovered this arrangement and decided to seek revenge for the US downing of Iranian airliner 655 in the Persian Gulf in July of 1988 by placing a bomb on the flight.

Libya was always an easy target to frame as western media had been priming its readers with a barrage of beguiling stories about Gaddafi’s terror attacks in the west, in most cases entirely falsifying evidence and framing him for many which were in fact carried out by other groups, the best example being the Berlin disco bombing of April 1986, which was in fact carried out by Iranian groups based in Lebanon. It suited Ronald Reagen very well to shy away from tackling Iran and Syria head on and cultivate the myth of Gaddafi as the ‘mad dog’ of the region and subsequent US presidents like Bush senior. But in reality the American public were being cheated on a grand scale, even to this day.

But it’s not only the American public who are being fooled.

The Lockerbie case cost the Libyans great financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gadhafi, as Libya paid compensation to the families of the victims estimated at $2.7 billion. Libyans fear the case could be reopened, leading to more financial losses.

Libyan media reported the news of Marimi’s disappearance in unexplained circumstances from inside the prison where he had been held since 2011, in the capital, Tripoli, which is controlled by the outgoing Government National Unity Government (GNU), amid suspicions that he had been handed over to the United States.

Marimi was an official in the intelligence apparatus during the era of the former regime of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He was charged at the end of 2020 on several counts in the United States regarding “his involvement in planning and manufacturing the bomb” that brought down the plane over the Lockerbie area and of committing crimes related to terrorism.

The State Council called on the outgoing GNU to clarify the circumstances of Marimi’s mysterious disappearance, warning that this might be related to the investigations into the Lockerbie case.

Abducted Libyan "may have already left for America under guard"

[What follows is from a report published today on the Globe Echo news website:]

A Libyan official does not rule out deporting Abu Ageila to America

Thirty-three years after the terrorist bombing of the American Pan American plane over Scotland, American and Scottish investigators found what they wanted in Abu Ageila Masoud, a former officer in the Libyan intelligence service during the era of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

And after Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, head of the interim “unity” government, and his foreign minister, Naglaa al-Manqoush, announced, on various occasions, the desire to reopen the case again, the fate of Abu Ajila became unknown, as his family says that he was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

According to Libyan sources, the kidnapping of Abu Ajila from his home took place in agreement between the security services of Al-Dabaiba and the kidnappers, who are likely to be American, to undergo the trial that remained open in the horrific accident, where the wreckage of the Pan Am 103 plane was scattered over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, and resulted in About 270 people were killed, most of them Americans. A Libyan official told Asharq Al-Awsat that he “does not rule out that he has already left for America under strict security guard.”

According to US official papers, US investigators received information about a confession that Abu Ageila made to a Libyan official in an interview on September 12, 2012.

Abu Ajila Muhammad Masoud Khair al-Marimi worked for the Jamahiriya Security Service, which was sometimes referred to as the External Security Service (Libyan Intelligence), which was accused of carrying out terrorist acts against other countries and suppressing the activities of Libyan dissidents abroad. He held various positions, including a “technical expert” in the construction of explosive devices since 1973, and received promotions to the rank of colonel during his tenure.

[RB: Here is what I replied to a query on the Friends of Justice for Megrahi Facebook page:]

If Masud has been handed over to the Americans for trial, that could be a good thing. Maybe an American jury court wouldn't be as gullible as the Scottish judges at Zeist. And a lot of evidence favourable to the defence has emerged since 2001.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Abduction of Lockerbie suspect "was deal between US and Tripoli Government"

[From The Libya Update website on 20 November:]

Abduction of Lockerbie suspect was deal between US and GNU, report claims

A recent press report alleges that the abduction of Masoud Abu Ajila al-Marimi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, who is suspected of being involved in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, by unknown persons was the result of a deal between the United States and the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), a press report claims.

According to a report by London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, GNU’s prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, faces widespread accusations of attempting to extradite Abu Ajila as a “scapegoat” for the United States, in return for “his government’s continuation in the power it has held for nearly two years.”

Citing an “official close to Dbeibeh”, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that said that the Abu Ajila case has always been a focus of American attention during meetings that US officials held with Dbeibeh during sporadic periods in recent times.

The newspaper noted that Dbeibeh’s government ignored the kidnapping, and neither it nor its military apparatus issued any comment on it.

Local media, quoting Hussein al-Ayeb, head of the General Intelligence Service, said that the kidnapping was carried out by “a squad of unknown affiliation, without any significant coordination with the intelligence service.”

[From the Haber Tusba website today:]

The mysterious disappearance of a suspect in the Lockerbie bombing, wanted by the Americans

In recent hours, Libyan streets have been buzzing with news of the disappearance of Abu Ajila Masood Al-Marimi, one of the suspects in the famous 1988 Lockerbie bombing and wanted for trial in America. under mysterious circumstances from his prison in the capital Tripoli.

Local media have been concerned about the disappearance of Al-Marimi from his prison, where he has been held since 2011, and he is an official in the intelligence apparatus during the era of the former regime of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, after he was convicted on charges related to a fatal plane crash that killed 270 people on the trip, including 190 Americans. He flew between London and New York, and in late 2020 he was charged several indictments in the US for his “involvement in the planning and manufacture of the bomb” that brought down the plane over the Lockerbie area and in the commission of crimes related to terrorism.

The news of the disappearance of a former intelligence officer who Washington is seeking to be deported to the United States for trial has sparked widespread controversy in the country amid growing suspicions of his kidnapping and the possibility of his extradition, which could put further pressure on the Libyan state’s fears, reinforced by statements in the media by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Naglai al-Mankoush a year ago, in which she stated that “her country is ready to cooperate with Washington to extradite the suspect in the Lockerbie bombing”, noting that there are “immediate positive results” in this regard.

In this context, the Supreme Council of State called on the Tripoli authorities to investigate the circumstances of the mysterious disappearance, warning that it was related to the Lockerbie investigation.

The council also announced in a statement last night, Saturday, its refusal to reopen the Lockerbie case by some local authorities and bring it back to the fore due to its lack of any political or legal justification, highlighting its lack of commitment to all rights this procedure in relation to the Libyan state.

He pointed out that the case materials are completely closed politically and legally, according to the text of the agreement concluded between the United States of America and the Libyan state of 14.08.2008.

In turn, National Security Adviser Ibrahim Bushnaf, in a statement, warned against re-raising this case, calling on all patriots and political organizations to line up to prevent it, away from political conflict, noting that “this question, if she was again raised and become the subject of a criminal investigation, plunge Libya into decades of debauchery."

On the other hand, the government of national unity, headed by Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, did not give any explanation in response to the accusations leveled against militias loyal to him in the kidnapping of al-Muraimi.

It is noteworthy that Lockerbie is a sensitive political and criminal case for Libyans, most of whom refuse to reopen it, especially since it cost the state huge financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, as compensation was paid to the families of the victims, estimated at $ 2.7 billion.

Similarly, the majority of Libyans are strongly opposed to the extradition of a Libyan citizen for trial abroad, while others believe that their country is innocent of all the charges it is pursuing in this case.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Abu Ageila Masud and Lockerbie

[From the Globe Echo website today:]

Abduction of Abu Ageila accused of “Lockerbie”

Brigadier General Masoud Abu Ajila al-Marimi, a former Libyan External Security Service (Intelligence) officer, was kidnapped by unknown persons, on the basis of allegations regarding his “role in the Lockerbie case 33 years after its occurrence,” which sparked a wide local controversy, and sparked condemnation among the media. political and legal. However, the interim Libyan unity government, headed by Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, ignored the kidnapping, and neither it nor its military apparatus issued any comment on it.

Local media, quoting Hussein al-Ayeb, head of the General Intelligence Service, said that the kidnapping was carried out by “a squad of unknown affiliation, without any significant coordination with the intelligence service.” Unofficial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “members of foreign intelligence services I participated in this operation,” which was carried out, according to local sources and the Abu Ajila family, by armed militias called “Brigade 22,” affiliated with Abdul Ghani al-Kakli, head of the Stability Support Service.

Al-Dabaiba faces widespread accusations of attempting to extradite Abu Ageila as a “scapegoat” for the United States, in return for “his government’s continuation in the power it has held for nearly two years.” An official close to Dabaiba said that the Abu-Ageila case has always been a focus of American attention during meetings that US officials held with Dabaiba during sporadic periods in recent times.

[From The Libya Update website:]

State Council: We refuse to reopen the Lockerbie file

The Council of State has rejected “attempts to revive the Lockerbie case,” stressing that the case file has been completely closed from a political and legal point of view, according to the Libyan-American agreement in 2008.”

“We refuse to reopen this file by some local authorities and bring it back to the fore once again, and we affirm our non-compliance with all the obligations that this procedure entails for the Libyan state,” the council said in a statement on Saturday.

The State Council called on the House of Representatives, the Presidential Council, and the Attorney General, to support its position and to “take appropriate measures to end this absurdity.”

Saturday, 19 November 2022

Libyan official warns against raising the Lockerbie issue

[This is the headline over a report published today on the Trend Detail News website. It reads in part:]

Ibrahim Bushnaf, the Libyan National Security Adviser, warned against deliberately raising the issue of the Pan Am 103 plane that crashed over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, and said that this issue “if it was raised again and became the subject of a criminal investigation, Libya would enter into decades of lawlessness. Only God knows its end.”

This warning comes amid current allegations that there is a [move] inside the country to hand over the Libyan citizen Abu Ajila Masoud, who is suspected of participating in the bombing of the plane, to the Americans, but [these] allegations remain against the backdrop of a political division between the two fronts in western and eastern Libya.

On February 6, 2021, statements were attributed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the interim “unity” government, Najla al-Manqoush, in which she expressed her cooperation with the possibility of her country working with the United States to extradite Abu Ajila, but she quickly retracted it at the time, and said that she “did not mention that text.” But she was answering a question about the Lockerbie case.

Bushnaf said, in a statement today (Friday), that “before US President Donald Trump left the White House, the Attorney General during his reign, William Barr, raised the (Lockerbie) case, what was reported at the time that he was calling on the Libyan authorities to extradite the Libyan citizen Abu Aguila Masoud, allegedly related to this case.

Bushnaf said, “Because we are aware of the details of the agreement that ended the conflict with the United States, we formed a legal and political team at the time, affiliated with the office of the Libyan Minister of Interior at the time, to follow up on the developments of the request.”

He explained: “The basis for the work of this team is that the Libyan state at the time of the previous regime insisted that the basis of the settlement is limited only to its civil liability for the actions of its subordinates without criminal liability. The settlement also included that any claims after the date of signing are directed to the United States government.”

Bushnaf pointed out that “statements attributed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs circulated last year on this issue, so the Prime Minister (Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba) addressed us with a [text] that did not deviate from the content of this speech.”

Bushnaq went on to warn against raising the Lockerbie issue, calling on “all patriots and political entities in the country to line up to prevent this, away from the political conflict.”

And in December 2021, the US Department of Justice had previously charged the Libyan, Abu Ageila, with his “involvement in planning and manufacturing the bomb” that brought down the plane over Lockerbie during its flight from London to New York, killing 270 people, including 189 Americans.

At the time, William Barr demanded that the Libyan authorities in Tripoli quickly extradite Abu Ageila, who is under arrest, to be brought to trial in the United States. US officials said that Abu Ageila made confessions to the Libyan authorities in 2012 of his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing, and that these confessions were handed over to the Scottish authorities.

Abu Ageila is a former Libyan intelligence official, who is currently being held in a prison in the capital, Tripoli, on charges not related to the Lockerbie case. In 2003, Muammar Gaddafi’s regime officially acknowledged its responsibility for the Lockerbie attack and agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the victims. Al-Megrahi, who was sentenced to 27 years, was released for health reasons in 2009, but he died in 2012 at the age of 60 in Libya. [RB: What Libya acknowledged was "responsibility for the acts of its officials". The regime did not admit that it had ordered the bombing: http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2008/08/libyan-august-2003-acceptance-of.html]

The Libyan intelligence officer, Abd al-Basit al-Megrahi, was considered the main suspect in the bombing of the plane, and he was sentenced to 27 years in prison, but he was released in 2009 after he was diagnosed with the last stage of prostate cancer. Following an indication from the Daily Mail newspaper that Iran might be involved in the case, al-Megrahi’s family demanded compensation for the period he spent in prison, while several parallel demands arose in Libyan cities, talking about “the possibility of recovering the compensation paid by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime to the families of the Lockerbie victims.”

Sunday, 13 November 2022

The trials that shocked Scotland

In this episode, we look at how two devastating disasters led to high-profile court cases. In 1998, the UK’s deadliest terrorist attack occurred when a Pan Am flight to New York City exploded over the town of Lockerbie, just days before Christmas. After years of negotiations, the trial of the two accused - Abdul Bassett Al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah - was held in 2000 under unique circumstances at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, following the sudden death of the Findlay family in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, a long and complex trial was held in 2005, with the company Transco accused of several health and safety violations.

BBC Scotland, Wednesday 16 November, 20.00; Monday 21 November, 22.30. Available on BBC iPlayer after broadcast.

Monday, 7 November 2022

Louis Theroux firm to produce Lockerbie documentary

[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Louis Theroux’s production company is to make a three-part documentary on the Lockerbie disaster.

Sky has commissioned the acclaimed filmmaker’s company to examine Britain’s deadliest terrorist atrocity and its aftermath.

Titled Lockerbie, it will tell the story of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, when 270 people died on the night of December 21, 1988. The documentary will speak to individuals closely linked to the disaster and the years-long investigation that followed.

With access to victims’ families, investigators, intelligence officers and other key figures who have not spoken until now, Sky said the series will “examine unanswered questions to provide a definitive account of the bombing and its aftermath and, ultimately, who was responsible.”

Theroux will not present the series but it is being made by his production company Mindhouse, which he founded with his wife (...)

Lockerbie was “exactly the sort of project I wanted us to get involved with when we set up”, Theroux, 52, said.

“Our values are about storytelling and being audience-friendly, and I’m not ashamed to say we want to reach a really wide audience.” John Dower, who will direct the series, said: “I vividly remember Lockerbie from my teenage years of growing up in a Scottish household, but revisiting the event over 30 years later realised how little I knew about the actual event and the way it continues to reverberate down the years.”

Sky announced this year that it is making a separate drama on the 1988 bombing, based on the fight for justice by Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the disaster.

Swire has never wavered in his belief in the innocence of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan (...) convicted of the bombing.

Poppy Dixon, director of documentaries and factual for Sky, said: “The rigorous and thoughtful approach that John and the team are taking leaves me in no doubt this series will do justice to this complex story.”

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Release of Megrahi was approved in free vote in Scottish Parliament

[What follows is excerpted from a column by Kevin Pringle published yesterday on the website of The Courier:]

Free votes are a rarity in the Scottish Parliament.

I recall one in 2009 about the compassionate release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in the sky above Lockerbie in December 1988.

The reason SNP MSPs were not whipped on that occasion was because the decision to send Mr Megrahi back to Libya, resultant from his terminal cancer diagnosis, was taken by the then Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, acting in a quasi-judicial capacity.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a collective government decision.

Even so, every SNP MSP rallied behind Mr MacAskill, amid the storm of controversy that erupted at home and abroad, particularly in the US.

Rather than any fragmentation in the SNP’s ranks, the vote saw a Labour MSP, Malcolm Chisholm, split off from his party colleagues to endorse the release of Mr Megrahi.

The story underlines the extraordinary unity of purpose that has characterised the SNP since coming to office at Holyrood more than 15 years ago.

Overwhelmingly, this cohesion continues to define the party, both within and outwith the Scottish Parliament.

Nonetheless, the dissent over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill last Thursday was a significant moment. (...)

Unlike the compassionate release of Mr Megrahi all those years ago, reforming gender recognition legislation is formally a Scottish Government proposal – reflecting a pledge in last year’s SNP manifesto. (...)

Both the First Minister, and those SNP MSPs who choose to challenge her on this Bill, have a point.

When I read the manifesto last year, I thought it was worded like that to pave the way for a compromise on the issue.

Clearly not.

And yet in the coming weeks it may be amended at stages 2 and 3 of Holyrood’s legislative process, so that it doesn’t give any of the entrenched campaigners everything they want, but in its final form is safe and something most folk can live with.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

RIP Justice for Megrahi stalwart Ian Hamilton KC

I am saddened to learn of the death at the age of 97 of Ian Hamilton KC. He was a longtime stalwart supporter of the Justice for Megrahi campaign. Here are a few of the comments from him that have previously featured on this blog.

"I don't think there's a lawyer in Scotland who now believes Mr Megrahi was justly convicted. The Americans were out for vengeance. Anyone with a darker skin would do. With their barrowloads of money to buy witnesses, aided by our police and prosecution, they hoodwinked our courts."

”When the minister for Justice shares a bed with the Lord Advocate the freedom of us all is in jeopardy… Many of us believe there are prosecutions which are politically driven. Mr Megrahi was one of them.”

"Never in the history of Scots law has the crown adduced witnesses who have been paid, or promised payment, by a third party in connection with their evidence. Why were they adduced in this case? The Lord Advocate must explain why. (...) Purchase of witnesses has no place in Scots law. Indeed payment by the Americans of witnesses in the Megrahi case is one of the things that make many people think the conviction is unsafe."

"I think you [JFM] are doing a splendid job in exposing what is a running sore in the body politic of Scotland. The Lord Advocate must be seen to be independent of the government whom it is his duty to prosecute should it traverse any law. Parliament makes the law; not the government and the latter is bound by the law like the rest of us. Neither the Justice Minister nor the Lord Advocate have proved themselves fit to hold office and the sooner this is referred to the international body the better."

“The whole case against Megrahi was soured and poisoned from the very beginning by the CIA. They wanted a conviction at any cost to satisfy the understandable desire of the victims, many of whom were American citizens, for vengeance. I’m afraid Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Scottish Crown Office caved into this desire. It seems to me that this prosecution was conducted with a desire to get a conviction at all costs, even at the cost of justice itself. This has gone on too long and is a blot on Scotland’s reputation for fair trials.”

Monday, 22 August 2022

HMP Barlinnie and Abdelbaset Megrahi

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Glasgow Crime Stories: The many stories behind HMP Barlinnie published today on the website of the Glasgow Evening Times:]

It's been known by many names The Bar-L, Bar Hell, Glasgow's Alcatraz, the Big Hoose, or simply HMP Barlinnie.  (...)

Barlinnie's most high-profile prisoner was the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. (...)

In 2001 Barlinnie was back on the world's stage with the arrival by helicopter of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 270 people.

Megrahi was provided with a £1.5million purpose-built cell, dubbed Gaddafi's CafĂ© situated in the former specula unit.

It has a private toilet and shower, a TV, kitchen facilities for the Libyan to cook his own halal meals.

There was also an exercise area and a room where Megrahi coud be visited by human rights officials to make sure he was being treated fairly. 

The cost at the time of keeping him in solitary confinement was thought to be around £100,000 a year. 

That compared to the £18,000 annual cost for a regular prisoner at Barlinnie.

In 2002 Megrahi was visited by Nelson Mandela who called for a fresh review of his conviction and for him to serve his sentence in a Libyan prison.

Mandela himself spent 18 of his 27 years in jail on Robben Island after being locked up by the South Africa's apartheid government. 

What he thought of the conditions at Barlinnie compared to Robben Island is not known.

However, he did describe Megrahi's imprisonment in Barlinnie as psychological persecution 

Megrahi was later moved to Greenock prison in 2005, before being sent home to Libya in 2009 on compassionate grounds with terminal cancer.

 

Friday, 15 July 2022

UK Supreme Court refuses leave to appeal Megrahi conviction

[The Scottish Crown Office have issued the following statement:]

Re: Decision of the UK Supreme Court in Al Megrahi (Appellant) v Her Majesty's Advocate and another (Respondents) (Scotland) UKSC 2021/0091

On 14 Jul 2022 the UK Supreme Court refused the appellant Ali Abdelbaset Al Megrahi's direct application for leave to appeal.

This means that Mr Abdelbaset Al Megrahi’s original conviction for murder stands and the appeal process is at an end.

[RB: The background can be found in this item posted on this blog on 1 April 2021: Megrahi family to apply to UK Supreme Court for leave to appeal after Scottish court's refusal.

Now that all domestic remedies have been exhausted, the only judicial avenue now open for the Megrahi conviction to be challenged is an application to the European Court of Human Rights.

[What follows is excerpted from a report just published on the website of The Herald:]

In January last year, Megrahi’s son, Ali al-Megrahi, lost an appeal against his late father’s conviction.

The Supreme Court has ruled that permission to appeal against that decision should be refused, saying the “application does not raise an arguable point of law”.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, representing the Megrahi family, insisted this was not the end of the matter as he would take the case back to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and “continue to pursue an appeal”.

Mr Anwar said: “I spoke today to Ali, the son of the late al-Megrahi, and he said he was deeply disappointed in the decision of the UK Supreme Court.

“Ali told me he was eight years old when his father went to the Netherlands to stand trial. When his father returned to Libya to die, Ali spent most of his time next to his father and said that until his dying breath he maintained his innocence.

“The Megrahis regard their father as the 271st victim of Lockerbie.”

Megrahi was released from prison in Scotland in 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and died in Libya in 2012.

The Libyan had originally lodged an appeal against his conviction in 2007, but this was abandoned in 2009 before he was granted compassionate release.

Mr Anwar said: “Ali said as a son he will not give up on his father’s dying wish to clear his name and that of Libya, and has instructed myself as his family’s lawyer to continue with a further application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.”

In March 2020 the SCCRC referred Megrahi’s case to the High Court as a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

However, in what was the third appeal against Megrahi’s conviction in November 2020, at the High Court in Edinburgh, a panel of five judges rejected the claim.

Mr Anwar said that after having spoken to Megrahi’s son “this is not the end of the matter” as the “reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system has suffered badly both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi”.

The lawyer said: “On December 21 1988, 270 people from 21 countries were murdered in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the United Kingdom.

“Since then the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the crime, has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

“For my legal team it has been eight long years but for the families we represent it has been 33 long years of struggle for truth and justice. Sadly that struggle is not over.”

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Complicit in deceit, dishonesty and decadence

[What follows is the text of a review in Lobster (issue 84, 2022) by John Booth of The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice:]

Jim Swire prefaces his powerful and moving book with this arresting question: ‘How could initial faith in the establishment take thirty years to convert into distrust towards all those touched by that addictive drug we call power?’ 

This is much more than the anguished grief of the father of Flora, one of the 270 victims of the 1988 Pan AM Flight 103 disaster. The 23- year-old medical student had left Heathrow on December 21 to spend Christmas with her American boyfriend. She died when Clipper Maid of the Seas exploded over Lockerbie, killing all its 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of the small West Scotland town. 

It is the painful saga of a traumatized parent being denied access to the truth of his daughter’s death – of a humane community doctor forced to confront the ugly realities of realpolitik on both sides of the Atlantic. 

With his fellow author, Swire details Flora’s promising life and the cost to him and his family of his pursuit of the truth about its abrupt and brutal termination. They take us from his initial struggle to gain entrance to the temporary morgue where Flora’s body was taken, via the Lockerbie visit of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, through the decades-long fight to establish what really happened to the trial, imprisonment and death of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan found guilty of causing the death of his daughter. 

If Thatcher, who fails even to describe Lockerbie in her memoirs, had wanted a more doughty foe than Dr Swire she’d have been hard put to find one. A former Army officer and BBC television engineer who then retrained as a general practitioner, Flora’s father was just the kind of honourable, hard-working and patriotic figure Thatcher told us was the very best of British. 

The book details her refusal not only to meet him after Lockerbie but to deny an inquiry into what caused her and the grieving relatives from around the world to visit the crash scene. This isn’t so much the Iron Lady as the craven, lily-livered one, prepared to do anything to gratify the power of the United States ahead of the decent demand of her own citizens for truth and understanding. 

The story The Lockerbie Bombing tells is too long and complex to summarise in a short review. But the theme running through it is well expressed by Swire in its preface: 

"After many years running the British Empire we have evolved all sorts of subtle ways of concealing truth when it is inconvenient for government to admit failure. Supposedly even these subtle secrecies are limited by a ‘thirty-year rule’; but now we sail into a future where up to fifty Lockerbie documents are sequestered from public view well beyond that thirty-year limit with no explanation as to why. There seems no sign of conscience or even knowledge of right and wrong. My daughter and all those who died with her deserve better; it is as though their deaths did not matter." 

The author visited Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and spent time with the imprisoned al-Magrahi before he was released to die in Libya in 2012. He also closely observed his Zeist trial and is properly shocked by its verdict and the subsequent failure of his appeals against it. 

Along the way Swire observes the servile performances of Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Jack Straw and David Miliband – none willing to challenge the determination of Washington to pin the blame for Lockerbie on Libya. He is no less critical of senior political and legal figures in Scotland while paying tribute to those north and south of the border who offered strong practical support, including veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell and emeritus law professor Robert Black of Edinburgh University. 

The Lockerbie Bombing lacks an index but is well footnoted in support of a powerful narrative of the painful personal and political journey Swire has made. It is also the story of many in British public life paid to defend and uphold the safety and welfare of its citizens yet complicit in deceit, dishonesty and decadence.