Monday, 27 February 2012

Megrahi and Swire in their own words

[What follows is an extract from’s report Megrahi: in his own words:]

The book shows us a more personal side to him. As a child he says his passion was football. Libya, he says, was a poor country and his family shared their home with two other families when he was growing up.   He describes working for both Libyan arab Airlines and setting up a Zurich-based business to make additional money. And he explains that Libya’s intelligence service the JSO provided security for the airline.

The prosecution case claimed he was a member of the JSO - an allegation he has always denied but in the book he makes clear that he had close connections with some of their officials.
He writes: "While the work might have been out of the ordinary, there was nothing unusual in me combining my work for the Centre with business activities."
He makes clear that he did have close connections with certain JSO officials but says that they are all "known to many innocent Libyans".
He says that his wife Aisha was nervous about his many foreign trips to organise imported goods so he started telling her he was just travelling in Libya and, that the coded passports issued by the Libyan Government helped him to deceive her.

Of his family, he writes: "One of the few consolations during my first year at Barlinnie was regular familiy visits. Shortly after my transfer they moved to a house in Newton Mearns. In many ways their life was more difficult than mine. Within the first few months the house was pelted with eggs three times."
In 2003, the Home Office told the family their visa would not be renewed. Megrahi says one of his sons asked him. "'Dad, why do they hate us so much?'".
He describes an unannounced visit by two Crown Office officials and claims they put pressure on him to reveal who had instructed him to carry out the bombing. He told them he didn’t want to see them without his lawyer. He says: "The two men made clear that if I cooperated, I could expect a more lenient tariff."
One of the officials, he writes, "angrily warned me that I would regret my decision at the sentencing hearing".
On Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who claimed he sold Megrahi particular clothes linking him to the bombing, he writes: "As I near the end of my life, I wish to say the following to him directly. I swear to God I was never in your shop and never saw you in my life until we were in court."

On the allegations, he writes: "If I was a terrorist, then I was an exceptionally stupid one. I entered Malta on December 7 using my own passport and stayed at the Holiday Inn in my own name. I chose to use a distinctive timing device, which, as far as the JSO would have been aware, was made exclusively for Libya."
In conclusion he says he believes he will die with the conviction still weighing heavy upon him. He writes: "My conscience, however, will be clear, and until my last breath I shall pray that the real stories of Lockerbie will one day be known to all."
[Also on the website is an article by Dr Jim Swire giving his reaction to the book.  It reads in part:]
On the night of December 20/21 1988, 16 hours before the catastrophe, a nightwatchman at Heathrow called Manly discovered evidence of a break-in allowing entrance to "airside", close to where the luggage container [later shown to have contained the Lockerbie bomb in its suitcase] was loaded up for PA103 the following evening.
In January 1989 Manly was interviewed by Scotland Yard Special Branch. The interviewing officer actually had the disrupted padlock on the table during the interview. (…)
Following the detection of the Heathrow break-in no action was taken to discover who might have broken in, nor why. The 16 hours ticked away while flights continued to take off as though nothing untoward had occurred there. Yet it was not until after the Zeist court had reached its verdict against Megrahi, with his alleged placing of the bomb in Malta, that the news of the break-in finally surfaced.
Long gone by then was our Fatal Accident Inquiry which, for want of this knowledge, had to presume that the bomb had been flown in from Frankfurt. I imagine that the redoubtable Sheriff Principal John Mowat, were he still with us, would be displeased to find that his inquiry had been denied knowledge of  this self evidently likely portal of entry. Its absence meant that a large part of that inquiry dealt with the handling of hold baggage within the baggage streams at Heathrow and Frankfurt, and negligible attention to airport perimeter security
The break-in's finder, nightwatchman Manly of Heathrow, amazed and angry after the verdict, came to ask Megrahi's defence team why they had not used his evidence. This news actually broke on September 11 2001 and so was largely submerged by the dreadful news from New York.
It is easy to suggest that Lady Thatcher might not have wanted Lockerbie to be seen as the Libyan retribution for her joint raid with President Reagan on Tripoli two years earlier. It would also be easy to suggest that the news that the UK's premier airport, which had responsibility for the safety of the US aircraft, could not even be bothered to investigate a break-in that might damage the special relationship with our most powerful friends.
What about Dumfries and Galloway police: are we to believe that they did not get wind of the break-in in January 1989 when they were in charge of the investigation? Unlikely one would think, as they became accustomed to using the very same computer programmes (Holmes) as were being used by the Metropolitan Police. Unlikely unless some powerful block was placed on their access to Met files. All we know is that the Crown Office, with whom they worked, has told us that it was unaware of the break-in evidence until after the conviction of Megrahi.
But then has it been known for police forces to reject and suppress potentially evidential material when that material does not fit their favoured hypothesis in an investigation? One need not look far in Scotland for the answer to that.
One of the questions I was able to ask Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland at a meeting last week in London was: "Do you believe that, against all this background of the air-pressure-sensitive bombs, the Zeist court could have proceeded in the face of the 'reasonable doubt' that would have been caused, had the break-in been known about?" His reply was that he had faith in the verdict on the basis of the evidence available to him.
But of course the point is that the break-in, which provided a simple explanation for how the bomb might have got aboard, was unknown to the court during the trial. Does that not make a mockery of the duty of excluding reasonable doubt, and therefore a mockery of the whole trial?
Other highly qualified lawyers in both England and Scotland are bolder: I have been told that they do not believe it likely that the case against Megrahi would have succeeded had this break-in evidence been known during his actual trial.
But there was more. So worried were the Crown Office, the Lord Advocate told us, about the question of why this evidence had been suppressed, that they had searched for an explanation but failed to find one.
Repeatedly the Lord Advocate's men tried to introduce the failure of the break-in evidence to overturn the verdict at the first appeal as a reason why its absence in the actual trial did not much matter.
Perhaps they were unthinking of the extraordinary restrictions imposed on that appeal by both Scottish legal practice and the utterly incomprehensible position taken by Megrahi's defence in that appeal court. The Crown Office's attempted evasion can be no answer to the central question: does the absence of this evidence from the trial court itself invalidate the trial court's findings?
One of the most profound criticisms of the Zeist trial by the UN's special observer Hans Koechler of Vienna has been the failure of the prosecution to share evidence equably with the defence. Our own Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has raised similar comments.
It seems the criticism should be a wider question over the missing break-in evidence. Who was instrumental in the suppression of this crucial information which seems to support a far simpler and more credible explanation for the plot than that offered by the prosecution? Was Whitehall involved? Were the Metropolitan police or Dumfries and Galloway police responsible?
Wide indeed are the ramifications of this "lost" evidence. We now have substantial documentary support for the belief that a Khreesat type air-pressure sensitive bomb had been used. These documents show the Scottish police still harbouring the same belief till at least summer 1989.
In late summer of 1989 a strange event occurred. A fragment of a timer circuit board, seeming to show that a long running digital timer not an air-pressure sensitive device had been used, appeared among the alleged debris from the wreckage.
That one item allowed support for the otherwise untenable story about the bomb coming from Malta. If that item were genuine. However, the circumstances surrounding that one item labelled "PT35b" are so remarkable that there cannot but be reasonable doubt about its authenticity, and those doubts must include the interface between members of Dumfries and Galloway police, the forensic experts, and others with the capacity to supply such an object.
I understand that even more compelling evidence against the authenticity of the PT35b fragment will emerge with Megrahi's book. Please weigh it up, dear reader as it emerges. It is good that as many people as possible make up their minds independently about this dreadful case. All we seek is the truth, and we are tired of waiting.
Quite apart from all the other problems with the Zeist story, for whatever reason, the trial court was denied the opportunity of assessing the break-in's relevance. Therefore the verdict is unsafe. We need this verdict and all these aspects including the police investigation, to be re-examined.
We the relatives have a right to know who really killed our families and why they were not prevented from doing so, but you the reader should also worry about the objectivity of a legal/investigative system, which seems to protect itself rather than truth and justice.
You have the option of contacting your MSP to ask him/her to have the whole matter cleared up. Yes, it will cost money, but the unlanced boil may kill the patient.

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