Monday 13 January 2014

The trial that debased western justice

[This is the headline over an article by Dr Neil Berry published today on the Arab News website.  It reads as follows:]

It was 25 years ago in December that Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270 people. It has become routine to refer to Lockerbie as the UK’s worst ever terrorist atrocity, with the Libyan, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, who was convicted of planting a bomb on the plane, ranked next to the 9/11 hijackers in the West’s demonology of Arabs.

When in 2009, Scotland’s devolved government allowed the terminally ill Megrahi to return to Libya on grounds of compassion, public outrage on both sides of the Atlantic was extreme. Millions believed that Scotland was covering itself in infamy by releasing an unrepentant mass murderer. Yet there are compelling grounds for believing that the Scottish authorities were already mired in infamy — the infamy of conniving at one of the most monstrous miscarriages of injustice in modern history. In a cogent new book, Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie still matters, John Ashton reinforces the case made in his magisterial study, Megrahi: You are My Jury (2012) — that Megrahi’s conviction by three Scottish judges at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in January 2001 — had no credibility. Another book, Adequately Explained by Stupidity? by Morag G Kerr makes similarly short work of the official Lockerbie story. 

It is true that Megrahi was in Malta in December 1988 when, according to the prosecution case, the suitcase containing the bomb that blew up Flight 103 was loaded onto a flight bound for Frankfurt. But the key prosecution claim — that the timing device on the Lockerbie bomb belonged to a Swiss batch of such devices sold to Col Qaddafi’s Libya — has been shown to have no foundation. It is also clear that the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, whose evidence was scarcely less vital to the prosecution case, was anything but a reliable witness. Witheringly judged by Scotland’s sometime chief prosecutor, Lord Fraser, to be “one apple short of a picnic,” Gauci — after years of being groomed by the Scottish police and the FBI — testified that Megrahi bought clothes from him in Malta that were wrapped round the bomb. He was later lavishly rewarded for his services by the US Department of Justice.

As John Ashton and Morag G Kerr make plain, Megrahi’s defense was systematically denied access to much crucial information — not least the fact that that a major breach of security took place at London’s Heathrow Airport in the hours before Flight 103 took off. Though reported in the British press at the time, this sinister circumstance — which raised the possibility that Megrahi’s presence in Malta in December 1988 was irrelevant — went unmentioned at his trial. But for the handicaps under which they were laboring, Megrahi’s defense would have had little difficulty in demonstrating that the charge against him came nowhere near to satisfying the basic requirement of a western court of law: that a verdict of guilt must be “beyond reasonable doubt.” 

Believers in Megrahi’s culpability have maintained that definitive proof that he was the Lockerbie bomber would emerge from post-Qaddafi Libya. Two years on from the Qaddafi’s downfall, the smoking gun in question remains as elusive as Saddam Hussein’s mooted weapons of mass destruction. 

That Megrahi was a hapless pawn in a cynical international power game can scarcely be doubted. All the indications are that the Lockerbie bomb was a reprisal by Iran, sub-contracted to a Palestinian splinter group, for the shooting down of an Iranian airbus by a US warship in July 1988. What appears no less certain is that the US, anxious to secure the release of US hostages held in Lebanon at the behest of Iran, orchestrated a subterfuge designed to impart to the world another story altogether. Mindful that later this year Scottish people will vote in an historic referendum on whether or not they wish Scotland to declare itself independent of the UK, John Ashton believes that Lockerbie is a stain on Scotland’s vaunted justice system that is crying out to be purged. In truth, the conviction of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was a miscarriage of justice that dishonors not just Scotland but western morality itself.  

[This article now also appears in the United Arab Emirates Khaleej Times.]


  1. I'm beginning to feel like I'm invisible here.

    The idea that the PFLP-GC did it (whether or not at the behest of Iran) is a theory. It's a persuasive theory, and well-supported by evidence, but it's still a bloody theory. Continual harping on about it is only going to provoke the response that this hasn't been proved, and the connection couldn't be made to sand up either by the original investigation or by Megrahi's defence, yadda yadda yadda. It takes the discussion on to the other party's ground, and allows them to respond on their terms.

    That the bomb was introduced at Heathrow and not Malta isn't a theory, it's a fact. It doesn't matter whether or not you think you know who really did it, we know it wasn't Megrahi because it didn't happen the way the Crown said it did, and the way it did happen is a way he couldn't possibly have been involved in.

    Now whether you'd be able to find rock-solid evidence of PFLP-GC involvement if you looked in the right place, that is London, instead of looking in the wrong place, that is Malta, I know not. But until you get this distinction into their thick heads, you'll never get anywhere.

  2. "I'm beginning to feel like I'm invisible here."

    As God, Devil, whoever, is in the details, you naturally focus on those, as so many other people who knows about them.

    Now, imagine you knew nothing about the case. Then it is suddenly a remarkably precise article.

    The difference between a theory and 'a (proven) fact'/theorem is an illusion, does not exist.

    'Proof is never stronger than those who are to accept it. Not even in math there is a higher authority, just mathematicians who believe and agree' as our math professor once said, much to the surprise of this student.

    That does not conflict with us seeing some theories as 'poorly founded' or even 'absurd' or 'silly' and others as 'well established, proven BRD'.

    Dying to get your book. Still haven't received my new CC.

  3. MISSION LIFE WITH LOCKERBIE, 2014 -- Go on ground to new facts... (google translation, german/english):

    In addition to Rolfe's convincing presentation, applies for the "thick heads" in Scotland, that they should also be forced, to check forensic, the "hard-wearing" and crucial evidence, of the MST-13 timer fragment (PT-35) - that the circuit board PT-35, was fabricated with 8 layers or with 9 layers of fiberglass.

    9 layers of fiberglass indicates to an MST-13 timer, which was supplied by MEBO Ltd. to Libya, two years before the PanAm 103 attack.
    8 layers of fiberglass, proves that the 'PT-35' fragment is from a prototype originates and thus - has nothing to do with with the deceased Abdelbaset al Megrahi and Libya.

    MEBO is sure of his statement, the fragment 'PT-35' consists of 8 layers of fiberglass and has nothing to do with the former Gadhafi regime.
    So so simple would be the matter for the "thick heads", to obtain a further crucial truth...

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

  4. I take your precise point, SM. Nevertheless, the "theory" that the bomb went on at Heathrow is now pretty solid, if you want to put it that way.

    We've had enormous media coverage of much less solid arguments, like the nonsense about PT/35b changing shape during the investigation or going to America (with or without an escort) and so on. Now, though, we seem to be past the point where the media want to take up the case again, even though there is something completely new and pretty damn devastating to play with. Odd.