Sunday 6 December 2015

A highly personal smear campaign

[What follows is the text of an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]

Lockerbie doubters branded ‘Holocaust deniers’
[This is the headline over a report in today's Scottish edition of The Sunday Times. It reads as follows:]

A representative of families of American victims of the Lockerbie disaster has likened those questioning the guilt of the convicted Libyan bomber to “Holocaust deniers”.

Frank Duggan, an official spokesman for Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, described those who believe Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is innocent as a “shameless band of conspiracy mavens”.

Those criticised include Christine Grahame, the nationalist MSP, her researcher Mark Hirst, Robert Black, the Edinburgh-based legal expert who helped broker Megrahi’s trial in the Netherlands and Gareth Peirce, the London-based human rights lawyer.

In an email sent to Richard Marquise, a former FBI official who headed the investigation, Duggan said Grahame, Hirst, Black and Peirce were “no worse than Holocaust deniers who will not accept the facts before their faces”.

Grahame, who believes that Iran, not Libya, was behind the 1988 bombing, which claimed 270 lives, said Duggan’s comments were ludicrous. “My father and the fathers and grandfathers of many of the other people who are seeking the truth about who attacked Pan Am 103 were fighting the perpetrators of the Holocaust for three years before the US saw fit to get involved,” she said.

Hirst accused Duggan of a “highly personal” smear campaign against those who doubted the safety of Megrahi’s conviction.

The row reflects anger among the families of the American victims at the decision by Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, to free Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, has outlived his three-month prognosis. Last week, MacAskill defended his decision to a Holyrood inquiry into the handling of Megrahi’s release, insisting that the medical advice was “quite clear”.

US intelligence files published last week claim Megrahi was involved in buying and developing chemical weapons for Libya.

Black declined to comment and Peirce was unavailable for comment.

[I declined to comment since I was unwilling to descend into the gutter with Mr Duggan.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission which, on six grounds, found that Mr Megrahi's conviction may have amounted to a miscarriage of justice, no better than Holocaust deniers, forsooth!

According to The Chambers Dictionary "maven" or "mavin" is US slang, from Yiddish, for pundit or expert.

The full e-mail exchange between Mr Duggan, Richard Marquise and Mr Hirst can be read here.

An interesting commentary (in German) on The Sunday Times article can be found on the Austrian Wings website. A more general article on the Lockerbie affair on the same website by Editor in Chief Patrick Radosta can be read here.]


  1. Actually, from the other 'alternative theories' cases I have looked into (and, boringly, all found unsustainable) it has been common that both sides are willing to discuss all the evidence.

    Not here. Nothing is easier than to call somebody a "denier" - but when it comes from one that himself refuses to discuss the facts, he should look in the mirror.

    A man like Duggan is far above discussing a piece of evidence that conflicts with this beliefs. But if a man with a camera runs around and collects uncorroborated statements from mysterious people in a remote country, trust him to wake up.

    The 'Megrahi-Lockerbie' theory only survives because of official denial. It has been interesting to see how successful it has been. No discussion needed, the conviction is safe, period.

    "US intelligence files published last week claim Megrahi was involved in buying and developing chemical weapons for Libya"

    The interesting thing is that they bother. It may be a good sign. From my own perspective I recall a similar situation when Microsoft started badmouthing Linux, telling about its great limitations and insecurities.

    In the years that followed, Linux became a household name and a huge player in the world of computers.

    That is the problem: you may spread a view in the hope that somebody will take it over without questions. But often it backfires, as some people think "Interesting - let's look a bit further into this".

    When this happens the Megrahi-Lockerbie theory shows its true face as something supported only by, exactly, deniers.

  2. I'm never very sure whether Frank Duggan believes the bollocks he spouts, or whether it's all just a front for the consumption of the US family members who still engage with the case.

    His job during the trial was to groom these people to keep them "on side" with the position that Megrahi and Fhimah were guilty and the investigators had done a wonderful job bringing them to justice. After the trial he took on an official position in their organisation, which I believe is a paid one. It seems to me he's essentially continuing the role he had during the trial.

    I recall whe Bunntamas was posting here, she occasionally seemed to see reason and engage with a real examination of the evidence. Then she'd go quiet for a few days and come back spouting dogmatic nonsense again, often accompanied by a piece of evidence I hadn't seen before, which she was entirely misinterpreting. (I recall one was a 2008 letter from Kenny MacAskill to Jack Straw in which MacAskill was refusing to consider a prisoner transfer request on the grounds that the US relatives had been promised that Megrahi would serve his sentence in Scotland. She presented it as if it was part of the 2009 compassionate release correspondence and insisted it was evidence that MacAskill was co-operating with Straw to release Megrahi to facilitate an oil deal.) I believe she went to either Duggan or Brian Murtagh at these times, and her burgeoning doubts were neutered by application of more obfuscatory claptrap.

    I'm no fan of George Galloway, but his take-down of Duggan was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Usually Duggan trades on the assumption that an interviewer won't know enough about the case to call him out on his lies, or even if they do realise some of what he says is false they won't have either the confidence or the chutzpah to challenge him. He tries to pretend he lost a relative in the crash, although he didn't, and who would be so crass as to call out a bereaved relative on misinformation about the crash?

    Frank Duggan, Frank Mulholland, it's all the same. They have their mantra and they'll keep repeating it, and if anyone tries to point out that they're flat wrong, it's fingers in ears and hum real loud. I'm no longer surprised that the media propagate everything they say uncritically. Not after having witnessed what happened in Scotland last year, and other stuff that's been going on for a while.

  3. The conduct of our "free press" is the most surprising matter of the Lockerbie affair.
    Another one is that the verdict survived in a judicial system of a modern country.
    The existence of people like Duggan and Mulholland, is of course no surprise at all.