Sunday 3 December 2017

"He didn’t get it on the plane"

[What follows is excerpted from an obituary of Frank Duggan published today on the website of The Washington Post:]

Francis J “Frank” Duggan, a lawyer and federal official who spent years as a pro bono advocate on behalf of families of the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, died Nov 1 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 79.
The cause was lung cancer, said his son, Tim Duggan.
On Dec 21, 1988, a bomb exploded, killing all 259 people aboard Flight 103, plus 11 people on the ground, when the disabled aircraft crashed into the town of Lockerbie. The victims came from more than 20 countries.
In 1989, Mr Duggan was named to the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, which examined the causes of the bombing. He was the commission’s liaison to the victims’ families and continued to act as their pro bono advocate until his death. He eventually was named president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, an organization composed mostly of victims’ families.
“He was always the linchpin that made things happen,” said the group’s board chairwoman, Mary Kay Stratis, whose husband was killed on Flight 103. “He made connections in Scotland and the UK with journalists who understood our plight and had his finger on the pulse of our organization.”
Mr Duggan helped lobby Congress and federal officials to improve airline security and called on law enforcement agencies to bring charges in the case.
In 2001, more than 12 years after the incident, a onetime Libyan intelligence officer, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was convicted of 270 counts of murder for his role in placing the bomb on the airliner. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The Libyan government agreed to accept responsibility for the bombing and to pay a penalty of $2.7 billion to the victims’ families in 2003, in return for the easing of international sanctions on the country. [RB: The Libyan government did not “accept responsibility for the bombing”; it accepted “responsibility for the actions of its officials”. The relevant document can be read here.]
In 2009, al-Megrahi was released from prison in Scotland on grounds of “compassionate relief” because he was believed to be terminally ill. He returned to Libya, where he lived until his death in 2012.
Mr Duggan strongly opposed al-Megrahi’s release and maintained that as many as seven other co-conspirators were never brought to justice.
“Obviously it wasn’t just one guy,” Mr Duggan told the Syracuse Post-Standard in 2013. “One guy didn’t make the bomb and transport it . . . He didn’t put it on the [luggage conveyor] belt. He didn’t get it on the plane. There were other people that the investigation suspects, very strongly.” (...)
Mr Duggan was instrumental in arranging for a memorial cairn, consisting of 270 stones quarried near Lockerbie, which was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery in 1995.

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