Wednesday 16 December 2020

Lockerbie bombing: US said to be near charges for another suspect in 1988 plane crash

[This is the headline over a report just published on the website of The Wall Street Journal. It reads in part:]

US prosecutors are expected to unseal charges against a suspect they allege was a top bomb-maker for the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and assembled the device that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, opening a new chapter in one of the world’s longest and most sprawling terrorism investigations.

The Justice Department is expected to unseal a criminal complaint against Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, who is currently held by Libyan authorities, in the coming days and to seek his extradition for trial on charges in US federal court, according to senior department officials. (...)

The case, filed by prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, is based largely on a confession that Mr Masud gave to Libyan authorities in 2012, which was turned over to Scottish authorities in 2017, as well as travel and immigration records of Mr Masud, US officials said.

Libyan officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges against Mr Masud.

Only one man — Abdel Baset al-Megrahi — was convicted by Scottish judges of playing a role in the attack, leaving many of the victims’ families saying they felt robbed of justice for the crimes. Megrahi was released eight years after his 2001 conviction on “compassionate grounds” and he died in 2012.

His family is appealing the verdict, which was made by a special panel of judges without a jury. Some prominent Scottish jurists and family members of the victims have questioned the evidence presented and the procedure used for the trial, which was held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in a bid to find a neutral locale. UK prosecutors have argued that the case was properly prosecuted and the judges’ initial verdict should stand and US law-enforcement authorities have long supported the guilty verdict.

The case is also of personal significance to Attorney General William Barr, who had announced US charges against Megrahi and another Libyan official in his first major press conference in his first stint in the job in 1991. He is expected to unveil the new case at a press conference in the next few days, officials said, in what will be one of his last official public acts before he steps down from serving in the post a second time later this week.

In announcing the case as acting attorney general in the Bush administration in 1991, Mr Barr said: “we will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice.” The efforts to prosecute the men drifted for years. Scottish prosecutors had brought a parallel case, and it wasn’t until 1999—after years of wrangling among the US, the UK and Libya—that the Gadhafi regime handed over Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah. Mr Fhimah was acquitted, and Megrahi was given a life sentence.

Evidence in the Megrahi prosecution included the remains of clothing from a suitcase thought to have carried the bomb. Investigators traced the clothing to a shop in Malta, whose owner identified Megrahi as the man who purchased it. Investigators also found remnants of a thumb-size timer, which they traced to a Swiss company that had contacts with Libya.

Mr Masud faces charges of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle of interstate commerce resulting in death. US officials said he traveled to Malta just before the bombing, constructed the bomb there and filled the suitcase with clothing before it was ultimately placed on Pan Am 103.

In Libya, the charges against a former Gadhafi regime official recall an era of an era of terror and repression under the former government. (...)

Some Libyans still believe their country was falsely accused. But many regard any accusations against the former regime as the work of a deposed and discredited government.

The United Nations Security Council put sanctions on Libya over the Lockerbie attack, isolating the country internationally. The UN lifted the sanctions in 2003 after the government agreed to pay out compensation to the victims, easing Libya’s isolation. (...)

Libyan authorities have questioned jailed former regime officials in connection with the bombing, according to Mohammed Ali Abdullah, an adviser to the Tripoli government. Among those questioned was Abdullah Senussi, Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, who is being held in a prison in Tripoli and also has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The Lockerbie bombing wasn’t the only international act of terror the Gadhafi regime was accused of carrying out. In 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people including two American soldiers and injuring more than 200 others. In 2001, a German court convicted a former Libyan diplomat and three accomplices over the attack.

[RB: A last throw of the dice over Lockerbie by William Barr before he demits office as US Attorney General. Abu Agila Masud's name has long featured in speculation about the Lockerbie case. The most balanced consideration of his position comes in (a) John Ashton's article about the Ken Dornstein film in the Scottish Review "The coverage of the film is more notable for what it omits than what it reveals" and (b) Kevin Bannon's A response to the Dornstein documentaryboth in November 2015.]

1 comment:

  1. Looks like they found a way to blame libya so they can keep stolen frozen assets and clear the accused

    The fact was the American government cleared the Libyans in a multi-million investigation by the defence ingelligence agency in 1989-90 is ignored again.

    Feinstein was a joke to help clear Hillary who was pushing for compensation. He had no evidence.