[What follows is excerpted from an article by Magnus Linklater headlined A chance to challenge Lockerbie conspiracy theories published in today's edition of The Times:]
Suspect’s extradition to the US represents a pivotal moment in a case that has long been dogged by doubt
For those who have followed the tortuous Lockerbie trail, this is a key moment, the first chance to test not just Masud’s involvement but to challenge the long list of conspiracy theories that have dogged the case since the outset. It is almost conventional wisdom to argue that the one man convicted of the bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was innocent; that Libya had nothing to do with the attack and that agencies on both sides of the Atlantic conspired to fix the evidence so as to shift blame away from the most likely perpetrators, a Palestinian terrorist group sponsored by Iran.
Many thousands of words have been devoted to sustaining a sequence of events that has US intelligence agents planting or altering a bomb fragment to implicate Libya, then coaching a Maltese witness into identifying Megrahi as the man who came into his shop in December 1988 to buy clothing later used to wrap the bomb. So dodgy was the witness and so conflicting his evidence, say Megrahi’s defenders, that the charge against him is unsustainable and the Scottish judges and lawyers who convicted him are guilty of a miscarriage of justice.
As with all conspiracy theories, this one requires a massive suspension of disbelief. Not just the falsifying of evidence, or the manipulation of a witness, but the number of people who would have to know about it yet have remained silent — intelligence agents and detectives on both sides of the Atlantic, Scottish lawyers and judges, bomb specialists and other technicians — a rogue’s gallery of experts, all subscribing to a lie.
There is one fact, however, that no conspiracy theory can quite explain. Present in Malta the day when, prosecutors say, the bomb was loaded on to a connecting flight from Luqa airport, was not only the Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi, but a shadowy figure who, like Megrahi, left the island later that day to return to Libya.
A long and detailed investigation to find out who was behind the attack was embarked upon by Ken Dornstein, an American film-maker whose brother died on Pan Am 103. His inquiries began with a bomb exploding in a Berlin nightclub in 1986, killing two US servicemen. Dornstein succeeded in identifying the man who made the bomb and was sent a picture from Libya that confirmed it. That man was Masud. His presence in Malta with Megrahi is confirmed by passport records. Later he appears as a blurred figure behind bars in a Libyan court, facing charges on a separate bombing offence. He is seen again, in the back of a car, among the welcoming party when Megrahi returns to Libya after release from a Scottish jail in 2009.
Those who claim Megrahi was wrongly convicted have a lot of explaining to do. Why, if he was innocent, was he in Malta with a known bomb-maker? And how did all those clever US agents manage to ensure the men they would later frame were in the right place at the right time? I am sure the conspiracy theorists will come up with an answer. It had better be good.
[Magnus Linklater has a long history of branding as conspiracy theorists those of us who remain unconvinced of the legal justification for the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. The manifold replies to this repeated Linklater slur can be found here. His silence in response to challenges to answer the points raised in them is eloquent. Examples of such rebuttals by John Ashton and Dr Morag Kerr are to be found in Lockerbie and the claims of Magnus Linklater.]