Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Aljazeera "What Really Happened". Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Aljazeera "What Really Happened". Sort by date Show all posts

Monday 10 March 2014

Global premiere of Aljazeera's Lockerbie: what really happened?

[Here is the text of a press release that has just gone out in connection with tomorrow’s premiere of the Aljazeera documentary Lockerbie: What Really Happened?:]

What: Lockerbie: What Really Happened? Global premiere of Al Jazeera's latest investigation into the atrocity

When: Tomorrow, Tuesday 11 March, 1pm

Where: Committee Room 1, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP

For three years Al Jazeera has been investigating the prosecution of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.  Two award-winning documentaries, screened on Al Jazeera in 2011 and 2012, demonstrated  that the case against him was deeply flawed and argued that a serious miscarriage of justice may have taken place.

Now, in its third and most disturbing investigation, Al Jazeera English answers the question left hanging at the end of the last programme: if Megrahi was not guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, then who was?

The film will be broadcast worldwide on Tuesday at 8pm.

Available for interview at the premiere will be the film's executive producer Diarmuid Jeffreys. Others featured in the film will also be in attendance.

For more information, to register for entry to the parliament building, and for interview bids, please contact:

Osama Saeed, Head of Media & PR, Al Jazeera -  

Julia Lee, Edelman -

Kayley Rogers, Edelman -

Trailer available here

[It is devoutly to be hoped that the documentary will concentrate on presenting the now overwhelming evidence that Abdelbaset Megrahi was NOT the Lockerbie bomber rather than trying to set out who was. The available evidence establishes the former beyond reasonable doubt. Attempting to demonstrate the latter is at this stage a distraction.  Once Megrahi’s conviction has been officially recognised as fatally undermined, then is the time for a genuine unblinkered look at whatever evidence exists that may show who actually was responsible.]

Wednesday 12 March 2014

John Ashton on Aljazeera's "Lockerbie: what really happened?"

[What follows is the text of an item posted this evening by John Ashton on his Megrahi: You are my Jury website:]

Aljazeera last night premiered its long-awaited documentary Lockerbie: What Really Happened? The programme’s broad thrust, with which I agree, is that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by the PFLP-CG, with help from Hezbollah. It also suggests that Libya may have had a role, which I don’t rule out.

Before commenting further, I should make a declaration of interest: I was paid consultant and interviewee for the producers’ previous Aljazeera programme Lockerbie: Case Closed, (which you can view here) which was broadcast on the day that Megrahi: You are my Jury was published, and was also a paid consultant during the development phase of this one, although I was not involved with the production itself. The most significant discoveries I made during the development phase were of no great interest to the producers, so I took them to Channel 4 News, who took a different view and commissioned a special report, which was broadcast on 20 December (you can view it here).

Last night’s programme has generated a lot of media coverage, but contains little that hasn’t already been reported previously. Most of the coverage has led on the allegations made in the film by Abolghasem Mesbahi, the German-based Iranian defector, who alleged that the bombing was carried out in revenge for the US shootdown of Iran Air flight 655. His claims have been reported as if they are new, but they are not: they originally surfaced in the German media in 1996 or 1997. Mesbahi gave his first broadcast interview about Lockerbie to the German channel ZDF in 2008 and Aljazeera’s interview, which was in fact shot by ZDF, featured in another ZDF documentary last month.

Mesbahi was a former senior official in Iran’s security service, Vevak, and was based in, among other places, Paris and Bonn. In late 1988 he was imprisoned briefly as a suspected US double agent and in 1996 defected. He claimed to have first hand knowledge of the plot that resulted in the 1992 murder, by Iranian agents, of several leading Kurdish separatists in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. His testimony proved crucial in the subsequent trial of some of the Iranians. It was not until some months after his defection that he began to talk about Lockerbie.

Last year I spoke to a leading German journalist who is very familiar with both Mesbahi and the Lockerbie story. While he believes that the evidence that Mesbahi gave in the Mykonos case was credible, he is very sceptical of his claims about Lockerbie.

By Mesbahi’s own admission, all his information about Lockerbie was second-hand. His accounts to the German police (documented in memos disclosed to the Abdelbaset’s lawyers pre-trial) were erratic. Some of his claims were unlikely, others patently nonsense. He claimed that the Iranian government initiated the operation and Iranian foreign minister Velajati held talks with Colonel Gadaffi, during which they’d agreed on a joint operation in which Iran would be responsible for the explosives and Libya for the electronics. There was no reason for Iran to rely on the Libyans to sort out the electronics, when they had plenty of other bomb makers at their disposal. He did not mention the PFLP-GC and instead suggested that the operation was not only commissioned by the Iranian government, but also largely undertaken by Iranian agents.

He said that the technical instructions for the bomb came from the Abu Nidal Organisation. He initially claimed that it was assembled and loaded at Heathrow by Libyan agents who had access to the airport’s ‘secure area’ (by which, presumably, he meant airside), but later claimed that it was assembled there by a ANO members. He also said that the bomb was activated by a chemical detonator, which again seems unlikely. He reported that the Iranians sent explosives to London after which the green light was given to the Libyans to deliver the electronic components. This, a source told him, was done by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah only days before the bombing.

However, there is no evidence that they were in London at any point. It is clear that Abdelbaset was in Prague and Switzerland from 9th to 17th December and that he and Lamin were in Malta on the 20th and 21st. I suspect that Mesbahi stitched together a story that would implicate Iran, while accommodating the official ‘Libya-did-it narrative.’

Another disappointing aspect of the programme was the prominence it gave to the claims of the Operation Bird reports, about which I have written previously (here and here). Some of the reports’ key allegations are, in my view, unlikely, in particular the claim that the PFLP-GC’s German ringleader, Hafez Dalkamoni, attended a crucial planning meeting in Malta in October 1988. This claim is contradicted by documentary and witness evidence gathered by the BKA, which is far stronger than the evidence that the programme presented to corroborate the claim (essentially, a 1989 Maltese newspaper article).

The film was on more solid ground when it presented US Defence Intelligence Agency reports from 1989 and 1990, which implicated the PFLP-GC and Iran in the attack. Unfortunately, it implied that the reports were secret and stated that they would have been used at Abdelbaset’s second appeal. Neither suggestion was true: the reports had no role in the appeal and are available online having been declassified many years ago.

There were other exaggerated and misleading claims. For example, the commentary stated ‘this programme has learned’ that Tony Gauci had picked out a photo of Mohamed Abu Talb before his partial identification of Abdelbaset. In fact it is well known that, when shown a photo of Abu Talb by the police in October 1989, Gauci said that he resembled the clothes purchaser. The programme also stated that the Toshiba radio-cassette player that housed the Lockerbie bomb was of the same type as the one seized by the BKA during the Autumn Leaves raids, but in fact it was substantially different.

On the plus side, the film contained powerful interviews with former CIA investigator Robert Baer, researcher and campaigner Morag Kerr and, surprisingly, the former Times political editor Robin Oakley. Overall, though, it was a wasted opportunity.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

No one ever told us what to find or not find about Lockerbie

[This is the headline over an article by retired FBI special agent Richard Marquise published in the current issue of the Scottish Review, prompted by the recent Aljazeera documentary Lockerbie: What Really Happened?.  It reads in part:]

The third segment of this programme was the most problematic. I found at least four issues with which I take exception. First of all, the producers of the film as well as several of those in it kept talking about 'evidence' they had uncovered which would have exonerated Libya and Megrahi. Unfortunately none of them, despite their backgrounds, seem to have been able to distinguish between evidence and intelligence.

Let me address each concern separately. A former Manhattan district attorney prepared a report based on interviews she had conducted with some 'unnamed sources'. These sources are (according to the report) very sensitive and they are unable to be identified. They reported on several meetings of terrorist countries and groups which took place in Malta in 1988 prior to the Lockerbie bombing.

The only documentation, or evidence, which was introduced was an alleged document written by one of the unnamed sources which memorialised the meeting(s). She intimated that the sources were reliable and unable to be named which means they could or would never testify and thus their information falls in the realm of intelligence, not evidence. This is a distinction that an experienced prosecutor should understand.

I have no idea what was contained in the report but assume the most 'damning' parts to the prosecution case were aired by Al Jazeera. This report is very similar to one prepared for Pan Am in 1989 which, among other things, said the US government was responsible for the attack and the bomb was brought on board in Frankfurt by a young Lebanese-American man.

This former prosecutor's report, 'Operation Bird', covered a series of meetings in Malta about terrorism and seemed to lay the blame for the Lockerbie bombing on an Egyptian living in Sweden. However, other than by inference, they had no evidence linking anyone at these meetings to the Pan Am attack. In fact, there was no evidence which would be admissible in court shown in the entire segment. They provided no documentary evidence that the man they blamed was even in Malta when the first of these meetings took place. His later travel to Malta in October 1988 has been well-documented in several books about Lockerbie. There is no evidence this man was in Malta in December 1988.

The so-called Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents that some have described as the 'smoking gun', were anything but. The documents which DIA released, presumably under the US Freedom of Information Act, although heavily redacted, had a lot of information about Lockerbie, Libya, Iran and other terrorist groups operating around the time of the bombing. Almost every page has a statement on it which says: 'This is an information report, not finally evaluated intelligence'. In other words, none of it was or ever could be evidence. Most of the reporting in the DIA release was rumour, newspaper articles or analysis of information written by DIA analysts. Not one bit of it was provable and able to be introduced into court. No smoking gun here.

An alleged former senior Iranian official was interviewed and he stated that Iran committed the Lockerbie bombing yet he provided no proof of his statement. In 2000, a young Iranian refugee in Turkey made similar claims. Although he alleged that Iran carried out this attack and that he had documents to prove it, he had no documents and he was unable to provide any information on the attack. Although the government of Iran's hands are not clean as it relates to terrorism around the world, there is no evidence which can be used against anyone in that country to charge with the Lockerbie attack.

The final issue in this segment was an interview with a retired CIA agent. He has often been described as having been involved in the Lockerbie investigation. Using his logic, any FBI agent who interviewed a family member one time could say that he too was involved in the investigation. This agent worked in Paris and at best saw some of the cable traffic about the case but he had no day to day knowledge of the evidence and the investigation. He said the FBI and CIA diverged and never came together on the investigation. After some initial operational issues, the FBI, CIA, British security service and Scottish police worked as a team and at the time of the indictments in 1991 were in total agreement with the results.

This man also claimed that there was an executive decision to put the blame on Libya rather than any other country. In September 2009 this former agent claimed on national television in the United States that in 1992 President Clinton ordered the FBI to find evidence against Libya and charge them for the Lockerbie bombing. Clinton was not president in 1992 and the indictment against Megrahi and Libya was returned in 1991. If he had so much information about the so called 'executive decision', one would think he would have got the date and the name of the president correct.

Others have reported to me that after Gaddafi was killed, this same former agent who now claims that Iran was responsible for the bombing and stated this was the opinion of the CIA 'to a man', commented on a national news programme that Gaddafi was responsible for the Pan Am 103 bombing. This agent too only talked about intelligence which is never to be confused with evidence, that which can be used in court.

This former CIA agent and others have said that high-level officials either in Washington or London told investigators not to link Syria or Iran to the Lockerbie bombing. This is categorically false. No one ever told any of us to find or not find something.

We followed the evidence, not speculation, rumour and the other things that often make up intelligence.

I saw nothing on any of these three programmes to cause me or any of my colleagues to doubt the evidence against Megrahi and Libya. The US indictment which was returned in 1991 indicted Megrahi, his co-accused Lamen Fhimah and 'others unknown to the grand jury'. I cannot and have never said that Iran may not have had a role in the attacks but there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim.

The forensic evidence and investigation conducted by non-political and dedicated police officers/agents as well as intelligence agents indicated that this was a Libyan operation and that Megrahi not only bought the clothes but facilitated the bomb getting into the baggage system. Megrahi, using his false passport, departed Malta on the morning of 21 December 1988, 30 minutes after the bomb bag had left for Frankfurt and then on to London. Megrahi took a LAA flight to Tripoli and was accompanied by a Libyan bomb technician who we believe armed the bomb.

Any 'investigative report', especially on a topic so sensitive and raw, should include interviews of all sides of the issue. A one-sided commentary on rumours, innuendo, previously litigated testimony and intelligence is bound to end in failure. Al Jazeera set the bar pretty low as this special did not answer the question 'Lockerbie: What really happened?'

Any prosecutor will tell you that the wild speculation and rumour contained in this report would never be acceptable in a courtroom. Intelligence is that information used by law enforcement agencies to help them gather evidence which can be used in a court of law. There is a big difference between intelligence which cannot be proven and evidence which can. The evidence convicted Megrahi – the information provided in the Al Jazeera report will convict no one.

[RB: “The evidence convicted Megrahi.” But as I have written (and as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has confirmed) it clearly ought not to have done.]

Saturday 8 March 2014

Aljazeera Lockerbie documentary broadcast times

The new documentary Lockerbie: What really happened? is to be broadcast on Aljazeera English on Tuesday 11 March at 8 pm GMT, Wednesday 12 March at 12 noon, Thursday 13 March at 1 am and Friday 14 March at 6 am.  The premiere showing is in Holyrood’s Committee Room 1 at 1pm on Tuesday 11th.  

[Here is what Aljazeera says about the programme:]

In late December 1988 a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie and killed 270 people.

Only one man, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a Libyan citizen, was tried and found guilty of causing the explosion. But he protested his innocence at the time of his trial in Camp Zeist in Holland in May 2000, and continued to do so up until his death in Tripoli in May 2012.

For three years filmmakers working for Al Jazeera have been investigating the prosecution of al-Megrahi.

Two award-winning documentaries, screened on Al Jazeera in 2011 and 2012, demonstrated that the case against him was deeply flawed and argued that a serious miscarriage of justice may have taken place.

In the first episode, Lockerbie: The Pan Am bomber, we followed defence investigator George Thomson as he revealed how forensic evidence presented at al-Megrahi's trial was not only inaccurate but appears to have been deliberately tampered with.

Then in Lockerbie: Case Closed, we revealed the hitherto secret assessment of the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) - an independent public body in Scotland - which had re-examined the case in detail and had recommended that it be referred back to the courts for possible dismissal.

Crucially, our film also showed how new scientific tests comprehensively undermined the validity of the most significant piece of evidence linking the bombing to al-Megrahi and Libya - a fragment of electronic timer found embedded in the shredded remains of a shirt, supposedly bought by the convicted man in Malta.

The timer, the prosecution had claimed, was identical to ones sold to Libyan intelligence by a Swiss manufacturer. But as our investigation proved, it was not identical - a fact that must have been known to British government scientists all along.

Now, in our third and most disturbing investigation, we answer the question left hanging at the end of our last programme: if al-Megrahi was not guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, then who was?

Saturday 21 December 2013

Controversy remains 25 years after Lockerbie

[This is the headline over a report by Alasdair Soussi published today on the Aljazeera website. It reads as follows:]

Lockerbie was one of the most infamous attacks of the modern age, a crime that claimed hundreds of innocent lives and thrust a sleepy little town into the full glare of the world's media and watching public.

That crime was the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and Saturday marks 25-years since the American-bound airliner fell out of the skies above Lockerbie, Scotland. Killing all 259 passengers and crew on board and 11 others on the ground, the December 21, 1988 bombing lead to the largest criminal investigation in Scottish legal history.

For the victims' families especially, the anniversary is a chance to remember loved ones who lost their lives that terrible winter's night. But, divisions between those who vigorously endorse the guilty verdict handed down to the only person convicted of the bombing, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, and others who gravely doubt the safety of his conviction and are pressing for the real "truth" behind Lockerbie remain as entrenched as ever. The Libyan himself proclaimed his innocence up until his last breath when, nearly three years after his compassionate release from a Scottish jail, he died from prostate cancer at his Tripoli home in May last year - yet his death did little to unite what has become an ever-increasing divide.

'Red herring'?
"What definitely happened over the course of the Lockerbie investigation is that the police and the forensics people missed a shed load of evidence showing that the bomb was actually introduced at (London) Heathrow," says Morag Kerr, author of the new book Adequately Explained by Stupidity? - Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies, who contends that the bomb was not, as the prosecution successfully argued at Megrahi's trial at a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands, loaded onto an Air Malta flight at the island's Luqa airport by the Libyan.

"Whether that was pure incompetence or whether they were being prodded - it may have actually been a combination of both."

Kerr told Al Jazeera that one of the golden threads of evidence against the man who was convicted in 2001 - the clothes, which were said to have been wrapped around the bomb and which were traced to a shop in Malta owned by Tony Gauci who testified to selling them to Megrahi - was "a red herring".

"Once the police saw Malta it was a lost cause," says Kerr, who is also secretary-deputy of the UK-based Justice for Megrahi campaign. "The coincidence of the red herring that led them to Malta I think convinced them that they got the right guy. And, at that point I think it was a lost cause that they were ever going to go back and investigate Heathrow."

Strong 'circumstantial evidence'
While the likes of Kerr are adamant that both the direction of the investigation and Megrahi's guilt were grave errors - others take the opposite view. Richard Marquise led the FBI's task force on Lockerbie and refuses to be swayed by any notion that the investigation was flawed or that Megrahi suffered a miscarriage of justice, though he does lament the acquittal of Megrahi's co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.

"When we did the investigation, we collected all the evidence that was available… and when it was all said and done the evidence we collected pointed to Megrahi, Fhimah and Libya," says the retired special agent, speaking to Al Jazeera. "We always hoped that we would get, through the years, more information that would substantiate that in greater fashion, but unfortunately we didn't get a lot. But, the circumstantial case was as strong as I've seen in my career, and I think the judges got it half right - I think Fhimah was involved although the circumstantial evidence was not quite as strong as it was against Megrahi. But, I'm convinced of [Megrahi's] guilt."

Stephanie Bernstein lost her husband on Pan Am Flight 103. Like Marquise, the American is emphatic that all the evidence points towards Megrahi.

"He did not wake up one morning, along with Fhimah, and say 'we've got nothing better to do, lets put a bomb on a plane,' they were agents of the Libyan intelligence service so they were of that part of (Muammar) Gaddafi's Libyan regime," Bernstein told Al Jazeera. "So they absolutely did not act alone - but I've got absolutely no doubt about [Megrahi's] guilt in terms of what he was convicted of."

As a dissenting voice to those of Bernstein, few are more high profile than Jim Swire. The Brit lost his daughter in the bombing and has consistently rejected the trial's outcome, arguing that the wrong man was convicted for the atrocity, and that two crucial points remain unanswered, both of which he and involved members of the British relatives are intending to officially challenge through an application for a further appeal against Megrahi's conviction or another route.

"Our position is that we've always wanted to know the truth about why the plane wasn't protected and who it really was that killed our loved ones," Swire told Al Jazeera. "And, we're not just going to go away because the (Scottish and British governments) are refusing our reasonable requests to give us that information… I've taken steps to organise the British relatives - and we are having a series of meetings with lawyers, but there won't be a satisfying statement about what the British relatives are going to do until the third week of January at the earliest."

Megrahi: A scapegoat?
Yet, as to searching out other avenues of blame for the Lockerbie disaster and giving credence to the claims made by Kerr and others who, by way of published works, have cast doubt on the eyewitness account of Gauci selling the clothes, Malta airport being the starting point for the bomb and other aspects of the evidence, Bernstein remains unmoved.

"These are old recycled stories - none of these are new," says Bernstein, who argues "the real story of Lockerbie is the dogged determination of the Scottish police and the FBI and Scottish law enforcement in general who covered every single inch of that territory (of debris) by foot". "If you said to me a couple of months ago, what would you predict about what would happen about press coverage around the 25th anniversary, I think we all would have predicted this."

But, why the widely-reported difference between the conviction of the US families who believe in Megrahi's guilt and many of their UK counterparts who have expressed grave doubt? Swire claims that the stateside relatives "seem to be ready to accept what their government tells them much more readily than many of us do".

"When the trial was ongoing, it was two British relatives, one of whom was me, who were there and watched the trial unfold - and became convinced to their horror that they were seeing a scapegoating of Megrahi," adds the retired GP, who contends that the American families likely "wish I would just go away and forget it all".

But, even for many of those on the other side of the Atlantic who are themselves yet to be convinced of Megrahi's innocence, there is a belief that efforts to clear his name must be directly confronted if only to lift a shadow from one of Scotland's most revered national institutions.

"Lockerbie is a huge cloud hanging over the Scottish justice system," Magnus Linklater, a leading Scottish political commentator, told Al Jazeera. "It's almost as if the allegation that Megrahi is innocent is the default position. But, that in its turn has not been tested and it's been allowed to go unchallenged and it's high time that it was properly challenged."

Sunday 30 March 2014

The primary suitcase and its contents

The Primary Suitcase and Its Contents - Rethinking Basic Assumptions is the title of an article published yesterday on baz’s blog The Masonic Verses, prompted by the recent Aljazeera documentary Lockerbie: what really happened?  As with all of baz’s Lockerbie writings, it deserves careful study.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Lockerbie: what really happened?

Aljazeera’s delayed Lockerbie documentary (the third in the series) is to be broadcast soon. A promotional video can be viewed here.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Lockerbie bombing "commissioned by Iran" - bomb loaded at Heathrow not Malta

[Today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph contains a long article headlined Lockerbie bombing: are these the men who really brought down Pan Am 103? based on the material in Aljazeera’s new documentary.  It reads as follows:]

Evidence gathered for the aborted appeal against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's conviction points finger at Iran and Syrian-based terrorist group

In the 25 years that have passed since Pan Am 103 blew up in the sky over Lockerbie, one of the only facts that has remained uncontested is that a bomb concealed in a Samsonite suitcase exploded at 7.02pm on December 21, 1988, causing the loss of 270 lives.

From the day Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, the UK’s smallest police force, began investigating the country’s worst terrorist atrocity, the truth about who was responsible has been hidden by a fog of political agendas, conspiracy theories and unreliable evidence.

The 2001 conviction of the Libyan suspect Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, (and the acquittal of his co-defendant Khalifah Fhimah) only served to raise more questions than were answered.

Quite apart from a number of problems with the prosecution’s case was the question of who else took part in the plot. All sides agreed that Megrahi had not acted alone, even if he was guilty.

Yet some of the investigators who sifted through the wreckage of the Boeing 747 and studied intelligence dating from the months before the attack have never wavered in their belief that it was Iran, not Libya, that ordered it, and that a Syrian-based terrorist group executed it.

Now, following a three-year investigation by a team of documentary-makers working for Al Jazeera television, a new and compelling narrative has emerged, in which previously troublesome evidence suddenly fits together like the parts of a Swiss clock.

It begins in Malta nine months before the bombing and winds its way through Beirut, Frankfurt and London leaving a trail of evidence that pointed to Iran, before a phone call from George H W Bush to Margaret Thatcher allegedly switched the focus of the investigation to Libya.

In March 1988, intelligence officers from Iran, Syria and Libya met in the back room of a baker’s shop owned by Abdul Salaam, the head of the Malta cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).

They shared a common cause, and agreed to “join together in a campaign against Israeli and American targets”, according a witness who was at the meeting.

Classified US intelligence cables obtained by Al Jazeera suggest America was aware of the meeting. A Defence Intelligence Agency signal said that “Iran, Libya and Syria have signed a co-operation treaty for future terrorist acts”.

At that stage they did not have a specific target in mind, but three months later, on July 3, 1988, Iran’s hatred of America reached a new high after Iran Air flight 655 was shot down by the USS Vincennes, which was protecting merchant shipping in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war.

During a skirmish with Iranian gunboats the American warship mistook the Airbus A300 on its radar for a fighter jet, and fired two radar-guided missiles which downed the aircraft in the Strait of Hormuz, killing all 290 people on board, including 66 children.

Iran’s leaders were convinced the aircraft had been shot down deliberately, and proclaimed that there would be “a real war against America”.

By the time the Iranian, Syrian and Libyan plotters next met in Malta in October 1988, their target was clear: to blow up an American airliner as payback for Flight 655.

A source who was present at the meetings was tracked down by Jessica de Grazia, a former Manhattan District Attorney who was hired by Megrahi’s defence team to explore alternative theories over the bombing. Her findings would have formed the basis of Megrahi’s appeal hearing, which he abandoned after he was released from Greenock prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds in 2009.

She said that among those present were “hard core terrorist combatants” trained in explosives, guns and military matters”.

One of those present was Mohammed Abu Talb, who headed the Swedish cell of PFLP-GC, and would later become one of the prime suspects in the Lockerbie bombing before the focus shifted to Megrahi.

Robert Baer, a CIA agent who investigated the Lockerbie bombing, told Al Jazeera that the PFLP-GC and Iran quickly became the main suspects.

He claims that six days after Flight 655 was downed by the USS Vincennes, at a meeting in Beirut representatives of the Iranian regime turned to Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian officer and head of the PFLP-GC, and tasked him with bringing down five American jets.

Jibril, who enjoyed the protection of the Syrian regime, had masterminded aircraft bombings in the past, and the DIA was aware of his mission.

According to another cable obtained by Megrahi’s defence team: “The execution of the operation was contracted to Ahmed Jibril…money was given to Jibril upfront in Damascus for initial expenses – the mission was to blow up a Pan Am flight.”

Jibril placed one of his most trusted deputies, a Palestinian PFLP-GC member called Hafez Dalkamoni, in charge of the terrorist cell, and he travelled to Germany to prepare the attack with Marwan Khreesat, an expert bomb-maker.

While Khreesat busied himself making his devices, Dalkamoni flew to Malta for another meeting in the baker’s shop. Also present was Abu Talb. Their presence in October 1988 was reported by a Maltese newspaper, tipped off that members of the PFLP-GC were in town.

According to the witness spoken to by Miss de Grazia, the meeting was convened to discuss how to get a bomb on board a US passenger jet.

Malta would also become key to the prosecution case against Megrahi, after the suitcase containing the Lockerbie bomb was found to contain clothes bought in a shop in Malta.

One of the key prosecution witnesses at Megrahi’s trial was Tony Gauchi [sic], owner of Mary’s House boutique, who identified Megrahi as buying clothes from him before the bombing. His evidence was later thrown into doubt after it emerged he had seen a picture of Megrahi in a magazine before he picked him out at an ID parade. He was also paid $2 million by the US Department of Justice.

On his deathbed, Megrahi said: “As God is my witness, I was never in that shop. This is the truth.”

Intriguingly, the papers assembled by Megrahi’s defence team for his aborted appeal show that before Megrahi was ever in the frame, Mr Gauchi identified another of his customers from a list of initial suspects. That man was Abu Talb, who bears a clear resemblance to an artist’s impression of a dark-skinned man with an afro hairstyle which was drawn from Mr Gauchi’s initial recollections.

So was Abu Talb, who Tony Gauchi said had bought clothes in his shop, the man who put the bomb on Pan Am 103?

According to the judges who found Megrahi guilty, the bomb was placed on a flight from Luqa airport in Malta to Frankfurt, and then transferred onto a feeder flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow, where it was finally transferred onto Pan Am 103. But there was another problem for the prosecution: they acknowledged that they had no evidence of Megrahi putting the bomb on board the Air Malta flight at Luqa.

John Bedford, a Heathrow baggage handler, told the Megrahi trial that after he took a tea break on the day of the bombing, he recalled seeing a brown hard-shell case on a cargo trolley that had not been there when he left. He saw the case an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed at Heathrow. There had also been a break-in at Heathrow the night before: security guard Ray Manly told Megrahi's appeal that he found a padlock on a baggage store cut.

Cell leader Dalkamoni and bomb-maker Khreesat had been arrested by the time of the bombing, after German police rounded up terrorist suspects in two cities. But Talb was still at large.

When Talb was arrested until the following year over unrelated terrorist offences police who searched his home found clothing bought in Malta, circuitry and other potential bomb-making materials. For now, his exact role, if any, remains a mystery.

Dalkamoni and Khreesat had been kept under surveillance by German police, who were aware of their terrorist connections, and when the police raided 14 apartments in Frankfurt and Neuss in October 1988 the two men were among 17 suspects who were held.

The police discovered an arsenal of guns, grenades and explosives, and in the back of a Ford Cortina driven by Dalkamoni found a bomb hidden inside a Toshiba radio cassette player.

The bomb was specifically designed to bring down an aircraft, as it had a barometric switch which would set off a timer when the aircraft reached a certain height. Its design had a striking peculiarity: the plastic explosives had been wrapped in silver foil from a Toblerone chocolate bar.

The German police found four bombs in total, but had reason to believe there had been five.

Was the fifth bomb placed on board Pan Am 103? Bomb fragments recovered from the crash site showed that the bomb had been concealed in a Toshiba radio cassette player identical to the one found in Germany.

Even more strikingly, the bomb fragments included tiny pieces of silver foil from a chocolate bar.

A German forensic officer told the Megrahi trial that the timer on the Lockerbie bomb was not switched on until seven minutes into the flight, suggesting a barometric switch had been used to set it off.

Despite so many pointers to Khreesat being the bomb-maker, he has never been charged over Lockerbie because the judges at the Megrahi trial said that there was “no evidence from which we could infer that [PFLP-GC] was involved in this particular act of terrorism”.

The suggestion of a barometric trigger did not fit the prosecution’s version of events, as they said Megrahi, the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines, smuggled the bomb on board an Air Malta flight. But if a barometric switch had been used, the bomb would have detonated on take-off from Malta. Instead, the prosecution said the bomb was triggered at 31,000ft by a straightforward timer switch.

The forensic evidence against Megrahi depended on a tiny fragment of the bomb’s timer recovered from the crash site and said to be identical to a batch of 20 timers known to have been purchased by Libya.

But when Megrahi’s defence team obtained the bomb fragment and sent it to a metallurgist to be tested, he showed it was not one of the timers sold to Libya.

On December 5, 1988, a man with an Arab accent called the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, warning that a bomb would be planted on a Pan Am flight in two weeks time. Despite the warning, the bombers managed to smuggle their device on board Pan Am 103.

Another DIA cable obtained by Megrahi’s defence team stated that in early 1989 a cheque from the Iranian Central Bank was written out by an Iranian minister and handed to a middle-man who gave it to Ahmed Jibril. The pay-off was $11 million (£6.5m), according to former CIA agent Robert Baer.

When Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary began its investigation into the bombing, it believed the PFLP-GC was involved. A report written in 1989 by Supt Pat Connor identified 15 members of the organisation he wanted arrested and questioned, and the then Transport Minister Paul Channon invited selected journalists to an off-the-record briefing to set out the case against Iran and the PFLP-GC, adding that arrests were imminent.

But by the middle of 1989 the investigation had suddenly changed tack, reportedly following a phone call between President George H W Bush and Baroness Thatcher in March 1989. The two leaders, it is claimed, were anxious not to antagonize the PFLP-GC’s guardian, Syria - a key strategic power in the Middle East - and decided that Libya, which had taken part in the meetings in Malta, should be the focus of the investigation.

The following year Syria joined forces with the US and Britain to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during the Gulf War.

Mr Baer said the FBI began investigating Libya “in complete disregard to the intelligence” and suggested Libya’s pariah status made it a convenient scapegoat.

Al Jazeera tracked down alleged bomb-maker Khreesat to Amman in Jordan, where he is kept under surveillance by Jordanian intelligence. He refused to discuss the affair on camera but a source close to him later told Al Jazeera that the attack had indeed been commissioned by Iran and that the bomb was put on board at Heathrow.

Abu Talb now lives in Sweden, having been released from prison four years ago following a 20-year sentence for unrelated terrorist acts. His son said he had “nothing to do with Lockerbie”.

For the families of the Lockerbie victims, the wait for the truth goes on.

Lockerbie: What Really Happened? is on Al Jazeera English at 8pm on Tuesday, March 11, Freeview 83, Sky 514.  

[An accompanying article in the same newspaper is headlined Lockerbie bombing: profiles of the men who were implicated before Libya took the blame; another is headlined Lockerbie bombing 'was work of Iran not Libya', says former [Iranian] spy.

A Press Association news agency report published on the Sunday Post website reads as follows:]

The Lockerbie bombing was ordered by Iran in retaliation for a US strike on an Iranian passenger plane, a documentary has claimed.

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to be convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in which 270 people were killed more than 25 years ago. 

Megrahi, who was released from jail by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, died in 2012 protesting his innocence and h is family plan to appeal against his conviction.

But former Iranian intelligence officer Abolghassem Mesbahi has told an Al Jazeera documentary that the bombing was ordered by Tehran and carried out by the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) in retaliation for a US navy strike on an Iranian commercial jet six months earlier, in which 290 people died.

The US ship apparently mistook the plane for an F-14 fighter jet.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Mesbahi said: "Iran decided to retaliate as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini.

"The target of the Iranian decision makers was to copy exactly what's happened to the Iranian Airbus. Everything exactly same, minimum 290 people dead. This was the target of the Iranian decision makers."

US Defence Intelligence Agency cables at the time reported that the leader of the PFLP-GC had been paid to plan the bombing, the broadcaster said.

The Crown Office has previously said the alleged involvement of the PFLP-GC was addressed at the original Lockerbie trial.

A successful application from Megrahi's family to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission could start the third appeal into the conviction.

Megrahi lost his first appeal in 2002, one year after he was found guilty of mass murder and jailed for life.

The SCCRC recommended in 2007 that Megrahi should be granted a second appeal against his conviction. He dropped his appeal two days before being released from prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds.

In December, the Libyan attorney general announced he had appointed two prosecutors to work on the case. For the first time they met Scottish and US investigators who are trying to establish whether there are other individuals in Libya who could be brought to trial for involvement in the attack.