Showing posts sorted by relevance for query aljazeera. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query aljazeera. 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 8 June 2011

Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber?

This is the title of a programme to be broadcast at 9pm BST tomorrow (and at various other times over the following days) on the Aljazeera English TV channel. Apart from the fact that I am interviewed on it, I do not know what the programme contains.

Here are the transmission times:
09 June, 20.00
10 June, 12.00
11 June, 01.00
12 June, 06.00
13 June, 20.00
14 June, 12.00
15 June, 01.00
16 June, 06.00
These times are all GMT, so British Summer Time is one hour ahead. To check Aljazeera where you are click on this:

Monday 9 July 2012

US channel broadcasts Aljazeera Lockerbie film

Aljazeera's 2011 documentary Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber? is being broadcast this week by Cambridge, Massachusetts, television station Cambridge Community Television (channel 8). The next showing is on Tuesday 10 July at 1pm EDT (5 hours behind BST).  Please note that this is not the latest February 2012 Aljazeera documentary Lockerbie: Case Closed.

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?

Sunday 1 December 2013

Aljazeera's "Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber"

The first of Aljazeera’s three Lockerbie documentaries Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber (which has been previously broadcast) can be viewed on the Aljazeera English TV channel tonight at 20.00hrs GMT.  It is also to be shown during the coming week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at various times. The second, Lockerbie: Case Closed, (also previously broadcast) is to be shown on Sunday, 8 December and the following days. The third programme, If Not Megrahi, Then Who? (which is completely new) will be shown on Sunday, 15 December and the following days.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Aljazeera's Lockerbie inaccuracy

[An item on the Aljazeera website accompanying a programme entitled Flight 1103 and subtitled “Is there a connection between Libya's worst-ever aviation disaster and the Lockerbie bombing?” contains the following:]

On December 22, 1992, Libya witnessed the worst aviation disaster in its history when, six minutes before landing, Flight 1103 from Benghazi to Tripoli plummeted 1,000 metres in just 13 seconds. All 157 people aboard were killed.

It was exactly four years and one day after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland.

But while a Libyan national was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, and Muammar Gaddafi, the country's then leader, eventually conceded Libya's responsibility for the crime, the two disasters, officially at least, appeared to have little in common.

One was regarded as a state-sponsored act of terrorism; the other as an accident attributed by the Libyan government to a mechanical fault.

[Aljazeera really should know better, particularly in the light of its own films Lockerbie: The Pan Am bomber and Lockerbie: Case closed. It simply is not the case that Colonel Gaddafi “eventually conceded Libya's responsibility for the crime”. Libya accepted “responsibility for the actions of its officials”.  The full text of the relevant document can be read here.]

Saturday 14 December 2013

Aljazeera documentary "If not Megrahi, then who?" postponed

Reliable sources inform me that the Aljazeera documentary If not Megrahi, then who? will not now be broadcast on Sunday, 15 December and the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Amongst other reasons for postponement, are (a) the fact that important new material has come to light which must be incorporated into the film and (b) Aljazeera’s decision that the programme should be made available in more geographical areas than was originally planned, including the USA and the Middle East. It is hoped that the documentary can still be shown on or before the 25th anniversary of the Pan Am 103 disaster on 21 December.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Aljazeera's "Lockerbie: Case closed"

The final broadcast of this documentary is on Aljazeera English tomorrow (Thursday, 1 March) at 0600 GMT. However, it can now also be seen here on You Tube.

Friday 14 February 2014

Aljazeera's third Lockerbie documentary

A little bird tells me that Aljazeera’s new Lockerbie documentary, provisionally entitled If not Megrahi, then who? which was originally expected to be shown on or about the 25th anniversary in December 2013, will be broadcast worldwide on a series of dates commencing on either 25 February or 5 March 2014.   

Monday 10 September 2012

David Miliband on Megrahi

"Al-Megrahi was the man behind the bombing," and "Al-Megrahi's release [in the Lockerbie bombing case] was obviously wrong," says former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband in an interview on Aljazeera English.

Mr Miliband has clearly not read John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury or Dr Morag Kerr’s Lockerbie: Fact and Fiction or watched Aljazeera’s documentary Lockerbie: Case Closed.

Until now David Miliband’s best-known contribution to the Lockerbie case was his signing of a public interest immunity (PII) certificate in the context of Abdelbaset Megrahi’s second appeal in an attempt to prevent disclosure of a document (relating to timers) that had been in the hands of the Crown since 1996 (before the Lockerbie trial) but which was never divulged to the defence (as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission believes it should have been). His conduct in this matter was the subject of an editorial in the Sunday Herald headlined Miliband has made Lockerbie appeal a mockery of justice.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

RIP Chris Jeans, Lockerbie documentary producer

[What follows is a short excerpt from The Guardian’s obituary of Chris Jeans, published on Monday:]

Christopher Jeans abandoned the constraints of a BBC suit for the riskier freedom of an independent television producer. He has died of cancer aged 68, two weeks after finishing his final programme, the third part in a trilogy for Al Jazeera about the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie 25 years ago. Chris worked until days before his death, showing his customary exuberance and unyielding persistence, chasing down facts and negotiating his way though complex challenges with a combination of shrewd guile and disarming laughter.

[Two of Chris Jeans’s Aljazeera documentaries have aready been broadcast, Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber  and Lockerbie: Case Closed.  The third, provisionally entitled If not Megrahi, then who?, has yet to be shown. 

I am grateful to George Thomson, who was associated with Chris Jeans in all three of Aljazeera’s Lockerbie documentaries, for allowing me to publish this tribute:]

I only met Chris for the first time three years ago when he and Bill Cran approached me to ask for my assistance in producing what was to be one documentary film on Lockerbie.  We went on to make three and I can assure anyone waiting to view the third film that, it will be broadcast.

I agree with Morag [Kerr] it should be broadcast if for nothing else, in honour of one of the kindest, most jovial men I have ever met.

Chris could act the clown, he was great fun to work with but he got the best out of all the people he interviewed.  I was there during the filming of Morag's piece and I can vouch for everything she has so kindly said.

Jim Swire has described him as perhaps the best informed interviewer to have interviewed him on the case.

Bill and Chris were a great double act and I christened them "The Last of the Summer Wine", but they were brilliant and prolific documentary makers who made hard work fun.

When we were on location in Malta Chris would have us up and in the sea before 7am every morning, he loved swimming.  I got my own back by getting him arrested by the local police for hunting down Tony Gauci.

I was with him the day before he died at his home in London, he was very, very ill, but miraculously he managed a smile and squeezed my hand. He could not have been better looked after, his son and new daughter-in-law are both doctors and they assisted his lovely Wife Jessica to care for him right to the very end.  

The world of television documentaries has lost a star, I have lost a very good pal.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

An Aljazeera correspondent on the SNP triumph

[The following is an excerpt from a report on the Aljazeera English-language website:]

Within five years, the people of Scotland will be asked to decide if they want to remain part of the union or create an independent state.

This is due to a remarkable win for the nationalists in elections to Scotland's devolved parliament which sits in Edinburgh.

The Scottish National Party [SNP] had governed as a minority administration but this time around it has taken 69 of the 129 seats up for grabs.

When the parliament was established in 1999 a complex electoral system was drawn up – a mixture of first-past-the-post and proportional representation – to ensure no party, particularly the nationalists, would ever win an overall majority.

But the founding fathers failed to see a complete collapse of the left of the centre Labour Party in its traditional industrial heartlands around Glasgow and Fife, the loss of every single Labour seat in the north east around Aberdeen and the huge collapse of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The SNP was told it would suffer because as the party in government in Scotland it approved the controversial release of the convicted Lockerbie Bomber, Abdel Basset Al Megrahi. It didn't. It simply wasn't an election issue.

Labour claimed the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed because of their links with the Conservatives in the UK government and disaffected voters went straight to the SNP. There might be some truth in that, but it does not detract from this astonishing result.

The leader of the nationalists, Alex Salmond, is by common consent the only 'big beast' in Scottish politics, by far and away the most impressive, informed, in touch politician.

He has in the past put forth the idea of Scotland having a parliament, everyone rejected this but they were wrong. That the SNP would never run Scotland, but they did with a minority administration in the last parliament. And that his party could never secure a majority. And it has.

Now he says those who predict Scotland will never be independent must be worried.

[The following is from a report in yesterday's Glasgow Evening Times:]

After he is confirmed as First Minister next week Mr Salmond will pick his cabinet for the second term and is expected to keep his team largely unchanged.

He fought the election on the SNP’s "record, team and vision" so would be a surprise to ring the changes.

One change is a new post of minister for cities which will be under the control of Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is likely to remain as Health Secretary.

Finance Secretary John Swinney appears to be another untouchable after showing immense diplomatic and political skill in dealing with difficult times in local government.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had a stormier four years than other Cabinet Secretaries carrying the anger from the US and elsewhere over his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al Megrahi.

There will also have to be a new Lord Advocate after Elish Angiolini’s decision to step down.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Who was really behind the Lockerbie bombing?

[This is the headline over an item on the Aljazeera website about its current Inside Story programme. It reads as follows:] 

As the world marks the 25th Lockerbie attack anniversary, we ask why there is no clarity on who was the perpetrator.

Commemorations have been held in the US, UK and Scotland to mark 25 years since Pan Am flight 103 crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. But after all these years, there are still questions about who was responsible for one the most infamous attacks in modern times.

The UK, US and Libyan governments have promised to work together to reveal the full facts of the bombing.

On December 21, 1988, the quaint Scottish town of Lockerbie was about to become the scene of one of the world's most infamous attacks.

The airliner had just left London's Heathrow airport – on its way to New York.

Less than half an hour after takeoff a bomb detonated, triggering an explosion and killing all 259 people on board. Most of the passengers were American while 11 others on the ground were also killed.

Three years later, a joint indictment by the US and Scotland implicated two Libyans for the bombing.

One of them was Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was accused of 270 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder and breach of aviation security.

In April 1999, the suspects, including al-Megrahi, surrendered and were flown from the Libyan capital, to the Netherlands, where the case was heard.

When the trial began in 2000, al-Megrahi pleaded not guilty but he was later convicted. In 2002, he re-launched an appeal which was unsuccessful and al-Megrahi started his life sentence behind bars in a Scottish prison.

The Libyan authorities formally accepted responsibility for the attack, and even paid out $2.7bn in compensation to the relatives of those killed. That move prompted the United Nations to lift its sanctions.

Six years into his prison sentence, it was revealed that al-Megrahi suffered from advanced prostate cancer. He was given just a short time to live, and on those grounds, a Scottish judge decided to free him. [RB: It was not a judge, but a Scottish Government minister.]

He arrived home to Libya to a hero's welcome, which upset people around the world and triggered international condemnation.

The last interview al-Megrahi gave, was while he was on his death bed in 2011.

He spoke about the man whose testimony helped convict him - Tony Gauci, a shopkeeper in Malta - who said Megrahi bought clothes in his store that were found wrapped around the bomb on the plane.

"If I have a chance to see him [Gauci] I am forgiving him. I would tell him that never in my entire life have I been in his shop. I never bought any clothing from him. And ... I would tell him ... that he dealt with me very wrongly," Megrahi said in his last interview.

Last year, the man known as the Lockerbie bomber died. Al-Megrahi has always said he is innocent, and his family, to this day, say they want an appeal against his sentence and demand the truth be revealed.

As the world remembers Lockerbie 25 years on, divisions remain between those who believe he was really guilty of the crime and those who do not.

So do we know who was really behind the bombing? Have investigators failed to nail the perpetrator? Was al-Megrahi a scapegoat? And how strong were the evidences that convicted al-Megrahi?

To discuss this, Inside Story presenter Folly Bah Thibault is joined by guests: Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing and led a high-profile campaign for justice on behalf of the UK victims' relatives; Richard Marquise, then head of FBI's task force on the Lockerbie investigation; Morag Kerr, the author of Adequately Explained by Stupidity? Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies; and Anas el-Gomati, the director general of Libya's first public policy think-tank Sadeq Institute.

[Today’s Aljazeera GMT schedule can be found here. The programme can be watched here on You Tube.]

Thursday 9 June 2011

Prologue to Aljazeera Lockerbie documentary

[I am grateful to Marcello Mega for allowing me to reproduce the following article, versions of which appeared today in the Scottish editions of The Times, the Daily Mail and The Sun:]

The former Lord Advocate who issued the indictment against the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has accepted there is clear evidence that the key witness, a Maltese shopkeeper, was promised a fortune for his testimony.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, who was Scotland’s most senior prosecutor until 1993, announced in November 1991 that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and his co-accused, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, were wanted for the murder of 270 people on 21 December 1988.

Presented with documents showing that Scottish police officers and FBI agents had discussed as early as September 1989, ‘an offer of unlimited money to Tony Gauci, with $10,000 being available immediately’, Lord Fraser said: “I have to accept that it happened. It shouldn’t have and I was unaware of it.”

The former law officer said: “I remember a time when things were warming up and there was talk from the US about sending a squad into Tripoli to seize the suspects, rather as they did with Noriega in Panama.

“I had to warn them that if that happened there would never be a trial in any Scottish or UK court. I also warned our investigators that the eyes of the world were on us, and everything had to be done by the book.

“It would be unacceptable to offer bribes, inducements or rewards to any witness in a routine murder trial in Glasgow or Dundee, and it is obviously unacceptable to have done it in the biggest case of mass murder ever carried out in Europe.”

Lord Fraser said he had been asked before about allegations of inducements offered to Gauci, but had never before been presented with evidence of it.

Gauci was absolutely central to Megrahi’s conviction because the clothes recovered from the suitcase that carried the bomb onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, bound for New York, were traced back to his shop.

Although he never stated that Megrahi was the man who bought the clothes, his numerous statements and testimony in court saying he resembled the buyer was accepted as proof of his guilt by the three Scottish judges who sentenced him to life in 2001.

Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer and released on compassionate grounds to die at home in August 2009, but remains alive almost two years later.

Evidence of the inducements made to Gauci has emerged during an investigation by a team working for Network Features on a new documentary on the questions that still surround the bombing.

Among the material unearthed are records of diary entries made by retired Detective Chief Inspector Harry Bell of Strathclyde Police. He was the Scottish officer with regular close contact with Gauci after the bomb-damaged clothes were traced to his shop.

At Megrahi’s trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Scottish detectives involved in the case were asked whether Gauci had ever been offered inducements for his testimony, and all denied it.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission conducted its own investigation into the case, which resulted in it being referred back for a second appeal - abandoned when Megrahi was freed. Unlike the trial court, it required police officers to produce notebooks and diaries.

Harry Bell’s diary reveals that reward money was discussed from September 1989 onwards, within days of Gauci being traced.

An extract quoted by the SCCRC from February 1991 reveals that Gauci was being treated to an expensive holiday. He wanted to invite his father along but was concerned about how to explain his ability to pay for it.

The diary extract says: “He was told to suggest the National Lotto as having won a prize.”

Also in February 1991, Bell told Det Chief Supt Jim Gilchrist, who was then the Senior Investigating Officer in the case, in a memo that ‘Tony Gauci has expressed interest in receiving money in recent meetings’.

The Commission also reported that Gauci’s brother, Paul, who made important witness statements, ‘had a clear desire to gain financial benefit’, and that ‘the US authorities offered to make substantial payments to Tony Gauci at an early stage’.

Its report confirms that after the trial, Tony Gauci received more than $2m and his brother more than $1m in reward money.

This contradicts assurances given publicly on many occasions by Richard Marquise, the lead FBI officer on Lockerbie, that ‘no witness in this case was ever promised or paid any money in return for their testimony’.

The Network Features investigation also reveals that key pieces of evidence originated in police laboratories and were introduced artificially to the chain of evidence, and that witness statements that interrupted the chain were altered or suppressed.

Gauci and Bell declined to be interviewed for the programme.

Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber? is broadcast tonight (Thursday 9th) on Al Jazeera English at 9pm.

[Today's Aljazeera English schedule can be viewed here.]

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Police came to a conclusion and then looked for evidence

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2011.

Scottish Sunday Express on the Aljazeera documentary

[What follows is the text of a report by Ben Borland that appeared in yesterday's Scottish edition of the Sunday Express:]

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted on the basis that he bought clothes from Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, including a grey men’s Slalom shirt. The clothing was then packed in a suitcase with the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103, killing 270 on December 21, 1988.

The charred remains of the shirt were crucial to the prosecution, as a forensic scientist found a piece of circuit board from the bomb embedded in the collar which first led investigators to Libya, and ultimately Megrahi.

However, it has now emerged that clothing manufacturers in Malta told Scottish police in January 1990 that the shirt recovered from the crash site was in fact a boy’s size.

Campaigners have stepped up calls for an inquiry after the claims surfaced in a documentary broadcast on Thursday by Arab TV network Al Jazeera but seen by only a handful of Scottish viewers. [RB: The programme can be watched on You Tube here.]

In it, Scotland’s former Lord Advocate also accepted that Gauci, the main prosecution witness, was paid $2million to give evidence against Megrahi. Scottish private investigator George Thomson tracked down shirt manufacturers Tonio Caruana and Godwin Navarro in Malta. They recalled being shown a fragment of shirt by DC John Crawford and telling him, independently of each other, that it was a boy’s shirt

Speaking to the Sunday Express yesterday, Mr Navarro, 76, said: “I stand by my statement. I believe it is a boy’s shirt because of the size of the pocket and the width of the placket, where the button holes are.”

Retired Strathclyde Police superintendent Iain McKie, now a campaigner against miscarriages of justice, said: “The fact that the witnesses say it was a boy’s shirt and not an adult shirt seems to me quite critical.”

He said that if it was a boy’s shirt, then it cannot be the same one purchased from Gauci by the man he later identified as Megrahi – destroying the “evidence chain”.

Supt McKie said the latest claims added weight to calls for the Scottish Government to set up an independent inquiry into Megrahi’s conviction.

He added: “The whole chain of evidence has been totally and utterly shattered. It is looking more and more like the police came to a conclusion and then looked for evidence.”

The programme, Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber, also alleged that a piece of the shirt had been altered, as it is clearly a different shape in two police photographs.

However a spokesman for the Crown Office said yesterday that the matter was easily explained. He said: “The fragment of cloth alleged to have been removed from the shirt was examined by the scientists and is referred to in the forensic science report. It is clearly a separate fragment.”

But Fife-based Mr Thomson stood by his claims. He said: “In January 1990 they realise that what they have is a fragment of a boy’s shirt, while Gauci is saying he sold a gents’ shirt.

“The reason for people saying this is mainly down to the size of the pocket and lo and behold the next thing a fragment of the pocket has been removed.”

The documentary is the latest foreign TV show to expose doubts in Scotland’s handling of the case.

Dutch filmmaker Gideon Levy won the Prix Europa for the best current affairs programme of 2009 for Lockerbie Revisited, which has never been broadcast in Britain.