Friday, 23 December 2022

Libya aborted plan to hand Gaddafi spy chief to US at last minute

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Guardian. It reads in part:]

Extradition of Abdullah al-Senussi over Lockerbie bombing would have closely followed that of Mohammed Abouagela Masud

The extradition to the US of Muammar Gaddafi’s most trusted and notorious aide was abruptly halted by Libya at the 11th hour this week for fear of public anger after the handover of another ex-senior Libyan intelligence operative, officials in Tripoli have told the Guardian.

Abdullah al-Senussi, a former intelligence chief and brother-in-law of Gaddafi, is blamed for a series of lethal bombings directed at western aviation as well as other targets.

The US want the 72-year-old, currently held in prison in Tripoli, to answer questions connected to the attack which brought down a US-bound aircraft over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. Senussi has long been suspected of masterminding the operation, which killed 270 people.

Earlier this month the US announced that another Libyan suspect in the Lockerbie bombing, Mohammed Abouagela Masud, was in its custody. Masud was taken from his Tripoli home by armed men on 17 November, held for two weeks by a militia and then handed over to US government agents in the port city of Misrata.

His family said he had been unlawfully abducted. In a statement on Tuesday, the US embassy in Libya said the process had been “lawful and conducted in cooperation with Libyan authorities”.

The handover of Masud has provoked outrage in Libya, putting the government of interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh under severe pressure and leading to the shelving of plans to transfer Senussi to US custody.

“The idea was to have Masud sent to the US first and then give them Senussi. There have been discussions for months about this. But then officials got worried,” said one Libyan official source with knowledge of the case. A second said Senussi was meant to be handed over at the weekend.

Known as “the butcher”, Senussi is being held in the Rawawa prison in Tripoli and is thought to be in ill health. He was sentenced to death in a mass trial that concluded in 2015.

Senussi was considered Gaddafi’s most trusted aide. (...)

The effort to secure the transfer of Masud and Senussi was launched under Donald Trump’s administration but has been revived over the last nine months through discussions between US officials and the Libyan government, the sources said.

In August an agreement about the transfer of Senussi and Masud was reached with Dbeibeh. Dbeibeh’s mandate expired last December and he has a clear incentive to win favour with the US, analysts say.

As Senussi is currently behind bars, a transfer by Libya to the US would have been administratively more straightforward than that of Masud, who was detained without a warrant by militia loyal to a commander accused of systematic human rights abuses.

“This is a completely different case,” said one Libyan official.

Senussi is also a widely reviled figure in Libya, and cannot be portrayed as a pawn simply following orders, as Masud has been by his supporters.

In the early 1980s, while Senussi ran Gaddafi’s internal security services, many opponents of the regime were killed in Libya and overseas. Libyans hold him responsible for the 1996 massacre of about 1,200 inmates at the Abu Salim prison while a court in France convicted him in absentia in 1999 for his role in the 1989 bombing of a passenger plane over Niger that killed 170 people.

Senussi, then head of Libya’s external security organisation, has long been accused of recruiting and managing Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. (...) [RB: In August 2011 The Wall Street Journal published a letter from Megrahi to Senussi that was found in the latter's archives after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. Megrahi wrote "I am an innocent man" and blamed his conviction on "fraudulent information that was relayed to investigators by Libyan collaborators".]

Successive Libyan governments insisted on prosecuting Senussi on home soil. The ICC decided in 2013 that as Libya had put Senussi on trial it would halt its own proceedings against him. The former intelligence chief was eventually condemned to death in July 2015 in a process that was severely criticised by human rights campaigners.

It is unclear if the transfer of Senussi to the US has been shelved indefinitely, or merely postponed.

Alia Brahimi, an expert on Libya with the Atlantic Council, said the case demonstrated a tension between the demands of the law and the demands of justice.

“Senussi is suspected of a great many crimes and the possibility that he might answer for one of them, an act of mass murder no less, is extraordinary,” Brahimi said. “Any transfer would generate enormous controversy, whatever the circumstances, as did that of Masud, and rightly so. But the lasting story will be about the long arm of American justice, and it will be heard around the world.

“Successive transitional governments [in Libya] have struggled to hold members of the old regime accountable in a transparent and ordered way, because of the chaos which has prevailed since the revolution but also because of the continuing power of regime interest groups.”

The family of Senussi and tribes still loyal to him have threatened unrest if he is transferred to the US.

Thursday, 22 December 2022

What might a second Lockerbie trial look like?

[This is the headline over an article by Dr Mustafa Fetouri just published on the website of the Middle East Monitor. It reads in part:]

Libyan Abu Agila Muhammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi will appear for the second time before a federal court in Washington DC next Tuesday where he will be told formally of the charges against him. Mas'ud first appeared in court eight days ago after he was kidnapped from his bedroom in Tripoli on 12 December. The US law enforcement agencies colluded with a notorious local militia to snatch the old man and take him to America.

In his first appearance in court the suspect refused to talk to the judge because he claimed that he did not have a lawyer. It was reported that he rejected the lawyer appointed by the court to represent him. His family is working to provide their own lawyer.

The 71 year old will face charges relating to his alleged part in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. (...)

The US has always insisted on trying the Lockerbie case in its own courts but it failed to get access to the suspects as Libya refused to hand over its citizens to the Americans. After a decade of negotiations and political wrangling by the late Nelson Mandela and others, it was agreed to have the trial in Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands.

Today, 34 years later, the US appears to have its long-awaited Lockerbie bombing trial, the second in a case that is not only very old but also very complicated.

So what might second Lockerbie trial look like in a US court? What are the chances of Mas'ud being found guilty or acquitted? Furthermore, what will be the implications of the verdict on the whole case, particularly on the conviction of the late al-Megrahi whose lawyer, Aamer Anwar, has been trying to overturn his conviction, posthumously, since 2014 without success? Will Mas'ud's defence be able to convince the American jury that his client had nothing to do with the bomb that destroyed the doomed flight?

The US prosecutors have to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, many things. For a start they have to establish a link between Mas'ud and the bomb in the first place and that he did, indeed, make the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988. The US alleges that he confessed to this in 2012 while being interrogated in Libya's notorious Al-Hadba Prison, south of Tripoli. Many question if such a confession is admissible in court given the conditions in which it was extracted. Former US Attorney General William Barr insisted recently that the confession is admissible in a US federal court. He even called for the death penalty if Mas'ud is convicted after prosecutors said that they will not seek capital punishment.

Al-Hadba has a terrible reputation. In 2015, Human Rights Watch questioned the methods used to interrogate detainees, including senior former Gaddafi officials, one of whom was Gaddafi's son Saad. A Tripoli-based legal expert who requested anonymity said, "Only a kangaroo court might accept anything let alone a confession from Al-Hadba Prison."

Moreover, to get a conviction, US prosecutors must convince the jury that it was a bomb made by Mas'ud, and no other device, that destroyed the Boeing 747 Jumbo jet on that cold evening as it flew at 31,000 feet. The prosecution apparently rests on the US allegation that Mas'ud handed over a Samsonite suitcase containing the bomb to Fhima, who dropped it into the Pan Am Flight 103 luggage feeder at Luga Airport in Malta. Proving that Mas'ud was in Malta on 21 December 1988 might be easy, but proving that he actually took the explosive-laden suitcase and handed it over to Fhima is a difficult one. Any evidence presented here will be circumstantial as there are no witnesses to testify to seeing Fhima and Mas'ud at the airport or anywhere else in Malta 34 years ago.

One expert on the case, Scottish law Professor Robert Black, told me that he thinks the "crux of the case" against Mas'ud will be whether it "can be proved beyond reasonable doubt" that he manufactured the bomb that destroyed the aircraft. This would lead to issues connected with the timer alleged to have been used to detonate the bomb. Tiny fragments of that timer were, allegedly, found among the wreckage in a field almost a year after the disaster. More evidence emerged after the first trial in Camp Zeist, though, suggesting that that "evidence" was planted by US investigators to frame Libya. According to George Thompson, a private investigator who worked on the case, the type of timer said to have been used in the bomb was not in production in 1988.

The third issue is that the US prosecutors have to explain, convincingly, how and where the bomb got into the luggage hold area of the Boeing 747. The 34-year-old official US narrative is that the suitcase with the bomb inside came from Malta and was fed into Pan Am Flight 103A at Frankfurt Airport in Germany. The plane then left for London Heathrow Airport ... However, since the 2001 trial more evidence and testimonies have emerged challenging that theory.

Mas'ud's best chance of acquittal or getting a lenient sentence rests on his defence team's ability to reopen the entire Lockerbie issue. For any trial to be fair it must consider the Lockerbie bombing as a single case and the US should not cherry-pick what it likes to advance in its line of argument.

I believe that it should be an international court that tries Mas'ud, not a US federal court. The late Nelson Mandela, who mediated between the US, Britain and Libya to arrange the 2001 trial, once said, "No one country should be complainant, prosecutor and judge." However, that is exactly what the US is in Mas'ud's case. Is that fair? And does it mean that his chance of a fair trial is very, very small indeed?

So what might a second Lockerbie trial look like? A "kangaroo court" perhaps?

[RB: I am not an American lawyer, but in my view the precise mechanism whereby the bomb got onto Pan Am 103 won't loom large in the US trial. As I understand it, under the relevant Federal legislation (see US Department of Justice outlines allegations against Masudall the prosecution has to prove is (a) that Masud made the bomb (b) that he knew it would be planted on an aircraft and (c) that his bomb was so planted and led to the destruction of Pan Am 103. Proving precisely how the device got onto the aircraft would not be essential to getting a conviction. Establishing Masud's guilt does not require proof of how his bomb got onto the plane, whether via Malta, Frankfurt or Heathrow ingestion.

I think the crux of the case will be whether it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that it was a Libyan bomb, manufactured by Masud, that brought the plane down. So the evidence that has emerged since Zeist about the metallurgy of the fragment of circuit board alleged to have formed part of the bomb timer will be vital: Lockerbie: Bomb trigger or clever fake?]

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

A new chapter in Lockerbie bombing horror story

[This is part of the headline over a long report just published on the Arab News website. It reads in part:]

For some, the arrest last week of a Libyan man charged with having made the bomb that downed the jumbo jet over Lockerbie on Dec 21, 1988, offers the prospect of long overdue justice for the 270 victims of the disaster and their families.

For others, though, confidence in the judicial system and the joint US-Scottish investigation that has led to the latest arrest was shaken long ago by uncertainties that continue to hang over the trial and conviction in May 2000 of another Libyan, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, who in 2001 was found guilty of carrying out the bombing. (...)

Last week, 71-year-old Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, an alleged former intelligence officer for the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, appeared in a US court accused of being the bombmaker.

It is a stunning development in a case which, for many relatives of the dead, has never been satisfactorily settled. Masud’s anticipated trial represents an unexpected opportunity for the many remaining doubts surrounding the Lockerbie disaster to be resolved once and for all.

Key among them is the suspicion, which has persisted for three decades, that the Libyans were falsely accused of a crime that was actually perpetrated by the Iranian regime.

Iran certainly had a motive. On July 3, 1988, five months before the bombing, Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus A300 carrying Iranian pilgrims bound for Makkah, had been shot down accidentally over the Strait of Hormuz by a US guided-missile cruiser, the Vincennes.

All 290 people on board were killed, including 66 children and 16 members of one family, who had been traveling to Dubai for a wedding.

In 1991, a subsequently declassified secret report from within the US Defense Intelligence Agency made it clear that from the outset Iran was the number-one suspect.

Ayatollah Mohtashemi, a former Iranian interior minister, was “closely connected to the Al-Abas and Abu Nidal terrorist groups,” it read.

He had “recently paid $10 million in cash and gold to these two organizations to carry out terrorist activities and ... paid the same amount to bomb Pam Am flight 103, in retaliation for the US shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus.”

The evidence implicating Iran piled up. It emerged that two months before the bombing, German police had raided a cell of the terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and seized a bomb hidden in a Toshiba cassette player, just like the one that would be used to blow up Pan Am flight 103.

Yet in November 1991 it was two Libyan intelligence operatives, Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, who were charged with the murders. The case against them was circumstantial at best.

After years of negotiations with Qaddafi’s government, the two men were eventually handed over to be tried in a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands. Their trial began in May 2000, and on Jan 31, 2001, Al-Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was acquitted.

The crown’s case was that an unaccompanied suitcase containing the bomb had been carried on an Air Malta flight from Luqa Airport in Malta to Frankfurt. There, it was transferred to a Pan Am aircraft to London, where it was loaded onto flight 103.

Inside the suitcase, wrapped in clothing, was the Toshiba cassette player containing the bomb.

A small part of a printed circuit board, believed to be from the bomb timer, was found in the wreckage, along with a fragment of a piece of clothing. This was traced to a store in Malta where the owner, Tony Gauci, told police he remembered selling it to a Libyan man.

Gauci, who died in 2016, was the prosecution’s main witness, but from the outset there were serious doubts about his evidence. He was interviewed 23 times by Scottish police before he finally identified Al-Megrahi — and only then after seeing the wanted man’s photograph in a newspaper article naming him as a suspect.

In their judgment, even the three Scottish judges conceded that “on the matter of identification of the … accused, there are undoubtedly problems.”

Worse, in 2007 Scottish newspaper The Herald claimed that the CIA had offered Gauci $2 million to give evidence in the case.

Another part of the prosecution’s case was that the fingernail-sized fragment of circuit board found in the wreckage, believed to have been part of the timer that triggered the bomb, matched a batch of timers supplied to Libya by a Swiss company in 1985.

However, the company insisted the timer on the aircraft had not been supplied to Libya, and in 2007 its CEO claimed that he had been offered $4 million by the FBI to say that it had.

Many have denounced the trial as a sham, suggesting that Qaddafi agreed to surrender Al-Megrahi and Fhimah, accept responsibility for the attack and pay compensation to the families of the victims, only because the US promised that the sanctions that had been imposed on Libya would be eased.

After Al-Megrahi’s appeal against his conviction was rejected in March 2002, one of the independent UN observers assigned to the case as a condition of Libya’s cooperation condemned what he called the “spectacular miscarriage of justice.”

Professor Hans K√∂chler said that he was “not convinced at all that the sequence of events that led to this explosion of the plane over Scotland was as described by the court. Everything that is presented is only circumstantial evidence.”

It remains to be seen what evidence will be presented in the upcoming trial of Masud.

Reports say that he was released only last year from prison in Libya, having been jailed for a decade for his part in the government of Qaddafi, who was overthrown in 2011.

Last week, Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said that his government had handed Masud over to the Americans.

“An arrest warrant was issued against him from Interpol,” he said on Dec 16. “It has become imperative for us to cooperate in this file for the sake of Libya’s interest and stability.”

As Dbeibah put it, Libya “had to wipe the mark of terrorism from the Libyan people’s forehead.”

From the very beginning, one of the strongest advocates for the innocence of Al-Megrahi was Jim Swire, a British doctor whose daughter Flora died in the bombing on the eve of her 24th birthday. Now 86, Swire has spent the past three decades campaigning tirelessly to expose what he believes was a miscarriage of justice.

Al-Megrahi, suffering from prostate cancer, was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009. Shortly before his death in Libya in 2012, he was visited in his sick bed by Swire, who in an interview last year recalled Al-Megrahi’s last words to him: “I am going to a place where I hope soon to see Flora. I will tell her that her father is my friend.”

Last week, Swire called for the trial of Masud not to be held in the US or Scotland.

“There are so many loose ends that hang from this dreadful case, largely emanating from America, that I think we should … seek a court that is free of being beholden to any nation directly involved in the atrocity itself,” he said.

“What we’ve always been after amongst the British relatives is the truth, and not a fabrication that might seem to be replacing the truth.”

Sunday, 18 December 2022

"Even a facade of legality was not maintained"

[What follows is excerpted from a report headlined US accused of illegal abduction of Lockerbie bomb suspect from Libya published in today's edition of The Observer:]

The abduction of a former Libyan intelligence operative accused of preparing the bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 and his transfer into US custody raises concerns about a renewed willingness in Washington to flout international law to hunt alleged terrorist fugitives.

The family of Mohammed Abouagela Masud, who appeared in a US courtroom last week, have described how the 71-year-old was “kidnapped” from his home in Tripoli’s Abu Salem neighbourhood around 1am on 17 November by armed gunmen sent by a notorious local militia commander. He was then held by another militia for two weeks before being handed over to US agents.

The case recalls the excesses of the “war on terror” which saw dozens of so-called renditions – clandestine, illegal transfers of suspects by US intelligence services.

Abdel Moneim al-Muraimi, Masud’s nephew, told the Observer that his uncle had been unlawfully abducted. “We have filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office and demanded an investigation of the people who kidnapped him and those who handed him over. We want them to face justice. This is an assault on a citizen in his home,” al-Muraimi said. (...)

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We have long called for accountability for crimes [including the Lockerbie attack] under international law but this has to be done in a manner that respects due process and upholds fair trial rights. In this case even a facade of legality was not maintained … there was no hearing for [Masud] to challenge the lawfulness of his detention and transfer.”

The exact legal justification for the transfer of Masud is unclear. Libya does not have an extradition treaty with the US, no court is known to have considered any request from Washington nor from the government of Libya, and there is no record of any warrant issued for Masud’s detention. Libyan officials have cited an Interpol warrant.

“This is clearly illegal under Libyan law. It was very obviously an extraordinary rendition contrary to international law,” said Jason Pack, author of Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder. But in a televised broadcast on Thursday evening, Libya’s prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, said Masud’s extradition was lawful and his government was cooperating with an “international judicial framework to extradite accused citizens”.

Libyan officials with knowledge of the case told the Observer that Masud was seized by gunmen loyal to Abdel Ghani al-Kikli, known as “Gheniwa”, an infamous local militia commander who controls the capital’s poor, crowded Abu Salem neighbourhood.

“Several armed vehicles filled with armed men arrived at his house … and kidnapped him. My father and my uncle’s other brothers live on the same street so we went out to see what was going on, but they threatened us with weapons. It was terrorism, real terrorism,” said al-Muraimi.

Al-Kikli has been accused of human rights abuses. Amnesty has documented disappearances, torture and unlawful killings while a UN report earlier this year described “beating by guards, denial of medical care, starvation and enslavement practices” by al-Kikli’s militia at a migrant detention centre west of Tripoli.

Libyan sources in Tripoli said Donald Trump’s administration officials had been in discussions with local authorities about bringing Masud to the US to stand trial since 2019. These “conversations” had continued under Joe Biden.

In July, powerful individuals within the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) contacted US government officials and offered to hand Masud over despite his recent release from prison. The 71-year-old had been serving a 10-year sentence for crimes while an intelligence operative under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted in 2011,

After being abducted from his home, Masud was transferred to a heavily armed paramilitary unit called the Joint Force in the port city of Misrata. The Joint Force was set up a year ago by Dbeibeh to act as a personal praetorian guard and has been accused of human rights abuses, including an extra-judicial execution earlier this year, torture, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances.

After around 10 days in Misrata, Masud called his family who were allowed to visit him in a militia base. “They said, ‘Don’t worry about him, we are taking care of him and will not hand him over’,” al-Muraimi, told the Observer. Two weeks later, US officials collected Masud and flew their captive to Malta on a secret flight and then on to the US, Libyan officials said. (...)

Dbeibeh’s mandate expired last December and he may have hoped to win favour from the Biden administration by giving Masud to the US.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said last week that Masud had been brought to the US “in a lawful manner according to established procedures”. But Amnesty’s Eltahawy said that relying on “commanders of abusive militias and armed groups … for law enforcement or special operations only further entrenches their power and emboldens them to commit further horrific crimes”.

Masud’s relatives are concerned about the health of an “old, sick man”. “As a family, we have been in complete shock. We did not expect this to happen at all,” al-Muraimi said.

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Magnus at it again

[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.]

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

US Department of Justice outlines allegations against Masud

[What follows is excerpted from a press release issued yesterday by the US Department of Justice:]

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Mas’ud), 71, of Tunisia and Libya, made his initial appearance in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on federal charges, unsealed today, stemming from the Dec 21, 1988, civilian aircraft bombing that killed 270 people. The victims included 190 Americans, 43 citizens of the United Kingdom, including 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, and citizens from the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago.

On Dec 21, 2020, the Department of Justice made public a criminal complaint charging Mas’ud with destruction of aircraft resulting in death, and destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death. The United States subsequently requested the publication of an INTERPOL Red Notice – as is typical in cases involving foreign fugitives – requesting all INTERPOL member countries to locate and arrest the defendant for the purpose of his extradition or lawful return to the United States to face the charges. On Nov 29, 2022, a federal grand jury formally indicted Mas’ud on the same charges contained in the criminal complaint. That indictment was unsealed today.

From the time the tragic events occurred in 1988 through the present, the United States and Scotland have jointly pursued justice for all the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. The partnership will continue throughout the prosecution of Mas’ud.

“Nearly 34 years ago, 270 people, including 190 Americans, were tragically killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Since then, American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack. Those relentless efforts over the past three decades led to the indictment and arrest of a former Libyan intelligence operative for his alleged role in building the bomb used in the attack,” said Attorney General Merrick B Garland. “The defendant is currently in US custody and is facing charges in the United States. This is an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.”

“Today’s action is another crucial step in delivering justice for the victims of the senseless terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O Monaco. “Our thoughts are with the victims’ families, whose tireless work to honor the lives and legacies of their loved ones has inspired the Department of Justice and our Scottish partners throughout our investigation for the last 34 years. Let this be a reminder that the men and women of the Department of Justice will never forget the loss of innocent lives or waver in our commitment to holding terrorists accountable – no matter how long it takes.” (...)

Planning and Executing the Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103

The December 2020 criminal complaint alleged that from approximately 1973 to 2011 Mas’ud worked for the External Security Organization (ESO), the Libyan intelligence service which conducted acts of terrorism against other nations, in various capacities including as a technical expert in building explosive devices. In the winter of 1988, Mas’ud was directed by a Libyan intelligence official to fly to Malta with a prepared suitcase. There he was met by Megrahi and Fhimah at the airport. Several days later, Megrahi and Fhimah instructed Mas’ud to set the timer on the device in the suitcase for the following morning, so that the explosion would occur exactly eleven hours later. Megrahi and Fhimah were both at the airport on the morning of Dec 21, 1988, and Mas’ud handed the suitcase to Fhimah after Fhimah gave him a signal to do so. Fhimah then placed the suitcase on the conveyor belt. Subsequently, Mas’ud boarded a Libyan flight to Tripoli scheduled to take off at 9:00 am.

According to the allegations in the complaint, three or four days after returning to Libya, Mas’ud and Megrahi met with a senior Libyan intelligence official, who thanked them for a successful operation. Approximately three months after that, Mas’ud and Fhimah met with then-Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi, and others, who thanked them for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans, and Qaddafi added that the operation was a total success.

If convicted, Mas’ud faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI Washington Field Office is investigating the case along with prosecutors from the National Security Section of the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the US National Central Bureau provided valuable assistance in this matter. (...)

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

[RB: Here, for ease of reference, are the principal provisions of US Federal law that govern the charges brought against Abu Ajila Masud:]

18 US Code §32:

(a) Whoever willfully—

(1) sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce;

(2) places or causes to be placed a destructive device or substance in, upon, or in proximity to, or otherwise makes or causes to be made unworkable or unusable or hazardous to work or use, any such aircraft, or any part or other materials used or intended to be used in connection with the operation of such aircraft, if such placing or causing to be placed or such making or causing to be made is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft; (...)

(8) attempts or conspires to do anything prohibited under paragraphs (1) through (7) of this subsection;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.

18 US Code §34 - Penalty when death results:

Whoever is convicted of any crime prohibited by this chapter, which has resulted in the death of any person, shall be subject also to the death penalty or to imprisonment for life. [RB: The Department of Justice has announced that it will not be seeking the death penalty in the case  of Mr Masud.]

18 US Code §842:

(p)(2) Prohibition.—It shall be unlawful for any person—

(A) to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence; or

(B) to teach or demonstrate to any person the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, knowing that such person intends to use the teaching, demonstration, or information for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence.

18 US Code §844

(a) Any person who—

(1) violates any of subsections (a) through (i) or (l) through (o) of section 842 shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both; and

(2) violates subsection (p)(2) of section 842, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

Monday, 12 December 2022

Masud "confession" states he was Malta clothes purchaser not Megrahi

[What follows is excerpted from a report published today in the Daily Record headlined Lawyer of only man convicted of Lockerbie bombing 'concerned' by arrest of suspect in US:]

The lawyer for the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, expressed concern over Masud’s arrest. (...)

Aamer Anwar said the arrest of Masud raises important questions over Megrahi’s conviction. Several victims’ families – but not all – believe it to be unsafe.

He said: “The United States claim that Masud’s confession to being involved in the conspiracy with Al-Megrahi to blow up Pan Am Flight 103, was ‘extracted’ by a ‘Libyan law enforcement agent’ in 2012, whilst in custody in a Libyan prison. What the US should have said was that Masud was actually in the custody of a war lord, widely condemned for human rights abuses and the circumstances in which such a confession was extracted would be strongly opposed in any US/Scottish court.

"The US criminal complaint against Masud states that he bought the clothes to put into the Samsonite suitcase that is claimed went on to blow up Pan Am Flight 103. The problem for the US department of justice is that the case against Megrahi is still based on the eyewitness testimony of Toni Gauci, stating that Megrahi bought the clothes.

“How can both Megrahi and Masud now be held responsible? In July this year, the UK Supreme Court rejected our leave to appeal seeking to overturn the conviction of the Scottish High Court which maintained Al-Megrahi was the bomber.

“Our legal team is in touch with the Libyan authorities but will also now consider what this means for the potential of any further miscarriage of justice appeal for Al-Megrahi. For the Megrahi family this is another piece in the jigsaw of lies, built on the back of the Libyan people, the victims of Lockerbie and the incarceration of an innocent man.”

Sunday, 11 December 2022

Lockerbie bombing suspect in US custody

[This is the headline over a report published today on the BBC News website. It reads in part:]

A Libyan man accused of making the bomb which destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie 34 years ago is in United States custody, Scottish authorities have said.

The US announced charges against Abu Agila Masud two years ago, alleging that he played a key role in the bombing on 21 December, 1988.

The blast on board the Boeing 747 left 270 people dead.

It is the deadliest terrorist incident to have taken place on British soil. (...)

Last month it was reported that Masud had been kidnapped by a militia group in Libya, leading to speculation that he was going to be handed over to the American authorities to stand trial.

In 2001 Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing Pan Am 103 after standing trial at a specially-convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.

He was the only man to be convicted over the attack.

Megrahi was jailed for life but was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government in 2009 after being diagnosed with cancer.

He died in Libya in 2012. (...)

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said: "The families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told that the suspect Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi ("Mas'ud" or "Masoud") is in US custody.

"Scottish prosecutors and police, working with UK government and US colleagues, will continue to pursue this investigation, with the sole aim of bringing those who acted along with Al Megrahi to justice."

[What follows is excerpted from a report just published on the website of The New York Times:]

The arrest of the operative, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, was the culmination of a decades-long effort by the Justice Department to prosecute him. In 2020, Attorney General William P Barr announced criminal charges against Mr Mas’ud, accusing him of building the explosive device used in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 passengers, including 190 Americans.

Mr Mas’ud faces two criminal counts, including destruction of an aircraft resulting in death. He was being held at a Libyan prison for unrelated crimes when the Justice Department unsealed the charges against him two years ago. It is unclear how the US government negotiated the extradition of Mr Mas’ud.

Mr Mas’ud’s suspected role in the Lockerbie bombing received new scrutiny in a three-part documentary on “Frontline” on PBS in 2015. The series was written and produced by Ken Dornstein, whose brother was killed in the attack. Mr Dornstein learned that Mr Mas’ud was being held in a Libyan prison and even obtained pictures of him as part of his investigation. [RB: A critical commentary by John Ashton on the Dornstein documentary can be read here.] 

“If there’s one person still alive who could tell the story of the bombing of Flight 103, and put to rest decades of unanswered questions about how exactly it was carried out — and why — it’s Mr Mas’ud,” Mr Dornstein wrote in an email after learning Mr Mas’ud would finally be prosecuted in the United States. “The question, I guess, is whether he’s finally prepared to speak.”

After Col Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s leader, was ousted from power, Mr Mas’ud confessed to the bombing in 2012, telling a Libyan law enforcement official that he was behind the attack. Once investigators learned about the confession in 2017, they interviewed the Libyan official who had elicited it, leading to charges.

Even though extradition would allow Mr Mas’ud to stand trial, legal experts have expressed doubts about whether his confession, obtained in prison in war-torn Libya, would be admissible as evidence.

Mr Mas’ud, who was born in Tunisia but has Libyan citizenship, was the third person charged in the bombing. Two others, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, were charged in 1991, but American efforts to prosecute them ran aground when Libya declined to send them to the United States or Britain to stand trial.

Instead, the Libyan government agreed to a trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. Mr Fhimah was acquitted and Mr. al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. (...)

Prosecutors say that Mr Mas’ud played a key role in the bombing, traveling to Malta and delivering the suitcase that contained the bomb used in the attack. In Malta, Mr Megrahi and Mr Fhimah instructed Mr Mas’ud to set the timer on the device so it would blow up while the plane was in the air the next day, prosecutors said.

On the morning of Dec 21, 1988, Mr Megrahi and Mr Fhimah met Mr Mas’ud at the airport in Malta, where he turned over the suitcase. Prosecutors said Mr Fhimah put the suitcase on a conveyor belt, ultimately ending up on Pan Am Flight 103.

Mr Mas’ud’s name surfaced twice in 1988, even before the bombing took place. In October, a Libyan defector told the CIA he had seen Mr Mas’ud at the Malta airport with Mr Megrahi, saying the pair had passed through on a terrorist operation. Malta served as a primary launching point for Libya to initiate such attacks, the informant told the agency. That December, the day before the Pan Am bombing, the informant told the CIA that the pair had again passed through Malta. Nearly another year passed before the agency asked the informant about the bombing.

But investigators never pursued Mr Mas’ud in earnest until Mr Megrahi’s trial years later, only for the Libyans to insist that Mr Mas’ud did not exist. Mr. Megrahi also claimed he did not know Mr Mas’ud.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Libyan tribe urges Prime Minister to release Lockerbie suspect

[What follows is excerpted from a report published yesterday on the Libya Review website:]

The tribe of the Libyan officer, who was previously linked to the Lockerbie case, has called on the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba to “intervene immediately to release him, without restrictions or conditions.”

The Maraima tribe demanded in a statement that Dbaiba “not involve the name of Abu Ajila Masoud in the Lockerbie case again.”

The tribe called for “the release of Abu Ajila after he was kidnapped by an unknown party on the background of the Lockerbie case.” It held the kidnapping party “legally and morally responsible,” and urged “the tribes and the Libyan people to work for Abu Ajila’s release.”

Earlier this month, the Libyan National Security Adviser, Ibrahim Bushnaf warned against deliberately raising the issue of the Lockerbie Case.

In press remarks on Friday, Bushnaf warned that if the Lockerbie case was raised again and criminal investigations were conducted, Libya would enter into decades of lawlessness. (...) Bushnaf’s statements came amid current allegations that Libya could hand over Abu Ajila. Local media reported that Abu Ajila was “kidnapped” by government-affiliated forces, and likely he will be handed over to the US.

“Before US President Donald Trump left the White House, the then US Attorney General, William Barr, raised the (Lockerbie) case. At that time, reports alleged that Barr was calling on the Libyan authorities to extradite Abu Ajila,” Bushnaf said.

On 6 February 2021, Libyan Foreign Minister, Najla Al-Mangoush expressed her willingness to cooperate with the United States to extradite Abu Ajila. She quickly retracted her statements, claiming that she “did not mention that text,” and that she was answering a question about the Lockerbie case.

[An article yesterday on The Reference website contains the following:]

The file of the downing of a passenger plane over Lockerbie in Scotland continues to haunt Libyan authorities.

This is especially true with the (...) Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh government planning to extradite the last defendant in the case to the United States.

Washington had repeatedly called for this extradition, even as Libya had paid tens of billions of dollars in compensation under late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Some Libyans are warning, meanwhile, against reopening the file of the plane.

This, they say, may force Libya to pay new compensation for the families of the victims of the plane downing.

The last defendant in the case, Bouajila Massoud, was kidnapped from his home in Tripoli by militias affiliated with Abdul Ghani al-Kakli [more commonly "Kikli"], a military commander loyal to the Dbeibeh government.

Massoud's kidnappers escorted him to an unknown location.

This development caused widespread anger, and several warnings against reopening this file, which may lead to forcing Libya to pay new compensation to the families of the victims and their countries.

Despite calls for disclosing the place where Massoud is kept and his release, the authorities in Tripoli did not make any response.

They only ruled out plans to negotiate over the Lockerbie file again.

Massoud, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was imprisoned after the downfall of the Gaddafi regime.

He was convicted on charges unrelated to the Lockerbie issue.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

What is US covering up with Lockerbie? And why?

[This is the headline over an article by Martin Jay published recently on the website. It reads in part:]

There can be no better example of the old saying “a lie can travel half way around the world before the truth is even putting its shoes on” than Lockerbie. This tragic story of a US passenger flight brought down by a bomb over the small Scottish village just a few days before Christmas in 1988 is heart breaking on a number of levels. But the main one is that even to this day, the Americans continue to keep the huge lie alive: Libya’s involvement.

Just in the last week of November, still we see news reports from US media newswires writing about Lockerbie and continuing to promote Libya’s involvement when 34 years after the terrible event the evidence is so overwhelming to show that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing.

In recent days, it has been reported that a third man in the Lockerbie bombing – a Libyan intelligence officer with bomb-making skills – has disappeared, sparking worries in Libya that the Americans might restart a case against the country even though a previous agreement with the US is in place. The officer in question Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir al-Marimi who in 2020 was charged by US Attorney General William Barr a week before he left office during Trump’s presidency. Barr is the useful idiot who earlier during George W H Bush’s term in office charged in 1991, two Libyan nationals for the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

He is the idiot who Bush instructed to continue with the case against the Libyans when the US president actually knew by that time, through his own intelligence officers’ reports, that Iran was culpable with the aid of Syria. Bush didn’t want any heat from Syria’s Hafez al-Assad who he needed on his side for his Kuwait invasion in 1990, so it suited Bush senior to continue with the Libya charade which framed the two Libyan officers.

Megrahi was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds before dying of cancer in 2012. Subsequent to his death though a tome of evidence has been produced to show that the Scottish court in the Netherlands had acted improperly in sentencing him and that the link with Libya was manufactured by those who masterminded the bombing.

Moreover, both their cases have since proved by a number of leading journalists to be a grotesque travesty of justice and in all respects the two were ‘fall guys’ to a bigger plot yet to be exposed by mainstream media. The FBI, the Scottish police and the British government were all intent on putting the case together towards the two Libyans as America badly wanted to frame Gaddafi and so the fundamental flaw in the case – clothes in the suitcase supposedly coming from Malta – became the red herring which fingered the two Libyan agents. Even today, on the FBI’s website, the same astonishing lie rests at the heart of one of America’s biggest ever cover ups. The FBI, without a shred of evidence still claim that the suitcase the bomb came with, was placed on board the flight from Malta which has a large number of Libyan intelligence officers. Yet any number of investigations subsequently have proved that according to Frankfurt Airport records, this is untrue.

A number of British investigators (...) insist that the suitcase in question was actually loaded onto Pan Am 103 in Heathrow. (...) it certainly wasn’t placed on the flight from Malta. (...)

The initiative by the Americans, just two years ago, to pursue this third man is part of a greater cover up which started in the late 80s to frame the Libyans in preference to accusing Iran and Syria which US presidents still to this day fear. But it’s also about money. How much money would the American families get if they brought cases against the American government today?

Almost 34 years after Lockerbie, there is now ample evidence both from journalists, investigators and whistle blowers for those families to see the truth about Lockerbie which is so shocking that it would make Hollywood film makers turn it down as a movie script as it is so unbelievable. (...)

Libya was always an easy target to frame as western media had been priming its readers with fake news stories about Gaddafi’s terror attacks in the west, in most cases entirely falsifying evidence and framing him for many which were in fact carried out by other groups, the best example being the Berlin disco bombing of April 1986, which was in fact carried out by Iranian groups based in Lebanon. It suited Ronald Reagan very well to shy away from tackling Iran and Syria head on and cultivate the myth of Gaddafi as the ‘mad dog’ of the region and subsequent US presidents like Bush senior. But in reality the American public were being cheated on a grand scale, even to this day.

Although it’s not only the American public who are being fooled.

The Lockerbie case cost the Libyans great financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, as Libya paid compensation to the families of the victims estimated at $2.7 billion. Libyans fear the case could be reopened, leading to more financial losses. (...)

And so, to this day, the blame is put on the Libyans even though the mad dog Gaddafi is long gone. It’s the most easiest and logical way to keep the lie alive as just as Gaddafi was reluctant to destroy the myth of his involvement (as it boosted his credibility in the Arab world), even today there is no real accountability. Conveniently, Libya remains opaque, unaccountable and bereft of any free press that can dig for truth there and there is also a big question today as to whether some political factions there are happy to play the game the Americans want. There are even rumours that Marimi, who was in a Libyan jail, was handed over to the Americans in a secret deal. If this is the case, then the feral need to keep the Libya connection alive is as important today as it was in the late 80s. Just as then, US leaders were too afraid to point the finger at Tehran, they are the same today. Iran didn’t just get revenge for the downing of its Flight 655. It got payback on a scale it couldn’t imagine as the Libyan game that the US is still playing today shows that Iran has always been the winner in this dirty war.

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Libyan commentator's assessment of the Masud affair

[I am grateful to the distinguished Libyan journalist and commentator Dr Mustafa Fetouri for supplying this assessment of the Masud affair.]

Over the last two weeks I have tried to figure out what is going on in Libya concerning the situation of Libyan Abuajila Masud accused by the United States of being a culprit in the Lockerbie disaster. Since William Barr, the US Attorney General, publicly named him in December 2020 the man disappeared and little information has been obtained as to what is happening to him. Sorting out the real news from what is fake and lies in Libya today is very hard. It appears the entire political elite, government and the media they just addicted to lies. They simply lie even when there is no interest to do so. In the end I can say with a degree of certainty that: 

1.  Abu Agela Masud is indeed alive and he is living in the Abu Salim area just south of the capital Tripoli. He was released from Al-Hadba notorious prison sometime in 2017 after spending years there. That prison, until taken over after a day-long heavy fighting in 2017, was under the control of the terrorist group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). After he was forced to flee to Turkey I caught up with Kahlid Sherif, who used to be the director and top LIFG leader. I went to Istanbul in 2020 to meet him but he failed to show up. Through written message I asked him questions but he mostly refused to answer. In 2021, if I remember correctly, he was hosted on Clubhouse for a long session. I was kicked out of the room before I could ask all my questions. Even after that he refused to sit for an interview with me. 

2.  On the early morning of 17 November 2022, a group of armed men came to Masud’s house and took him away. His family, friends, and neighbours never knew where he is. They still do not. The government in Tripoli is silent. The House of Representatives, the Higher Council of State (consultative body), and the National Security Advisor (former judge) have rejected, in statements, all attempts to open the Lockerbie case while condemning the disappearance of Mr Masud. Ironically, their separate statements never actually, with certainty, said what is going on. None of them produced any reasonable narrative nor proof that the man indeed has been kidnapped let alone his whereabouts.  

3.  Mr Masud, has indeed been taken away. Who took him and where is pretty difficult to figure out. His family, in a statement, have confirmed this. But I suspect that the statement may not be true and authentic and actually written by the family. It simply does not sound right. I have been trying to contact the family but so far failed to do so.  

4.  The narrative/rumours (nothing is certain) go like this: the Tripoli government wants to please the US to remain in power. Foreign minister Al-Mangoush in November 2021 did hint in a BBC interview about the possibility of handing over Masud to the US. This is the first time the corrupt Tripoli government ever talked about Lockerbie. At the time I led a social media campaign, including several TV appearances on prominent Libya TV channels. The public reaction supporting me was huge and the minister was forced to clarify her comments. She even denied what was attributed to her in that BBC interview, despite the fact a video clip of that conversation was aired!  And then silence until the news/rumours broke last week. 

5.  Finally: I never believed that the US is serious about extraditing Mr Masud to stand trial. However I tried, I could not confirm that the Libyan side received any official request from the Americans to extradite the man. There are no indications that the Americans are really seeking him. One simple indication of that is the fact that, as of today, Masud’s name is not on the FBI list of most wanted. I recall in 1991 the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was on the top list as soon as he was indicted. Would the corrupt Tripoli government hand Masud over if it believed that could help it stay in power? It is unlikely, but such government is capable of committing almost any sin against the country and its people. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Libya to prosecute those involved in reopening of Lockerbie file

[This is the headline over a report published today on the Globe Echo website. It reads as follows:]

The Libyan House of Representatives stated that it would request the trial of anyone proven to be involved in the attempt to reopen the Lockerbie case file, on charges of “high treason,” announcing its categorical refusal to extradite citizen Abu Ageila Masoud to the United States, which accuses him of being linked to the bombing of the Pan American plane. that crashed over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988.

Fawzi Al-Nuwairi, the first deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, who presided over yesterday’s session, demanded that all those involved in the arrest of Abu-Ageila be prosecuted, judicially and politically, by all available and possible means.

The House of Representatives prepared a draft resolution regarding the kidnapping of Abu Ageila, considering that [behind] attempts to reopen the case file are “political reasons, and attempts to blackmail Libya with the aim of seizing its frozen funds abroad.”

[What follows is excerpted from an article published yesterday on the Tekdeeps website:]

In turn, the family of the Libyan citizen, Abu Ajila Masoud Al-Marimi, warned against reopening the Lockerbie case, and said that this would have dire consequences for the higher interests of the country, and that these attempts were made in order to reach illegal political goals at the expense of the interest of the country and the citizen.

In a statement, the family revealed the details of Bouajila’s kidnapping, holding the Libyan authorities responsible for his life, and demanded his immediate release and an end to these abuses.

The Abu Ajila family said that two Toyota cars carrying armed men in civilian clothes stormed their home in the Abu Salim area of Tripoli at 1:30 a.m. on November 16, 2022.

The statement indicated that the gunmen kidnapped the Libyan citizen, Abu Ajila Masoud Al-Marimi, and took him to an unknown destination, after assaulting him.

The statement continued: “Some political parties are trying to exploit the state of chaos and political division in order to raise the file of the Lockerbie case again, which was closed legally and politically under the agreement signed with the United States of America and Libya in 2008.” They deplore the silence of the Libyan authorities regarding what their son was subjected to, his abduction from his home and his enforced disappearance.

The statement held “the Libyan authorities fully responsible for the state of silence due to the government’s illegal actions and practices outside the judicial system, in the event that he is extradited to any foreign country.”

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

"Lockerbie cover up still haunts Libyans to this day"

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Lockerbie FBI cover up still haunts Libyans to this day, agent missing published today on the website:]

The Libyans are worried that the Lockerbie case against the country could be re-opened which could have financial implications towards the state and possibly even individuals.

News of the disappearance of former Libyan intelligence officer Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir al-Marimi raised fears in Libya that there would be attempts to reopen the Lockerbie case, which had been closed under a legal settlement between United States and Libya.

Marimi is accused by Washington of involvement in the 1988 bombing of a US passenger plane over Scotland. A bomb on board Pan-Am flight 103 killed all 259 people on board as it flew over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. Another eleven people were killed on the ground by falling wreckage.

In 1991, two Libyan nationals were charged in the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

Megrahi was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds before dying of cancer in 2012. Subsequent to his death though a tome of evidence has been produced to show that the Scottish court in the [Netherlands] had acted improperly in [convicting] him.

Moreover, both their cases have since proved by a number of leading journalists to be a travesty of justice and in all respects the two were ‘fall guys’ to a bigger plot yet to be exposed by mainstream media. The FBI, the Scottish police and the British government were all intent on putting the case together towards the two Libyans as America badly wanted to frame Gaddafi and so the fundamental flaw in the case – clothes in the suitcase supposedly coming from Malta – became the red herring which fingered the two Libyan agents. In reality, the bomb was placed on the flight in London by Syrian-linked Palestinian terrorists who were paid via third parties from Tehran.

The initiative by the Americans, just two years ago, to pursue this third man is part of a greater cover up which started in the late 80s to frame the Libyans in preference to accusing Iran and Syria which US presidents still to this day fear, to more recently to deter American families of the victims to pursue compensation claims against the US government for both its culpability in the cover up but also its own hand in Lockerbie.

Almost 34 years after Lockerbie, there is now ample evidence both from journalists, investigators and whistle blowers for those families to see the truth about Lockerbie. In short, Pan Am 103 was a ‘controlled flight’ which was carrying drugs placed on board by terrorist groups which Reagan needed to keep happy, while negotiating the freedom of US hostages in Beirut. Iran discovered this arrangement and decided to seek revenge for the US downing of Iranian airliner 655 in the Persian Gulf in July of 1988 by placing a bomb on the flight.

Libya was always an easy target to frame as western media had been priming its readers with a barrage of beguiling stories about Gaddafi’s terror attacks in the west, in most cases entirely falsifying evidence and framing him for many which were in fact carried out by other groups, the best example being the Berlin disco bombing of April 1986, which was in fact carried out by Iranian groups based in Lebanon. It suited Ronald Reagen very well to shy away from tackling Iran and Syria head on and cultivate the myth of Gaddafi as the ‘mad dog’ of the region and subsequent US presidents like Bush senior. But in reality the American public were being cheated on a grand scale, even to this day.

But it’s not only the American public who are being fooled.

The Lockerbie case cost the Libyans great financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gadhafi, as Libya paid compensation to the families of the victims estimated at $2.7 billion. Libyans fear the case could be reopened, leading to more financial losses.

Libyan media reported the news of Marimi’s disappearance in unexplained circumstances from inside the prison where he had been held since 2011, in the capital, Tripoli, which is controlled by the outgoing Government National Unity Government (GNU), amid suspicions that he had been handed over to the United States.

Marimi was an official in the intelligence apparatus during the era of the former regime of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He was charged at the end of 2020 on several counts in the United States regarding “his involvement in planning and manufacturing the bomb” that brought down the plane over the Lockerbie area and of committing crimes related to terrorism.

The State Council called on the outgoing GNU to clarify the circumstances of Marimi’s mysterious disappearance, warning that this might be related to the investigations into the Lockerbie case.

Abducted Libyan "may have already left for America under guard"

[What follows is from a report published today on the Globe Echo news website:]

A Libyan official does not rule out deporting Abu Ageila to America

Thirty-three years after the terrorist bombing of the American Pan American plane over Scotland, American and Scottish investigators found what they wanted in Abu Ageila Masoud, a former officer in the Libyan intelligence service during the era of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

And after Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, head of the interim “unity” government, and his foreign minister, Naglaa al-Manqoush, announced, on various occasions, the desire to reopen the case again, the fate of Abu Ajila became unknown, as his family says that he was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

According to Libyan sources, the kidnapping of Abu Ajila from his home took place in agreement between the security services of Al-Dabaiba and the kidnappers, who are likely to be American, to undergo the trial that remained open in the horrific accident, where the wreckage of the Pan Am 103 plane was scattered over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, and resulted in About 270 people were killed, most of them Americans. A Libyan official told Asharq Al-Awsat that he “does not rule out that he has already left for America under strict security guard.”

According to US official papers, US investigators received information about a confession that Abu Ageila made to a Libyan official in an interview on September 12, 2012.

Abu Ajila Muhammad Masoud Khair al-Marimi worked for the Jamahiriya Security Service, which was sometimes referred to as the External Security Service (Libyan Intelligence), which was accused of carrying out terrorist acts against other countries and suppressing the activities of Libyan dissidents abroad. He held various positions, including a “technical expert” in the construction of explosive devices since 1973, and received promotions to the rank of colonel during his tenure.

[RB: Here is what I replied to a query on the Friends of Justice for Megrahi Facebook page:]

If Masud has been handed over to the Americans for trial, that could be a good thing. Maybe an American jury court wouldn't be as gullible as the Scottish judges at Zeist. And a lot of evidence favourable to the defence has emerged since 2001.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Abduction of Lockerbie suspect "was deal between US and Tripoli Government"

[From The Libya Update website on 20 November:]

Abduction of Lockerbie suspect was deal between US and GNU, report claims

A recent press report alleges that the abduction of Masoud Abu Ajila al-Marimi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, who is suspected of being involved in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, by unknown persons was the result of a deal between the United States and the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), a press report claims.

According to a report by London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, GNU’s prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, faces widespread accusations of attempting to extradite Abu Ajila as a “scapegoat” for the United States, in return for “his government’s continuation in the power it has held for nearly two years.”

Citing an “official close to Dbeibeh”, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that said that the Abu Ajila case has always been a focus of American attention during meetings that US officials held with Dbeibeh during sporadic periods in recent times.

The newspaper noted that Dbeibeh’s government ignored the kidnapping, and neither it nor its military apparatus issued any comment on it.

Local media, quoting Hussein al-Ayeb, head of the General Intelligence Service, said that the kidnapping was carried out by “a squad of unknown affiliation, without any significant coordination with the intelligence service.”

[From the Haber Tusba website today:]

The mysterious disappearance of a suspect in the Lockerbie bombing, wanted by the Americans

In recent hours, Libyan streets have been buzzing with news of the disappearance of Abu Ajila Masood Al-Marimi, one of the suspects in the famous 1988 Lockerbie bombing and wanted for trial in America. under mysterious circumstances from his prison in the capital Tripoli.

Local media have been concerned about the disappearance of Al-Marimi from his prison, where he has been held since 2011, and he is an official in the intelligence apparatus during the era of the former regime of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, after he was convicted on charges related to a fatal plane crash that killed 270 people on the trip, including 190 Americans. He flew between London and New York, and in late 2020 he was charged several indictments in the US for his “involvement in the planning and manufacture of the bomb” that brought down the plane over the Lockerbie area and in the commission of crimes related to terrorism.

The news of the disappearance of a former intelligence officer who Washington is seeking to be deported to the United States for trial has sparked widespread controversy in the country amid growing suspicions of his kidnapping and the possibility of his extradition, which could put further pressure on the Libyan state’s fears, reinforced by statements in the media by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Naglai al-Mankoush a year ago, in which she stated that “her country is ready to cooperate with Washington to extradite the suspect in the Lockerbie bombing”, noting that there are “immediate positive results” in this regard.

In this context, the Supreme Council of State called on the Tripoli authorities to investigate the circumstances of the mysterious disappearance, warning that it was related to the Lockerbie investigation.

The council also announced in a statement last night, Saturday, its refusal to reopen the Lockerbie case by some local authorities and bring it back to the fore due to its lack of any political or legal justification, highlighting its lack of commitment to all rights this procedure in relation to the Libyan state.

He pointed out that the case materials are completely closed politically and legally, according to the text of the agreement concluded between the United States of America and the Libyan state of 14.08.2008.

In turn, National Security Adviser Ibrahim Bushnaf, in a statement, warned against re-raising this case, calling on all patriots and political organizations to line up to prevent it, away from political conflict, noting that “this question, if she was again raised and become the subject of a criminal investigation, plunge Libya into decades of debauchery."

On the other hand, the government of national unity, headed by Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, did not give any explanation in response to the accusations leveled against militias loyal to him in the kidnapping of al-Muraimi.

It is noteworthy that Lockerbie is a sensitive political and criminal case for Libyans, most of whom refuse to reopen it, especially since it cost the state huge financial losses during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, as compensation was paid to the families of the victims, estimated at $ 2.7 billion.

Similarly, the majority of Libyans are strongly opposed to the extradition of a Libyan citizen for trial abroad, while others believe that their country is innocent of all the charges it is pursuing in this case.