Posted on Jun 16, 2011 by Marivel Guzman over Archive Libya
|Washington Report Archives (2006-2010)|
By Andrew I. Killgore
Convicted Lockerbie Bomber Probably Not Guilty—So Who Is the Real Criminal?
Among those listening as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond addresses the Scottish Parliament during a Sept. 2, 2009 debate on the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi are members of UK Families-Flight 103 Dr. Jim Swire (c) and, to his left, Ken Evans, who lost several family members on board the flight. AFP photo/Derek Blair
On Aug. 21 Scotland freed Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi—convicted under Scottish law at a special court in The Netherlands of destroying Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Sept. 21, 1988. Killed were 259 persons, including 189 Americans on board and 11 people on the ground. The terminally ill Megrahi, after dropping his second appeal, was released on compassionate grounds. Back in Libya, he continues to protest his innocence (see box).
Had Pan Am 103 followed its usual flight path it would have crashed at sea. But turbulent air over London’s Heathrow Airport when the Boeing 747 lifted off bound for New York led the pilot to tend slightly more northward than usual to get “above” the storm. As a result, when the bomb that destroyed the plane detonated 38 minutes later, the plane was over land, at Lockerbie. Inclement weather had thus spoiled what the criminals expected would be the perfect crime: no physical evidence and no witnesses to tell the tale.
Robert Black, professor of criminal law at Edinburgh University, told the writer that for the first two and a half years after the disaster, investigators focused on Palestinian Ahmad Jabril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) as the culprit. In 1991, however, pressure became so intense to focus on Libya that Black concluded that only the governments of the U.S. and Britain could be behind it. It was Black’s idea to hold the trial in The Netherlands under Scottish law and with Scottish judges.
At the Lockerbie trial so-called “key witness” Abdulmajid Gauci would identify Megrahi as the purchaser of certain items of clothing found at the crash site that Gauci claimed were purchased at his shop in Valetta, Malta. But on the witness stand Gauci proved to be a flop at identification. An FBI officer, Harold Hendershot, called to the witness stand to bolster Gauci’s testimony, also appeared to lack credibility.
Another puzzling aspect of the Lockerbie trial was that, despite the prosecution’s insistence that the bombing could only have been a two-man job, Megrahi’s co-defendant, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted. No explanation was ever forthcoming. A middle-aged American (judging by his accent) attending the trial was overheard by this writer on a BBC broadcast expressing uncertainty about the testimony: “I wonder who killed our relatives?”
Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the crash, is sure that Gauci identified the wrong man. Swire is an unusual man. As an officer in the British army, he was trained in the use of plastic explosives. After completing his army national service, he worked for the BBC as an electronics engineer before studying medicine and becoming a practicing physician. Dr. Swire cannot accept as credible the Lockerbie trial’s technical details about the explosives that brought down Pan Am 103. He became a spokesman for relatives of British nationals killed in the crash. Overwhelmingly these relatives do not believe that Megrahi is guilty.
Dr. Swire is convinced that shopkeeper Gauci identified an innocent man as the bomber. In a Dec. 27, 2007 e-mail from Swire to this writer, Swire quoted Gauci as saying that Megrahi was “like” the man who bought clothes in his shop, but that the age and height were “very different.” Nevertheless, the Scottish judges accepted Gauci’s testimony.
Gauci reportedly now lives in Australia with a $2 million (some reports say $4 million) reward from the American government. According to the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” Web site, since its inception in 1984 the program has paid $77 million to more than 50 people.
But the biggest reason for questioning the validity of the “Libya-did-it” scenario is the sheer improbability of placing a bomb on a plane in Valetta, Malta, bound for Frankfurt, Germany, there to be offloaded on a second plane bound for London, where it would be offloaded on a third plane bound for New York, to explode 38 minutes later. Common sense would dictate a far more simple scheme: load the bomb aboard a plane in London with a simple pressure mechanism to go off when the plane was safely out to sea 38 minutes after takeoff.
In his Dec. 27, 2007 e-mail, Swire discussed the “timer fragment” supposedly found at the crash site, part of a device made in Switzerland and supposedly sold to Libya. If true, this could mean that Megrahi theoretically could have set the bomb to go off 38 minutes after takeoff. But the Swiss timer turned out to indict the Lockerbie court rather than Megrahi. Edwin Bollier, the owner of MEBO which manufactured the alleged bomb trigger device, revealed that he had turned down an FBI offer of $4 million to testify that he had sold the device to Libya.
In the aforementioned e-mail, from which I am free to quote, Dr. Swire said the Lockerbie court heard of a “specialized timer/baroceptor bomb mechanism” made by the PFLP-GC in the Damascus suburbs. This device would explode within 30 to 45 minutes after takeoff, but was stable indefinitely at ground level. The court heard that these devices could not be altered. “Yet the court believed,” Swire wrote, “that Megrahi ”˜happened’ to set his Swiss timer in such a way that it went off in the middle of the time window for the Syrian device, surviving changes of planes at Frankfurt and London.”
Dr. Swire told the BBC News of Aug. 20, 2009 that the prosecution at the Lockerbie trial failed to take into consideration the reported break-in of the Pan Am baggage area at Heathrow in the early morning hours of the day of Pan Am 103’s doomed flight.
Many of the British relatives of Pan Am 103 victims have come to believe that the bomb was loaded in London, and thus that Megrahi could not be guilty. These relatives and Dr. Swire were opposed to Megrahi’s withdrawing his second appeal on the grounds that further evidence would come out that might have pointed to the real culprit.
In a Jan. 4, 2008 e-mail, Dr. Swire warned that “there is some deep secret hidden in this tragedy which evokes virulent responses…when questions are raised.”
In an Aug. 20, 2009 e-mail response to this writer’s inquiry, Dr. Swire said “that it appears that the Iranians used the PFLP-GC as mercenaries in this ghastly business.” According to this theory, held by many who doubt Megrahi’s guilt, including CounterPunch’s Alexander Cockburn, Iran hired the PFLP-GC to avenge the July 3, 1988 shooting down by the USS Vincennes of an Iranian Airbus passenger plane, killing 290 passengers, including 66 children. The U.S. ship’s officers later received medals for heroism in combat.
Having lost his daughter in the Pan Am crash, and as an expert in explosives, Dr. Swire is uniquely qualified to examine the Pan Am tragedy. America and its mainstream media did not reflect credit on themselves by refusing to acknowledge questions about Megrahi’s guilt.
Dr. Swire may well be right in blaming the PFLP-GC for the tragedy. But this writer still has his doubts—because the ineptness of the trial and Washington’s fanaticism in pushing such a flimsy case against Libya leave an impression that it must be covering up for the real criminals. Somehow it seems unlikely that the U.S. would go to such lengths to protect Iran, much less the PFLP-GC.
The article below is the classic follow up of Stream Media reporting, the use of the word terrorist is the best example of the Bias reporting style. This article is making sure the perspective over the innocence of Al-Megrahi don’t even be question. Reality is that after 20 years of cover ups, sudden deaths of witnesses, tampering with evidence, new evidence and other more complicated issues make the case of Mr Al-Megrahi difficult to dissect again in the media. If you follow the trial reporting you will see that there was so much inconsistency in the Trial, the witnesses from the prosecution were of shaky character. The involvement of the CIA and FBI make still more unbelievable.
When the new evidence was presented to the court, by pressure of US and UK was not accepted because they have already built the case against Libya, naot against Mr Al-Megrahi but against Libya. For more than 20 years Gadhafi was pressure to give up his support for the resistance Palestinians and the IRA and he never gave up in his intent of mantain the financial support for these two important groups. Gadhafi new that stopping the money line the two movements will die easily and the popular support for his dreams of an Africa United as one block will dissipate.
Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi still alive in Libya, despite ‘terminal cancer’
BY MICHAEL SHERIDAN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, July 05, 2010
Perhaps the expert’s should have gotten another opinion.
Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi remains alive and well in Libya nearly a year after his early release and months after several doctors said the cancer-stricken terrorist was supposed to have died.
Now one of those same doctors claims Megrahi could potentially live another decade.
“There was always a chance he could live for ten years, 20 years… But it’s very unusual,” cancer specialist Professor Sikora told London’s Sunday Times.
Megrahi is the only terrorist to be convicted in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing that killed 270 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was given a life sentence, but received an early release in August for “compassionate” reasons because doctors concluded he would be dead within three months from terminal prostate cancer.
The terrorist received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Libya after his release in August and since has reportedly been on the mend. Although he was required to keep Scottish doctors apprised of his health after his release, his lawyers have kept his medical records sealed.
* Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi remains alive and well in Libya, despite doctors’ claims that he would have died within weeks after his controversial release in August 2009.
Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi remains alive and well in Libya, despite doctors’… (Getty)
“There was a 50 per cent chance that he would die in three months,” Sikora said. “But there was also a 50 per cent chance that he would live longer.”
Megrahi’s continued health has caused outrage among the families of those who died in 1988, many of whom were angry he had been let go at all.
It was reported last year that Megrahi’s release had little to do with his health, but was tied to political dealings related to the oil trade between the United Kingdom and Libya.
The Scottish government has reaffirmed its release of Megrahi was based upon his “terminal” cancer.
“He was released on compassionate grounds,” the statement said, “and allowed home to die based on the medical report of the Scottish Prison Service Director of Health and the recommendations of the Parole Board and Prison Governor.
Andrew I. Killgore is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Lockerbie bombing: Forensic evidence ‘casts fresh doubt on Megrahi guilt’
By TIM CORNWELL
Published on Monday 27 February 2012 00:00
NEW forensic evidence claiming to destroy key pillars of the case against the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will be revealed today.
Forensic examination of a small fragment of circuit board, cited as critical evidence linking Libya to the atrocity that claimed 270 lives on 21 December, 1988, does not originate from the source identified by prosecutors, it is claimed.
The new evidence is detailed in two documentaries on the case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, 59, screened today on BBC Scotland and the Al Jazeera network. They coincide with the launch of a book telling the story of Megrahi and featuring extensive interviews with him, released by the Scottish company Birlinn.
The book, too, is said to probe deeply into the forensic evidence in the case.
In the BBC Scotland documentary, Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, says he “forgives” Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who identified him as purchasing clothes which were found packed around the bomb, on a day Megrahi admitted he was in Malta.
“Forgiving him, I am facing my God very soon,” Megrahi says. “I swear I have never been in his shop or buy any clothing from his shop. I swear with my God, which is my God and his God as well, I swear I have never been in his shop or buy any clothing from his shop.
“He has to believe this, because when we meet together before the God, I want him to know that before I die. This is the truth.”
The circuit board, found at the crash site, was linked to the bombing because the fragment, labelled PT35b by investigators, was identified as coming from an MST-13 timer made by the Swiss firm Mebo. Megrahi had regular dealings with the firm. The Crown also claimed the timers had only ever been supplied to Libya. Megrahi was described at his trial as a member of the Libyan intelligence services who worked in Malta at the Libyan Arab Airlines office. He was accused of helping to place the bomb on an Air Malta flight, from which it was transferred to the doomed Pan Am 103.
Megrahi’s defence team was not able to secure access to the fragment to conduct its own expert analysis before the trial, or his first unsuccessful appeal, the documentary is said to claim.
But in preparation for the second appeal, which Megrahi abandoned when he was released on compassionate grounds after a cancer diagnosis, his defence team was able to examine the fragment and other key pieces of evidence.
Their experts claimed it contained no trace of explosive residue. But, more importantly, defence experts also claimed it was made of a different combination of materials to the MST-13s, meaning it did not originate with the Mebo device.
The BBC confirmed yesterday that their documentary explored forensic evidence.
The two programmes feature an interview Megrahi gave in December to his friend George Thomson, a former police officer and criminal defence specialist who was part of his legal team for four years.
Today also sees the publication of John Ashton’s book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury – The Lockerbie Evidence, published by Birlinn. Mr Ashton, an investigative journalist, was also in Megrahi’s defence team and worked closely with him to produce the book.
BBC Scotland insisted last night that, while the interview in the documentary was conducted by Thomson, the programme itself “was produced in accordance with our guidelines on impartiality”.
The Rev John Mosey, a British parent who lost his daughter in the bombing, said he expected both the book and the documentaries to launch a major re-examination of the Lockerbie case.
For those sceptical of the trial and conviction, it “promises evidence of things that we have been saying for many years”, he added.
He had closely followed the circuit-board evidence at Megrahi’s lengthy trial, he said. “It was extremely, extremely dodgy. It was very, very suspicious.
“The way it suddenly appeared, embedded in a shirt collar, with the information on the page overwritten and changed, all police procedures were thrown out of the window.”
But Susan Cohen, an American whose daughter also died in the bombing, said: “None of this sounds any different from what I’ve heard before. With these documentaries, is there going to be a panel afterwards, someone who is representing someone who is not the voice for Megrahi propaganda?
“This is simply allowing this conspiracy theory to flourish. In all these years nothing has ever, ever come out that really shows any significance.”
Megrahi, the only man convicted in the Lockerbie bombing, was said to be three months from death when he was released from a Scottish prison in August 2009 following a decision by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill. He remains alive in Libya, but in the December interview clearly considers himself close to death.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which investigated Megrahi’s 2001 conviction, found six reasons why it may have been a miscarriage of justice and sent the case back to the Appeal Court. The appeal ended when he was released.
Among the SCCRC’s reasons were inconsistencies in Mr Gauci’s statements and controversy surrounding an identification parade in Kamp van Zeist at which he identified Megrahi. It is understood the documentary makers gained access to the SCCRC’s investigations into the case.
Megrahi was interviewed in his bed in his home in Tripoli. Looking frail and straining to make his words audible, Megrahi laments that he will die while still branded “the Lockerbie bomber”.
Asked by Mr Thomson what he would say to Mr Gauci if he were in the room, he says: “I’d say he dealt with me very wrongly. I have never seen him in my life before he came to the court. But I do forgive him.”
• Many believe convicted killer Mohammed Abu Talb is the real Lockerbie bomber.
Talb was freed from prison in Sweden in 2010. He was serving a life sentence for terrorist attacks in Copenhagen and Amsterdam using explosive devices.
He was the original suspect for the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 until 1990, when attention switched to Libya.
At the time of the Lockerbie trial, Talb admitted he and members of his family were involved in the fight to liberate Palestine. But he denied he was “a murderer and a liar”, and claimed he had given up the military struggle before the Lockerbie bombing.
The trial in Kamp van Zeist heard Talb had used many aliases as a member of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, including one that translated as “he who takes revenge”.
Lockerbie bombing: New book claims Megrahi was ‘innocent victim of dirty politics and judicial folly’
Scottish publisher Birlinn launches into the Lockerbie controversy today with the publication of a book that promises the fullest account yet of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s story in his own words.