Sunday, 2 August 2015

Ignorant UK politicians

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Herald on this date in 2002:]

The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will remain in Glasgow after Jack Straw rebuffed Nelson Mandela's plea for him to be moved from Scotland to a prison in a Muslim country.

The foreign secretary's snub to Mr Mandela, former president of South Africa, was made public yesterday in a letter to Russell Brown, MP for Dumfries. In the letter, Mr Straw confirmed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi would remain in Barlinnie jail in Glasgow.

''I can assure you there will be no change in policy on the location of Megrahi's imprisonment. He will serve his full prison sentence in Scotland,'' he said.

Mr Mandela, who was a prisoner in South Africa for 27 years, made his call for Megrahi to be moved in June, after visiting him in Barlinnie where he is serving a life sentence for the PanAm jumbo jet bombing which killed 270 people in 1988.

The veteran statesman had played a key role in ensuring that Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, handed over the two men suspected of the bombing.
Mr Brown, whose constituency includes Lockerbie, wrote to Tony Blair last month urging him to reject Mr Mandela's plea.

Yesterday, he welcomed Jack Straw's assurance that Megrahi, 49, would serve out his sentence in Scotland but said that, now speculation on the issue had been brought to an end, there should be a government inquiry into some aspects of the bombing.

In his letter to the Labour MP, Mr Straw said United Nations monitors had described the conditions in which Megrahi was being held as ''clearly very good'' and met all national and international standards. The monitors also said the Libyan's prison guards showed ''commendable'' awareness and respect for cultural and religious difference.

Mr Brown said the last thing he had wanted was to see this issue dropped into the current negotiations between the UK and Libya over sanctions, in an effort to make any deal easier.

He said: ''If you reopen the original agreement with Libya and decide that Megrahi should be moved to a Muslim country, it would only be a matter of time before you start to negotiate on length of the sentence or even the conviction itself.''

Mr Brown said there would not be a full public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing but that he would like to see further investigations by the government.

[RB: Why Mr Brown or Mr Straw thought that the United Kingdom government had any control over where Abdelbaset Megrahi would serve his sentence is a mystery to me. Mr Mandela can be forgiven for not being aware of the details of the division of authority between the Scottish and the United Kingdom governments, but Messrs Brown and Straw cannot.]

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Threadbare ... but the judges bought it

[On this date in 2010, Rolfe posted on this blog a series of comments setting out the inherent unlikelihood of the plot that Megrahi was alleged to have been involved in and the shakiness of the evidence adduced to establish it. These comments are well worth repeating. So here they are, all together:]

In my opinion the tendency for the case to become clogged up with conspiracy theories is unhelpful to the present argument. That doesn't mean I think the conspiracy theories are entirely unfounded. However, speculations and accusations about fabricated physical evidence, high-level agreements to avoid certain lines of enquiry and so on are actually irrelevant to the evidence that was used to convict Megrahi. Even if all the physical evidence is entirely on the level and no political games higher than the classic "let's pin it on this guy because he's handy and we've got to get someone" were played, he didn't do it.

It might be helpful to consider the nature of the plot Megrahi is said to have been involved in.

First, the manufacture of the bomb and its introduction into Malta itself were so cleverly done that no trace of this exercise was ever discovered. The same is true as regards getting it on the Malta-Frankfurt flight. The Malta baggage records were complete and the security was good - even the appeal judges agreed that "there is considerable and compelling evidence that that could not have happened." This was quite fiendishly clever, however it was done. Years of concentrated effort by an international team of investigators never found any trace of the bomb or the suitcase on Malta.

And yet, when sourcing clothes to pack round the bomb, Megrahi chose to go to a small shop only three miles from the airport where the dastardly and completely secret deed would be done, and buy brand new, locally-manufactured clothes, in a most conspicuous and memorable manner, only two weeks before the operation. If the police had been quicker off the mark, they could have been talking to Tony Gauci within six weeks of this purchase, rather than nine months. Almost any source would have been better than this - a big chain store, a second-hand shop, raid a clothes-line or something!

Then, having done that and shown his face to someone who could potentially link him with the clothes, he then showed up at the airport at the time the bomb was being smuggled into the baggage system - for no readily apparent reason, as he appeared to have done nothing while in the airport that could have facilitated this. And although he was travelling undercover, the passport was traceable to him, and he wasn't even wearing a false beard. Was this plot so short of personnel that the same person had to show himself in two capacities like this?

The bomb was then routed unaccompanied across Europe, in winter, with two changes of plane. The chances of it simply becoming lost baggage weren't negligible. The chances of the flights being delayed or disrupted by bad weather weren't negligible. The bomb was routed through Frankfurt, which had a computer-controlled system, which should have allowed that unaccompanied bag to be spotted almost immediately enquiries began, and turn attention to Malta. The reasons this didn't happen are complicated and bizarre, but this development wasn't something that could have been anticipated or influenced by the plotters. In addition, all the baggage for the Frankfurt-Malta flight was x-rayed by a "careful and conscientious operator" who had been specifically alerted to the possibility of a bomb being introduced disguised as a radio-cassette player. Kurt Maier shouldhave intercepted that device.

At Heathrow, it gets even dafter. The amount of Semtex was small, and it could only have penetrated the hull if it was placed right against the skin of the plane. I don't know what percentage of cases in that baggage container were in suitable positions for that to happen, but I think no more than about 30%. An unaccompanied bag coming off the Frankfurt flight would have been placed randomly.

And worst of all, the timing of the explosion. The timer was apparently set for about 7pm, only about 45-50 minutes after the plane was due to take off (38 minutes after it actually did take off). This was Heathrow, early evening, a few days before Christmas. Bad weather, traffic congestion, a late passenger whose baggage was already loaded (that very nearly happened), anything could have delayed that plane so that it was still on the tarmac at 7pm, in which case a lot of not very much would have happened, and those scraps of Maltese clothes would have been right there to be traced. The flight wasn't due to land until 1.40am GMT - any sane conspirator would set that timer for midnight GMT or later.

It's all very well to look with hindsight and say, well it worked, didn't it, but it's a completely insane excuse for a terrorist plot. Especially the clothes purchase completely negating the otherwise total concealment of any trace of bomb or suitcase in Malta.

Conversely, if we look at the possibility the bag being introduced at Heathrow, we find very definite evidence of introduction there. Not just the potential for a rogue suitcase to be introduced, but actual concrete evidence that it was. This skips all the problems of the three-plane daisy-chain, the Frankfurt computer system and x-ray, and allows an opportunity to get the thing in the part of the container where it will do most damage. And as we all know, a barometric trigger would have exploded about 40 minutes after take-off no matter how long the plane had been delayed.

You could still say, well it might have been bizarre, but he still did it. Except, there's no evidence he did!

He wasn't the man who bought the clothes from Tony Gauci. That's what the grounds of appeal we know about were all about. Tony had a remarkable memory for the goods he sold, and remembered the purchaser in terms of vital statistics, as he sized him up for fit (and realised some of the clothes he was buying wouldn't have fitted him). The man he originally described was nothing like Megrahi in height or build, and over 10 years older. And the day he described the purchase as taking place was a day Megrahi wasn't on Malta. The rest is a shocking catalogue of leading the witness, twisting his evidence and pure bribery.

He didn't put the bomb on the plane - not just because he didn't go airside that morning or do anything at all suspicious, but because the bomb didn't go on at Malta. The baggage records proved that to any reasonable standard of proof.

And that's it, really. He knew Edwin Bollier. So did a lot of people, no doubt. He was never shown to have had one of Bollier's timers in his possession, or any bomb-making equipment, or to have any previous record of or expertise in bomb-making. He was a JSO officer. Indeed, and again that hardly proves guilt in this case - there were a lot of JSO officers in the 1980s.

So how come he was charged and convicted? Prof. Black has explained how the evidence that was eventually accepted would never have been sufficient to issue an indictment in the first place, if it had not been for the additional evidence of the witness Giaka. Giaka was going to swear he'd seen Megrahi and Fhimah smuggle the bomb into the airport and so on. Except, Giaka had invented the whole thing at the behest of the CIA and the US Department of Justice, who both bribed and blackmailed him to do that. This all came out in court, and Giaka's evidence was thrown out. Incredibly, the prosecution received no criticism for pulling this trick, or for lying to the court in an attempt to conceal the evidence that their star witness was lying.

After Giaka was discredited, it appears that the whole circus had gathered too much momentum to be stopped, and the prosecution went on to try to stitch together a case from what was left. Threadbare doesn't begin to describe it, but for some reason the judges bought it.

Tony Gauci never positively identified Megrahi - the best he ever mustered, despite all the coaching and bribery, was that Megrahi resembled the purchaser, and a pretty hesitant job it was too. The judges nevertheless decided it was Megrahi beyond reasonable doubt, because - the purchase happened on a day Megrahi was on Malta, and Megrahi was at the airport when the bomb was loaded. And he knew Edwin Bollier and he was a JSO officer, yadda, yadda.

Tony said the purchase happened midweek, early evening, when his brother was home watching a UEFA match, the Christmas lights weren't yet lit, and it was raining a bit. All these features pointed to 23rd November. Megrahi wasn't even on Malta on 23rd November. By torturing the meteorological and other data past breaking point, it was possible to make a highly unconvincing case for the date to have been 7th December. When asked by the SCCRC why he preferred 7th December, DCI Bell said that it was Megrahi's presence on the island which had persuaded him it must have been the latter date. The judges concurred, and it was 7th December beyond reasonable doubt.

The Malta baggage records said loud and clear there was no suspect suitcase on the Malta-Frankfurt flight. The Frankfurt baggage records all vanished completely within a few days of the incident, right under the noses of the German police. And I'd give a minor body part to know what that was all about. Eight months later, a very limited extract of these records was handed over to the Scottish police, having been saved as a souvenir by an IT technician. This appeared to show an item of luggage from the Malta flight being coded for the Heathrow flight. However, this was far from certain, partly due to the very incomplete nature of the records, and it was possible the record in question was due to a coding anomaly. Mistakes in coding were acknowledged to occur at Frankfurt from time to time. (And that's not even considering the bizarre provenance of the souvenir computer printout.)

Faced with this choice, the judges decided that as the defence had not proved there had been a coding anomaly at Frankfurt, they were entitled to find that an unaccompanied bag had indeed travelled on the flight from Malta beyond reasonable doubt, and that some completely dastardly and untraceable method had been used to get it on. They explained this reasoning by saying it fitted the pattern, with Megrahi who had bought the clothes being present at the airport whan that flight left.

I don't think there's a more blatant example of circular reasoning in the criminal justice system.

Looked at from the point of view of the investigators, it's possible to see how this happened. When the disaster happened, there was indecent haste to declare that the device was "almost certainly" not introduced at Heathrow. Most of the baggage in the relevant container came off the Frankfurt feeder flight, so attention was directed back there. The Frankfurt authorities hotly denied the possibility that it had gone on there - and all the baggage records were missing. There was no love at all lost between the Scottish and the German police over all this.

Then, a full eight months after the disaster, evidence appeared pointing to Malta - both the Maltese origin of the clothes in the suitcase and the computer record suggesting the presence of an unexplained item of luggage on the Malta-Frankfurt flight showed up. The investigators became convinced the bomb had actually been introduced there. This conveniently left Heathrow entirely in the clear (as the luggage had been shunted from one plane to the other across the tarmac in about 20 minutes, and had never been unattended), and Frankfurt relatively in the clear as responsibility for security of the flight as regards luggage coming in from another airline (as opposed to the check-in desks) lay with Pan Am.

All the effort shifted to Malta. Eventually, it was discovered that one of the passengers passing through the airport that morning, checking in for a flight to Tripoli which left about the same time as the Frankfurt flight, was a JSO officer travelling undercover. I can sort of see why the cops would have got excited about that. The clothes purchase, the apparent rogue suitcase showing on the Frankfurt computer record, and a suspicious Libyan, all right there.

The trouble was, they wouldn't take no for an answer. Megrahi didn't actually buy the clothes - but Gauci was badgered, coached and bribed, and the meteorological evidence tortured, to say he did. He didn't go airside that morning or do anything suspicious - but it was decided he was up to something, anyway. There was no suspect suitcase on the flight - but the possibility of a coding anomaly at Frankfurt was handwaved away, and an impenetrable and undetectable plot conjured into being to declare there was. And then, in case that wasn't enough (which is wasn't), Giaka's CIA handlers told him to produce evidence to implicate both Megrahi and Fhimah, or else.

Did they know they were framing an innocent man? Some of them probably did. Some may have believed he was genuinely guilty and they were merely ensuring justice was done. Maybe it was OK regardless because a JSO officer was just a terrorist anyway. And other leads has petered out in the sand and it was going to be pretty embarrassing if nobody was ever convicted for this atrocity. And it just so happened that it was extremely politically convenient to lay this on Libya as well. And there you have it, the perfect storm.

However, if you look at it another way, it makes better sense. If you intend to introduce a bomb at Heathrow, say, maybe it's not so daft to make a conspicuous purchase of brand new, locally manufactured, traceable clothes in Malta - a thousand miles away. If they should happen to be traced, it might provide a nice little diversionary red herring. So long as the purchaser is someone Tony Gauci has never seen before and will never see again, why not?

I think it worked beyond someone's wildest dreams.

The coincidence of the Frankfurt computer record seeming to point to Malta and Megrahi having been there under cover at the crucial moment seems to have been too much for the investigators - and the judges. They wrote several times about a "pattern", really referring to this coincidence. However, striking coincidences happen all the time. When examined in detail, they're often not as unlikely as they first appear.

The prosecution referred often to how it was possible to trace baggage through the Frankfurt system using the reasoning they employed to identify the anomalous record as referring to the Malta flight. They showed a number of records relating to known PA103 passengers exactly where they ought to have been. However, nobody ever demonstrated how frequent miscodings and anomalies were. It's possible there were three relating to the Heathrow flight alone. If it was quite usual for there to be two, three or four anomalous records in the loading data for a flight that size, then the chances of one of them seeming to relate to the Malta flight might not be especially low.

Megrahi travelled through Malta quite often, but that's not the data we want for that end. What we don't know is how often a JSO officer, any JSO officer, travelled on LN147 from Malta to Tripoli. If this was a rare occurrence, then it's quite a coincidence. But it might not have been. JSO officers might have been in the habit of catching that flight on a regular basis. In which case it was just Megrahi's rotten luck it happened to be him on 21st December 1988.

So you see, without even mentioning the fact that the provenance of the MST-13 timer fragment in the evidence simply screams "plant", and the identifying page of the radio-cassette manual simply couldn't have survived the explosion it was supposed to have been next to, and ignoring whatever cover-up was going on at Frankfurt, and completely forgetting about all the allegations that the investigation was deliberately headed off from cornering the PFLP-GC with their radio-cassette bombs with barometric timers set to go off about 40 minutes after take-off, and all the rest of the circumstantial evidence against them - it's quite obvious that Megrahi was framed. By the CIA and the US Department of Justice, with the enthusiastic co-operation of the Lord Advocate and the Scottish criminal justice system.

In essence it need be no different from the framing of Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando - all the other leads had gone cold, and here was someone the crime might be plausibly pinned on, so let's do it.

Sorry to have gone on so long, and most people here know all this anyway, but maybe Blogiston didn't, or other lurkers may come by and find some of it helpful.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Shifting of blame

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Gwynne Dyer published on this date in 2007 in the New Zealand Herald:]

Over a period of several years in the later 1990s, 438 children in a Benghazi hospital in eastern Libya were infected by HIV-contaminated blood transfusions. By now, 56 of the children have died of Aids.
Similar tragedies have happened in other countries, and those who made the mistakes have been disciplined - but this was Libya, where it's always the fault of foreign enemies if things go wrong.
So in 1999 the Libyans charged five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were working at the hospital with murder. Gaddafi claimed that they were working for the Central Intelligence Agency and Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, seeking to destabilise his regime by undermining confidence in Libyan health care.
They all confessed to it, too, after they had been tortured for a while, but it was absurd: just another tinpot dictator shifting the blame for his regime's incompetence. The HIV infections, which began before the six foreign scapegoats arrived in Libya, were probably due to poor hygiene in the hospital, but the foreigners were convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Early this month, however, as part of a deal with the EU, the Libyan high court commuted their sentence to life imprisonment, and then allowed them to go to Bulgaria to serve out their sentences. On arrival in Sofia, they were immediately "pardoned," and the case was closed.
Nobody admitted any blame, nobody lost face, and no blackmail was paid. The fact that each of the 438 Libyan families involved will get $1 million from EU sources is purely coincidental. Colonel Gaddafi may be a head case, but Libya still has some oil, so his peccadilloes are overlooked.
And before people in other places start feeling superior, let us recall another case involving Libya in which some shifting of blame may have occurred.
On December 21, 1988, Pan American flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. Most were Americans, and it was initially suspected that Iran carried out the operation - possibly with the help of its Syrian ally - in revenge for the killing of 290 Iranians six months earlier aboard a civilian Iran Air flight that was shot down by a US warship in the Gulf.
(The United States was backing Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, and the American warship mistakenly believed that it was under attack by the Iranian Air Force.)
US and British investigators started building a case against Iran and Syria - but a year and a half later Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, turning overnight from an ally to an enemy of the United States.
In the US-led war to liberate Kuwait that was being planned, the co-operation of Iran and Syria was vital - so suddenly the Lockerbie investigation shifted focus to Libya, and in due course (about 10 years) two Libyan intelligence agents were brought to trial for the crime.
In 2001 one of them, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland, where the plane came down. Libya paid $2.7 billion in "compensation" to the victims' families, without ever admitting guilt, but the verdict always smelled fishy.
Jim Swire, father of one of the victims on Pan Am 103, said: "I went into that court thinking I was going to see the trial of those who were responsible for the murder of my daughter. I came out thinking [al-Megrahi] had been framed."
Late last month, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission declared al-Megrahi's conviction "unsafe" and granted him the right to appeal against the verdict because "the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice".
That may well be true, and it may not have been an accident either. But, as former British ambassador to Libya Oliver Miles told the BBC recently, "No court is likely get to the truth, now that various intelligence agencies have had the opportunity to corrupt the evidence."
And so it goes.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Neutral venue Lockerbie trial inches closer

[What follows is taken from House of Lords Hansard for this date in 1998:]

HL Deb 30 July 1998 vol 592 cc1618-20 3.27 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will consider making arrangements for an international venue to try the two persons accused of the Lockerbie disaster under Scottish law in a neutral country.
The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) My Lords, although I remain committed to a trial in Scotland, I can confirm that I have considered alternative ways of securing my objective of bringing the accused to justice. We are currently involved in discussions of a highly complex nature and full consideration must be given to all the legal and technical aspects of such an initiative before a final decision can be made. It would be quite inappropriate for me to say any more at this time. I can assure the House that any steps that I take will be in accordance with my independent responsibility to discharge my duty as prosecutor.
Lord Steel of Aikwood My Lords, I should like to give a very warm welcome to the tone of the noble and learned Lord's Answer; indeed, it is the first sign of flexibility on the issue after nearly 10 years since the disaster occurred over Lockerbie. Will the noble and learned Lord at least recognise that there are many people who believe that if the authorities remain obdurate on this question there might never be a trial and we would never discover the truth of what happened at Lockerbie?
Will the noble and learned Lord accept that there is international unease at this stalemate and that the bereaved families themselves are pressing for the solution that I have put forward in this Question? Will he also recognise that citizens of some 13 nations were killed in this disaster, but that if the bomb had gone off either 10 minutes or 10 minutes later it would not have been in Scottish jurisdiction? If ever there was a major international crime, this was one.
Lord Hardie My Lords, I fully recognise all the points made by the noble Lord as I was involved in the Lockerbie incident from the outset. I was junior to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, when he was Lord Advocate, at the public inquiry.
I am fully aware of the concerns of the families but the primary consideration for me must be to ensure a proper trial in accordance with Scots law in Scotland. If that cannot be achieved, other considerations will be taken into account. However, the overriding consideration must be to ensure that whatever arrangements are made do not interfere with the ability of the prosecution to conduct the case without any prejudice, nor to interfere with the interests of the defence, and that both of those interests are safeguarded. If those conditions cannot be met, I shall not prosecute anywhere other than in Scotland.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie My Lords, many of us in this House will be reassured by the noble and learned Lord's repeated and proper preference for a trial in Scotland of those accused of the Lockerbie murders. We strongly support his reassertion of his primacy in this matter as the independent public prosecutor in Scotland with a lonely responsibility and not a collective one. We offer that support particularly in the light of the clumsy, constitutionally improper and badly leaked efforts of the Foreign Office to usurp the noble and learned Lord.
If he takes an irreversible step to hold the trial outside Scotland—we understand why he might wish to contemplate that, given the decade of agony and uncertainty that the relatives of the victims of Flight Pan Am 103 have endured—I hope he will understand that, in spite of our understanding of why he is possibly looking to a way forward, we must reserve the right to scrutinise whether any agreement he reaches brings the prospect of a trial closer or whether it merely offers the opportunity for endless further wrangling from Tripoli.
Lord Hardie My Lords, I welcome the comments of the noble and learned Lord about the lonely office of Lord Advocate. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that I share his concerns about the press speculation as to what has been going on. I have been assured by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that it is not responsible for such leaks. In relation to the scrutiny of the agreement, if any agreement is reached the terms of that agreement and any necessary orders will, of course, be made available to your Lordships for consideration. I repeat that my sole consideration is to ensure that the prosecution of the accused is in accordance with Scots law and will take place preferably in Scotland. It will not take place outwith Scotland unless my two criteria are satisfied. I referred to those criteria when answering the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood.
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon My Lords, I refer to the proceedings before the International Court of Justice raised by Libya against the United Kingdom and the United States. I seek the noble and learned Lord's assurance that, in reaching his decision on whether the trial may take place overseas, he will have regard to the existence of that litigation because there may be an argument that it would be highly undesirable for the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate to agree that the trial should be held in the Hague, or anywhere else, if at the same time Libya continues the action it has raised against this country and America.
Lord Hardie My Lords, the proceedings before the International Court of Justice are effectively civil proceedings relating to the interpretation of the Security Council resolutions and the applicability of the Montreal Convention. I am fully aware that these proceedings are continuing. At the present time I am involved in drafting and revising pleadings for the next stage. If a criminal trial were to take place either in Scotland or outwith Scotland, there may well be a case for making an application to the court to assist these proceedings, but that is further down the line.
Lord Steel of Aikwood My Lords, I assure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate that I fully respect the integrity and independence of his office and welcome everything he has said this afternoon. Will he confirm that the Security Council resolution on this subject refers to a trial either in Scotland or the United States? Accordingly, in arriving at his future conclusions, will the noble and learned Lord confirm that he is in touch with his opposite numbers in Washington?
Lord Hardie My Lords, as I have indicated, there have been detailed, complex negotiations which have involved myself with people of equivalent standing in other countries and officials. Clearly I am aware of the existence of the Security Council resolutions. The existence of those resolutions will be taken into account in any agreement, should agreement be reached.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate accept that calls which have been made in the past to Lord Advocates that evidence in this case should be revealed in advance of a trial are totally inappropriate and could be prejudicial to the accused?
Lord Hardie My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those comments. It is not the practice of the Lord Advocate ever to disclose evidence other than in the course of a trial. I do not accept that it would be appropriate to disclose the evidence while there is the prospect of a trial.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lockerbie and the Tripoli verdicts

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in today’s edition of The Herald:]

The Tripoli court also sentenced to death seven others, including former Libyan spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

The Crown Office had previously commented on Senussi's potential value to the new inquiry when he was extradited from Mauritania, on the west coast of Africa, to Libya in September 2012.

Mr Mulholland and the FBI have previously stated their continuing belief Libya was behind the massacre and al-Megrahi carried out the operation.

But Professor Robert Black QC, one of the architects of the Camp Zeist trial which convicted al-Megrahi, has said that while the execution of Senussi would not have major implications for the Lockerbie case, Omar-Dorda's death may.

He said: "If Lockerbie was a Libyan operation, which I've yet to be convinced it was, I doubt if Senussi was in the loop. He was mainly concerned with internal security, ie keeping Gaddafi in power, rather than foreign operations.

"But the events in Tripoli do impact on Lockerbie in other ways. One of those sentenced to death is Abuzed Omar-Dorda, who was instrumental in brokering the arrangement that led the UK and USA eventually to agree to a non-jury trial in the Netherlands. A genuinely good guy."

Professor Black said another two Libyans with Lockerbie connections had been acquitted: Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, former Foreign Minister who chaired the Libyan government committee that dealt with securing a Lockerbie trial and, later, with the ramifications of the guilty verdict against Megrahi, and Mohammed Zwai who was, for most of the relevant period during which the [fallout from the] Lockerbie trial was being considered, Libyan ambassador in London.

Dr Jim Swire, the public face of the British families of the Lockerbie victims and sceptic over the role of al-Megrahi and Libya, said he believed the executions were "irrelevant" to resolve any outstanding questions over the tragedy.

But he also described the Tripoli decisions as a "put down for the concept of international justice".

He added: "I had hoped vainly these guys would be handed over to international criminal courts, given a fair trial and no death sentence imposed. They have been tried in a court which wouldn't be recognised outside Libya.

"I'm particularly sad about Dorda, who I knew well and met many times."

A need to re-establish criminal justice system's reputation

[What follows is the text of a report published in the Sunday Post on this date in 2007:]

Bid to restore Scottish legal reputation

Foreign judges for al-Megrahi appeal

By Paul Johnson

An MSP wants the court hearing the Lockerbie bomber’s appeal to include at least two international judges.He says it’s a bid to restore the reputation of the Scottish legal system.The call came in a letter from SNP backbencher Alex Neil to the Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Hamilton on Thursday. He claims his idea has the support of Lockerbie campaigner Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died in the bombing, plus former MP Tam Dalyell and Iain McKie, father of “fingerprint case detective” Shirley.

It also has the backing of Professor Robert Black, who originally suggested holding the trial in a neutral country.

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was jailed in 2001 for the 1988 atrocity. But the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission recently said he could go ahead with a second appeal.

Mr Neil said, “I haven’t discussed my letter with Executive members, but Tam Dalyell, Iain McKie and Jim Swire are all very supportive. “If you look through the report of the Review Commission there are a lot of unanswered questions about due process and justice at the original trial. This brings into serious question aspects of the Scottish legal system.”

Mr Neil claimed the conduct of the McKie and Lockerbie cases has damaged the system’s international standing. “I know people in the US who are very critical about what has happened,” he added.

“There’s a need to re-establish the criminal justice system’s reputation. The world’s eyes will be on the appeal, so it’s critical justice is done and seen to be done. I feel people have been complacent about the effectiveness of the system because it has always been held up as something to admire. Those romantic memories of yesteryear will not sustain us tomorrow.”

Edinburgh University professor Robert Black is credited with drawing up procedures for the original trial which convinced Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi to hand over the accused men.

He said last night, “My January 1994 proposal for a non-jury trial in a neutral venue suggested foreign judges should be involved with a Scot presiding. But the UK Government insisted all the judges should be Scottish. I still think including foreign judges is a good idea.”

There is no precedent for this but Prof Black says it could be possible to extend the categories of people who can become temporary judges in the High Court to include foreign judges. “I think it would require legislation in the Scottish Parliament which would be easy to draft. The question is whether it would have majority support.”

A Justice Department spokesman said, “The priority is to allow the legal process to follow its natural course. This is very much a matter between Mr Neil and the Lord President.”

Tam Dalyell said, “I’ve been calling for an international element to the appeal hearing for some time. If not judges, what they might want to do is have some international observers.”

At al-Megrahi’s first appeal in 2002 a panel of five judges met at the special Scottish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, led by then Lord President Lord Cullen.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Obeidi & Zwai acquitted, Dorda sentenced to death

[What follows is the text of a report published this afternoon on the Libya Herald website:]

As was widely expected, a court in Tripoli has sentenced Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah Senussi to death for war crimes during the 2011 revolution. Seven other senior member of the Qaddafi regime have also been given death sentences. They are:
  • Former prime minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi;
  • Abuzeid Dourda; former General Secretary of the General People’s Committee (effectively prime minister) then Qaddafi’s external intelligence chief;
  • Mansur Dhou, head of Qaddafi’s Tripoli internal security agency;
  • Milad Daman head of internal security;
  • Abdulhamid Ohida, an assistant to Senussi;
  • Awidat Ghandoor Noubi, responsible for Qaddafi’s Revolutionary Committees in Tripoli;
  • Mundar Mukhtar Ghanaimi
Among the other former regime figures on trial, 23 were given jail terms from life imprisonment in the case of eight of the accused to five years for one of them. One person, Nuri Al-Jetlawi, was ordered to be detained at a psychiatric hospital while four were found innocent and freed: former foreign minister Abdulati Al–Obeidi, Ali Zway, Mohamed Al-Waher and Amer Abani.
In the case of Saif Al-Islam, who like Abdullah Senussi, was wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the guilty verdict and sentencing was effectively in absentia. He is being held in Zintan.
All those sentenced to death, as well as the others, have a right to appeal within 60 days. Even if there is no appeal, the sentences still have to be endorsed by the High Court. If the sentences are carried out in the case of Saif Al-Islam, Senussi and the other seven sentenced to death, execution ill be by firing squad.
The court proceedings, held at Hadba Al-Khadra prison, have attracted considerable criticism from Libyan and international human rights lawayers and activists. In the case of Saif Al-Islam, his British lawyer, John Jones, condemned it as “a show trial”. “The whole thing is illegitimate from start to finish… It’s judicially sanctioned execution”, he said.
The internationally recognised government in Beida has rejected the trial as unsafe.
[RB: I am delighted at the acquittal of Messrs Obeidi and Zwai, both of whom played an important and honourable part in resolving the Lockerbie impasse between Libya and the United Kingdom and United States. The conviction of and death sentence on Abuzed Dorda horrify me. As Libya’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations he also had a major rĂ´le in the resolution of the issue. I met all of them on many occasions and found them entirely trustworthy and likeable.]