Monday, 1 September 2014

Filmmaker and pilot takes a close-up view of Lockerbie

[This is the headline over an article in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

A novel about the ­Lockerbie bombing has been published by a film-maker and director who has worked on the hit television drama Hamish Macbeth.

Paddy Carpenter, a first assistant director on films and TV series who has worked with actors such as Omar Sharif, wrote the 500-page book over the past two years after becoming fascinated with the atrocity while filming in Scotland.

Unsafe: The Script of One-Zero-Three tells the story of screenwriter Ray Scriver and his efforts to get his work taken up by Hollywood.

Mr Carpenter, who has also worked on the TV ­detective series Minder, said the novel explores both the downing of Pan Am 103 and the politics of the film industry.

It is set in a number of locations including New Zealand and Scotland.

The qualified pilot, who lives in Gloucestershire, said: "Lockerbie is obviously a very dark subject, but basing the novel in the film industry allowed me to introduce an element of light into the plot.

"There are lots of twists and turns and suprises in the story. It moves about quite a lot to keep interest. There is a lot of foreboding in it, not just about the bombing, but about what is going to happen to Ray and his script."

All 243 passengers and 11 crew died when Pan Am 103 was blown up over ­Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. Eleven people on the ground were also killed. It remains the biggest terrorist attack in Britain.

Abdelbaset al Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted of the bombing at a special court in The Netherlands in 2001.

But new theories have arisen over who was responsible. In March this year ex Iranian spy Abolghassem Mesbahi claimed the attack was ordered by Iran in revenge for the accidental downing of an Iranian commercial jet by the US Navy in 1988.

It was carried out by ­Palestinian terrorists based in Syria, he said, and not on the orders of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

[The blurb for the novel on Amazon.co.uk reads in part:]

English screenwriter Ray Scriver's latest script lifts the lid on the real guilt behind the Lockerbie bombing, so will find powerful opponents. When his film, One-Zero-Three, moves nearer to production, and knowledge of his explosive conclusions can no longer be contained, his life begins to feel increasingly precarious. Just as with the Lockerbie flight itself, its investigation, evidence at the trial, the verdict and the whole public perception of the case, Scriver wonders if he too is now unsafe. A novel set in the larger than life world of film-making, Unsafe – The Script of One-Zero-Three is centred around a screenplay which aims to stir the muddy waters of a real terrorist plot, the actual outrage above Scotland and a cynical 25 year cover-up by agencies and governments. So the book is also a fascinating, no-stone-unturned, true crime reinvestigation of the UK's largest ever mass-murder and its aftermath.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Desire to avoid having to answer miscarriage of justice question

What follows is an item posted on this blog on this date five years ago:

Compassion, conviction and lingering doubt
[This is the headline over a column in today's edition of The Guardian by lawyer, legal commentator, broadcaster and columnist, Marcel Berlins. It reads as follows.]

What if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing? The furore over his release has concentrated on two issues: whether or not he deserved to be freed on compassionate grounds – the reason given by the Scottish justice secretary – and whether, behind the scenes, lurked the real motive for granting his freedom, which was all about oil and Britain's trading relationship with Libya.

Megrahi's return to Libya seemed conveniently to have sidelined another potentially embarrassing question: was he the victim of a miscarriage of justice? Was the decision to free him at least partly based on the Scottish desire to avoid having that question answered? Of course, no one connected with the decision, whether in Scotland, Whitehall or Downing Street, could admit, or even hint, that guilt or innocence was a factor. Officially, he was a properly convicted prisoner, no question.

It is not just Megrahi himself insisting on his innocence. For many years, the case has induced unease in the Scottish legal world. Evidence has emerged that appears to cast some doubt on the verdict. No one is saying the material absolutely proves Megrahi's innocence, but it has been enough to raise the possibility of wrongful conviction.

Jim Swire, the father of one of the Lockerbie victims, who led the campaign of bereaved British relatives to discover the truth about the tragedy, now believes that an injustice occurred – so do many families of British victims (though this doubt is not shared by families on the American side).

Robert Black QC, one of Scotland's most eminent advocates, who has studied the case, is of the same view. More importantly, in 2007, the independent Scottish criminal cases review commission (SCCRC) referred the Megrahi case to the Scottish appeal court, finding sufficient grounds to suggest a miscarriage. The court would not have been obliged to grant the appeal, but it has usually done so on previous SCCRC referrals. The court was due to hear the appeal later this year, but Megrahi formally withdrew it during the flurry of activity leading to his release.

His lawyer has made it clear that he did so because it was felt that continuing the appeal – which would have gone on after his death – might have prejudiced his chances of being sent home. In the last few days Megrahi himself has reiterated his claim to innocence.

If he was wrongly convicted, all sorts of new questions arise, not least who was the real bomber and whether Libya was the instigator of the attack. It is probably too late to uncover the whole truth, but should we not try? If he didn't do it, there would at least be a sort of vindication of the decision to release him, even if for the wrong reasons.

Is there any way still open to consider the evidence which might have overturned Megrahi's conviction? His Scottish lawyer says he will make the dossier public. But who would evaluate it? It would not be satisfactory to leave matters in uncertainty. There is a strong case for an independent inquiry.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Megrahi's release and the "deal in the desert"

Five years ago, the media furore over the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Megrahi was showing no sign of dying down. Here are excerpts from an item -- one of several -- published on this blog on 30 August 2009:

Jack Straw, the UK Justice Secretary, has described as "absurd" suggestions that trade deals had anything to do with the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. (...)

His comments were made as the father of one of the victims of the bombing of Pan Am 103 said it was time "to stop mulling over the why and wherefore of Megrahi’s release" and Nelson Mandela sent a letter of support to the Scottish Government. (...)

Mr Straw said: "The implication that, somehow or other, we have done some back-door deal in order to release Mr Megrahi is simply nonsense.

"What makes this whole debate absurd now is that Mr Megrahi was not released under the prisoner transfer agreement."

Mr Straw admitted that in return for Libya abandoning its nuclear weapons programme there were moves to "establish wider relations including trade", but added: "the suggestion that at any stage there was some kind of back-door deal done over Mr Megrahi’s transfer because of trade is simply untrue". (...)

[Notes by RB:

1. It is disingenuous in the extreme for Jack Straw to claim that the debate over a deal between the UK and Libyan Governments over Abdelbaset Megrahi is absurd because he was in fact repatriated, not under the prisoner transfer agreement, but through compassionate release.

The memorandum of understanding regarding prisoner transfer that Tony Blair entered into in the course of the "deal in the desert" (and which paved the way for the formal prisoner transfer agreement) was intended by both sides to lead to the rapid return of Mr Megrahi to his homeland. This was the clear understanding of Libyan officials involved in the negotiations and to whom I have spoken.

It was only after the memorandum of understanding was concluded that Downing Street and the Foreign Office belatedly realised that the decision on repatriation of this particular prisoner was a matter not for Westminster and Whitehall but for the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh -- and that government had just come into the hands of the Scottish National Party and so could no longer be expected supinely to follow the UK Labour Government's wishes. That was when the understanding between the UK Government and the Libyan Government started to unravel, to the considerable annoyance and distress of the Libyans, who had been led to believe that repatriation under the PTA was only months away.

2. The letter from Dr Swire that is referred to in The Herald's article reads as follows:]

Lockerbie: the truth must be known

Before the Lockerbie trial, brokered by Nelson Mandela, had begun, I believed that it would reveal the guilt of the two Libyans in the murder of my daughter and all those others.

I have always believed that we should look for how something of benefit to the world could be somehow squeezed out of the appalling spectacle of brutal mass murder laid before us on those gentle Scottish hills. From before the Lockerbie trial, whilst still believing in Megrahi's guilt, I hoped even then that commercial links could be rebuilt between Libya and Britain for the benefit of both in the future. That was one of the reasons I went to talk to Gaddafi in 1991. It seemed that Libya's 5 million people with that country's immense oil wealth could mesh well with the many skilled people available among the 5 million population of Scotland.

What I heard at Zeist converted me to believing that the Libyan pair were in fact not involved in the atrocity after all. I remembered Nelson's comment at the time when a trial was agreed "No one country should be complainant, prosecutor and Judge". Yet under Clinton's presidency, the composition of the court had been altered so that Nelson's warning had been ignored. It was President Clinton too who told us all to realise 'its the economy, stupid.' But the UK, in the form of Scottish law, was now to exclude any international element, and the methods used to assemble the evidence revealed that the UK/US collusion was so close that it was safe to consider that alliance as Nelson's 'one country' also.

These matters are political and we have no expertise in that field, which appears distasteful to many. I do feel though that Lord Mandelson's disingenuous comments on the issue of the 'Prisoner Transfer Agreement' should lead him to resign (yet again).

More than 20 years later, we, the relatives, are still denied a full inquiry into the real issues for us - Who was behind the bombing? How was it carried out? Why did the Thatcher government of the day ignore all the warnings they got before Lockerbie? Why did they refuse even to meet us to discuss the setting up of this inquiry? Why was the information about the Heathrow break-in concealed for 12 years so that the trial court did not hear of it till after verdict? Why were we constantly subjected to the ignominy of being denied the truth as to why our families were not protected in what even our crippled FAI (crippled because it too was denied the information about Heathrow) found to have been a preventable disaster?

Let us stop mulling over the why and wherefore of Megrahi's release, I for one am delighted that a man I now consider innocent because of the evidence I was allowed to hear at Zeist is at home with his family at last. Let there be a responsible replacement immediately for the appeal a dying man understandably abandoned to ensure his release. Scotland should now take responsibility for reviewing a verdict which her own SCCRC already distrusts. The public's knowledge of the shifty dealings surrounding the 'Prisoner Transfer Agreement' should help to swell demand for objective assessment of the Megrahi case. Overturning the verdict would open the way for a proper international inquiry into why Lockerbie was allowed to happen, who was really behind it, as well as how the verdict came to be reached.

Let us turn our attention now, please, at last to the question of why we the relatives have been denied our rights to know who really murdered their families, and why those precious lives were not protected.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Obvious cover-up unacceptable for Scots citizens or international public

[The following is an excerpt from an item published on this blog on this date seven years ago:]

Ulrich Lumpert, an engineer at one time employed by MEBO in Zurich, gave evidence at the Lockerbie trial that a fragment of circuit board allegedly found amongst the aircraft debris (and which was absolutely crucial to the prosecution contention that the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 was linked to Libya) was part of an operative MST-13 timer manufactured by MEBO. In an affidavit sworn in Switzerland in July 2007 (available on the website www.lockerbie.ch) Lumpert now states that the fragment produced in court was in fact part of a non-operational demonstration circuit board that he himself had removed from the premises of MEBO and had handed over to a Lockerbie investigator on 22 June 1989 (six months AFTER the destruction of Pan Am 103).

If this is true, then it totally demolishes the prosecution version of how the aircraft was destroyed, as well, of course, as demonstrating deliberate fabrication of evidence laid before the court.

At the forthcoming appeal resulting from the SCCRC’s report on the Megrahi conviction, will the appeal court have an opportunity to assess the truth of Lumpert’s revised version of events? The hurdles are formidable. Section 106 (3C) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 provides that an appeal may not be founded upon evidence from a witness at the original trial which is different from, or additional to, the evidence that he gave at that trial, unless there is a reasonable explanation as to why the new evidence was not given by him at the original trial and that explanation is itself supported by independent evidence. In this context “independent evidence” means evidence which was not heard at the original trial; which comes from a source other than the witness himself; and which is accepted by the appeal court as credible and reliable. It might well be extremely difficult to convince a court that these conditions were satisfied in Lumpert’s case.

What follows is the text of a press release regarding Lumpert’s affidavit from Professor Hans Koechler, who was one of the official UN-appointed observers at the Lockerbie trial:

I.P.O. Information Service

Lockerbie case: new accusations of manipulation of key forensic evidence

Statement of Dr. Hans Koechler, international observer appointed by the United Nations at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands (2000-2002), on a key witness’s admission of perjury in the Lockerbie Trial

Vienna, Austria, 28 August 2007 P/RE/20559c-is

On 4 August 2007 Dr Hans Koechler received from Mr Edwin Bollier, head of the Swiss-based company MEBO AG, a copy of the German original of an Affidavit, dated 18 July 2007 and signed by Mr Ulrich Lumpert, former employee (electronics engineer) of MEBO AG, Zurich, related to the Lockerbie case. In a statement released today, Dr Hans Koechler, who has followed the Lockerbie proceedings since the beginning of the trial in the Netherlands in May 2000, highlighted basic aspects and questions of this new revelation that appear to be of relevance not only in connection with the upcoming second appeal of the convicted Libyan national, but also for new prosecutorial action ex officio by the Scottish authorities.

In his affidavit Mr Lumpert implicitly admits having committed perjury as witness No. 550 before the Scottish Court in the Netherlands. He states (Par 2) that he has stolen a handmade (by him) sample of an “MST-13 Timer PC-board” from MEBO company in Zurich and handed it over, on 22 June 1989 (!), to an “official person investigating the Lockerbie case.” He further states (in Par 5) that the fragment of the MST-13 timer, cut into two pieces for “supposedly forensic reasons,” which was presented in Court as vital part of evidence, stemmed from the piece which he had stolen and handed over to an investigator in 1989. He further states that when he became aware that this piece was used for an “intentional politically motivated criminal undertaking” (vors√§tzliche politisch kriminelle “Machenschaft”) he decided, out of fear for his life, to keep silent on the matter.

The rather late admission of Mr Lumpert is consistent with an earlier revelation in the British and Scottish media according to which a former Scottish police officer (whose identity has not yet been disclosed to the public) stated “that the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial in convicting a Libyan” for the bombing of the Pan Am jet (Scotland on Sunday, 28 August 2005).

Upon receipt of the document, Dr Koechler informed the owner of MEBO AG on 7 August 2007 that Mr Lumpert will have to submit his affidavit under oath before the competent judicial authorities of Scotland. In the meantime (22 August 2007), the owner of MEBO AG has requested the Scottish judicial authorities – by way of the Swiss Prosecutor’s office and on the basis of the agreement on mutual judicial assistance between the UK and Switzerland – to investigate the alleged criminal manipulations referred to in Mr Lumpert’s statement.

In his capacity as UN-appointed observer of the Lockerbie trial, Dr Hans Koechler has repeatedly raised the issue of the timer fragment and expressed his amazement at the Defense team’s refusal to look into the matter during Mr Megrahi’s appeal when questions as to the reliability of forensic evidence had already been raised. (See Dr Koechler’s appeal report, Par 10 [c] of 26 March 2002; his statement of 23 August 2003, Par 10; and his statement of 14 October 2005, Par 2.)

It is to be recalled that, as witness before the Lockerbie court, Mr Edwin Bollier had raised the issue of the manipulation of the timer fragments, but was brusquely interrupted in his testimony by the presiding Judge and prevented from giving further information in this matter.

In the meantime (information received on 26 August 2007), Mr Lumpert has revised part of his Affidavit (Par 5); he now states that the letter “M” on the timer fragment (supposedly for the German word Muster: sample), unlike previously stated, has been engraved by himself. In view of this and earlier statements, Mr Lumpert’s credibility will have to be assessed very carefully by the competent judicial authorities and he will have to be made aware of the consequences, in terms of criminal law, of lying to the Court.

At the same time, the credibility of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is also at stake. In its News Release of 28 June 2007, in which it had announced the referral of Mr Al-Megrahi’s case to the Scottish High Court for a second appeal, the SCCRC found it necessary to “absolve” the investigating authorities of any suspicion of wrongdoing. Should Mr Lumpert’s confession be proven to be true, the SCCRC’s statement – “The Commission undertook extensive enquiries in this area but found nothing to support that allegation or to undermine the trial court’s conclusions in respect of the fragment” – will appear highly questionable, even dubious. The public will have to ask why a supposedly independent judicial review body would try to exonerate “preventively” officials in a case which is being returned to the High Court for a second appeal because of suspicions of a miscarriage of justice. If it is indeed the rule of law that governs the Scottish polity, the Scottish judicial authorities will have to deal with this new revelation ex officio– independently of how the appeal court in Mr Megrahi’s case will evaluate this witness’s confession of perjury.

Those responsible for the midair explosion of PanAm flight 103 will have to be identified and brought to justice. If there was any wrongdoing, criminal and/or due to incompetence, of the judicial authorities in the investigation and prosecution of the Lockerbie case, this will also have to be dealt with through proper procedures of criminal law. A continuation of the rather obvious cover-up which we have witnessed up until now is neither acceptable for the citizens of Scotland nor for the international public, Dr Koechler stated.
Dr Koechler's Lockerbie trial report: (http://i-p-o.org/lockerbie-report.htm)  
Dr Koechler's Lockerbie appeal report of 26 March 2002:
Dr Koechler's statement of 23 August 2003 on the agreements between the UK, the USA and Libya: (http://i-p-o.org/koechler-lockerbie-statement-aug2003.htm)
Dr Koechler's statement on new Lockerbie revelations of 14 October 2005: (http://i-p-o.org/nr-lockerbie-14Oct05.htm)
Dr Koechler's statement on the referral of the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi to the High Court of Justiciary:
Web Site of the Lockerbie Observer Mission of Dr Hans Koechler:

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Crown desperately fights to maintain secrecy of CIA Lockerbie cables

[On this date fourteen years ago, the Scottish Court in the Netherlands was still engaged with the issue of the CIA cables relating to Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka. Redacted versions of the cables had been made available to the defence, over the Crown’s strenuous objections. The Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, was now opposing the defence’s contention that the redacted portions (or some of them) should be disclosed. Here is how the matter was reported on the website TheLockerbieTrial.com:]

The Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, addressed the court this morning and defended the CIA's position on the three remaining areas that are yet to be un-redacted from the cables supplied to the defence.

He told the court that those areas concerned operational matters and the identity of individuals whose lives could be at risk if identified. He spoke of the unprecedented actions of the CIA in placing these documents into this or any other jurisdiction.

He also told the court that there was nothing in the cables, which supported the special defence that has been lodged by the accused's legal teams. The Lord Advocate then indicated that much of the cables' content is not admissible to the court, as it is gossip, hearsay or speculation.

The court heard that one of the names mentioned in the cables is that of Vincent Vassallo, the Maltese businessman who was a partner in the Medtours business along with Fhimah.

He informed the court that the Crown was given access to the unedited versions of the cables in the US Embassy in The Hague, but that those present had to undertake not to disclose any of the information and were not to take notes. He then said that the Crown had behaved properly.

Without elaborating, William Taylor QC for Megrahi told the court there were now "a number of routes available to the accused" which would have "repercussions for the court itself".

The court adjourned until Tuesday morning to allow the defence to take instructions from their clients.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lockerbie suspect 'killed in al-Qaeda bomb blast'

[This is the headline over a report by Martin Williams in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

A terrorist suspected of being the real mastermind of the Lockerbie bombing has been killed in a bomb blast, according to unconfirmed reports.

Ahmed Jibril who has been on America's 'most wanted' list for decades was reported to have been assassinated by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Jordanian media reported that Jabhat al-Nusra, an off-shoot of al-Qaeda, used an improvised explosive device to kill the 76-year-old who is a strong supporter of Syria's President Assad.

The reports state that the attack on Jibril took place several days ago and although the Palestinian leader survived the initial attack he succumbed to his injuries in a Damascus hospital on Monday.

Yesterday the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), which Jibril founded and remains general secretary, denied that he was dead or even wounded.

Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scottish Law at the University of Edinburgh, often referred to as the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands did not believe that if Jibril died that it would make much difference to the search for the truth about the disaster.

He said: "He was never likely himself to admit responsibility.

"It is possible, though unlikely, that his absence from the scene might give others the courage to speak up about his involvement.

"But I think we will just be left with what evidence already exists, particularly the $10million payment from Iran into the PFLP-GC's coffers a few days after 21 December 1988.

"There are those in the West and in the Middle East who think that Jibril and the PFLP-GC were never really important figures in the Palestinian struggle: good at raking in funds but leaving the fighting to others.

"Certainly, Jibril and the PFLP-GC are thought by some to be seriously in the frame, as contractors for Iran which was seeking revenge for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes in July 1988, six months before Lockerbie.

He added: "And at the Camp Zeist trial the defence lodged a special defence of incrimination blaming Jibril and the PFLP-GC for the crime."

In March an Iranian defector, a former intelligence agent, claimed that the Lockerbie attack was ordered by Iran in revenge for the accidental downing of an Iranian commercial jet by the US Navy in 1988.

It was carried out by Palestinian terrorists based in Syria, he said, and not on the orders of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The atrocity killed 243 passengers, 16 crew and a further 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie.

Ex-spy Abolghassem Mesbahi claimed in a documentary that former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini wanted to mirror the 1988 US strike on an Iranian Airbus and recruited a Syrian-based group to plan an attack.

Evidence unearthed by the documentary-makers included the names of four suspects belonging to the Syrian-based radical group, the PFLP-GC, with Ahmed Jibril identified as the plot's mastermind.

It was claimed he recruited one of his most trusted deputies Hafez Dalkamoni, a Palestinian PFLP-GC member, and Jordanian bomb-maker Marwan Khreesat

These recruits were arrested by German police, who discovered four bombs, months before Lockerbie. A US intelligence cable obtained by Megrahi's defence team is alleged to have said: "The execution of the operation was contracted to Ahmed Jibril…money was given to Jibril upfront in Damascus for initial expenses - the mission was to blow up a Pan Am flight."

PFLP-GC's name was identified during the Lockerbie trial - in which Libyan agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1989. Megrahi, who was released from jail by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, died in 2012 protesting his innocence and his family said they planned to appeal against his conviction.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

PFLP-GC press office denies reports of death of Ahmed Jibril

[Here is the latest from RIA Novosti about the reported death of Ahmed Jibril:]

The head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) press office has refuted the death of PFLP-GC Secretary-General Ahmed Jibril in Damascus.

Mohammed Aidi denied reports of Jibril’s death or wounding during an interview with RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

Earlier, unconfirmed reports from the Syrian capital claimed Jibril, the founder and leader of the PFLP-GC, who has been on the America’s “most wanted” list for decades, had been assassinated by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

Jordanian media reported that Jabhat al-Nusra, an off-shoot of al-Qaeda, used an improvised explosive device to kill the 76-year-old Jibril who is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The reports stated that the attack on Jibril took place several days ago, and that although the Palestinian leader survived the initial attack, he succumbed to his injuries in a Damascus hospital on Monday.

Jibril and the PFLP-GC have long been associated with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December of 1988 that killed 270 people, despite the West officially blaming Libya for the attack. 

[Earlier instalments of this saga can be seen here and here.]

Reports claim terrorist Ahmed Jibril linked to Lockerbie bombing assassinated in Syria

[This is the headline over a report just published on the website of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.  It reads as follows:]

Unconfirmed reports from the Syrian capital have claimed Ahmed Jibril, the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) who has been on the America’s “most wanted” list for decades, has been assassinated by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Jordanian media have reported that Jabhat al-Nusra, an off-shoot of al-Qaeda, used an improvised explosive device to kill the 76-year-old Jibril, a strong supporter of Syria’s President Assad. The reports state that the attack on Jibril took place several days ago and although the Palestinian leader survived the initial attack he succumbed to his injuries in a Damascus hospital on Monday.

“If it is true that Jibril is dead, I don't think that makes much difference to the search for the truth about Lockerbie,” Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scottish Law at the University of Edinburgh, told RIA Novosti.

“He was never likely himself to admit responsibility. It is possible, though unlikely, that his absence from the scene might give others the courage to speak up about his involvement,” Black added.

“But I think we will just be left with what evidence already exists, particularly the $10million payment from Iran into the PFLP-GC's coffers a few days after 21 December 1988,” Black said.

Jibril and the PFLP-GC has long been associated with the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988 that killed 270 people, despite the West officially blaming Libya for the attack.

Black told RIA Novosti that many Western and Middle Eastern sources believe the PFLP-GC did not play a significant role in the struggle for Palestinian rights.

“There are those (in the West and in the Middle East) who think that Jibril and the PFLP-GC were never really important figures in the Palestinian struggle: good at raking in funds but leaving the fighting to others,” Black said.

Last year the Palestinian National Council announced it would expel Jibril over his role in the Syrian civil war with one PFLP officials quoted as saying, “Jibril does not even belong to the Palestinian Left. He is closer to the extremist right-wing groups than to revolutionary leftist ones.”

As yet there has been no official confirmation that Jibril has been killed, but Robert Black, who is a leading expert on the Lockerbie bombing, told RIA Novosti his death will not bring the public any closer to the truth about who was responsible for the worst terrorist attack in British history.

[I am informed by RIA Novosti foreign affairs correspondent Mark Hirst that the PFLP-GC press office has told the news agency’s Moscow desk that Jibril is still alive and not wounded. He remarks that the picture is confusing given the conflicting reports, although Jewish Press is reporting his death.]

PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril reported assassinated

There are reports on Twitter that Ahmed Jibril, the leader of the PFLP-GC, suspected by some of being the true perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing, has been assassinated in Syria by Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda. One such Twitter report can be seen here. An item on the Live Leak website contains the following: “Reports now that PFLP-GC chief Ahmed Jibril, the most prominent pro-Assad Palestinian figure in Syria, was assassinated by Jabhat al-Nusra (...) Oh the irony - the Lockerbie families get justice not from their Government but from Al Qaeda aka Jabhat Al Nusrah. It will be all over the news tomorrow. Al Nusrah just admitted it.”

I can find no corroboration of these reports on mainstream news websites. 

[A report just published on The Jewish Press website and headlined Ahmed Jibril dead at 76 reads as follows:]

Ahmed Jibril, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, has reportedly died in Damascus.

Conflicting reports surrounded the death. Initial reports indicated that Jibril suffered a stroke, while others said he was killed by a roadside bomb detonated by the al-Qaeda-linked Jabha a-Nusra terror group. Israel Radio reported that Jibril was known as a supporter of the Assad regime in Damascus.

Born in Yazur, Mandatory Palestine in 1938, Jibril was one of the Palestinins’ most notorious killers. He was responsible for a 1974 attack on the city of Kiryat Shemona, during which three members of PLFP-GC infiltrated Israel from Lebanon and murdered eleven civilians in their homes. The same year, a terror cell under Jibril’s command committed the Ma’alot massacre the same year, followed by the Savoy Hotel Attack and Kfar Yuval hostage crisis in 1975. In 1976, Jibril’s followers hijacked an Air France to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, sparking Israel’s legendary rescue operation on July 4 of that year, claiming the life of IDF soldier Yoni Netanyahu (brother of the current prime minister) and knocking the United States’ bicentennial celebration off newspaper front pages around the world.