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.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The disgraceful CIA Giaka cables saga recalled

[Fourteen years ago on this date the Scottish Court in the Netherlands was considering the implications of the CIA cables relating to Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka, which had just been made available to the defence, over the Crown’s vigorous objections. Here is how the proceedings were recorded at the time on TheLockerbieTrial.com website:]

Richard Keen QC for Fhimah described the CIA cables, which were made available to the defence today, as "highly relevant" to the defence case.

Keen told the court that the idea that they were not relevant is inconceivable.

[The] Lord Advocate told the court on Tuesday that the redacted passages in the CIA cables were irrelevant to the defence case. He [Richard Keen] said some of the disclosed material goes beyond issue of reliability and credibility to the heart of this case and the defence may now have to consider their position with respect to the trial.

William Taylor QC for Megrahi said that if Giaka is to give evidence on Monday the defence would require more time to review the information contained in the cables. Mr Keen said that a preliminary glance at the cables indicate that at least one additional witness required to be precognosced and this witness is outside Holland and Scotland. He sought confirmation from the Lord Advocate that what has been produced is what the Crown have seen.

The Lord Advocate indicated that there were deletions, which he understood were names but that he would require to speak to Mr Turnbull [Advocate Depute Alan Turnbull QC] and address the court on Monday in respect of whether the deletions are the same.

Analysis
The Crown appears to be on the defensive again regarding the issue of the CIA cables.

It seems clear that Giaka will not now testify on Monday and if the defence are granted a week long adjournment to examine the issue further then the earliest that Giaka will testify is Tuesday, 5 September.

The case does appear now to be totally disjointed with different chapters of evidence interweaving with the Giaka cables.

Several relatives of those who died on Pan Am 103 are also concerned at what might be contained in the CIA cables.

One made the point to me [Ian Ferguson, website co-editor] that they are concerned that Giaka was a paid informer for the CIA before the bombing. "Some family members," he said "shudder at the possibility, that if Giaka did tell the CIA about the planning of the bombing, then why was nothing done about it."

[My account of the CIA cables saga, as published in The Scotsman on 23 July 2007, reads as follows:]

The behaviour of the Crown in the Lockerbie trial was certainly not beyond criticism - and indeed it casts grave doubt on the extent to which the Lord Advocate and Crown Office staff can be relied on always to place the interest of securing a fair trial for the accused above any perceived institutional imperative to obtain a conviction.

To illustrate this in the context of the Lockerbie trial, it is enough to refer to the saga of CIA cables relating to the star Crown witness, Abdul Majid Giaka, who had been a long-standing CIA asset in Libya and, by the time of the trial, was living in the US in a witness protection programme. Giaka's evidence was ultimately found by the court to be utterly untrustworthy. This was largely due to the devastating effectiveness of the cross-examination by defence counsel. Their ability to destroy completely the credibility of the witness stemmed from the contents of cables in which his CIA handlers communicated to headquarters the information that Giaka had provided to them in the course of their secret meetings. Discrepancies between Giaka's evidence-in-chief to the Advocate Depute and the contents of these contemporaneous cables enabled the defence to mount a formidable challenge to the truthfulness and accuracy, or credibility and reliability, of Giaka's testimony. Had the information contained in these cables not been available to them, the task of attempting to demonstrate to the court that Giaka was an incredible or unreliable witness would have been more difficult, and perhaps impossible.

Yet the Crown strove valiantly to prevent the defence obtaining access to these cables. At the trial, on 22 August 2000, when he was seeking to persuade the Court to deny the defence access to those cables in their unedited or uncensored form, the then Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, stated that the members of the prosecution team who were given access to the uncensored CIA cables on 1 June 2000 [Advocate Depute Alan Turnbull QC and Procurator Fiscal Norman McFadyen] were fully aware of the obligation incumbent upon them as prosecutors to make available to the defence material relevant to the defence of the accused and, to that end, approached the contents of those cables with certain considerations in mind.

Boyd said: "First of all, they considered whether or not there was any information behind the redactions which would undermine the Crown case in any way. Second, they considered whether there was anything which would appear to reflect on the credibility of Majid... On all of these matters, the learned Advocate Depute reached the conclusion that there was nothing within the cables which bore on the defence case, either by undermining the Crown case or by advancing a positive case which was being made or may be made, having regard to the special defence... I emphasise that the redactions have been made on the basis of what is in the interests of the security of a friendly power... Crown counsel was satisfied that there was nothing within the documents which bore upon the defence case in any way."

One judge, Lord Coulsfield, then intervened: "Does that include, Lord Advocate... that Crown counsel, having considered the documents, can say to the Court that there is nothing concealed which could possibly bear on the credibility of this witness?"

The Lord Advocate replied: "Well, I'm just checking with the counsel who made that... there is nothing within these documents which relates to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Majid on these matters."

Notwithstanding the opposition of the Lord Advocate, the court ordered the unedited cables to be made available to the defence, who went on to use their contents to such devastating effect in questioning Giaka that the court held that his evidence had to be disregarded in its entirety. Yet, strangely enough, the judges did not see fit publicly to censure the Crown for its inaccurate assurances that the cables contained nothing that could assist the defence.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Lockerbie insurers to sue US government

[This is the headline over a report (tagged “Exclusive”) on page 27 of today’s Scottish Sunday Express. It picks up an item that I published on this blog on 12 August. Today’s Express article, which does not appear on the newspaper’s website, reads as follows:]

Insurers who paid compensation to the families of Lockerbie victims are suing the US government for almost £60million, the Sunday Express can reveal.

Equitas, linked to Lloyd’s of London, and Aviation & General Insurance, have launched a joint action after being blocked from seeking payment from Libya for its involvement in the bombing.

Lloyd’s and Aviation & General paid out £33million to families of those killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town in December 1988.

They, along with New York Marine & General, also parted with £25million over claims related to another Libyan terror attack which destroyed an EgyptAir flight in 1985.

According to papers filed with the US Court of Federal Claims on July 31, the two insurers say Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan regime supported both attacks by providing weapons, funds, airline tickets, fake passports and explosives.

However, in 2008, President George Bush blocked any further litigation over the incidents, preventing insurance firms recouping any losses from Libya.

Equitas, which holds all of Lloyd’s pre-1993 liabilities, and Aviation & General are now suing the US administration for £58million.

The court papers read: “Plaintiffs regret being forced to seek compensation from the United States, but they have no other means of redress.

“But for the intervention of the United States, Plaintiffs would have two judgements from the US Federal courts against Libya. Plaintiffs primary objective is to hold Libya accountable for the actions of its former government.”

Libyan spy Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the only man to be convicted of the atrocity, which claimed 270 lives.

He was released from jail on compassionate grounds in 2009 and protested his innocence right up until he died of cancer in [2012].

Former lawyer Robert Black QC, who is a member of Justice For Megrahi - a campaign group which believes the Libyan was innocent - said he did not believe the law suit “had much hope of success”. [RB: I am still a lawyer. I have not (yet) been disbarred.]

He added: “The action looks to me like a try-on, probably hoping for a ‘nuisance value’ settlement from the US Government.”

A spokesman for Lloyd’s said that the company is no longer linked with Equitas and said that they have “no dealings” with the law suit.

Equitas is now controlled by Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway, while Aviation and General is owned by Ruxley, in London.

The US government, Equitas and Aviation & General Insurance all refused to comment.

[Here’s the full text of what I said in an e-mail to the journalist: “I don't think the action has much hope of success.  Even if the US Presidential Order barred Equitas from suing Libya in the United States, there was nothing to prevent it doing so in Scotland (as it already had done, of course, in relation to compensation paid by Pan Am to Lockerbie victims' families: see http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/pan-am-insurer-suing-us-government-over.html). And in any event there was nothing to prevent Equitas suing in the US courts before the Presidential Order in 2008.  That they were caught by that Order can be argued to be their own fault for delaying so long: after all, Pan Am 103 was destroyed in 1988 and Megrahi was convicted in 2001. The present action looks to me like a try-on, probably hoping for a "nuisance value" settlement from the US government.”]

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A case so thin only concoctions could save it

What follows is taken from an item published on this blog on this date three years ago:

Stand by for dodgy evidence to emerge
[This is the headline over an article by John Ashton in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

So, it seems Gaddafi is, at last, vanquished. The welcome exit of Libya’s dictator could have some unwelcome consequences, not least for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi whom I, and many others, believe was wrongly convicted.

President Barack Obama has reportedly asked Libya’s rebel leaders to capture the terminally ill 59 year-old so he can be sent to face justice in the US. This would be as illegal as it would be inhumane – not that legality has been a pre-condition of recent US foreign policy.

It’s far more likely that he will become the victim of disinformation.

It will not be the first time. On February 22, 2011, I posed the following rhetorical question on Professor Robert Black’s Lockerbie blog: “What’s the betting that, sometime in the next few weeks, the following happens: 1) In the burned-out ruins of a Libyan Government building, someone finds definitive documentary ‘proof’ that Libya and Megrahi were responsible for Lockerbie and/or 2) A Libyan official reveals ‘we did it’.”

I pointed out that the case against Megrahi was now so thin that only such concoctions could save it.

Within 24 hours the country’s newly defected Justice Minister, and now leader of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told a Swedish newspaper: “I have proof that Gaddafi gave the order on Lockerbie.”

Gaddafi may be an appalling tyrant, but there is no more reliable evidence that he was behind the Lockerbie attack than there was that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

Mr Jalil knew the claim would help distance him from his old boss and win him friends in Washington and Whitehall.

His knowledge that the prosecution case was beyond repair probably accounts for why he later told a newspaper that Megrahi “was not the man who carried out the planning and execution of the bombing”, but was “nevertheless involved in facilitating things for those who did”.

Any credibility that this gained him was, however, destroyed by his claim that Megrahi had blackmailed Gaddafi into securing his release from prison by threatening to expose the dictator’s role in the bombing, and had “vowed to exact revenge’” unless his demand was met.

The notion that Megrahi held any power over Gaddafi was ludicrous: he was reliant on Gaddafi’s Government to fund his appeal and to shelter his family in Tripoli, so would have been insane to attempt blackmail.

Other senior defectors’ “Gaddafi did it” claims are equally dubious.

One of them, Abdel Fattah Younes, was so distrusted by some of the rebels that they killed him, while another, the ex-ambassador to the UN, Abdul Rahman al Shalgham, has previously denied Libya’s guilt.

So too has the mysterious Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s supposed terrorist godfather, who was reported to have helped the Scottish police with their inquiries.

If the official account of Lockerbie is true, this was like Radovan Karadzic helping the Srebrenica massacre investigation.

But it’s almost certainly not true, which is probably why Mr Koussa remains free.

And it’s why we should expect more dodgy evidence to emerge from newly liberated Tripoli, in particular, stories that patch over the gaping holes in the prosecution case.

I once said to Megrahi that I expected to read that he had made a deathbed confession. I was joking, but I’m not now.

*John Ashton is the author of Megrahi: You are my Jury, which will be published later this year.

[An editorial in the same newspaper reads in part:]

It will be a Herculean task to ensure that victory is not followed by revenge and reprisal but, if anarchy and mayhem are to be avoided in a post-Gaddafi Libya, justice must be seen to be done. Such even-handedness should also be applied to the internationally sensitive position of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing by a Scottish court convened in the Netherlands. Far too many questions about that terrorist atrocity remain unanswered.

However, Megrahi was released from custody in Scotland by the Scottish Justice Minister and allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal cancer and was expected to live for only a few months. Since that was two years ago and Megrahi remains alive, the anger that accompanied his release in some quarters has intensified. That is understandable, particularly on the part of relatives of those who were killed. Nevertheless, the calls for him to be extradited for imprisonment or retrial in the US should be resisted by Western powers who preach the importance of transparent application of the law.

Yesterday’s statement from David Cameron’s office that the Prime Minister believes Megrahi “should be behind bars” amounted at best to muddying the waters. Lest Mr Cameron needs reminded, he has no jurisdiction over a prisoner released under the Scottish justice system. What purpose would be served by sending him back to Scotland now that the Scottish Government is planning legislation to enable the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to publish the six grounds for a possible miscarriage of justice?

The priority should be to establish the truth about who was responsible for plotting and carrying out the attack on PanAm 103 and why. The best hope lies with the capture and questioning of Col Gaddafi. However unlikely he is to reveal the murky secrets of his four-decade dictatorship, he should nevertheless answer for his actions to the ICC. It will be the test of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) and the rebel forces to deliver the despot to international justice.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Why so little pressure from British and American public on their governments to investigate Lockerbie properly?

[Five years ago, the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Megrahi on 20 August 2009 was still reverberating in the media. Professor Hans Koechler, an international observer appointed by the United Nations at the Lockerbie trial, issued a statement approving of the release, and contributed an article to The Independent. The latter, as reproduced at the time on this blog, reads as follows:]

I am always surprised when people refer to Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi as the Lockerbie bomber. Even if he is guilty – something which, personally, I do not believe – he would only be a Lockerbie bomber, just one of many people who carried out a crime which would have taken a large network of people and lots of money to carry out. It amazes me that the British and American governments act as if the investigation into the bombing is somehow complete.

But I welcome the release of Megrahi, because I firmly believe that he is innocent of the charges made against him. Believe me, if I thought he was guilty I would not be pleased to see him released from jail.

His decision to drop his appeal, however, is deeply suspicious – I believe Megrahi made that decision under duress. Under Scottish law he did not need to abandon his appeal in order to be released on compassionate grounds. So why did he do it? It makes no sense that he would suddenly let it go.

In my time as the UN's observer at Megrahi's trial, I watched a case unfold that was based on circumstantial evidence. The indictment against him and al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah went to great lengths to explain how they supposedly planted a bomb on Flight 103, and yet Fhimah was acquitted of all the charges against him. It made no sense that Megrahi was guilty when Fhimah was acquitted.

The prosecution produced key witnesses that lacked credibility or had incentives to bear false witness against Megrahi. Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who supposedly sold him the clothes that went around the bomb, had been fĂȘted by the Scottish police who took him fishing. The Americans paid him cash following his testimony. The weakness of that testimony would have been a key component of Megrahi's appeal.

We will probably never really know who caused the Lockerbie bombing. So much key information was withheld from the trial. A luggage storage room used by Pan Am at Heathrow was broken into on the night of the bombing, and yet this information was withheld. The British have yet satisfactorily to explain why.

I want to know when the bomb was placed on the plane and by whom. We have to look more closely into the "London theory" – that the bomb was placed on the plane at Heathrow and not in Malta.

It would be childish to be satisfied with the conviction of just one person for a crime that clearly involved a large number of people. I find it very difficult to understand why there seems to be so little pressure from the British and American public on their governments to investigate the bombing properly.

The UK regularly talks of the need to pursue all terrorist atrocities. Yet how can the Government assure the public they really believe that, when they have virtually abandoned their investigation into the worst terrorist attack in the country's history?

We have to know what happened and the only way is a full public inquiry, either mandated by the House of Commons or by an investigative commission voted for by the UN's General Assembly. Time is of the essence. This crime is already 21 years old. To find out the truth we must act now.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Scottish Government shirking responsibilities by expecting foreign authorities to pick up gauntlet

What follows is taken from an item posted on this blog four years ago today:

Call for public inquiry into bombing

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

Dignitaries and campaigners including Desmond Tutu have called for the Scottish Government to launch a public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing.

In an open letter, some 24 signatories including relatives of the victims, such as Dr Jim Swire and Jean Berkley, today call for a full and open inquiry.

The letter questions recent moves by the Scottish Government “to abrogate its responsibility and pass the buck to London” in relation to calls for a public inquiry.

First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill have said that Scotland has neither the power nor the resources to hold an investigation.

The letter states: “When it came to granting compassionate release to Mr Megrahi, the Scottish Government was adamant that the matter fell under Scottish jurisdiction and would brook no interference in the nation’s affairs.

“When it comes to the establishment of an inquiry, why does Edinburgh appear so keen to abrogate its responsibility and pass the buck?

“One cannot have one’s cake and eat it. The excuse frequently offered is that a Scottish inquiry would not possess the requisite power of subpoena when it comes to requiring evidence to be produced.

“This same argument not only applies to Westminster but to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation also. In fact, the only body with the powers that Mr Salmond is looking for is the Security Council of the UN.

“In other words, given this, and the fact that the General Assembly appears to be reluctant to take the bull by the horns, it is down to individual nation states.

“The Scottish Government should not be allowed to shirk its duties and responsibilities to the bereaved and its electorate by expecting other, foreign, authorities to pick up the gauntlet.”

The letter, sent to ministers to coincide with the anniversary of Megrahi’s release, makes the point that Holyrood should be fully able to assess the details of what happened because the case was investigated by Scottish police, the trial was conducted under Scots law, and Megrahi was held in a Scottish prison and released on compassionate grounds by a Scottish minister.