Saturday, 13 February 2016

The Heathrow break-in evidence

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2002:]

A former Heathrow Airport security guard has said he found a baggage store padlock "cut like butter" the night before the Lockerbie bombing.

Ray Manly was giving evidence at the appeal by Abdelbasset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi against his conviction for murdering 270 people in the 1988 bombing.

Al-Megrahi's defence team argue that the bomb could have been placed on Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow.

At his trial, one of the key areas of the prosecution case was that the bomb was loaded onto a feeder flight from Luqa Airport in Malta, where al-Megrahi worked.

Evidence about the reported break-in was not introduced at the trial and is only now being heard for the first time.

Mr Manly was on a night shift in Terminal 3 on the night of 20/21 December 1988.

He told the Scottish Court in the Netherlands that the doors separating landside from airside were unmanned at night after they had been locked.

During his rounds, he spotted that a padlock securing the doors had been broken.

'Deliberate act'
"The padlock was on the floor. In my opinion it was as if it had been cut like butter - very professional," he said.

The court was shown Mr Manly's security report, written soon after the incident in which he described the break-in as "a very deliberate act, leaving easy access to airside".

Mr Manly informed his colleague Philip Radley and police were called.

But Mr Manly said he did not see any police officers that night and was only interviewed by anti-terrorist squad officers about the incident the following January, after the Lockerbie disaster.

Giving evidence, Mr Radley told the five appeal court judges that Terminal 3's landside area, where passengers arrived to check in, was separated from airside by two thick rubber doors at the end of a corridor. Access to the airside area was restricted to staff.

The doors were secured by a 4ft long iron bar and a heavy duty padlock and security guards were on duty on each side of the doors.

Mr Radley said he was on the nightshift on 20 December when his supervisor called to tell him that the padlock on the doors had been broken.

A guard was placed on the doors - designated T3 2a and T3 2b - until the morning, when a replacement padlock was found.

Log book entry
The court was shown Mr Radley's log book for the night including an entry recorded at 35 minutes past midnight on December 21: "Door at T3 2a lock broken off."

Questioned by Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, Mr Radley explained that baggage handlers working airside would pass through the doors when starting their shift and leave the same way - unless they were delayed and the doors at T3 2a and 2b had been locked for the night.

In that case, he said, baggage handlers would have to take a longer route out of the terminal and there had been complaints about having to do so. On the night of 20 December, baggage handlers had to stay late because of a delayed flight, he confirmed.

Mr Turnbull suggested that a member of staff taking a short cut, could have forced the door, breaking the padlock.

Handlers' detour
Questioned by the defence Mr Radley said the detour for baggage handlers if the doors were locked was only "a couple of minutes".

He could not recall any previous incident in which staff had forced open locked doors.

The prosecution has also been allowed to present 11 new witnesses, to counter the new evidence.

Although the court's decision to allow the new evidence to be heard can be seen as a boost to the defence case, under Scottish law the appeal judges have to weigh whether the new testimony, had it been heard at the original trial, would have changed the outcome of that case.

Since his conviction, al-Megrahi has remained at the Camp Zeist compound which is surrounded by a six-metre tall concrete wall.

Friday, 12 February 2016

“They're never going to tell”

[On this date in 1990, members of President George [H W] Bush’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST) met members of the families of UK Lockerbie victims at the US embassy in London. What follows is taken from the Wikipedia article Pan Am Flight 103:]

On 29 September 1989, President [George H W] Bush appointed Ann McLaughlin Korologos, former Secretary of Labor, as chairwoman of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST) to review and report on aviation security policy in the light of the sabotage of flight PA103. Oliver "Buck" Revell, the FBI's Executive Assistant Director, was assigned to advise and assist PCAST in their task. Mrs Korologos and the PCAST team (Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt, Representative James Oberstar, General Thomas Richards, deputy commander of US forces in West Germany, and Edward Hidalgo, former Secretary of the US Navy) submitted their report, with its 64 recommendations, on 15 May 1990. The PCAST chairman also handed a sealed envelope to the President which was widely believed to apportion blame for the PA103 bombing. Extensively covered in The Guardian the next day, the PCAST report concluded:

"National will and the moral courage to exercise it are the ultimate means of defeating terrorism. The Commission recommends a more vigorous policy that not only pursues and punishes terrorists, but also makes state sponsors of terrorism pay a price for their actions."

Before submitting their report, the PCAST members met a group of British PA103 relatives at the US embassy in London on 12 February 1990. Twelve years later, on 11 July 2002, Scottish MP Tam Dalyell reminded the House of Commons of a controversial statement made at that 1990 embassy meeting by a PCAST member to one of the British relatives, Martin Cadman: "Your government and ours know exactly what happened. But they're never going to tell." The statement first came to public attention in the 1994 documentary film The Maltese Double Cross – Lockerbie and was published in both The Guardian of 29 July 1995, and a special report from Private Eye magazine entitled Lockerbie, the flight from justice May/June 2001. Dalyell asserted in Parliament that the statement had never been refuted.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Megrahi application to European Court of Human Rights dismissed

[On this date in 2003 an application by Abdelbaset Megrahi to the European Court of Human Rights was dismissed:]

On 12 September 2002 the applicant’s defence team lodged an application (number 33955/02) with the European Court of Human Rights in which they argued that the applicant’s right to a fair trial had been infringed by, inter alia, prejudicial pre-trial publicity. On 11 February 2003 the court ruled the application inadmissible on the basis that the applicant had failed to exhaust domestic remedies by raising these issues in the domestic forum.

[RB: The application was made on the advice of English human rights lawyers consulted by Megrahi's Scottish solicitor. There were Scottish lawyers (I was one) who took the view that the application would be unsuccessful because of failure to exhaust domestic remedies (such as application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission). 

The background to the unsuccessful application is outlined in the following report on the BBC News website:]

The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is having his case taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Lawyers for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi have lodged a petition in which they allege the Libyan's human rights were breached during his trial and subsequent appeal at the special Scottish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Megrahi was jailed for life for the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over the Scottish town, in which 270 people died.

He was moved to Glasgow Barlinnie prison in March when he lost an appeal against his murder conviction.

The lawyers who represented him during his appeal have since been replaced.
Eddie MacKechnie, who is now representing Megrahi, said that his client's trial and subsequent appeal under Scottish courts was flawed in several key respects.

Speaking at a press conference in Glasgow, Mr MacKechnie said he believed Megrahi was innocent and was the victim of a massive miscarriage of justice.

He said: "My client's right to a fair trial was prejudiced by unfair publicity and public statements by officials here and abroad.

"This extended over years. His photo and that of is his co-accused were circulated all over the world.

"There was a failure to disclose material information to the defence. The court failed to make sure the defence had access to key information and left it up to the Crown to decide what information was given."

The solicitor also cited intervention by the US government and its defence organisations, particularly the CIA, in the case as further grounds for the action. (...)

Mr MacKechnie acknowledged the European Court had no power to release Megrahi, but said he believed the Government in Britain would bow to pressure if the complaint was upheld.

He said he expected the process of bringing the case to court would take about a year, including the time to decide whether there was a case to answer.

He added that an application was being prepared to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission on Megrahi's behalf alleging among other things that his defence at the trial was inadequately handled.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"I am convinced the verdict should be overturned"

[What follows is the text of a report that appeared in the Daily Mail in this date in 2007:]

The Lockerbie bomber could be freed after dramatic new claims that key evidence which helped convict him was tampered with. A confidential report says items of evidence which led to Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi being found guilty of mass murder were 'interfered' with before his murder trial.

A former senior Scottish detective who worked on the Lockerbie inquiry team has told lawyers reviewing Megrahi's case about his concerns over the authenticity of certain 'labels and productions' relating to the atrocity. The ex-officer claims that one key item of evidence - an instruction manual for a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder allegedly discovered at the crash site - was used to help lay a trail that would lead to the'bomber'.  He claims the evidence became central to the case against Megrahi and helped convict him of the world's biggest terrorist atrocity before 9/11. Last night, Jim Swire, father of one of the Lockerbie victims, said: 'There has been a monumental conspiracy of cover-up involving the British and American governments for the past 18 years. Megrahi should be released and allowed to return home to his family.'

If the former police officer's statement is accepted by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, Megrahi could win a retrial or have his conviction quashed. The astonishing account by the ex-policeman, given the codename The Golfer to protect his anonymity, is contained in asubmission of new evidence to the commission.  The report - complied by Megrahi's lawyers - also questions the credibility and integrity of key  prosecution witnesses and some police officers and forensic experts.

Yesterday, Dr Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing and has campaigned vigorously for an independent and public inquiry into the affair, said: 'I listened to the entire evidence through Megrahi's trial and appeal. On the basis of that, and further information obtained since, I am convinced the verdict should be overturned. 'Megrahi should be released and allowed to return home to his family. I hope this will be done through the Scottish criminal justice system because if it isn't, the international reputation of that system will be wrecked for ever. 'There has been a monumental conspiracy of cover-up involving the British and American governments for the past 18 years. ' We need to sweep that aside and create a forum with integrity that will give us the answers we crave to the many questions that remain. 'If and when Megrahi is freed, I believe the case for an inquiry will become irresistible.'

Megrahi is currently serving life, with a minimum 27-year term, at Greenock Prison. The commission is expected to make a decision on whether to refer the case back to the Appeal Court by the end of next month.Megrahi's legal team believes the new evidence is so strong that his eventual release is all but guaranteed. Last night, retired Labour MP Tarn Dalyell, who has campaigned tirelessly for years to establish the truth of the Lockerbie bombing, said: 'The Daily Mail confirms the belief I have always had that Megrahi was a sanctions buster for Libyan Arab Airlines and the Libyan oil industry and had nothing to do with the Lockerbie crime. 'I welcome what the Mail is doing and thank them for their long-term interest.'

[RB: The SCCRC did refer Megrahi’s conviction to the High Court, but did not find The Golfer’s evidence persuasive.]

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Libya crushes hopes of Lockerbie bombing trial

[This is the headline over a report published in The Guardian on this date in 1999. It reads as follows:]

Hopes for a handover of the Lockerbie bombing suspects faded yesterday after Libya insisted that, if convicted in a Western court over the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland, the two men would have to serve any prison sentence in their own country and not in Scotland, as Britain and the United States demand.

In what sounded like the definitive word on a crucial issue, Libya's foreign minister, Omar al-Muntasser, said there was 'no alternative' to imprisonment in Libya.

With Washington pressing for stronger economic sanctions against Libya over the Lockerbie affair - which took 270 lives in the worst case of terrorism in contemporary British history - the blunt statement could mean the collapse of months of delicate international negotiations.

Mr Muntasser was reacting to a declaration by Robin Cook, Britain's Foreign Secretary, that there was 'no alternative' to the two accused being imprisoned in Scotland if found guilty in a trial in the Netherlands.

The Libyan minister's unequivocal public remarks are highly significant because he has been seen in the past as a moderate who was privately ready to accept the British and American conditions for finally bringing to justice the Libyan intelligence officers alleged to be the bombers - Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

'There is no alternative to serving any sentence in Libya,' he said flatly. 'If we were to accept that they be jailed in Scotland, we would have accepted such a trial years ago.'

Only last week Mr Muntasser had given the impression that agreement on a handover was 'very close', in talks in Tripoli with Lord Steel, the Liberal Democrat peer, and Sir Cyril Townsend, chairman of the Council for Arab-British understanding.

'I discussed all the options with Mr Muntasser and he did not say this,' Lord Steel said yesterday. 'This is why people despair of negotiations with the Libyans, because they keep giving these contradictory statements.'

Sir Cyril said: 'We came away with the impression that it was more likely than not that the two would be handed over for a trial.'

It was only six months ago that Britain and the US agreed to a third-country trial. They did so because they recognised that the sanctions were being eroded - especially by African and Arab states, some of whom have secretly been receiving Libyan cash support or cheap oil.

Britain argues that having long demanded a trial in a third country, Colonel Muammar Gadafy, Libya's leader, should now send his men to the Netherlands.

Both sides now say that Tripoli has accepted that the United Nations sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992 would be effectively 'lifted' as soon as the suspects were extradited to the Netherlands, where a former Nato air base near Utrecht is being prepared for a trial.

[RB: The two suspects surrendered for trial at Camp Zeist on 5 April 1999, less than two months later. Reading between the lines of Libyan officials’ Lockerbie statements was a talent that was greatly under-developed in British journalists.]

Monday, 8 February 2016

MacAskill book ‘likely to focus on politics behind Lockerbie’

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

Campaigners who believe Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing have said they doubt if a former justice secretary’s book on the atrocity will shed any further light on it.
Kenny MacAskill’s book will likely give his version of the period leading up to the release the terminally-ill Megrahi on compassionate grounds, and the subsequent international condemnation of the decision after the Libyan agent went on to live for a further three years.
It is said to include new details about MacAskill’s own investigation into the bombing, but Iain McKie, a retired police officer and leading member of the Justice for Megrahi (JfM) group, told The National he doubted that the MSP was cashing in on the case: “I would certainly hope that’s not the case. Surely anything of that nature should have been revealed long before now.
“I think it is more likely to focus on the political machinations surrounding the disaster both at home and abroad, but it is another indication that this is not going to go away.
“Reports on two police inquiries have still to be published, there is a documentary planned for later in the year and there is another book, and I think the relatives – for whom I have the deepest sympathy – deserve to know the truth.”
Robert Black QC, professor emeritus of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, who is a native of Lockerbie and a prominent member of JfM, added: “I very much doubt that Kenny’s book will add anything substantial to the sum of human knowledge on Lockerbie.
“I know it’s said that he’s conducted his own investigations, but I find it difficult to believe he can have uncovered anything that hasn’t already been brought into to public domain by Dr Morag Kerr (Adequately Explained by Stupidity: Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies) and John Ashton (Megrahi: You Are My Jury).
“If he has discovered evidence pointing to the guilt of others (Libyan or non-Libyan) or that in his view confirms the guilt of Megrahi, then he’s duty bound to have passed this on to the police and/or the Crown Office (who say that Lockerbie remains an open investigation) who would undoubtedly adjure him not to go public with the evidence.
“I find it utterly impossible to believe that a former Cabinet Secretary for Justice would ignore such a request or instruction.
“I therefore suspect that the book will deal virtually exclusively with Kenny’s role in the run-up to Megrahi’s compassionate release.”
American Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora in the bombing, said she was sceptical about the book.
“Do we really think MacAskill will tell us the truth?
“It will just be an exercise in self-serving and some attempt to protect what he thinks is his legacy,” she said.
“I find it disgusting.”

Megrahi's first appeal

[What follows is the text of a report by Gerard Seenan in The Guardian on this date in 2001:]

The Libyan intelligence officer who was jailed for life for the Lockerbie bombing yesterday lodged an appeal against the conviction.

Lawyers for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, 49, filed the appeal at the high court in Edinburgh. If leave to appeal is granted, five judges will decide within six months whether Megrahi's conviction should stand.

Robert Black QC, the Edinburgh law professor who was the architect of the trial, said it was unlikely that Megrahi would be denied the right to an appeal.

Last week Megrahi was sentenced to life, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 20 years, for the murder of the 270 who died in the Lockerbie bombing. In their ruling the judges said there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Megrahi had planted the bomb in a suitcase on a plane leaving Luqa airport in Malta. The suitcase was loaded on to Pan Am flight 103 in London.

But the judges conceded the evidence before the court was open to interpretation.

Grounds for the appeal will not be made public until the full hearing, which will be held in Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in May at the earliest.

But it is unlikely that there will be any fresh evidence and Prof Black said the appeal would likely be made on any of three legal grounds.

Ground A would be that certain findings, including the acceptance that Megrahi bought the clothes which surrounded the bomb, were not justified by the evidence. Ground B would be that the evidence does not justify the findings in fact that there was a piece of baggage which was sent unaccompanied from Malta to Heathrow. The third ground would be that the evidence as a whole does not justify proof beyond reasonable doubt of guilt.'

Since the return to Libya of Megrahi's co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, who was acquitted, there have been protests against Megrahi's conviction.

[RB: Megrahi’s legal advisers did not adopt the lines of appeal that I suggested. What they did do, and how disastrously it turned out, can be read here (section entitled THE APPEAL). It was only after this appeal failed that Megrahi belatedly sacked the legal team that represented him there and at the trial.]

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Pan Am 103: Lockerbie verdict politically motivated

[This is the headline over an article by Steve James and Chris Marsden that was published on the World Socialist Web Site on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

The guilty verdict issued on January 31 by three Scottish judges at the conclusion of the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie trial is unsound by all normal legal criteria.
The trial of the two Libyans accused of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 began on May 3 last year. It was held under Scottish law at a specially constructed court in the Netherlands. With the agreement of the defence and prosecution, the case was heard without a jury before a bench of three Scottish judges. On January 31, after 84 days of evidence and controversy, and many weeks of adjournments, Abdelbaset Ali Muhammad Al-Megrahi was found guilty of planting a Semtex-packed cassette player on board the Boeing 747, which destroyed the plane, killing its 259 passengers and crew, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents. However, his sole alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted on all charges.
The Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing was an indiscriminate terrorist attack upon innocent air travellers, many of whom were US students returning home for the Christmas holiday. But the horrific nature of the crime must not be allowed to obscure the fact that the prosecution case against the two Libyans was an extremely weak one, which under normal circumstances would have been thrown out of court. Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, has said he was "absolutely astounded" that Al Megrahi had been found guilty. Black said he believed the prosecution had "a very, very weak circumstantial case" and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would "convict anyone, even a Libyan" on such evidence. This view is supported by some of the families of UK victims of the bombing, who are calling for a public inquiry to find "the truth of who was responsible and what the motive was".
In their 82-page verdict, the Scottish judges—Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean—expose the weakness of the prosecution case and how they ignored, or simply dismissed, a mass of contradictory forensic and circumstantial evidence in order to bring a guilty verdict against Al Megrahi.
Significantly they rejected in its entirety the defence argument that other individuals and groups—namely the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)—were responsible for the bomb, on the grounds that the evidence against them was circumstantial and inconclusive.
This raises the question, why was there such a discrepancy between the standards applied to the defence's arguments seeking to implicate others for the bombing and those employed by the prosecution against Al Megrahi? The case against the two Libyans was no less circumstantial and flimsy, a fact acknowledged in part by the acquittal of Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. Under Scottish law, moreover, it was possible to return a verdict of “not proven” that would free but not completely exonerate Al Megrahi on the basis that the court could not accept his guilt "beyond reasonable doubt".
An explanation as to why a guilty verdict was delivered must be sought in the political rather than the judicial arena. The demonisation of the “rogue state” Libya has long played an important part of US policy in the Middle East. Libyan leader Colonel Gadhaffi's anti-imperialist rhetoric, his regime's support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israel all drew the ire of the US, which designated Libya a "terrorist" nation in 1979. In 1986 the US bombed Tripoli and Benghazi, in an action launched from British bases that killed Gadhaffi's daughter. The US imposed unilateral economic sanctions the same year, and led the calls for UN-approved sanctions to be imposed in 1992.
It is against this political background that the Lockerbie investigation and eventual trial must be evaluated. Initial police investigations focused on the claim that it was a reprisal attack for the unprovoked US shooting down of an Iranian Airbus six months before the Pan Am bombing, in which all 290 people on board were killed. This possible reprisal was alleged to have been financed by the Iranian regime, which had hired the Syrian backed PFLP-GC to carry out the Pan Am bombing. In 1990, however, the Republican administration in the US, led by President George Bush, placed maximum pressure on the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher in Britain to drop this line of inquiry. According to relatives of those killed in the disaster, Thatcher refused a public inquiry at this time, on the grounds that it was against the "national interest".
Accusations of Libyan responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing first emerged during US preparations for the assault on Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. In their efforts to assemble support for military aggression against Iraq by NATO, US officials shuttled frantically around the various Arab regimes in the Middle East. Secretary of State James Baker visited Syria on numerous occasions in 1990 and Bush himself pronounced that Syria had taken a "bum rap" over the bombing (i.e. that it was not responsible).
Libya, which stood out in opposition to the US attack on Iraq, became the focus of political and media blame for the Lockerbie bombing. In 1992 a UN resolution imposed economic sanctions against Libya after it refused to hand over Al Megrahi and Fhimah for trial in Britain or America, and demanded compensation payment be made, should the Libyans be found guilty.
Washington and London never expected Libya to hand over its own citizens, including at least one of its intelligence officers, Al Megrahi. But this became possible through the efforts of Gadhaffi's regime to initiate a rapprochement with the West, and the major European powers in particular. From 1994 onwards, Tripoli repeatedly offered its citizens up for trial, provided only this was on "neutral" territory.
Over the next few years, Gadhaffi sought to cultivate the support of the European powers. He acted as mediator in conflicts such as the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudanese civil war and the war in Sierra Leone—while signing numerous oil and other commercial deals with Italian and French companies.
Resolving the outstanding issue of Lockerbie became essential for the US and Britain if they were not to be left out of the rich pickings now being made available in Libya, a country whose oil reserves are equivalent to those of the US. Negotiations commenced in earnest in 1999, culminating in the suspension of UN sanctions against Libya on April 5, after the US, Britain and Libya agreed on the hand-over and conditions for the trial of the two men in the Netherlands.
The US continued to take a harder stance against Libya than Europe. It did not agree to the lifting of UN sanctions, and opposed the efforts of Britain and others to restore diplomatic relations—demanding that Libya "end and renounce all forms of terrorism" and "acknowledge responsibility for the actions of Libyan officials" with regards to the Pan Am bombing. But it nevertheless did offer the prospect of a normalisation of relations in future. In a 1999 speech to the Middle East Institute, a US foreign policy think-tank, for example, Ronald Neumann proclaimed that "Libya's surrender of the Pan Am 103 suspects for trial and the ensuing suspension of international sanctions have changed the political landscape of the last ten years... Libya is not Iraq. We do not seek to maintain sanctions until there is a change of regime in Tripoli. We have seen definite changes in Libya's behavior, specifically declining support for terrorism and increasing support for peace processes in the Middle East and Africa."
A rapprochement with Libya had to take place on US terms, however. This meant accepting the validity of US assertions of Libya's guilt for the bombing, even seeking to solicit a public acknowledgement of this from Gadhaffi. In order to justify more than a decade of US-led hostilities against Libya, therefore, it was essential that at least one of the defendants was found guilty, despite the threadbare character of the case against them.
It is impossible, on the basis of the evidence presented in the Netherlands, to ascertain who was truly responsible for the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing. Al Megrahi's guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt, but nor was his innocence. Nothing presented definitively ruled out Libyan involvement in the bombing, but nor did the trial exclude the possible involvement of Syria, Iran or several Palestinian groups. Of all the possible scenarios, the one, which received least scrutiny, was the possibility raised by some interested parties that the bombing was the inadvertent product of a CIA operation that badly backfired. But the purpose of the trial was never the search to expose the truth about this terrible attack. Instead the verdict provides the US with the necessary propaganda vehicle through which it can continue to exert maximum pressure on Libya to accede to its demands, and thereby strengthen America's grip on the entire Middle East region.
Gadhaffi has so far refused to accept American calls to acknowledge Libya's guilt regarding Pan Am 103 and has even promised to release new information proving Al Megrahi's innocence. But he has not done so yet, however. Given that it was Gadhaffi who agreed to hand over the two accused in 1999, his outrage seems largely designed for domestic consumption. It is also directed against what he no doubt sees as the failure of the US and Britain to honour their tacit agreement to limit the matter to a criminal trial of the two individuals accused, and not to use it to continue attacking his government. Given the bellicose stance of the newly installed Bush administration regarding Middle East policy, such fears appear well founded.

Kenny MacAskill accused of ‘cashing in’ with book on Lockerbie bomber release

This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Sunday Post. It reads in part:]

The former Justice Secretary has been accused of cashing in after he signed a publishing deal which will see him give his account of the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but served just eight years of his sentence before being freed in 2009 because he had cancer and doctors said he would be dead within three months.

It is understood the book will see MacAskill give his version of the period building up to releasing Megrahi and the international condemnation of the decision to free the Libyan intelligence agent, who went on to live for three more years.

MacAskill’s move last night sparked outrage from American Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter Theodora.

She said: “I view this book with extreme scepticism. Do we really think MacAskill will tell us the truth? It will just be an exercise in self-serving and some attempt to protect what he thinks is his legacy.

“I don’t care what he has to say, how tough the decision was or any of that.

“There has been this sort of industry grown up around Lockerbie, much like we see with many other disasters or terrorist incidents, where people make money from books or films.

“I find it disgusting frankly.”

She added: “I stand by my view that the release of Megrahi was a disgusting capitulation.

“The man murdered 270 people and lived on for years after we were told he was at death’s door, it was an embarrassment to your government.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “The SNP bent over backwards to set Megrahi free and a lot of people are still angry about that fact.

“It’s scandalous that Kenny MacAskill now feels the need to make money out of this case. Once again, it’s the victims’ families and friends who are set to suffer.” (...)

Megrahi, who always maintained his innocence, was found guilty of the bombing in 2001 and seven years later it was revealed the Libyan had “advanced stage” prostate cancer.

The then Justice Secretary MacAskill released Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, sparking international condemnation with US president Barack Obama branding the decision “a mistake”.

MacAskill said he stood by his decision and would “live with the consequences”.

The veteran SNP figure and former lawyer is stepping down from Holyrood next month after 17 years as an MSP to pursue a “third career”. (...)

One SNP insider said: “Kenny couldn’t speak about the issue as frankly and freely as he would have liked at the time because he was in government.

“Any suggestion he is cashing in is wide of the mark.

“There is a lot to tell, much of which couldn’t be told at the time, so I think it is right that people get to hear the back story to such a momentous decision.”

Mr MacAskill confirmed the book deal when approached by the Sunday Post on Friday but declined to comment further.

[RB: I find it mildly amusing that UK news media seeking comments from Lockerbie victims’ families always approach US families (and usually one particular person, whose comments can be guaranteed to be colourful) rather than UK relatives whose contributions are usually more measured.

A report on the Daily Record website contains the following quote from a UK relative:]

Pam Dix, whose brother Peter died in the atrocity, yesterday said: “I am baffled as to what he can add to the extensive debate on ­Lockerbie and what his own investigation could consist of that could be of any substance.”