Friday, September 11, 2009

Lockerbie : Doesn’t the truth matter ?


The casual dishonesty or ignorance of FBI Director Robert Mueller and much of the media ignores the evidence in the Lockerbie case shows Megrahi’s trial was a sham. The history behind Lockerbie also shows that sending our military abroad is as likely to put us in danger and cost civilian lives as to protect them, whether the Libyan government, the Iranian government, or both, were those seeking revenge.

Michael Shields, another man wrongly convicted of murder, has just been released on the orders of British home secretary Jack Straw, because he was innocent of the crime he was accused of. If his release doesn’t lead to outrage, why does Megrahi’s?

The Scottish government has so far not gone far enough towards facing the truth that Scottish judges were politically influenced and Scottish courts compromised, though that may be change if they back a public inquiry. The judges' verdict was entirely inconsistent, accepting the testimony of witnesses where it backed the prosecution case, while simultaneously rubbishing the same witnesses as unreliable where their testimony flatly contradicted the prosecution case.

The British and American governments meanwhile present the usual propaganda line about sending the military abroad making us safer. In fact the US government’s decision to arm and fund Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war led to the USS Vincennes shooting down an Iranian airliner, killing 298 civilians; and to the Iranian government believing this was a deliberate act. The Lockerbie bombing may well have been a revenge attack resulting from this. Far from making us safer our governments’ foreign policies have cost civilians’ lives abroad and caused terrorist revenge attacks. There are also serious questions about how the bomb got on the plane in the first place.

Many commentators, newspapers and TV stations have provided hard-hitting commentary on the Megrahi case. The problem is most of them either don’t know the facts or else have casual contempt for the truth. Gaddafi and Libyan intelligence may or may not have been involved in the Lockerbie bombing, but there is no solid evidence that they were.

One rule for foreigners, another for white, English speaking people?

Yesterday a convicted attempted murderer was released from prison on the orders of a politician. He was found guilty by a court of trying to beat a Bulgarian man to death with a paving slab. The freed man’s name is Michael Shields and he was released, rightly, on the orders of British Home Secretary Jack Straw, because the evidence showed he was innocent. I’m glad he’s been released. There was no outrage, because despite being convicted, he wasn’t guilty. Yet in Megrahi’s case it’s very different. Almost every news report, with no attempt at unbiased coverage, refers to him as “the Lockerbie bomber” or “convicted mass murderer”, ignoring the fact that his trial was a sham (1).

Ignorance at the highest level? : Or Casual Contempt for the Truth

FBI Director Robert Mueller claimed in his letter to Kenny MacAskill that Megrahi had been convicted by a “jury” under “due process” (2). The Observer newspaper meanwhile claimed that “there was enough incriminating testimony by others for a jury to find him guilty” (3).

The slight problem here is that there was no jury at Megrahi’s trial. There were three judges, appointed by the Lord Advocate, a political appointee. Are the Director of the FBI and the Editor of the Observer really so poorly informed and briefed that they hadn’t even checked the most basic facts? Or, in Mueller’s case, is he dishonest?

Are show trials with bribed witnesses and tampered evidence good enough?; Can the same witness be simultaneously reliable and unreliable

British human rights and newspaper columnist lawyer Geoffrey Robertson is one of those claiming that Megrahi was found guilty by a court of judges and so is guilty (4).

Robertson also lambasts the lack of “due process” in Megrahi’s trial, while Dominic Lawson says that “Justice was what the Scottish court honoured when sentencing the Libyan to imprisonment for life”(5).

The core argument is that Megrahi was convicted by a court and so he’s been proven guilty.

Would any of these people think it was fair if they were on trial and there was no jury?

Would they be happy if one of the prosecution witnesses was shown photos and articles identifying them as being guilty – and that witness then identified them – and was subsequently paid $2 million?

That’s exactly what happened in the case of Tony Gauci, one of the key witnesses at Megrahi’s trial, who was paid $2 million by the US government after the trial (6), (7), (8).

The Lockerbie verdict, which is available online, is full of statements by the judges that show that they accepted any evidence from any witness that supported the prosecution’s case, while dismissing testimony from the same witnesses – e.g Edwin Bollier – where it contradicted the prosecution case. It’s obvious from this that the judges were biased towards the prosecution and against the defence – and were not impartial in their judgement. It’s not impossible that witnesses were being threatened and or offered bribes by both sides – the CIA and Libyan intelligence – but to rubbish testimony from witnesses like Tony Gauci and Edwin Bollier as belonging “in the realm of fiction” where it contradicts the prosecution case and then taking it as gospel truth where it supports the prosecution case is not credible (9).

The verdict delivered by the judges at Megrahi’s trial included a self-contradictory reference to Gauci as a witness who tried to give “the false impression” that “his continued association with the American authorities was largely motivated by financial considerations” and that “information provided by a paid informer is always open to the criticism that it may be invented...and in our view this is a case where such criticism is more than usually justified”. (Of course there may well be reason to think Gauci’s boasting about being paid for his testimony wasn’t false) (10).

Hans Koechler, a UN observer at the trial, UN Observer Hans Koechler said the verdict was inconsistent due to British and American government political pressure on the judges (11), (12).

Would Mueller or Lawson be happy if evidence in their own trial was tampered with and expert witnesses’ opinions ignored? Edwin Bollier, who was brought in as a witness on the bomb timer fragment produced by the prosecution, says the fragment was tampered with between him first being shown it – and saying it didn’t match the type his firm sold to Libyan intelligence – and it being presented in court. He also says his views were ignored in court (13).

Scottish Law Professor Robert Black, who helped establish the trial, said that the prosecution case against Megrahi was so weak that “if the evidence had come out in front of a Scottish jury of 15 there is absolutely no way he would have been convicted” (14).

UN Observer Hans Koechler also said that the denial of Megrahi’s appeal for a re-trial in 2002 was “a spectacular miscarriage of justice” (15), (16).

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2007 found that there were many serious problems with the original trial and recommended that Megrahi be granted an appeal. It’s full report has never been published but a press release summarising it has (17).

Yet those who say Megrahi was guilty simply repeat that a court found him guilty (along with the inaccurate claims about juries and “due process”).

Everything else is dismissed. So is any trial, however unfair, justice now? If so then the victim’s of Stalin’s show trials would have been guilty; after all, the judges said they were. If Megrahi’s trial is what passes for justice in Scotland then we should weep for shame. Those shouting most loudly about their “outrage” and “shame” at Megrahi’s release are the ones who should be ashamed of defending a show trial that jailed a man who may well be innocent for a decade while the guilty, whoever they may be, still go free.

I am not defending Gaddafi or his dictatorship. He has had dissidents in his country tortured, murdered and assassinated in exile. His own government has jailed many dissidents for decades without any fair trial. They would like to see their families just as much as Megrahi (18) – (20). (The US and British governments can’t criticise these as they have been complicit in many of them, gaining Libyan co-operation in ‘extra-ordinary rendition’ for torture and in murdering political pawns such as ‘curveball’ , silenced forever by Gaddafi to avoid US embarrassment over torturing nonsense ‘intelligence’ on Iraqi WMDs out of him (21) – (23).)

Gaddafi and Libyan intelligence were certainly involved in many terrorist acts, including, probably, the bombing of a French TWA flights and providing Semtex used by the IRA (24).

I don’t know what kind of a man Abdul Ali Basset Al Megrahi is. He was a member of Libyan intelligence under Megrahi. Libyan intelligence are not saints. They have been involved in torture, murder, assassination and terrorism. There is no evidence though that Megrahi or Gaddafi were involved in the Lockerbie bombing and in a democracy under the rule of law we don’t jail people without evidence they committed a crime. I have nothing against jailing any member of Libyan intelligence involved in terrorist acts. If they were involved they should be tried for those crimes – and Gaddafi too if he ordered those attacks.

I am not accusing the judges in the Lockerbie case of corruption either. They are more likely just to be biased political appointees and too easily influenced by the claims of the British and American governments and their intelligence agencies, which, despite being democratically elected, are no more honest or neutral than Gadaffi’s government.

Conspiracy theories ; and do foreign wars protect civilians from terrorism or get them killed by it?

Dominic Lawson rubbishes “the conspiracy theory” that Iran, not Libya, was behind the Lockerbie bombing, claiming that to believe it we would have to believe the US government wanted to protect the Iranian government, despite the hostility between the two.

He’s wrong, as usual. July 1988 was the last month of the Iran-Iraq war. It was also the month that the USS Vincennes, an American warship, shot down Iranian airliner, Iran Air flight 655, killing all 298 people on board. It wasn’t a coincidence that the war ended soon afterwards. The US government, along with many others, was backing, arming and funding Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq against Ayatollah Khomeini’s in Iran, continuing the funding even after Saddam gassed the Kurdish town of Halabja in the same year. (25) – (31)

While claiming Iraqi attacks on oil tankers were legitimate (Reagan even saying that “we have always recognised that in a time of war the enemy’s commerce and trade is a fair target”) the US decided it would protect oil tankers from Iranian attacks. In 1988 it decided to provide US Navy escorts to oil tankers in the Gulf (with the exception of Iranian ones), allowing them to re-flag as American. The Vincennes was one of the escorts, but entered Iranian waters and began a fight with Iranian navy vessels. During this fight the Vincennes’ crew did not use their identification systems properly, resulting in them shooting down an Iranian passenger plane, Iran Air Flight 655, killing all 298 people aboard (32), (33).

Given American support for Saddam throughout the war the Iranian government did not believe this was an accident. They thought it was a deliberate act and a threat that US forces were joining the war on the Iraqi side. Khomeini sued for peace with Iraq (34) – (36).

The Vincennes’ crew were given routine combat medals at the end of their tour and the US government refused to apologise for the deaths, though it did say it “regretted” them and paid compensation. Khomeini vowed that “the skies will rain blood” and offered a large amount of money to anyone who could bring down a plane full of Americans (37).

The initial investigations of Lockerbie found that the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian terrorist group backed by the Syrian government, was contracted by them on behalf of the Iranian government to place a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 (38) – (43).

The US government had deployed it’s military to defend Saddam. This led to almost 300 civilians being killed on Iran Air Flight 655, which resulted in the revenge attack which killed almost as many on Pam Am 103. This would not reflect well on them if it was reported internationally during a court case.

What’s more in the run up to the 1990 Gulf War the US wanted to isolate Saddam so that he couldn’t pose as defending the Arab world against them. It wanted Syria as part of the Coalition against Saddam and ideally Iranian neutrality and use of Iranian airspace. President Assad of Syria readily agreed (44).

So President Bush (senior) would announce that Syria “took a bum rap” on Lockerbie and Gaddafi and Libyan intelligence were responsible.

So the US government was not protecting the Iranian government, but itself and it’s military. Simultaneously it was showing that those governments who complied with US demands would be rewarded, just as those who refused to would be punished.

This does not mean that Libyan intelligence couldn’t also have been involved. Libyan intelligence co-operated with terrorist groups worldwide and was accused of bombing a disco in Germany in 1986, killing American soldiers. The US retaliation involved airstrikes on Tripoli in which it a military barracks, a school, houses and the French embassy, killing around 100 people, including Gaddafi’s adopted 1 year old daughter. The planes had been allowed to refuel in the UK, so Gaddafi certainly had a motive for revenge on both the American and British governments. No solid evidence of Libyan involvement in Lockerbie has emerged so far though (45), (46).

US intelligence agencies may also have had motives to obscure the truth about Lockerbie. In the 1980s the Iran-Contra scandal included revelations that Colonel Oliver North had been acting on behalf of the US Presidency to arm the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. As congress had passed a law banning any US funding for the contras money had to be found to pay for the arms. The same planes taking arms to the contras from the US brought drugs from central American countries to the US. Drug Enforcement Agency officers were informed by the CIA that they could not search these flights nor investigate them for reasons of national security. North was also in command of a US Defence Intelligence Agency operation relating to drug smuggling between Lebanon and Europe. Suitcases containing drugs were exempted from security checks at airports. If a bomb could be placed in one of the drugs shipments it wouldn’t be checked by airport security. Who placed the bomb remains unknown. Some say the PFLP-GC on behalf of Iran. Others believe that North and his associates had been rumbled by CIA officers who were going to reveal CIA involvement in drug smuggling from Lebanon – and that North had a bomb placed on the plane to silence them forever (47) – (53).

I don’t know which, if any, of these theories, is true.

However as Professor Robert Black wrote “for the judges to return verdicts of guilty they would require (i) to accept every incriminating inference that the Crown invited them to draw from evidence that was on the face of it neutral and capable of supporting quite innocent inferences, (ii) to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, positively identified Megrahi as the person who bought from his shop in Sliema the clothes and umbrella contained in the suitcase that held the bomb and (iii) to accept that the date of purchase of these items was proved to be December 7, 1988 (as distinct from November 23, 1988 when Megrahi was not present on Malta).

I went on rashly to express the opinion that, for the judges to be satisfied of all these matters on the evidence led at the trial, they would require to adopt the posture of the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, when she informed Alice: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." In convicting Megrahi, it is submitted that this is precisely what the trial judges did.” (54)

In other words the prosecution case at Megrahi’s trial was nothing but a conspiracy theory with no real evidence to back it up, requiring bribing witnesses and tampering with evidence to get even a politically appointed court with no jury to accept it.

What is certain is that Megrahi’s trial was unfair and manipulated by the US and British government and intelligence agencies. Whether they did this because they believed Megrahi and Gaddafi were guilty and didn’t have the evidence for a conviction, or because they wanted to avoid any link between Iran Air Flight 655 and Pam Am 103, or because they were covering up for official involvement in drug trafficking which allowed the bombers to get the device on the plane, I don’t know.

What seems certain is that Scottish courts were politically manipulated and the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 has been denied to the families of those who died over Lockerbie – and that military action abroad often kills far more civilians directly – and indirectly by inciting terrorist revenge attacks – than it saves.

That holds whether you believe Iran carried out Lockerbie without Libyan involvement, or that Libya was involved in the Lockerbie bombing. If Libya was involved revenge for the one hundred people, many civilians and children, killed in the US air strikes on Tripoli on 15th April 1986, would have been a motive (55). Revenge is not justice, it just kills innocent people, but there is no doubt that military action abroad routinely kills civilians and creates terrorist revenge attacks that otherwise would not have been carried out. It does not protect us. As in the cases of the July 7th bombings in London (linked to the Iraq war) and the Lockerbie bombing (linked to Iran Air Flight 655 and/or the bombing of Tripoli) it puts us in more danger.

(1) = Guardian 09 September 2009 ‘Released Liverpool fan Michael Shields tells of 'living hell' in jail’,

(2) = Times 23 Aug 2009 ‘Lockerbie bomber: Robert Mueller's letter to Kenny MacAskill’,

(3) = Observer 23 Aug 2009 ‘The shameful silence over Lockerbie’,

(4) = Independent 02 Sep 2009 ‘Geoffrey Robertson: Megrahi should never have been freed’,

(5) = Independent 25 Aug 2009 ‘Dominic Lawson: The Prime Minister's silence over Lockerbie is eloquent’,

(6) = Guardian 03 Oct 2007 ‘Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction’,

(7) = 28 Jun 2007 ‘Libyan granted new appeal over Lockerbie conviction’,

(8) = Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission 28 Jun 2007 ‘NEWS RELEASE


(10) = As (9) above, quoted and cited by Geoff Simons (2003) ‘Libya and The West’, Centre for Libyan Studies/I.B. Tauris, Oxford, UK, 2003, Chapter8 , pages 159-160

(11) = BBC News 21 Jan 2002 ‘Lockerbie verdict 'politically influenced'

(12) = Independent 21 Aug 2009 ‘Hans Köchler: I saw the trial – and the verdict made no sense’,

(13) = Observer 02 Sep 2007 ‘Vital Lockerbie evidence 'was tampered with'’,

(14) = Herald 21 Aug 2009 ‘This shameful miscarriage has gravely sullied the Scottish criminal justice system’ Professor Robert Black , ; also reproduced on his blog ‘The Lockerbie Case’ 21 Aug 2009 ,

(15) = BBC News 14 Mar 2002 ‘UN monitor decries Lockerbie judgement’,

(16) = The Firm (Scottish lawyers’ magazine) 10 Jun 2008 ‘UN Observer to the Lockerbie Trial says ‘totalitarian’ appeal process bears the hallmarks of an “intelligence operation”’,

(17) = Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission 28 Jun 2007 ‘NEWS RELEASE

(18) = Amnesty International World Report 2009 ‘

(19) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009 ‘

(20) = Geoff Simon (2003) ‘Libya and the West’, Centre for Libyan Studies/I.B. Tauris, Oxford, UK, 2003,p97-119

(21) = HRW 11 May 2009 ‘Libya/US: Investigate Death of Former CIA Prisoner’,

(22) = Washington Post 12 May 2009 ‘Detainee Who Gave False Iraq Data Dies In Prison in Libya’,

(23) = Human Rights Watch 07 Jun 2007 ‘Off the Record
U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror”

(24) = Geoff Simon (2003) ‘Libya and the West’, Centre for Libyan Studies/I.B. Tauris, Oxford, UK, 2003, Chapter 7

(25) = Newsweek 13 Jul 1992 ‘Sea of Lies : Sea Of Lies : The Inside Story Of How An American Naval Vessel Blundered Into An Attack On Iran Air Flight 655 At The Height Of Tensions During The Iran-Iraq War-And How The Pentagon Tried To Cover Its Tracks After 290 Innocent Civilians Died’,

(26) = Karsh, Efraim (2002) ‘The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988’ Osprey, London, 2002, p20-22,44-45,53-55

(27) = Washington Post 22 Mar 1992, ‘Gonzalez's Iraq Expose: Hill Chairman Details U.S. Prewar Courtship, Washington Post archive article here ; full article also reproduced at the Federation of American Scientists' website here ; This gives an account provided by A US Congressman based on information provided to congressional committees by the CIA.

(28) = Washington Post 5 Aug 1992, ‘GOP Seeks Probe of Gonzalez Over Iraq Data, Washington Post archive article here ; also reproduced in full at the Federation of American Scientists’ website at
Far from disputing the accuracy of Gonzalez's claims the Bush (senior) administration and the CIA instead stopped providing Gonzalez with intelligence briefings and attempted to have him censured by congress for releasing the information to the public

(29) = 'U.S. chemical and biological warfare-related dual use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian Gulf War'/ A report of Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Alfonse M. D’Amato of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with respect to export administration, United States Senate (1994) - Link to Library of Congress record

(30) = National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82, 25 Feb 2003 ‘
Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984’,

(31) = Freedman, Lawrence (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies : America Confronts the Middle East’, Orion, London, 2008, chapter 8, Pages 152-166 of hardback edition

(32) = Freedman, Lawrence (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies : America Confronts the Middle East’, Orion, London, 2008, chapter 10, Pages 194-206 of hardback edition

(33) = Newsweek 13 Jul 1992 ‘Sea of Lies : Sea Of Lies : The Inside Story Of How An American Naval Vessel Blundered Into An Attack On Iran Air Flight 655 At The Height Of Tensions During The Iran-Iraq War-And How The Pentagon Tried To Cover Its Tracks After 290 Innocent Civilians Died’,

(34) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174

(35) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233

(36) = NYT 15 Jul 1988 ‘Iran Falls Short in Drive at U.N. To Condemn U.S. in Airbus Case’,

(37) = Guardian 29 Jul 1995, SECTION: THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND, Page T22

(38) = See (37) above

(39) = Guardian 31 March 2004 ‘Lockerbie's dirty secret’, by Paul Foot,

(40) = Paul Foot (1989-2001) ‘The Great Lockerbie Whitewash’ in Pilger, John (ed.) (2005) ‘Tell Me No Lies’, Vintage/Random House, London, 2005, pages 214-254

(41) = Sunday Times 01 Jul 2007 ‘Unpicking the Lockerbie truth’,

(42) = Guardian 07 Apr 1999 ‘Lockerbie conspiracies: from A to Z ;
Based on a 1995 Guardian investigation by Paul Foot and John Ashton’,

(43) = Time magazine 24 Jun 2001 ‘Pan Am 103 Why Did They Die?’,,9171,159523,00.html

(44) = See (37) to (43) above

(45) = Geoff Simon (2003) ‘Libya and the West’, Centre for Libyan Studies/I.B. Tauris, Oxford, UK, 2003, Chapter 7, page 132 of hardback edition Ch7

(46) = Bovard, James (2003) ‘Terrorism and Tyranny’, Palgrave-MacMillan, NY,2003, Chapter 2, pages 24-26

(47) = Coleman, Lester K & Goddard, Donald (1993) ‘Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut to Lockerbie - Inside the DIA’

(48) = Levine , Michael (2000) Deep Cover , 2000 (Levine is a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent)

(49) = Scott , Peter Dale & Marshall , Jonathan(1998) Cocaine Politics University of California Press , LA & London ,1998

(50) = McCoy , Alfred (1991) The Politics of Heroin - CIA complicity in the global drug trade Lawrence Hill , New York ,1991

(51) = Cockburn , Alexander & St.Clair , Jeffrey (1998) Whiteout - The CIA , Drugs & The Press Verso , London & New York , 1998

(52) =
(this is a wikipedia entry but provides reliable sources - including the Kerry report - a congressional inquiry into links between drug traffickers, the contras and the CIA - and FBI investigations)

(53) = John Ashton & Ian Ferguson (2001) ‘Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie’, Mainstream Publishing, 2001

(54) = Herald 21 Aug 2009 ‘This shameful miscarriage has gravely sullied the Scottish criminal justice system’ Professor Robert Black ,

(55) = Geoff Simon (2003) ‘Libya and the West’, Centre for Libyan Studies/I.B. Tauris, Oxford, UK, 2003, Chapter 7, page 132 of hardback edition


baz said...

A very good article (and very well referenced) although the Lord Advocate didn't appoint the Judges. Ostensibly the Chief Clerk to the Lord Chief Justice would have appointed the three although I suppose those appointed were essentially volunteers. (I also suspect the Judiciary collectively regarded "Camp Zeist" as an abomination.)

It was the Libyans' lawyer Dr Legwell who objected to a Jury trial.

While I don't like to criticise articles for what is omitted I would suggest that the relationship between Libya and the PIRA was crucial for understanding why Libya was blamed and that the objective of the Indictment was not to bring the accused to trial but to impose UN Sanctions with the objective of regime change.

calgacus said...

Hi baz,
Thanks for the corrections and it's fine to point out omissions as far as i'm concerned.

I can see why the British government might have wanted sanctions on Libya over it's backing for the IRA, but my impression was that Gadaffi refusing oil exploration and drilling contracts to US and British firms was the main motive (though the IRA links may have been just as important to the British government)