Monday, 6 April 2015

Thatcher denied all knowledge of Lockerbie

This is a short chapter from our upcoming book "Lockerbie". The book is the basis for a film by a multi-Oscar nominated director. If you are an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, you may be in for a shock when you read this. 

Chapter 7. The Lady’s not for Remembrance.

November 1993.

The Downing Street Years,[1] the official memoirs of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, became an immediate best seller around the globe. 

One day after the Lockerbie explosion she walked upon the field where lay the crushed cockpit of Maid of the Seas. By the Church of Tundergarth Main she stood wrapped against the Scottish cold, around her across the hills and streets and gardens lay two hundred and seventy bodies and bits of bodies and a broken town. 

Moving through the debris, she commented “One has never seen or ever thought to have seen anything like it. And I don’t think anyone else has, either. I went to the other site where the petrol contained in the wing exploded. Many houses were damaged, it looks very much worse in daylight.” [2]

Her memories regarding other happenings around the time of Lockerbie were interesting. While at the Rhodes European Council[3] of December 1988, she was invited by German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl to meet him at his home in the charming village of Deidesheim near Ludwigshafen in the Rhineland-Palatinat. 

During a subsequent visit in the spring of 1989, she remembered that "lunch was potato soup, pig’s stomach (which the German Chancellor clearly enjoyed), sausage, liver dumplings and sauerkraut." They drove together to the great cathedral at Speyer, in whose crypt were to be found the tombs of at least four holy roman emperors. She recalled that as the party entered the cathedral the organ struck up a Bach fugue.  

In July 1989, on a visit to the USA, she remembered standing in the heat of Houston, Texas, and remained untroubled in the hot sun.[4] The Americans had fitted underground air conditioning and blew cool air from below so that the assembled dignitaries would feel comfortable.  

Among the important international events of 1990 she mentioned the restoration of relationships with the Syrians. She related that immediately after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, she and President Bush assembled their potential allies. Turkey was one of the first on the list, and soon came President Assad's Syria, whom she saw as “a less savoury ally" against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. 

Indeed, three years earlier, just weeks after the April 1986 American bombing of Tripoli, the Syrian government had backed an attempt by a terrorist, Nezar Hindawi, to plant a bomb on an El Al aircraft at Heathrow. This too she recalls in some detail.[5]
Nine months after the night of the Lockerbie attack, she travelled to Siberian Russia on a stopover from Tokyo. Her plane refuelled at the frozen town of Bratsk. In her diary she recorded finding herself in a chilly barn-like building with local Communist Party leaders, engrossed in two hours of coffee and conversation regarding the intricacies of growing beetroot in a Russian climate. 

As she departed, firmly imprinted on her excellent memory was the request by Oleg, the KGB guard outside the door, who asked for a signed photograph. This she immediately provided, and then - equally quickly observed - a general request for more photographs.[6]

Yet that freezing Lockerbie hillside and town strewn with the remains of the dead; our first traumatic memorial service in Dryfesdale Parish church; repeated pleadings by the bereaved for a personal hearing at Downing Street; revelations of international terrorism on a massive scale; German, Iranian, Syrian and Palestinian reputations questioned; the most severe peace-time attack on her nation since the Second World War[7] – all in some mysterious way were expunged from her version of British history. 

Among nine hundred and fourteen pages of tightly written text, hidden deep in the chronology, the reader would find but four words: ‘December 21 - Lockerbie bombing’.

Such an event demanded an entire chapter of its own. Yet not a word, not a whisper. Could it be that the Lady wished to erase the event from British and world memory? That would have been a naive expectation, and Thatcher, above all things, was not naive. 

We bereaved sent her a respectful and polite letter, asking why her memoirs made no mention of our tragedy. She replied regally "We wish to add nothing to the text". This, from the comfort of her Chester Square home she presumed to be sufficient of a reply. 

It would take a further fifteen years before another angle to the story would emerge. In August 2009 the then retired Member of Parliament for Linlithgow and Father of the House Tam Dalyell revealed that in 2002, in a conversation with Thatcher, she claimed that she had not written about Lockerbie because she “knew nothing” of Lockerbie. [8]

"I was the chairman of the all-party House of Commons group on Latin America” explained Dalyell. “I had hosted Dr Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, between the time that he won the election and formally took control in Bogota. The Colombian ambassador Victor Ricardo invited me to dinner at his residence as Dr Uribe wanted to continue the conversations with me.” 

“South Americans are very polite. A woman, even a widow, never goes alone into a formal dinner. And so, to make up numbers, Ricardo invited me to accompany his neighbour Margaret Thatcher. I had not spoken to her, nor her to me, for seventeen years."

"As we were sitting down to dinner, I tried to break the ice with a joke about a recent vandal attack on her statue in the Guildhall. I said I was sorry about the damage.” 

“She replied pleasantly: 'Tam, I'm not sorry for myself, but I am sorry for the sculptor.'" 

Raising the soup spoon I ventured: 'Margaret, tell me one thing - why in eight hundred pages...'"

"She purred with obvious pleasure. 'Have you read my autobiography?'"

"‘Yes, I have read it. Very carefully. Why in eight hundred pages did you not mention Lockerbie?'"

"She replied: 'Because I didn't know what happened and I don't write about things that I don't know about.'"

"My jaw dropped. 'You don't know? But, quite properly as Prime Minister, you went to Lockerbie. You witnessed it firsthand.'"

"She insisted: 'Yes, but I don't know about it and I don't write in my autobiography things I don't know about.'" [9]

But she did write on the subject of Lockerbie, not in another autobiography, but in her 2002 publication Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World. In it she simply says: “Libya was clearly behind the bombing of Pan Am 103... [Ali al-Megrahi] was a Libyan intelligence agent, and it exceeds the bounds of credibility to imagine that he was not doing the Libyan leader’s bidding.” 

This, in a four hundred and seventy page lecture to the world, was her entire arsenal of proof that al-Megrahi was guilty of the attack.[10]

In a documentary film to be discussed in my next chapter, Thatcher was filmed while standing among the wreckage and human remains of Lockerbie. She addressed her nation: “It is very moving indeed, because there are a lot of personal possessions lying about. Speculation is not evidence. They are systematically examining the evidence.” From the assembled dignitaries came nods of shocked assent. 

Yet still the Prime Minister of Great Britain went to her grave claiming that she knew nothing of Lockerbie. 

[1] Published by Harper Collins, November 1993.

[2] BBC television news, 22nd December 1988.

[3] Pp 747-748.

[4] P 764.

[5] P 510.

[6] September 1989, p 792.

[7] It would later emerge that the bombing of Pan Am 103 accounted for 40% of all casualties in 1988 resulting from terrorism throughout the entire world.

[8] Mail on Sunday (Scottish Edition) 17th August 2009.

[9] Thatcher's knowledge of events was confirmed on 17th December 2009, in a Yorkshire Post column by her former Chief Press Secretary Sir Bernard Ingham. He describes the shock in Downing Street on the evening of the bombing, and an overnight journey by the Thatcher entourage to view the Lockerbie devastation.

[10] Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World. Harper Collins 2002.

The thunderous silence of the Lockerbie dead

On 25th September 2012 - that is, two and a half years ago - we published the following item.

In spite of what are now proven facts, the Scottish Crown Office and Government have stubbornly refused to accept that the judges in the Lockerbie trial were misled by false forensic evidence and concealment of other evidence critical to the defence case.  

 It is true that Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi was found guilty in a court of law and his conviction confirmed by five senior judges.  

This - as Scottish government spokespersons continually remind us - remains the situation. 

But those judges at trial and appeal are now proven to have been misled and mis-informed by senior British scientists and senior police officers who failed in their duty to the truth and the society they were entrusted to serve.  

This also – as Scottish government spokespersons continually ignore – remains the situation. 

During the Lockerbie trial, RARDE scientist Allen Feraday in his evidence stated as follows:"The conducting pad and tracks present on the fragment PT/35 (b) are of copper covered by a layer of pure tin."  

In other words, the tracking was 100% tin. And Feraday had written in long hand on his notebook just those numbers "100% tin". 

And later in his evidence Feraday stated:- ".. it has been conclusively established that the [PT/35(B)] fragment materials and tracking pattern are similar in all respects to the area around the connection pad for the output relay of the `MST-13' timer."  

Unfortunately for Feraday it has now been conclusively established that the conducting pad and tracks present on all timer boards supplied to Libya by Swiss suppliers MEBO, and from which - according to the prosecution - came fragment PT/35(B), were of copper covered by a layer of 70/30% alloy of tin and lead.

Here are photographs of Feraday's hand-written notes about the difference between the timer fragment and the sample boards supplied to him by the Scottish police.
"Pure tin"

Feraday was aware of the difference, yet in his lead evidence and evidence given under lengthy cross-examination he never mentioned the discrepancy, in spite of several opportunities to do so.
"70/30 sn/pb (tin/lead)"

The judges remained in ignorance of the discrepancy.  The defence team knew nothing of it.

FACT: The fragment was not "similar in all respects" to a set of timer boards sold to Libya in 1985. 

This phrase "similar in all respects" formed the kernel of the judgement against al-Megrahi. 

No-one knows the origin of the Lockerbie fragment, and we will not speculate as to where it came from or who made it. It is, however, clear that PT/35(B) did not originate from any timer boards which the prosecution claimed were used by Al-Megrahi.

The prosecution did not produce any evidence as to where Al-Megrahi had used such timers, nor where or how he had constructed a bomb, nor where he had stored it or deployed it.  The judges, misled as they were by Feraday, accepted such innuendo as fact. 

The timer fragment PT/35(B) was not the only matter central to the verdict in which misinformation and concealment by the prosecution and their witnesses occurred. These are serious matters which cry out for independent investigation.  

Prime Minister David Cameron, just two days after the revelation of the above information, claimed that such revelations were "an insult" to the Lockerbie dead.  

We must leave it to objective historians to form their own conclusions on David Cameron's statement. 

An independent inquiry into the Lockerbie tragedy and its investigation and evidence submitted at trial is long overdue.

It is now almost a quarter of a century since the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The two hundred and seventy dead of Lockerbie still wait for truth and justice.

Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph

Friday, 27 March 2015

Final appeal delayed further

We are grateful to Professor Robert Black for this summary of today's hearing in Edinburgh. 

A procedural hearing before Lady Dorrian on the petition to the High Court of Justiciary by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (seeking guidance on whether relatives of Lockerbie victims would have a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi) took place this morning.
The court today ordered that a full hearing be held on a date to be fixed once the diaries of all the judges and counsel involved have been consulted. It is anticipated that the hearing will be before three very senior judges.
The hearing will cover both the merits, ie whether relatives of murder victims have a legitimate interest to conduct an appeal against the conviction of the alleged culprit and the prior question of whether this is a matter that has been competently raised by the SCCRC’s petition, the argument being that since the issue of who is entitled to conduct the appeal on behalf of a deceased convict arises only if the SCCRC actually refers the conviction back to the High Court, it is only at that point that a decision falls to be made. 
In other words, the question of “legitimate interest” to conduct an appeal is not one that is, or should be, in law of any concern to the SCCRC in its task of deciding whether there might have been a miscarriage of justice.
(For more information, please click here. )

We remain confident that in the end justice will be done and seen to be done. In 2012, the Scottish Justice Secretary in his statement to the Scottish Parliament said: "It remains open for relatives of Mr al Megrahi, or others, to ask the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to refer the case back to the court for a further posthumous appeal which Ministers would be entirely comfortable with."

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Campaign for the acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi and an official inquiry into Lockerbie

A petition requesting that the Scottish authorities undertake a comprehensive inquiry into Lockerbie is supported and signed by many people, including the the following world renowned personalities. All support the campaign for acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi, who was in 2000 convicted for the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103.

The petition list is now closed, but you can offer your support by going to the Facebook site Justice for Megrahi 

Kate Adie was chief news correspondent for the BBC, covering several war zones on risky assignments. Currently hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme From Our Own Correspondent.

Professor Noam Chomsky has spent most of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is currently Professor Emeritus, and has authored over 100 books. In a 2005 poll was voted the "world's top public intellectual".

Tam Dalyell, former Member of British Parliament and Father of the House. An eminent speaker who throughout his career refused to be prevented from speaking the truth to powerful administrations. 

Ms Christine Grahame, member of the Scottish Parliament. Determined advocate of the Lockerbie campaign and courageous supporter of Dr Jim Swire.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye Magazine. A man never afraid to speak truth to power, repeatedly mocking the hypocrisy prevalent in certain sections of British society.

Father Pat Keegans, Lockerbie catholic parish priest. Was one of the first on the scene following the Lockerbie bombing and crash of Pan Am 103 in December 1988. A strong supporter of the need for an inquiry into the many disturbing aspects of the Lockerbie event and subsequent investigation and trial of two Libyan suspects.

 Mr Andrew Killgore, former US Ambassador to Qatar. Widely experienced in Middle Eastern politics. Knows first hand the political and intelligence background to the campaign to vilify and eventually destroy the Libyan regime. Runs the influential Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs and founded The American Educational Trust.

John Pilger, former war correspondent, now a campaigning journalist and film maker. Wide experience in the brutality caused by war and uninformed foreign policies of the West and other nations.

Dr Jim Swire.

Sir Teddy Taylor MP, a British Conservative Party politician, was a Member of Parliament from 1964 to 1979. He was a leading member and Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club.

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa. A dedicated human rights activist. Received many awards including the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Terry Waite. In the 1980s, as an envoy for the church of England, travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. He was himself kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991. President of Y Care International, patron of AbleChildAfrica and Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, president of Emmaus UK, a charity for formerly homeless people.

Ms Kate Adie (Former Chief News Correspondent for BBC News).
Mr John Ashton (Author of ‘Megrahi: You are my Jury’ and co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Mr David Benson (Actor/author of the play ‘Lockerbie: Unfinished Business’).
Mrs Jean Berkley (Mother of Alistair Berkley: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Peter Biddulph (Lockerbie tragedy researcher).
Mr Benedict Birnberg (Retired senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners).
Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
Mr Paul Bull (Close friend of Bill Cadman: killed on Pan Am 103).
Professor Noam Chomsky (Human rights, social and political commentator).
Mr Tam Dalyell (UK MP: 1962-2005. Father of the House: 2001-2005).
Mr Ian Ferguson (Co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Dr David Fieldhouse (Police surgeon present at the Pan Am 103 crash site).
Mr Robert Forrester (Secretary of Justice for Megrahi).
Ms Christine Grahame MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).
Mr Ian Hamilton QC (Advocate, author and former university rector).
Mr Ian Hislop (Editor of ‘Private Eye’).
Fr Pat Keegans (Lockerbie parish priest on 21st December 1988).
Ms A L Kennedy (Author).
Dr Morag Kerr (Secretary Depute of Justice for Megrahi).
Mr Andrew Killgore (Former US Ambassador to Qatar).
Mr Moses Kungu (Lockerbie councillor on the 21st of December 1988).
Mr Adam Larson (Editor and proprietor of ‘The Lockerbie Divide’).
Mr Aonghas MacNeacail (Poet and journalist).
Mr Eddie McDaid (Lockerbie commentator).
Mr Rik McHarg (Communications hub coordinator: Lockerbie crash sites).
Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
Mr Marcello Mega (Journalist covering the Lockerbie incident).
Ms Heather Mills (Reporter for ‘Private Eye’).
Rev’d John F Mosey (Father of Helga Mosey: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Len Murray (Retired solicitor).
Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church).
Mr Denis Phipps (Aviation security expert).
Mr John Pilger (Campaigning human rights journalist).
Mr Steven Raeburn (Editor of ‘The Firm’).
Dr Tessa Ransford OBE  (Poetry Practitioner and Adviser).
Mr James Robertson (Author).
Mr Kenneth Roy (Editor of ‘The Scottish Review’).
Dr David Stevenson (Retired medical specialist and Lockerbie commentator).
Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
Sir Teddy Taylor (UK MP: 1964-2005. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
Mr Terry Waite CBE (Former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and hostage negotiator).