Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gerry Conlon, Ann Maguire, Dr Thomas Hayes and Lockerbie

It is today reported that Gerard Conlon has died.

In 1974 the alleged IRA bomber Paul Hill, three of his colleagues (Gerard Conlon, Patrick Armstrong, Carole Richardson), plus all seven of the family of Ann Maguire were found guilty of the bombing, or association with the bombing, of an army barracks in Guildford. All served fifteen years imprisonment for their crimes.Gerard Conlon's father Guiseppe died in prison.

The public hue and cry for revenge appeared satisfied. Fortunately for the eleven convicted men and women, several public campaigns conducted before and during the trial to bring back hanging proved unsuccessful .

What Britain had experienced was yet another phase of legal history where public prejudice, legal stupidity or laziness, and sleight of hand by the police and their forensic services merged to a "group think" of public hysteria based on uninformed prejudice.

After serving fifteen years in prison, some in solitary confinement, the remaining ten were released on appeal. At the opening of the appeal, the prosecution lawyers were deeply embarrassed to have to admit that their prosecution case at the trial had been totally without foundation. 

Sadly for all eleven convicted, all was too late; their families had been destroyed and lives ruined by a corrupt and inadequate system of justice.

In today's BBC report concerning Gerard Conlon, which can be read here, the BBC says blandly "They were convicted and jailed for handling explosives, based on scientific evidence which was later entirely discredited".  

Few people today are aware that that "scientific" evidence was in part provided by Dr Thomas Hayes, a Higher Scientific Officer at the Royal Armaments and Research Defence Establishment (RARDE). 

Hayes was never disciplined for his actions. Indeed, he was soon to be promoted to head of department. His career would in time merge into the Lockerbie investigation and trial. Here is part of an account of his appearance at Kamp Zeist, alongside his colleague Allan Feraday:

THE LOCKERBIE TRIAL.
Day 15: June 5th 2000

Dr Thomas Hayes was formerly head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at the British Royal Armaments Research and Defence Establishment (RARDE). He would prove a central figure in the prosecution case.
 
At the time of the trial he was aged fifty three, having retired from his RARDE post ten years earlier just as the joint Scottish police and FBI investigation into the Lockerbie attack was reaching its climax. 

As a bachelor of science honours in chemistry, a master of science in the faculty of forensic science, a doctor of philosophy in the faculty of forensic science, a chartered chemist, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we might expect an outstanding memory. 

And yet he seemed reluctant to tell the court when he'd resigned in order to commence a radically new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead? "In July 1974." And when did he leave? “The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990." 

He actually resigned in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to the Lockerbie trial, most significant. For he possessed an uncomfortable history in relation to another major terrorist event, namely the alleged IRA bombing involving members of the Maguire family - The Maguire Seven

In that trial Hayes and two of his colleagues were aware of evidence consistent with the innocence of the accused, decided among themselves that this evidence be not declared, and did not mention it during the trial. 

The first of the three was Douglas Higgs, Principal Scientific Officer and head of department; second was Walter Elliott, a Senior Scientific Officer; and the third was Hayes, at that time a Higher Scientific Officer.

During the trial, results of tests for traces of nitro-glycerine on skin and fingernails of the Maguire family were firmly maintained by the three scientists to be positive and decisive. Unknown to the court, however, the three had performed a second set of tests plus a series of experiments. Both tests and experiments indicated a negative result and an innocent means of contamination, and this information was recorded in their forensic notebooks. 

It was only through a Parliamentary inquiry by a senior judge, Sir John May, beginning in September 1989 and concluding in July 1990 that the matter was exposed.  

Sir John discovered that the notebooks of the three scientists had been deliberately concealed from the court, and cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution therefore severely hampered. 

His main conclusions include the statement: "...  the whole scientific basis upon which the prosecution [of Ann Maguire and six members of her family] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the convictions." [1]  




[1] Rt Hon. Sir John May, Interim Report on the Maguire Case, 12th July 1990, and Second Report on the Maguire Case, 3rd December 1992. http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc8990/hc05/0556/0556.pdf


 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lockerbie victims' relatives join with Megrahi family in seeking review of his conviction

[What follows is the text of a press briefing issued by Aamer Anwar, lawyer for the relatives and the Megrahi family, following a press conference held in Glasgow today, 5th June 2014:]


When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, 270 people from 21 countries perished and it remains the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the UK.
Its consequences continue to reverberate round the world and yet after a quarter of a century, the truth remains elusive.
The application lodged this morning with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) seeks to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for murder.
The application is submitted on behalf of:-
i) Dr Jim Swire, Rev’d John F Mosey and 22 other British relatives of passengers who died on board Pan Am Flight 103.
ii) I can also advise that the six immediate family members of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi have also instructed me to make the application.
The Commission has been requested not to release the names of the Megrahi family given serious concerns for their safety in the current highly volatile situation in Libya.
British family members apart from Dr Jim Swire and Rev John F. Mosey have also requested that their details are not released into the public domain.
The Commission determined on the 28th June 2007 that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice in relation to his conviction and identified six grounds for referring the case to the High Court. We have asked the Commission to reconfirm these six grounds.  
We have also requested the Commission add the Grounds of Appeal and supporting documentation already submitted to the High Court in connection with the second appeal (See http://www.megrahimystory.net/)
We have also requested that the Commission consider referring the case:
(a) On the ground of the Crown’s non-disclosure to the defence of evidence relating to the difference in metallurgical composition between the fragment of circuit board PT35b and the circuit boards in the timers supplied by MEBO to Libya. Put simply the timer claimed by the Crown to be responsible for the bombing cannot be possible.
(b) On the ground of the evidence uncovered which demonstrates that the bomb suitcase was already in Pan Am 103 luggage container AVE4041 before the feeder flight from Frankfurt arrived at Heathrow with, as the Crown contended and the trial court accepted, a suitcase from Malta which contained the bomb.

Special circumstances

The Commission have been asked to address the issue of whether it is in the interests of justice to refer the case to the High Court for a further appeal.
Despite the hysteria that greeted the release of Mr al-Megrahi many were unaware that the case had been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the SCCRC in 2007.
Its chairman Graham Forbes at the time said:-
"The Commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."
The case of Abdelbasset Al- Megrahi has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.A reversal of the verdict would mean that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would stand exposed as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years and having imprisoned a man they knew to be innocent for ten years.


The Appeal was commenced but following the diagnosis of terminal cancer it was suddenly abandoned in 2009. The application being lodged this morning deals with the circumstances that lead to Mr Megrahi abandoning his appeal:
i) To date both the British Government and Scottish Government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. However the evidence submitted to the Commission today claims that this is fundamentally untrue.
ii) It is submitted that there is evidence which will show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft.
iii) Mr Megrahi was convicted on the word of a Maltese shop owner (Mr Tony Gauci) who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in multiple statements and failed to recognise him in the courtroom.
iv) New evidence claims that the fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, "discovered" in the Scottish countryside could not have been responsible for the bombing.
v) New evidence claims the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was ‘transferred’ through two airports undetected to Pan Am Flight 103.
vi) There is a multitude of serious question marks over material evidence, and most worryingly, allegations of the Crown’s non-disclosure of evidence which could have been key to the defence.
vii) The fundamental question for the Commission is whether it regards it as in the interests of justice to refer a case back to the High Court where the convicted person himself had commenced an appeal on a SCCRC reference and then chosen to abandon it.
The answer might depend on the precise circumstances in which the appellant came to abandon his appeal:- Mr Megrahi's terminal illness; the fact that prisoner transfer was not open while the appeal was ongoing; and whether Mr Megrahi had no way of knowing that Kenny MacAskill would ultimately opt for compassionate release rather than prisoner transfer, or - as is alleged - that he was led to believe that he would not be released unless he dropped his appeal.
viii) Documents have claimed that Scottish police officers and FBI agents had discussed as early as September 1989 an offer of "unlimited money" to the Maltese shop keeper Tony Gauci. If it is unacceptable to offer bribes, inducements or rewards to any witness in a routine murder trial in Glasgow then it should have been unacceptable to have done it in the biggest case of mass murder ever carried out in Europe.
Gauci was central to Megrahi’s conviction because the clothes recovered from the suitcase that carried the bomb onto Pan Am 103 at Heathrow, bound for New York, were traced back to his shop.
Various reports have claimed that Tony Gauci received more than $2m and his brother more than $1m in reward money.
It is important to note that this is the first time in legal history in the UK that relatives of murdered victims have united with the relatives of a ‘convicted’ deceased to seek justice by means of a referral to the Appeal Court.
I also wish to quote the following:-
“We the family of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi will keep fighting for justice to find out who was responsible for 271 victims of the Lockerbie disaster.” (They of course include Mr Megrahi as its 271st victim)
The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill has said that “Scotland's Criminal Justice system is a cornerstone of our society, and it is paramount that there is total public confidence in it.”
Fine words indeed but the reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system has suffered badly both at home and internationally because of widespread doubts about the justifiability of the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.
It is in the interests of justice and of restoring confidence in our criminal justice system and its administration that these doubts be addressed. This can best be done by allowing the Appeal Court to consider the SCCRC's reasons for believing that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in a fresh appeal challenging the original verdict.


END OF STATEMENT - AAMER ANWAR
PARTS OF STATEMENT ISSUED THIS MORNING TO THE SCCRC BY DR JIM SWIRE
I am Dr Jim Swire, father of Flora Swire who, one day before her 24th birthday, was brutally murdered along with 269 others in the Lockerbie disaster. It has always been and remains my intent to see those responsible for her death brought to justice and steps taken to ensure a coherent preventive system against terrorism in the future.(...)
So by 1990 I was appalled by what I already knew concerning what appeared to me to be the betrayal of the trust which we should be able to place in our Government to protect us. Moreover there is no denying that the policies of Governments largely decide the targets which international terrorism is likely to choose. In no sphere nowadays is Government responsibility more important than in the protection of citizens against such attacks.(...)


As for me Jim Swire, father of Flora, I still ache for her, what might have been the grandchildren she would have had, the love she always gave us and the glowing medical career ? For me this case is about two families, mine and Baset’s, but behind them now are seen to lie the needs of 25 other families in applying for a further appeal 25 years after the event itself. (...) We need the truth and Scotland’s management of this case produced a verdict perfectly tailored for use by those who would seek to ensure that the full truth remains hidden.


If it is true that this man, Baset, and his country were not the perpetrators, then who really were? If the verdict is unjustified then the extraordinary delay experienced thus far in redressing it has protected the real perpetrators from the probing of international justice. (...) It has also protected the systems which failed to protect our families. The review of the evidence and verdict still lie with us in Scotland. We still have the option of re-examining this case in Scotland, if we do not do so it will pass to others to examine, and Scotland, her people and her law would be the losers.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

British relatives in Third Lockerbie Appeal

The bereaved relatives of twenty Lockerbie victims are attempting to launch a fresh appeal to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. 

He was the only man found guilty in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am flight 103, which killed two hundred and seventy people on the evening of December 21, 1988.


 Over the fourteen years since his conviction, the case against him presented by advocates of the Scottish Crown Office has steadily fallen apart. 
It is now known and scientifically proven that supposedly damning evidence against Megrahi relied on concealment by senior police officers of key facts supporting the defence case, and presentation of false scientific data by a senior British forensic scientist. 

Long-time campaigner Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, yesterday said: “After I realised that he had nothing to do with the murder of my daughter, Megrahi became my friend. There are a lot of legal people in Scotland who want to see this issue properly resolved. I hope that the appeal will succeed and, when it does, Megrahi’s family will no longer be regarded as the family of the so-called Lockerbie bomber. ” 
This will be the third time Megrahi’s conviction has been the subject of an appeal. 
After he received his life sentence in 2001, Megrahi appealed but his appeal was unsuccessful. 
A second appeal saw the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) refer the case back to the Scottish High Court, suggesting that there “may have been a miscarriage of justice” and it was “in the interests of justice” to look at the case again.
But in 2009 Megrahi - by then suffering from terminal prostate cancer - abandoned his second appeal to improve his chances of being allowed to go home to Libya. He died on 20th May 2012.
Whenever in the past the prosecution evidence on which his conviction was based has been challenged by new information or scientific experiments, the Scottish Crown Office comment has been that these matters can be properly examined only in a court of law. 
A third appeal means that they will be. It will give the Megrahi defence team an opportunity to present the new evidence, and cross-examine current and former police officers and forensic scientists.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Jim Swire special guest at Dublin Arabic International Film Festival

We are pleased to announce that Dr Jim Swire has been invited as special guest to the 2014 Arabic Film Festival, to be held in Dublin May 8th to 11th.

Omar Sharif
DAFF is Ireland's first Arabic Film Festival, bringing screenings, special guests and Q&As from the best of independent Arabic Filmmaking.

A host of leading directors and stars includes Guest of Honour Omar Sharif (Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia), Hany Abu-Hassad (Director, Oscar nominated best foreign language film 'Omar' and 'Paradise Now'), Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong'o (Twelve Years a Slave), leading Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch, and leading actress Nadine Labaki. 


President of the festival is renowned producer, writer and director Jim Sheridan ('In the Name of the Father', 'My Left Foot', 'The Boxer', 'In America', 'The Field').

Screenings, presentations and discussions are at The Lighthouse Cinema, Dublin. Click here for information about the Lighthouse.

More background information can be found at:
https://twitter.com/DAFF2014  and   https://www.facebook.com/DUblinArabicFilmFestival

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Final Appeal will reveal the truth

[With grateful thanks to Professor Robert Black, here is a comment sent by Dr Jim Swire to the Bangor Daily News in response to yesterday's article by Gwynne Dyer:]


Congratulations on a realistic article straddling the truth. My daughter Flora was murdered at Lockerbie, and since the Megrahi trial I have known that justice had been perverted by politics.


It is not however true that the case is closed. Within weeks I and certain other relatives will be requesting the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission for a further appeal against the verdict. 

Why? Partly because knowing him innocent, Megrahi became my friend, so I owe him that. 

And partly because routine Western subversion of justice by politics must be stopped. The Lockerbie trial verdict, peverse though it is, is being used as a weapon of choice by those who continue to obstruct our access to the truth. My daughter Flora would have wanted the truth known.

Any US relatives interested in joining in are welcome to get in touch.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lost in Translation

The recent spate of articles by The Daily Telegraph, the Al-Jazeera documentary featured tonight (11th March 2014), and the world-wide ripple of internet journalists who repeat the story are timely and to be welcomed.

Unfortunately the two key prosecution claims on which the Lockerbie trial judges based their conviction of Baset al-Megrahi have become lost in translation. 

They are indeed mentioned by Al-Jazeera, but among the wide-ranging welter of allegations and evidence the public mind has inevitably become confused.

The two central prosecution claims were:

1. A fragment of timer board found in the depths of a Scottish forest proved that the bomb timer was purchased and used by Libya and Al-Megrahi. 

This was said to be part of an MST-13 timer sold in 1985 to Libya by Swiss supplier MEBO, and manufactured by Swiss production company Thuring.

2. The Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci spoke the truth when he identified Al-Megrahi as the purchaser of a set of clothes, some of which were found at the Lockerbie crash site.

With regard to ITEM 1, THE FRAGMENT:

Here are three photographs.

The first is of the fragment of timer circuit board said by the prosecution to have been found at Lockerbie, and which they claimed proved that Libya and al-Megrahi were guilty.



Photographs two and three are of annotations written by Allen Feraday, the forensic officer on whose forensic report that verdict of Guilty was founded.

Photograph two is of his note dated 1st August 1991 concerning the above fragment. The words are "Plating on the two thin lines is of pure tin (Cu [copper] breaking through from underneath) Alan F.)"



The third photograph is his note on the same day concerning a set of circuit boards sent to him for comparison by the Swiss company Thuring. He writes: "Tinning on the thin tracks is of 70/30 sn/pb [tin/lead]. However this may be dipped or roller tinned on top of either the Cu tracks? or the Cu tracks with a layer of pure tin? Alan F." [Thuring made all their boards using a protective coating of 70/30 percent alloy of tin/lead].



There is a clear metallurgical difference between the two items. The first note recorded a coating of pure tin. The second note records an alloy of 70/30 percent tin/lead. Feraday is puzzled as to why, hence his two questions.

But did he mention this difference and his questions and doubts to the judges?

No. He stated with absolute certainty: 

“The particular tracking pattern of the fragment has been extensively compared with the control samples of the [Thuring] MST-13 timers and circuit boards and it has been conclusively established that the 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.” 

"Conclusively established ... materials and tracking pattern similar in all respects ..." Ten simple words. Yet on this false statement a man was condemned to a lifetime of imprisonment.  

What was the origin of the Lockerbie fragment? Who made it, where and when? It clearly did not come from Thuring and was not from the batch sold to Libya in 1985. Whatever its origin, it contradicts a central feature of the prosecution case.  

ITEM 2, THE MALTESE SHOPKEEPER:

During the trial the chief police investigator Harry Bell was briefly asked about his police notebook. Unfortunately he had not brought it with him, it was in his office somewhere in Glasgow.

But no-one, neither the judges nor the defence team, thought to ask him to go and get it.

What they did not know was that among all the hand-written entries which Bell made in that notebook was proof that the Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci had been, throughout the two-year police investigation, secretly pressing for a multi-million dollar deal with the US Department of Justice. 

Within a month of the commencement of the investigation the US wrote to Bell, describing it as "unlimited monies, with $10,000 available immediately"

And what must Gauci do to receive these unlimited monies? In the words of the US Department of Justice, "only if he gives evidence". 

What was not said, but was clear from the DoJ letter and context of Gauci's demands, was that the "evidence" had to result in the conviction of al-Megrahi, or there would be no reward.

And so the judges, totally unaware of this massive financial incentive, believed the shopkeeper. He was, in their eyes, confused but trustworthy without any ulterior motive. So trustworthy that on his word and his alone, an accused man could be sent to prison for life.

THE STONEWALL CONTINUES

The Scottish Police continue to ignore the above information and the scientific experiments and protocols which led to the revelations. 

They refuse to interview reputable and highly qualified scientists who carried out those experiments. They refuse even to look at the data and results. 

Even more troubling for the bereaved relatives is that they refuse to talk to Thuring about the production processes  used to create the MST-13 timers. This is in spite of their continuing contacts with the company during the original investigation spanning the years 1989-1991.

They claim that to talk to such witnesses or examine the scientific data or manufacturing processes would "interfere" with their ongoing investigations in Libya. 

They have repeated this claim for more than two years since the information was first made public in February 2012. They have repeatedly refused to explain the nature of such "interference".

Meanwhile the Scottish Crown Office repeatedly supports the police obfuscation by pronouncing that the above can only be considered in a court of law.  

Here are the pictures and facts. Please judge for yourself.   

Monday, 10 February 2014

Searching, searching, searching...

The long promised newly appointed prosecutors of the Libyan regime should beware any further "evidence" that might be discovered, and be well advised to consider the US track record in such matters. 

Here is an extract from the history forming the background to the still on-going manipulation of Middle Eastern nations by Western powers. The name of the person central to the Lockerbie investigation is redacted.


"The date of the finding of the Hayes green fragment lay well within the time frame of *******'s career with the CIA. And in the eventual trial of the two Libyan suspects, evidence given by DEA agent Louis Sherrow would prove that at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, the CIA had in their possession at least one identical MST-13 timer brought from Africa. 

Furthermore, the publication of a set of declassified White House Emails would reveal *****’s long list of covert activities in the case of the Iran-Contra campaign. He would also be proved to have worked alongside colleagues for whom the creation of false trails and even the manufacture of evidence was an understood tactic.

An example of this is contained in a secret email written on 30th January 1986 by career navy officer James Stark, at that time attached to the National Security Council, and a working colleague of *******. The email was addressed to Admiral John Poindexter and to Howard Teicher, also working colleagues of *******. Stark looked at opportunities that had popped up in connection with destabilising the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY).  The subject of the memo was "PDRY Opportunities".

First, the objective should be to deter those Middle Eastern states who might be willing to run with the Soviet Union and give them cause to think again.  "The Soviet role in the PDRY coup attempt and subsequent fighting has given us an excellent opportunity to play up and exploit heightened awareness of the dangers of involvement with the Soviet Union among a number of Middle Eastern States."  This might be done, explained Stark, by "A straight propaganda effort to trumpet Soviet duplicity and its attempts to undermine efforts of states friendly to Hassani trying to provide him assistance."

If this was not appropriate, then, "a carefully managed disinformation campaign to convince PDRY's neighbours that the Soviets knew of and promoted the rebels from the beginning.  This could be combined with indications of similar ominous Soviet activities in each of the target states. 

Given the nature of the Soviets, we ought to be able to find a great deal of actual evidence, which can simply be artfully exploited, and may thus completely avoid the more dangerous course of altering or manufacturing evidence." [1] 

Thus the truth.  We don't need altered or manufactured evidence on this occasion. But if we have to, we will. 

And then the final touch, a question to Howard Teicher: "Howard, are you aware of any effort by State [the State Department], USIA [US Intelligence Agency] or CIA to focus on this? If not, I think JMP [John Poindexter] ought to raise it at a family group luncheon." (Our brackets).



[1] White House Email. 1995. Published by National Security Archive of America, Ed. Tom Blanton."

ENDS