Monday, 15 June 2015

The Miraculous bomb fragment

(With grateful thanks to Professor Robert Black and friends)

[It was on this date twenty-five years ago that the FBI’s James ‘Tom’ Thurman, so he says, identified the fragment of circuit board PT/35b as coming from a MST-13 timer manufactured by the Swiss company MEBO. 
 The circumstances are narrated in chapter 4 of John Ashton’s , Book Megrahi: You are my Jury especially at pages 62 to 66. The account that follows is taken from a long article entitled Thurman's Photo Quest on Caustic Logic’s blog The Lockerbie Divide:]

What we have in Thurman's case, with or without the actual piece of evidence, was the crucial identification. And one point that's consistent throughout is that he held a photo only when he found the match. The question at hand is how long it took him to find it and to determine its meaning vis-a-vis who carried out the bombing. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From Birmingham to Lockerbie?

Jim Swire and relatives of some of the Lockerbie victims are pursuing a posthumous third appeal on behalf of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. They believe that he suffered a miscarriage of justice.
Baset Al-Megrahi

In June 2014 - almost one year ago - they requested that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ask the Scottish appeal court to rule on whether it is authorised to continue an investigation into the trial findings. The SCCRC requires a ruling on whether the relatives have “a legitimate interest”.

While in prison Al-Megrahi was visited by many well-wishers. In John Ashton's 2012 book "Megrahi: You are my Jury" Al-Megrahi tells of visits by Paddy Joe Hill, one of the "Birmingham Six" wrongly convicted for the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. He says of Hill, "He was the visitor who best understood my plight".
Paddy Hill. 17 years in jail.

Megrahi explains: "Hill knew better than anyone the innate reluctance of the criminal justice system to right its wrongs. Following their first unsuccessful appeal, the Six attempted to press charges against the West Midlands Police. The case eventually reached the High Court and was rejected by a panel of three judges led by England's most senior civil judge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning."

"In one of the most notorious judgements of recent times he opined: 'Just consider the course of events if their [the Six's] action were to proceed to trial... If they failed it would mean that much time, money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose'"
Lord Denning (Photo PA)

"'If they won ... [it would mean] that the convictions were eroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend that they be pardonned or to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. That [would be] such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say "It cannot be right that these actions should go any further."'"

Baset Al-Megrahi continues: "By the time I was convicted 21 years later, no judge would dare so nakedly place the reputation of the justice system before the interests of justice. But the common ancestry of judicial myopia was all too obvious."

Let us hope that Mr Al-Megrahi is correct and that the sentiments expressed by Lord Denning will never be allowed to influence the current application for a third, posthumous appeal.

John Aston's book Megrahi: You are my Jury. The Lockerbie Evidence. Birlinn Publishing. 2012.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jim Swire to speak at Major Incident Conference

Jim Swire is to speak at a national conference Major Incidents and Beyond at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on Wednesday 20th May. He will open his address with a short extract from our book "Lockerbie".
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

The event will address topics surrounding acute trust involvement during a major incident such as recovery-phase post incident, personal accounts and psychological effects following an incident, security arrangements, and first-hand accounts of inquests and public inquiries.
This is a full day event for all those involved in emergency planning, working in emergency departments and those with a particular interest in major incidents.

In addition to Jim Swire, five NHS and industry experts will share their personal experiences:-

Alastair Wilson OBE, Senior Emergency Department Consultant at the Royal Hospital London on the day of the London bombing attacks of 7th July 2005. In  a series of  coordinated suicide attacks, civilians were targeted using the public transport system during the morning rush hour.

Gary Hardacre QAM
Gary Hardacre QAM, responsible for the Scottish Ambulance Service during the Ebola outbreak, the Glasgow helicopter and bin lorry collisions.

Det. Supt Derek Forest
Detective Superintendent Derek Forest, posted to Thailand for 16 months following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 which killed over 270,000 people where he held the position of International IMC Commander. He shared responsibility for the strategic management of the international response, and the management of law enforcement and forensic staff from 31 different nations around the world.

Grant Moss
Grant Moss, Head of Security University Hospital Birmingham. Formerly Counter-terrorism adviser at West Midlands Police.

Dr Sarah Davidson
Dr Sarah Davidson MBE.University of East London. Specialist in the psychology of bereavement on families and children.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Torture and a British Foreign Secretary

In 2012 former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his head of MI6 Counter-terrorism Sir Mark Allen were revealed to be implicated in secret deals with Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, his head of security Moussa Koussa, and the CIA, for the illegal apprehension and rendition for torture and interrogation of selected Libyan dissidents and their families.

It remains a poisonous aspect of British foreign policy which our so-called democratic governments are desperate to conceal from press and public. 
Moussa Koussa

After two years of delaying tactics by Straw's lawyers, two cases finally reached the public domain: Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife, and that of Sami al-Saadi with his wife and four children.

 On the 30th October 2014 the Court of Appeal ruled that Belhaj had a right to sue Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen and the British government and others for their part in the rendition of himself and his wife. 

Jack Straw argued that everything he had done was in accordance with British law. When challenged,  Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister at the time of the renditions, claimed that he could not remember the event.
Tony Blair

Three appeal judges demanded that a light be shone into dark corners of the state's work - and not for the first time. 

Time and again the Court of Appeal has maintained that allegations of wrongdoing linked to security and intelligence must be examined if the rule of law is to be upheld. 

Yet sadly for our so-called "democracy" successive governments persist with a wall of secrecy. [1]
By their actions the role of Britain as an intelligence underling of the USA continues and is strengthened. [2]

[1] On 8th November 2014 former Foreign Secretary and chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee Sir Malcolm Rifkind warned that an ISC inquiry into rendition and torture would not be concluded before the general election of May 2015.  He added: “Apart from that, we can’t even start on the Libyan stuff because of the police inquiries.”
[2] UK government can be sued over rendition claims. BBC News:

Friday, 1 May 2015

Julian Assange and the intended assassination of Al-Megrahi

Julian Assange and Wikileaks have been pilloried by many as traitorous to Western interests.

Yet those who maintain that Baset Al-Megrahi was convicted due to false evidence, concealed police diaries and other misrepresented evidence have cause to be grateful to Assange and those who support and assist him.

In December 2011, six weeks after the end of the Libyan maelstrom of war and bloody death, with its brutal killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Jim Swire secretly travelled to Tripoli for his final meeting with Baset Al-Megrahi, a man shortly to die of cancer.

The NATO bombing campaign was over, and the conflict had reduced to sporadic outbreaks of firing and killing in several outlying parts of the country. Tripoli seemed at peace and the quiet streets offered no hint of the evil that had rampaged across the nation over the previous ten months.

Unknown to Jim Swire, American intelligence and some within the American administration had three months previously been discussing the illegal rendition and assassination of Baset Al-Megrahi. 

Stratfor is a Texas headquartered global intelligence supplier to large corporations such as the Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. 

The company’s Vice President is Fred Burton, a man much respected by those who see all foreigners as inferior to Americans. A contributor to US chat shows and Fox News, Burton has written several books and is a welcome speaker at Republican and right-wing gatherings. 

On August 19th 2011, in a widely circulated email, Brian Genchur of Stratfor wrote: "I would like to kill the terrorist [Al-Megrahi] myself. I'm hunting for him on my own thru a few channels. If he can be found, I'll have him whacked." [1]

We can be sure that if Genchur and friends had carried out an assassination they would have killed any witnesses including members of the Megrahi family who were continually at Baset’s bedside.

 Five days later on August 24th CEO Fred Burton added a further statement: “While the world is focusing on the chaos in Libya counterterrorism agents could take advantage of this window of opportunity to capture [Al-Megrahi]. The symbolism of grabbing [him] and bringing him back to stand trial in a U.S. court would resonate around the world.” [2]

The Genchur and Burton emails were revealed solely through the brave actions of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Those who believe in the freedoms of an informed democracy should have cause to be grateful. 


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The US Hand in Libya's Tragedy and Innocence of Al-Megrahi

As thousands of refugees daily try to escape the chaos of Libya, Iraq and Syria by sailing to European shores, a powerful article by Robert Parry in Consortium News analyses America's role in the destruction of Libya, and casts serious doubt on the guilt of Baset A-Megrahi.
Libyan migrants

Parry also describes in expert detail how influential voices in American politics and media have come to understand the fragile nature of the evidence put forward in the Lockerbie trial leading to a probable miscarriage of justice. 

Parry focuses largely on America's contribution to the brutal destruction of the Libyan state, but it was a Labour government led by Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown which fed the NATO "missions" to progressively destroy Libya.

These included bombings of bridges, storage warehouses, government buildings, and several attempts to kill Gaddafi in what were euphemistically described as "command and control" centres - i.e. Gaddafi's homes and palaces. 

Brutal murder of Gaddafi.

Parry also mentions the killing of Gaddafi by sodomising him with a large knife. 

Here is a short extract. The full article is here.

"At the time, there were a few of us who raised red flags about the Libyan war “group think.” Though no one felt much sympathy for Gaddafi, he wasn’t wrong when he warned that Islamic terrorists were transforming the Benghazi region into a stronghold. Yes, his rhetoric about exterminating rats was over the top, but there was a real danger from these extremists.

And, the Pan Am 103 case, which was repeatedly cited as the indisputable proof of Gaddafi’s depravity, likely was falsely pinned on Libya. Anyone who dispassionately examined the 2001 conviction of Libyan agent Ali al-Megrahi by a special Scottish court would realize that the case was based on highly dubious evidence and bought-and-paid-for testimony.
Baset Al-Megrahi

Megrahi was put away more as a political compromise (with a Libyan co-defendant acquitted) than because his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, by 2009, the conviction was falling apart. Even a Scottish appeals court expressed concern about a grave miscarriage of justice. But Megrahi’s appeal was short-circuited by his release to Libya on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

Yet the U.S. mainstream media routinely called him “the Lockerbie bomber” and noted that the Libyan government had taken “responsibility” for the bombing, which was true but only because it was the only way to get punitive sanctions lifted. The government, like Megrahi, continued to proclaim innocence."

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.