Monday 13 May 2024


Britain rejected secret deal to prosecute Lockerbie bomber in Ireland

[This is the headline over a report published in 

Sunday 12th May edition of The Sunday Times. It reads in part:]

Officials feared Irish courts were ‘soft on terrorism’ and more likely to acquit Libyan agent Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, previously classified papers reveal

Britain rejected a secret deal to put the Lockerbie bomber on trial in Dublin amid suggestions that Ireland was “soft on terrorism” and more likely to acquit him, it has emerged.

Previously classified diplomatic documents disclose that Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, expressed a willingness to hand over Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi to the Irish authorities.

The US and British governments maintained that al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, was responsible for the bombing in December 1988 which led to the deaths of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Scotland.

Gaddafi refused to hand him and fellow suspect Lamin Khalifa Fhimah to the authorities in Washington or Edinburgh, leading to years of sanctions and negotiations.

Albert Reynolds, the Irish prime minister, met John Major, his British counterpart, in an attempt to broker a deal to end the stalemate.

However, Downing Street ruled the proposal was too risky after a senior diplomat claimed Irish courts were prone to making “inexplicable” decisions and raised fears that any hearing would be targeted by terrorists.

Gaddafi, who ruled Libya from 1969 when he seized power until he was overthrown and murdered in 2011, was outspoken in his support for the IRA. (...)

Previously unpublished documents from 1994, seen by The Sunday Times, have been opened and placed at the National Archives at Kew.

One, written by Sir Roderic Lyne, Major’s private secretary, confirms for the first time that a clandestine Anglo-Irish summit took place.

“During the tete-a-tete conversation between the prime minister and the taoiseach on May 26, the latter surfaced a Libyan proposal to hold the Lockerbie trial in Ireland,” he wrote.

A handwritten addendum states: “Ireland would be preferable to Canada. But given the Provisional IRA connection a trial there would be piquant to say the least!”

The following month John Dew, deputy head of mission at the UK embassy in Dublin, said the proposal posed unacceptable risks and raised particular concerns about the possibility of al-Megrahi being cleared by a sympathetic Irish court.

“This should not be taken lightly,” he wrote. “Irrespective of the independence of the Irish judiciary — and we all know of some strange rulings in the past — an acquittal would have major implications for Anglo-Irish relations.

“Our public opinion would inevitably interpret it as confirmation that Ireland was soft on terrorism.

“Her Majesty’s government would face serious questioning about why it had allowed the trial to take place in Ireland in view of inexplicable and unpredictable past rulings.” (...)

A separate memo written in the same month by UK Foreign Office civil servants said Reynolds’s suggestion should be taken seriously.

“A trial in Ireland would have some distinct attractions; it is a compatible legal system, it is nearby and it is not a realm or even in the Commonwealth,” it said.

“A number of Irish citizens were on board flight Pan Am 103. It seems that trial in Ireland might be acceptable, both to the Irish government and Libya.

“However, in view of the Provisional IRA connection it would be a more controversial venue than, for example, Australia.”

The British government ultimately rejected the Irish offer, along with an invitation from Nelson Mandela months later for a trial to take place in South Africa.

Eventually, the Libyan suspects went on trial in May 2000 in a Scottish court set up in a former US air base in the Netherlands.

After eight months Lord Cullen, the presiding judge, pronounced a guilty verdict on al-Megrahi. [RB: The presiding judge was actually Lord Sutherland. Lord Cullen presided over the 2001 appeal at Camp Zeist.]

He was sentenced to 27 years in a Scottish prison but released on compassionate grounds while terminally ill in 2009.

He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012 and his family are still fighting to have his conviction overturned.

Fhimah was found not guilty and returned to Libya.

More than three decades on, another man who is suspected of building the bomb that downed Pan Am flight 103 is being prosecuted in the US.

A court in Washington DC fixed a date of May 12, 2025, for the trial of Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, a Libyan citizen who maintains he is not guilty.

In 2018 relatives of Lockerbie victims told The Times that they had been repeatedly bugged by the security services after official documents suggested that they needed “careful watching”.

The Rev John Mosey, a church minister who lost his teenage daughter Helga in the atrocity, said that after speaking publicly his phone calls were often disrupted and documents relating to the bombing had gone missing from his computer.

Jim Swire, an English GP who lost his daughter Flora and became the public face of the campaign to secure an independent inquiry into the atrocity, reported similar intrusions and deliberately included false information in private correspondence, only for it to appear in the press days later.

The claims were corroborated by Hans K√∂chler, an Austrian academic appointed by the United Nations to be an independent observer at the Netherlands trial, who alleged that data had been taken from his computers.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Filming begins 5th February 2024 of a major new drama about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing starring Colin Firth 

Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King's Speech, A Single Man, The Staircase, Kingsman 1 and 2, Mama Mia, Bridget Jones' Diary, Pride and Prejudice) stars in the upcoming Sky and Peacock Original limited event series Lockerbie. Colin will portray Dr Jim Swire, who tragically lost his beloved daughter, Flora, in the devastating Lockerbie event and has doggedly pursued justice, along with his wife Jane, ever since.

The five-part series is a co-production by Carnival Films, which is part of Universal International Studios, and Sky Studios. Renowned Scottish playwright David Harrower (Blackbird, Knives in Hens) joins the series as lead writer, Maryam Hamidi (Vigil) is guest writer on an episode. BAFTA Award-winning Otto Bathurst (Peaky Blinders, The Winter King) is lead director. Jim Loach (Save Me) will also direct an episode.

Production of the series has commenced. Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant are Executive Producers for Carnival Films. Sam Hoyle is Executive Producer for Sky Studios. Other executive producers include David Harrower, Liz Trubridge, Jim Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan and Oskar Slingerland. Brian Kaczynski is Producer and Maryam Hamidi is also Associate Producer. 

Lockerbie will be available on Sky and streaming service NOW in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and on Peacock in the US. NBCUniversal Global TV Distribution will handle international sales of the series. 

Universal International Studios is a division of Universal Studio Group.

Thursday 16 November 2023

 With grateful thanks - yet again - to Professor Robert Black QC, Emeritus Edinburgh Professor of Scots Law, creator of and adviser regarding the Lockerbie bombing trial, held in Kamp Zeist in the Netherlands over 1999 and 2000.  Please see our earlier blogs, some of which are startling in their analysis and detail. 

Here is an extract from Professor Black's latest blog. 


Dismayed by a 35-year-long miscarriage of justice

[What follows is excerpted from a report published yesterday evening on the website of The Telegraph:]

Ever since Flora was killed on Pan Am Flight 103, Dr Jim Swire has been searching for answers – and says the FBI has the wrong man

Flora Swire is everywhere in her parents’ home. There are sketches and photos of her pinned to a board in the kitchen, on the mantelpiece, on the cover of a book; her portrait fills the wall across from their bed. There remains too a lock of her hair – a heartbreaking keepsake taken when the Swires saw her last, almost 35 years ago, after a bomb exploded beneath her feet in the Lockerbie disaster.

It was on 21 December 1988, the eve of her 24th birthday, that Flora, a promising neurology student who had just been accepted to do a PhD at Cambridge, took her seat on a plane bound for New York. She had hoped to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, but would never make it.

Thirty-eight minutes after taking off at Heathrow, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded in the sky over the town of Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway, with such force on a windy night that the debris landed across an 845-square-mile radius from southwest Scotland to the east coast of England. The fairylights on Christmas trees all over Lockerbie blew their fuses, along with the rest of the grid; smoking orange flames illuminated the town, which quickly filled with the stench of jet fuel. (...)

The investigation has remained open ever since, with one man, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan national, the only person ever to be convicted of the atrocity. He was convicted in 2001 and given a life sentence, and died in 2012. But in February this year, the case returned to the courts for the first time in more than two decades.

Another Libyan national, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (known as Mas’ud) has been accused of making the Lockerbie bomb, and is now awaiting trial (he has pleaded not guilty). The development should offer some shred of hope for the families whose lives irreparably changed that night. Yet Dr Jim Swire, Flora’s father, ‘has no interest’ in the prospect of Mas’ud’s conviction.

‘I know he didn’t make the bomb,’ Jim tells me. ‘I know who made the bomb.’

As such, the official criminal verdict on events to date – upcoming trial included – is, in his view at least, nothing more than ‘twaddle’.

Jim, now 87, had been writing Christmas cards on that December night in 1988 when his wife Jane told him that a plane had just come down over Scotland. He tried calling Heathrow, where Flora had been dropped off by her younger sister, Cathy, a few hours earlier – he spent five hours on hold to Pan Am as news coverage blared, showing body parts hanging from a roof, the 30ft hole a chunk of the 747 had left in a Lockerbie street, and relatives howling in anguish at JFK Airport. When he finally got through, staff confirmed the worst possible news: Flora had been on the flight. (...)

Jim, an old Etonian who went to Cambridge, is still spry in his late 80s – part-raconteur, part activist, wearing a sharp grey suit and trainers. Today, Jim, who became a GP but ultimately left the profession after his daughter’s death, and Jane, 84, take turns bustling between the kitchen and back garden of their home in the Cotswolds town of Chipping Camden with offers of cheese sandwiches and cups of tea. It is a cosy idyll that conceals the sea of names and dates and evidence-tag numbers still etched on their minds.

Some 35 years on, the Swires’ agony remains barely beneath the surface, the memories of their eldest child both a precious gift and cruel reminder of what they have lost. ‘To lose a close family member gives you a life sentence immediately,’ Jim says. ‘Your whole life is altered. And you have to start asking yourself how, how can you go on living, or how can Jane go on living, with a loss so terrible as this?’

Their experiences are documented in Lockerbie, a new four-part documentary that airs on Sky next week. It is a panoptic watch, following the lives of the residents in the town that was, until that day, just a fish ’n’ chip pitstop, 75 miles from Glasgow, before it was completely upturned. The documentary follows the families of UK and US victims, and officials from across the town’s police force, the FBI and the CIA, too. But it also lays bare how devastation led to remarkable acts of humanity, as residents mounted a volunteer effort to wash the clothes and teddies scattered thousands of miles from where they should have ended up, and sent them back to passengers’ loved ones; some of which resulted in relationships with grief-stricken families an ocean away that remain strong. Their lives are, now, forever intertwined.

But underlying the heartfelt stories is a darker thread – for decades on, opinions about who was to blame for the disaster are more divided than ever.

Jim remains dismayed by what he sees as a 35-year-long miscarriage of justice. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, he became the spokesperson for the UK Families Flight 103 group and in the intervening decades, he has met numerous experts and officials, and had independent reviews of evidence undertaken. All of which has convinced him that justice has not been served – and that the wrong man was imprisoned, just as another ‘wrong man’ is now about to be tried.

His theory – that Libya wasn’t responsible for the bombing – runs counter to al-Megrahi’s conviction and Mas’ud’s arrest, and has been dismissed by many. But there are others in his corner, too. ‘Enough honest, reliable and knowledgeable people have discovered the awful truth behind this to know that the truth will now be able to look after itself,’ Jim says. ‘If I die tomorrow, I know the truth will eventually come out.’

Among those people is former CIA investigator John Holt, the long-time handler for the principal US government witness at al-Megrahi’s trial, Libyan agent Abdul Majid Giaka. Holt said at the time that Giaka never provided ‘any evidence pointing to Libya or any indication of knowing anything about that nation’s involvement in the two years after the bombing’ – despite later testifying. But when accused of lying under cross-examination, Giaka replied: ‘I had no interest in telling anybody any lies.’

Others who have been vocal about what they view as Libya’s wrongful implication include solicitor Clare Connelly, director of the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit, an independent project established by the School of Law of the University of Glasgow, and other UK relatives, including John Moseley [sic], whose 19-year-old daughter Helga was killed on Flight 103.

Al-Megrahi’s trial took place 22 years ago at Camp Zeist, a Scottish law court set up in the Netherlands (deemed a neutral territory), where judges heard that he had placed a bomb in a Samsonite suitcase. Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, his co-accused, was acquitted.

There was no smoking gun for the prosecution, but al-Megrahi was found guilty based on a series of links they felt couldn’t otherwise be explained: including that he had an office in Switzerland down the hall from a clockmaker whose device was used to make the bomb; and that clothing fragments found alongside remains of the bomb were traced back to a Maltese shop that its owner, Tony Gauci, said al-Megrahi had visited.

At the same time, there were escalating tensions between the West and Libyan premier Colonel Gaddafi, who was suspected to have ordered the bombing of a nightclub frequented by US personnel in West Berlin in 1986. Judges in al-Megrahi’s trial conceded the case included ‘a number of uncertainties and qualifications’; yet he was sentenced to life. (Libya later paid $2.7 billion to families of Lockerbie bombing victims, though this was considered a political move rather than an admission of guilt.) (...)

Time has only bolstered his defence of ‘poor’ al-Megrahi, having formed personal relationships with both him and Gaddafi before they died. They would exchange Christmas cards, and when al-Megrahi was given compassionate release in 2009 following a diagnosis of prostate cancer – returning to a hero’s welcome on the tarmac at Tripoli airport – Jim travelled to Libya to see him on his deathbed. At the time, Jim recalled al-Megrahi’s words to him: ‘I am going to a place where I hope soon to see Flora. I will tell her that her father is my friend.’

He was, in Jim’s eyes, only ever an unwitting pawn in geopolitically motivated ‘deception’ that he says is even now preventing justice for Flora and the other victims from being served. He also took a handful of clandestine trips to Gaddafi’s compound (he did not tell any authorities, and only informed Jane imminently beforehand), in which he would hear that the regime had not been to blame. On leaving their first meeting, Jim pinned a UK Families Flight 103 badge to Gaddafi’s lapel as a show of solidarity for the truth. He believes other UK families are onside, although many have never spoken publicly. But there are certainly others, particularly those in the US, who see this affinity with Gaddafi as a grave error.

For Jim, there are two pieces of evidence that point to al-Megrahi’s wrongful conviction. The 2001 case heard that the explosive had first travelled from Malta to Frankfurt, where Flight 103 began its journey to New York. (The London Heathrow stop was a layover.) But Jim believes the bomb was planted at Heathrow. At al-Megrahi’s appeal in 2002, a baggage handler told lawyers that the baggage build-up area at Terminal 3 had been broken into the night before the bombing.

The other piece of evidence relates to the bomb fragments. According to John Ashton, a researcher on al-Megrahi’s legal team, documents not disclosed during the original trial found differences between the metals of the timers being supplied to the Libyans at the time and those within the fragments police recovered from the Lockerbie site. The circuit-board patterns, however, did align, deemed to be the more important evidence.

Clare Connelly of the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit also questions the veracity of shopkeeper Tony Gauci’s evidence, as there have been claims that he was paid in connection with his participation in the inquiry, which she says would be ‘totally contrary to the interests of justice’. But in November 2013 the Crown Office said: ‘No witness was offered any inducement by the Crown or the Scottish police before and during the trial and there is no evidence that any other law ­enforcement agency offered such an inducement.’

As for who was actually responsible, Jim argues it was Iran, not Libya. He goes on to suggest that it might have been a retaliatory attack for the US shooting down an Iranian passenger plane, thought to have been incorrectly identified as a fighter jet in July 1988, which killed 290 innocent civilians. In his view, with American hostages held in Iran at the time and an upcoming election, the finger had to be pointed elsewhere. ‘What we’re being told is absolute nonsense from beginning to end. It was designed to protect the relationship between Britain and America and to help in getting home American hostages held by Iranian interests back in ’88.’

Jim insists that the bombmaker was not Mas’ud, as the US alleges, but ‘a Jordanian who was a double agent, or even a triple agent’ – feeding intelligence both to his own country and the CIA, while making explosives for a militant group active in Palestine at the time, called the PFLP-GC. Others have theories of their own around Iran’s involvement: Holt has also said ‘there was a concerted effort, for unexplained reasons, to switch the original investigations away from Iran and the PFLP-GC’ – backing Jim’s belief that the focus on Libya was politically motivated.

For the officials who spent years putting together their case, however, Jim’s theory is not credible enough to upend ‘the biggest case the FBI ever had… I don’t believe, in the history of law enforcement, there was a crime quite like Pan Am 103.’ So says Richard Marquise, who led the FBI investigation. ‘I will never attack [Jim], I will never tell him he’s a liar or wrong. I will never say a negative thing, because I cannot feel his pain; I am sure it’s enormous. But I disagree with his assessment of the evidence.’ (...)

For Jim, his ‘obsession’ has been an outlet for the pain of losing Flora. As he puts it: ‘It has provided me with a way of coping with my grief.’

As for Jane, she has had little choice but to accept her husband’s dogged pursuit of answers; something Jim is painfully aware of. ‘[I often think] what is it doing to Jane, that I’m still doing this?’ he admits. (...)

There is another source of anguish for the Swires – a series of missteps without which Flora may never have boarded Flight 103 in the first place.

In late October 1988, West German police found a bomb hidden inside a Toshiba radio cassette player in an apartment in Neuss, believed to have been manufactured to detonate mid-air. The British Department of Transport (DoT) went on to warn airports and airlines of its existence via telex the next month.

Then, on 5 December, an anonymous threat was phoned in to the US embassy in Helsinki, stipulating that within two weeks, someone would carry a bomb on to a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the US. Notices were put up on embassy walls, and US officials were told they could rebook on another flight home for Christmas if they so wished; Interpol informed 147 countries, Britain included – yet the ‘Helsinki warning’ was never made public.

Two days before Lockerbie, a circular featuring images of the explosives authorities feared had been designed to blow up planes was signed by the DoT’s principal aviation security advisor, but never sent out. (...)

Jim would like there to be an examination of the evidence in the International Criminal Court. He sees this as the only possible route to justice now – but each passing year makes it less likely.

‘Our numbers are dropping all the time from people dying off from old age,’ he says of the families’ group, ‘and I’m amazed that I haven’t long ago because the stress all this has been over the last 35 years – why I haven’t died of a heart attack, I don’t know… But I would love it if [the truth] were to come out while we were still around.’

John Dower, director of the new documentary, says that his main hope is that those involved in it will ‘get some resolution, some peace, because that’s what struck us most making this, the ongoing trauma. It’s 35 years later, but that trauma is still there.’

Lockerbie will be on Sky Documentaries and Now from 25 November

Friday 17 February 2023

 With grateful thanks to Professor Robert Black, Emeritus Professor of Scots Law, University of Edinburgh

Trial of kidnapped Libyan could unravel entire US Lockerbie bombing narrative

[This is the headline over an article by Dr Mustafa Fetouri published in the current issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It reads in part:]

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, 74, a Libyan national, appeared in a federal court in Washington, DC, on Dec 12, 2022, charged in connection with the bombing that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland while flying from London to New York.

 According to US prosecutors, Mas’ud made the bomb that blew up the plane on Dec 21, 1988, killing 270, including 11 people on the ground. Two other Libyans have been tried for the same crime: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted while his co-accused Lamin Fahima was acquitted in 2001. Al-Meghrahi protested his innocence until his 2012 death from prostate cancer in his Tripoli home. In fact, his conviction was widely criticized by the legal community and by United Nations observer Hans Kochler, who cited “foreign governmental and intelligence interference in the presentation of evidence.” 

Mas’ud’s kidnapping and subsequent “extradition” to the US started in the poor suburb of Abu Salim, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, where armed militias roam freely. 

On the night of Nov 16, 2022, Mas’ud was getting ready for bed when half a dozen unmarked cars pulled up in front of his home. Four masked and armed men forced their way into his bedroom, dragged him out in his pajamas, shoved him into one of the cars and drove away. One of the masked men told the small crowd that quickly formed in the street that Mas’ud would be back soon. Abdel Moneim Al-Maryami, the family’s spokesman and Ma’sud’s nephew, described the shock for onlookers who “watched helplessly.” 

That evening Mas’ud had just returned from his third visit to the hospital in a week. The septuagenarian suffers from a host of illnesses made worse during his decade-long incarceration in the notorious Al-Hadba prison in Tripoli, accused of preparing car bombs in Libya’s 2011 civil war. The US Justice Department alleges that Mas’ud first confessed to making the Lockerbie bomb in Al-Hadba prison, but the former director of that prison, Khalid Sharif, denies that Mas’ud ever made such a confession while he was there. Sharif, now living in exile in Turkey, was one of the top leaders of the organization known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In 2004 the US listed this Afghanistan-based group as terrorists but unlisted it in 2015 after it participated in the 2011 US-NATO supported armed revolt that toppled former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s government.

The following morning the family started searching for Mas’ud, a daunting task because different militias have different detention centers. After a week and multiple visits to the headquarters of different militias, the offices of the prime minister and the prosecutor general, and different detention centers around Tripoli, Abdel Moneim was told where he was and allowed to visit him. 

In detention Mas’ud told his visitors that nobody “interrogated him,” let alone explained why he was detained or by whom. Family members continued visiting until one day his son, Essam, went for a visit but was told his father had been taken to Misrata, some 186 miles (300 km) east of Tripoli. “He was handed over” to Joint Force, a notorious and powerful militia, Essam said. 

No one mentioned the idea of handing him over to the US. In fact, Essam said, “they assured us that he was being kept there for his own safety.” Other family members had filed a kidnapping report with the police. Government officials denied knowing anything about the kidnapping. The prosecutor general denied issuing an arrest warrant and promised to investigate the matter. 

Mas’ud made headlines on Dec 21, 2020, the 32nd anniversary of the bombing, when then-US Attorney General William Barr accused him of assembling the bomb and handing it over to Al-Megrahi in Malta. 

Libyan laws do not permit the extradition of its citizens to stand trial abroad, and it has no extradition treaty with the US. In a BBC interview in 2021, Libya’s US-educated foreign minister, Najla El-Mangoush, said her government was “open” to the idea of extraditing suspect Mas’ud but “within the law.” Faced with a huge public outcry, El-Mangoush denied that she ever said she was open to Mas’ud’s extradition, forcing the BBC to release the video clip of the interview in which she made that claim.

The US and Libyan governments knew that Mas’ud could not legally be transferred to the US so they colluded with Joint Force, a militia loyal to Tripoli’s government, to grab him.

Just before midday on Dec 11, 2022, some Pan Am Flight 103 victims’ families received an “urgent update” email from the Scottish authorities updating them on their efforts to prosecute Mas’ud. The message’s closing line said the US “has obtained custody” of him. 

I was in Paris, waiting for news because a friend had already alerted me to expect some. His family first heard the news from me after I spoke to their spokesman Abdel Moneim that morning.

On Dec 12, Mas’ud limped into Judge Robin Meriweather’s DC courtroom where he told the judge that he “cannot talk” before meeting his attorney. A day later, a Libyan businessman told me that he was ready to fund a defense team. But appointing the right defense team thousands of miles away is not an easy task for his family who are still in shock and confused by the conflicting advice they are getting from friends and volunteers trying to help them. 

The fact that he was kidnapped should be reason enough to halt any further legal proceedings against him. But the US has a history of kidnapping suspects and sending them for interrogation to countries that use torture liberally. 

On two previous occasions, US commandos kidnapped suspects from Libya to try them in the US. Ahmed Abu Khatallah,  was kidnapped in 2014, and tried and convicted in the US for participating in the 2012 attack on the US compound in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In 2013 Abu Anas al-Libi was snatched and taken to US for trial accused of planning the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He died of cancer in custody days before his trial. For this third kidnapping the US outsourced the dirty work to a local militia.

The news that Mas’ud had been kidnapped was condemned by Libya’s parliament, High Council of State (a consultative body), the national security adviser and the minister of justice. They also warned that handing him over to the US would be illegal and an infringement of Libyan sovereignty. However, none of them knew exactly what happened, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Debeibeh kept silent. The uproar was repeated when Mas’ud was reported to have been sent to the US.

The public reaction has been supportive of Mas’ud and critical of the government in Tripoli. In a clumsy televised speech, Debeibeh attempted some damage control but instead made things worse. He said that “this man [Mas’ud] killed 270 innocent souls in cold blood,” but did not provide any evidence. Most Libyans mocked him and asked whether more Libyans would be sent to the US for Lockerbie bombing trials. 

Rumors of more extraditions of Libyans intensified in the wake of a Jan. 12, 2023 unannounced visit of CIA Director William Burns. (...)

A second Lockerbie bombing trial is very unlikely. US prosecutors will try to avoid such a scenario because it could lead to re-examining the whole Lockerbie trial evidence of 2001, as well as evidence that has emerged since Al-Megrahi’s conviction. Doing so could unravel the entire case and cast serious doubts about the evidence used to convict Al-Megrahi 22 years ago and raise questions about Libya’s responsibility for the bombing.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing and now represents UK victims’ families, argues that the United Nations, not the US, should try Mas’ud. He said “no one country can be the plaintiff, the prosecutor and the judge” in this case. His compatriot, law professor Robert Black, thinks Mas’ud can still “get a fair trial” in a US court. The professor believes that US prosecutors must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Mas’ud made the device that destroyed the jumbo jet on that cold December night in 1988, that his bomb, and no other, caused the disaster and that Mas’ud knew that his bomb would be used for that purpose.

Professor Black, the primary figure behind the previous Lockerbie bombing trial in Camp Zeist under Scots law in The Netherlands, thinks it is not “essential” for US prosecutors to show how the bomb got on the plane in order to get a conviction. In such a scenario the evidence to convict Mas’ud will rest, heavily, on the analysis of the fragment of circuit board that the US claims was part of the timer that set the bomb off in midair. That tiny fragment, US investigators claim, was found in a Scottish field where debris from the plane was scattered. However, since that first Lockerbie trial, evidence has emerged demonstrating that the fragment was actually planted to frame Libya.

George Thompson, a former Scottish police officer turned private investigator, who has worked extensively on the case, claims to have the evidence to show exactly that. Thompson told me that he is ready to be a witness in the upcoming US trial, whenever that might be.

If convicted, Mas’ud is certain to face life imprisonment. In his first court appearance on Dec 12, prosecutors told him that they will not be seeking the death penalty. US former Attorney General Barr, in a BBC interview published the next day, said Mas’ud should receive the death penalty. Barr also said that Mas’ud’s alleged confession, should be admissible in court, despite concerns by others that it may have been coerced. 

Mas’ud’s trial could take months to start and weeks to end. Regardless of the outcome, most Libyans believe it will not bring us any closer to the truth about Lockerbie.

Monday 7 November 2022

 With much thanks to Emeritus Professor Robert Black QC,

Louis Theroux firm to produce Lockerbie documentary

[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Louis Theroux’s production company is to make a three-part documentary on the Lockerbie disaster.

Sky has commissioned the acclaimed filmmaker’s company to examine Britain’s deadliest terrorist atrocity and its aftermath.

Titled Lockerbie, it will tell the story of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, when 270 people died on the night of December 21, 1988. The documentary will speak to individuals closely linked to the disaster and the years-long investigation that followed.

With access to victims’ families, investigators, intelligence officers and other key figures who have not spoken until now, Sky said the series will “examine unanswered questions to provide a definitive account of the bombing and its aftermath and, ultimately, who was responsible.”

Theroux will not present the series but it is being made by his production company Mindhouse, which he founded with his wife (...)

Lockerbie was “exactly the sort of project I wanted us to get involved with when we set up”, Theroux, 52, said.

“Our values are about storytelling and being audience-friendly, and I’m not ashamed to say we want to reach a really wide audience.” John Dower, who will direct the series, said: “I vividly remember Lockerbie from my teenage years of growing up in a Scottish household, but revisiting the event over 30 years later realised how little I knew about the actual event and the way it continues to reverberate down the years.”

Sky announced this year that it is making a separate drama on the 1988 bombing, based on the fight for justice by Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the disaster.

Swire has never wavered in his belief in the innocence of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan (...) convicted of the bombing.

Poppy Dixon, director of documentaries and factual for Sky, said: “The rigorous and thoughtful approach that John and the team are taking leaves me in no doubt this series will do justice to this complex story.”

Monday 28 March 2022

 The following report is from an announcement by Sky Studios and Peacock Streaming Services.

Sky and Peacock announce new drama based on Lockerbie disaster

Thursday 24 February 2022

Inspired by true-life story of Dr Jim Swire and his wife Jane, the series will be written by Academy Award-nominees Jim & Kirsten Sheridan

Five-part series is a co-production between UCP and Sky Studios, produced with Universal International Studios’ Carnival Films

Sky and Peacock today announce LOCKERBIE, a new mini-series that will be based on the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the search for justice by Dr Jim Swire and his wife Jane who lost their beloved daughter, Flora, in the air disaster in 1988.

The five-part series will be written by Academy Award nominees Jim Sheridan (In The Name of The Father, My Left Foot) and Kirsten Sheridan (In America, Dollhouse).

All 259 passengers and crew were killed when the bomb exploded over Lockerbie 38 minutes after take-off, with a further 11 residents losing their life as the plane came down over the quiet, Scottish town. Thirteen years later, in 2001, Libyan national Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime and later released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

Shortly after the Lockerbie bombing, one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, some families of the victims joined together to launch a campaign for truth and justice. Among them was Dr Jim Swire whose campaign has taken him to the sand dunes of Libya to meet face-to-face with Colonel Gaddafi, to 10 Downing Street to meet with successive Prime Ministers and to the corridors of power in the US where he worked with the American victims’ groups to mount pressure on Washington for tighter airport security, well before 9/11.

The moving series will explore events from 1988 to the present day, while providing an intimate account of a man, a husband, and a father who pushes his marriage, his health, and his sanity to the edge.

Jim and Kirsten Sheridan, said: “The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks that continues to have widespread implications for the meaning of justice in the US, Scotland and Libya. Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster, and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story, and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

The series, which is due to begin production later this year, is a co-production between UCP and Sky Studios, produced with Universal International Studios’ Carnival Films for Sky and Peacock. Both Universal International Studios and UCP are divisions of Universal Studio Group. It is the first scripted co-commission from Sky and sister company Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service.

The series is written by Jim and Kirsten Sheridan, with Naomi Sheridan guest writing an episode. Nigel Marchant and Gareth Neame are Executive Producers for Carnival, with Samantha Hoyle as Executive Producer for Sky Studios. Oskar Slingerland also serves as Executive Producer. The series was commissioned by Gabriel Silver, Director of Commissioning for Drama at Sky Studios for Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content at Sky UK. It will be produced with support from Screen Scotland’s Screen Commission.

The series is expected to air in 2023 on Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy. It will stream on Peacock in the US. NBCUniversal Global Distribution will be handling international sales.

The drama is based on the book The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice by Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph, along with multiple other sources.

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About Sky

Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of Comcast Corporation, a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. Across six countries, Sky connects 23 million customers to the best entertainment, sports, news, arts and to our own award-winning original content. 

Following the launch of Sky Glass, we now offer customers our strongest ever line-up of products and services. As well as the new streaming TV with Sky inside and everything integrated, customers can enjoy the award-winning Sky Q with all your favourite channels and apps in one place, and with Sky Go you can now access an even better experience on your devices. Sky TV has new channels, new shows and new deals with Peacock, Paramount+ and more. Sky Mobile was voted Best Pay Monthly and Best Value Pay Monthly network by Uswitch, and with Sky Broadband we’re offering our fastest speeds yet.

Building on the success of Sky Originals like Chernobyl, Gangs of London and Brassic, we are doubling our investment in original content by 2024 through Sky Studios. Our new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, is expected to create over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in the UK over the first five years alone. Sky News provides impartial and trustworthy journalism for free, Sky Arts is the UK’s only dedicated free-to-air arts channel making the arts accessible for everyone and Sky Sports, our leading sports broadcasting service, brings customers some of the biggest and best global sporting events from the Premier League to Formula 1 and everything in-between. Sky Cinema is the home of Sky Original films with brand new films launching every month alongside an unrivalled range of the latest cinema releases and on demand library.

We believe that we can be a force for good in the communities in which we operate. We’re committed to being Europe’s first net zero carbon entertainment company by 2030 and we’re proud to be a Principal Partner and Media Partner of COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference. We take pride in our approach to diversity and inclusion: we’ve been recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our commitment to diversity, and we’ve set ambitious 2025 targets to continue to increase diversity and representation.  We’re also committed to investing £30million across our markets over the next three years to improve our approach to diversity and inclusion, and to tackle racial injustice.

About Sky Studios

Sky Studios is Sky’s original programming arm across Europe, responsible for the development, production and commissioning of drama and scripted comedy, while also delivering Sky Original documentary to Sky’s 23m customers and beyond.

Building on the success of critically acclaimed Sky Originals including Emmy-winning Chernobyl, Bafta-winning Patrick Melrose and international hits Das Boot, Gomorrah and Gangs of London, Sky Studios is the creative home of new Sky Originals, such as Blocco 181, The Rising and The Fear Index.

We’re an agile Studio, seeking out the best untold stories from new voices while working in creative partnership with today’s best writers, producers and on-screen talent to bring viewers stories they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

About Peacock

Peacock is NBCUniversal’s streaming service. Peacock delivers a world-class slate of exclusive originals, on-demand libraries of hit TV shows, plus critically acclaimed films from the vaults of Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination, and Hollywood’s biggest studios. In addition, Peacock taps into NBCUniversal’s unmatched ability to deliver a broad range of compelling topical content across news, sports, late-night, Spanish-language, and reality. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

About UCP

Universal Content Productions (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group, is a best-in-class content studio that leverages the power and scale of NBCUniversal while collaborating with visionary storytellers. The studio is responsible for commercially successful and critically acclaimed scripted and unscripted docuseries programming, including “The Umbrella Academy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Act,” “Monk,” “Dr. Death,” “Homecoming,” “The Sinner,” “Suits,” “Dirty John” and “Psych.”  Upcoming titles include “Gaslit” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn as well as “JOE vs CAROLE” with Kate McKinnon and Kyle MacLachlan.

About Carnival Films

Carnival Films is a London-based television and feature film production company, part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Led by executive chairman and producer Gareth Neame, the company is one of the UK’s leading drama producers, having produced hundreds of hours of compelling content viewed around the world.

Carnival Films produced all six seasons of the award-winning and beloved TV phenomenon Downton Abbey, which aired in over 250 territories worldwide and set a Guinness World Record for being the most critically well-received show in the world. The company produced the hit feature film of the same name, which earned more than $193 million at the worldwide box office in 2019, making it the highest grossing film of all time for distributor Focus Features. The movie sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era is set to be released in the UK on April 29 and in the US on May 20 this year. Other Carnival Films productions include hit series The Last Kingdom for Netflix, which is also being produced as a movie, plus Belgravia for ITV and EPIX, and Jamestown for Sky One.

Having received more than 200 international awards and honours including Primetime Emmys, Golden Globes and BAFTAs, Carnival has also produced landmark series such as Poirot, Hotel Babylon, Whitechapel and Dracula, as well as award-winning mini-series Traffik, Any Human Heart, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and The Hollow Crown anthology.

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Sunday 26 December 2021


Today's sad news about the death of Former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu holds a feature common to much of the media in the UK and USA. 

The selective amnesia of certain media editors is clear: Effusively praise those issues in which Tutu agrees with your agenda, and ignore those in which he opposes.

And so it is, once again, with the campaign for an inquiry into the factors surrounding the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and subsequent trial.

On the 15th March 2015 we reported that a petition had been submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the Justice for Megrahi group of bereaved relatives. That petition was rapidly and publicly supported by prominent personalities around the world. The petition, even after six years, still runs current on the Scottish Parliament's agenda.

Among those signing in support of the petition was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He proved to be a strong supporter of the imprisoned Baset al-Megrahi and a South African colleague Nelson Mandela.  Mandela's support for al-Megrahi, too, remains ignored by the main British and US media. 

On 15th March 2015 we published the following post: [Names in alphabetical order].

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 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.

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).