Friday, 21 December 2012

The Darkest of our Days

Today, the 21st of December, the darkest day of our year. 

Dark for those who, on this day twenty four years ago at just after seven p.m. in the evening lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, babes in arms in the greatest terror attack against our nation since the Second World War.

Dark for those bereaved relatives who watched at Kamp Zeist a travesty of a trial when two Libyans were accused of the great crime we know as "Lockerbie".

And dark for those Scottish police, forensic scientists, lawyers, the American FBI and Britain's MI6, all of whom were responsible for a miscarriage of British justice perhaps greater than any that had occurred before.

Greater than the trial, during the 1970's, of the accused so-called IRA terrorists known as the Maguire Seven. The evidence against that family was provided in part by a Dr Thomas Hayes, at that time a scientific officer at the British Royal Armament Research Development Establishment (RARDE). He and two colleagues concealed from the trial forensic evidence which the three had personally assembled in a series of experiments. That evidence suggested innocence of the accused. His misdeed was discovered in a Parliamentary Inquiry conducted by Sir John May, who concluded that on the fact of the Hayes concealed evidence alone, the trial verdict had been vitiated, and an appeal was essential. The entire Maguire family were freed on appeal. Their story formed the basis of the internationally renowned feature film "In the Name of the Father".

But was Dr Thomas Hayes disciplined for his concealment of evidence in a major trial? No. He was promoted, and continued with a career that required him to be an arm of the police seeking conviction rather than an objective scientist presenting truth to power. His evidence to the Lockerbie trial remains riddled with inconsistencies, unexplained dates and references, and word and mind games played with defence lawyers and the court.

Is it perhaps a dark day for former Scottish Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, who attempted to convince the Lockerbie court that a secret CIA cable concerning the CIA's main identification witness Majid Giaka had no bearing on the defence case? When exposed, the cable revealed that the witness was seriously influenced by self preservation and pecuniary matters. The judges therefore ruled Giaka's evidence inadmissable.

Unknown to the judges, however, Giaka had an even greater pecuniary interest. From the first days of DCI Harry Bell's investigation, letters from and discussions with the US Department of Justice were on the subject of multi-million dollar payments to Giaka. And what must Giaka do to receive the "unlimited money"? In the words of the USDoJ which Bell recorded in his personal diary, "only if he gives evidence".  The defence team and judges remained unaware of this throughout the trial and Al-Megrahi's first appeal.

Again, unknown to the judges, a secret and complete record lay hidden within the personal notebook kept by DCI Harry Bell of discussions, demands, and offers by the US Department of Justice of huge rewards to the only remaining identification witness, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci. In the words of Dana Biel of the US DoJ, it was "unlimited money, with $10,000 available immediately".

During the trial, Bell was asked about his personal notebook. No, he said, he had not brought it with him to the trial. And where was it now? It was in his office in Glasgow. And that was the end of the conversation. A horse-shoe nail indeed.

The existence of that notebook and its record of apparent bribery of key witnesses was discovered only during a three year investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.  And this discovery formed the crux of a recommendation by the SCCRC that a new appeal be held. Sadly at that time Al-Megrahi was dying from cancer, and he was released by the Scottish government having abandoned his second appeal so as to die in Tripoli among his family.

Is it perhaps a dark day for Alan Feraday, the chief forensic witness in the trial? He was aware throughout that - in his words - "the only fragment of the bomb found at Lockerbie" did not come from a batch of timers sold to Libya in 1985.

The prosecution case presented to the court and the world was that the fragment came from that batch of twenty timers. But Feraday knew of a significant difference between the fragment and the batch of timers.

The protective covering of the circuitry on the fragment was "pure tin". Indeed Feraday gave evidence using those exact words. And in his notebook he wrote down the numbers "100% tin".

Yet when analysing the samples supplied to him which had come from the manufacturers of the timers that had been sold to Libya in 1985, Feraday also knew that their protective covering was completely different, an alloy of "70/30% tin - lead". Indeed, he wrote in his notebook exactly those words.

And when presenting his summary to the trial judges, did he draw attention to the difference? No. His report and evidence stated "the fragment materials ... are similar in all respects" to the batch sold to Libya in 1985. In turn the judges partly based their conclusion of "guilty" upon those same words.

And so Lockerbie has in general revealed an uneasy history perhaps more troubling even than that contrived by the police following the Hillsborough disaster. In that case it is now known that important evidence was concealed and scores of police statements altered so as to make it appear that the many fans who were crushed were responsible for their own deaths. Thankfully the original inquest verdict which formed that view has now been overturned by an act of the British parliament, and a new inquest ordered.

And so we are drawn inevitably to the following questions:-

Will the Scottish government at least consider that  a Lockerbie verdict based on evidence by apparently bribed identification witnesses and a bomb timer fragment possessing all the hallmarks of a clandestine plant might be overturned by judicial inquiry?

Will an investigation be undertaken into the actions of Detective Inspector Harry Bell, who failed to reveal to trial and appeal judges his personal record of offers of multi-million dollar rewards to the only two identification witnesses in the Lockerbie case?

Or might a more comprehensive inquiry ask why several warnings of intended bombings prior to the Lockerbie attack were consciously ignored?

Who might now ask why a break-in at the terminal adjoining the loading areas of Pan Am and Iran Air on the night preceding the attack was discounted, the security officer's report routinely filed, and evidence given thirteen years later by that same officer, by then close to death, mocked in a court of appeal?

As this darkest of days ticks away the minutes, where does the great deceit of the Lockerbie trial now stand? And why do the British and Scottish parliaments remain silent?

1 comment:

  1. Also dark for victims of UN sanctions, essentially imposed as a result of the perjuror Giaka's testimony to a US Grand Jury.

    A dark day for the UN Security Council, who imposed sanctions until Libya paid resitution for a crime it was only accused of at the time.

    Dr. Swire you and Justice for Megrahi are the truth and the light on this dark day.