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.  


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 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.   


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