Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lockerbie's 28 year lie: Take Two.

In the light of recent speculation in the media that preparations are under way for a new posthumous appeal on behalf of Baset al-Megrahi, it may help public understanding if we revisit several two central issues of the Lockerbie case.
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On the 21st December 1988 a terrorist bomb destroyed flight Pan Am 103 during its journey from Heathrow Airport in the UK to New York.

Sections of the dismembered plane, 243 passengers and sixteen crew members fell across the Scottish town of Lockerbie and surrounding farms and fields. Eleven people on the ground were also killed.

In 1991 two Libyan security officers were indicted for the crime. Their trial began in May 2000.
 
Al-Megrahi
The key prosecution claims were:
1.  Several weeks before the attack, one of the accused, Baset al-Megrahi, purchased a selection of clothes from a Maltese clothing shop.


2. Pieces of the clothing were found at the crash site.

3.  Embedded within one of the pieces was a 4mm square fragment - PT35(b) - of an electronic timer board.

4.  The FBI had proved that the fragment came from a batch of 20 such boards delivered in 1985 to Libya by Swiss electronics supplier MEBO.

Fragment PT35(b).
5.  Two witnesses would identify the suspects and prove the case beyond doubt. The first, a CIA informant Majid Giaka; the second, a Maltese shopkeeper Toni Gauci.


The trial judges decided that Giaka  was untrustworthy, leaving Gauci as the sole identification witness.
Discredited CIA witness Majid Giaka
On 31st January 2001 al-Megrahi was found guilty. The second accused, Khalifa Fhimah, was freed with "No case to answer"
Fhimah: No case to answer.

In the years since the verdict it has become clear that the world has been cynically misled by the FBI, the CIA, and British and Scottish governments.
1. In 1989 Britain's prime minister Margaret Thatcher was advised by the Americans not to enquire into the attack.


Thatcher: Knew nothing of Lockerbie.
2.  Even though she and her entourage had walked across the devastated town one day after the attack, she could not - in her 1993 memoir "The Downing Street Years" - recall the existence of Lockerbie.
When asked by Father of the House MP Tam Dalyell why, she said: "I know nothing of Lockerbie, and do not write about something I do not know about." 
3.  Seven years after the verdict the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) discovered significant new evidence concealed by police and Crown Office from the trial judges and defence team.
4.  The SCCRC discovered a secret letter written by the King of Jordan to British prime minister John Major indicating that the Libyans were innocent of the crime.
The King's letter claimed that the attack had been Iranian-
Major: Knew Libyans were innocent.
funded in revenge for the 1988 destruction by the USS Vincennes of an Iranian Air-Bus carrying 290 pilgrims to Mecca.

5. Unknown to most journalists and public, the King had agreed to place in protective custody Marwan Khreesat, expert bomb-maker for a Palestinian group, the PFLP-GC. Khreesat had made bombs for the group in Germany, to be used to bring down American passenger planes heading for the US.
Khreesat: Bombs to destroy US planes.

6.  US and German intelligence knew that Iran had funded the Lockerbie attack. They had assembled a full dossier of intelligence proving that Khreesat and the Palestinian group were guilty.

7.  On the sudden discovery of PT35(b), however, US intelligence reversed direction and accused Libya of the crime.
8. The British government tried on two occasions to prevent the king's letter becoming public. The first, a Public Interest Immunity Certificate signed by Foreign Secretary David Miliband; the second, an unsuccessful attempt by Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt to close down a Scottish newspaper to prevent publication of the story.
Burt: Intended to close down newspaper.

9.  The SCCRC re-examined evidence given in the trial and discovered that al-Megrahi was not on the island of Malta on the day that the clothing was purchased.
10.  The SCCRC also discovered that police diaries of chief police investigator Harry Bell contained a record of multi-million dollar offers of payment to the Maltese shopkeeper Gauci "provided" - in the words of a letter to Harry Bell from the US Department of Justice - "he gives evidence." 

Gauci. $3 million for his evidence
11.  The SCCRC also re-examined all the evidence given by Gauci. They concluded that his so-called "identification" was founded on numerous viewings of photographs of al-Megrahi in the media and magazines, all linking him to the bombing. Gauci's evidence was therefore not credible, and the trial judges had been mistaken.

****
Was the Lockerbie fragment PT35(b) a fake? During the trial in 2000 there were suspicions about how it had been discovered and reported on by government scientists. The trial judges had discounted these suspicions.

Then in 2009 the al-Megrahi defence team made a startling discovery. In the years since the trial and first appeal they had managed to obtain a huge set of documents from police and Scottish Crown archives. Among the documents was the forensic notebook of scientific witness Allen Feraday.

Feraday had compared PT35(b) with control samples from MST13 timer circuit boards similar to those supplied to Libya in 1985 by MEBO.

He told the trial judges: "the fragment materials and tracking pattern are similar in all respects" to that of the MST13 timer.

But nine years prior to the trial, on 1st August 1991, when examining both the fragment and a MEBO MST13 timer circuit board, he had made two hand-written entries in his notebook which contradicted this.

The first recorded that tracks on fragment PT35(b) were protected by a layer of "Pure tin". 
Pure tin.
Alloy of 70% tin - 30% lead
The second said that tracks on the circuit of a control sample MST13 board were covered by an alloy of "70% tin and 30% lead".

Feraday and the police were fully aware of the difference. Two police scientific advisers suggested that the heat of the explosion might have evaporated the lead content of the alloy, leaving pure tin. 

Another police adviser working for Ferranti International noted that fragment PT35(b) had indications of being "home made".

Neither the scientist's reports nor the Ferranti letter were followed up. All remained hidden in police files. The police and Crown Office ensured that the judges and defence team remained unaware of their contents.

In the light of this new information the defence team consulted two prominent independent experts in the field. The experts repeatedly heat tested the evaporation theory with temperatures exceeding that of the bomb explosion. But the alloy of 70/30 tin/lead remained just that.

Thuring, the company which manufactured the circuit boards used in MST13 timers , confirmed in an affidavit that they had always used a 70/30 tin/lead combination.  Fragment PT35(b) did not, therefore, come from one of their circuit boards. How it was made and by whom remains a mystery.

Feraday either perjured himself or was grossly negligent. It was upon his statement and the identification evidence by Gauci that the case against Baset al-Megrahi would turn.

All this information has been put repeatedly to the Scottish and British governments and police. They have totally ignored it. Instead, for almost two years they have claimed to be "pursuing other suspects" in the chaos that is today Libya. The "search" is by now clearly a tactic designed to delay matters indefinitely.

Jane and Jim Swire
The mystery surrounding fragment PT35(b) was examined in great detail by investigative author John Ashton in his 2012 book Megrahi: The Lockerbie Evidence.

On the morning of the book's publication, announced at Edinburgh's 2012 International Book Fair, Prime Minister David Cameron described John Ashton's account as "An insult to the bereaved and dead of Lockerbie".

The Lockerbie campaign will continue. We intend to prove - with the help of prominent friends from around the world - that the Lockerbie verdict was a disastrous miscarriage of justice.


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