"Ramzi Diab"

Posted April 5 2010

Role in the Bomb Plot
Ramzi Diab, as he’s known and called herein, is actually an alias for Salah Kwikas [1], born 24 Sept. 1959, Nazareth [2], and in 1988 a terrorist connected to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command (PFLP-GC). Diab was one of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for three Israelis in 1985 - an agreement negotiated by PFLP-GC veteran Hafez Dalkamouni. [3] In the fall of 1988, he converged with other GC players, under Dalkamouni’s leadership, in Neuss and Frankfurt West Germany for the plot to destroy American airliners with altimeter bombs.

David Leppard writes how cell ringleader Dalkamouni, after his arrest, told BKA police “he was given the second Toshiba on about 18 October by a man called Ramzi Diab in Frankfurt. It also contained two pressure boxes, two clocks and two platinum plates. Diab, Dalkamouni said, was a member of the military section of the PFLP-GC.” [4] Ludwig DeBraeckeleer writes that on October 22, the day Khreesat started his bomb-making work with that radio and four other units, “Dalkamoni and Khreesat travel to Frankfurt […] At 2pm, they meet Ramzi Diab,” for uncertain reasons. [5] The same author notes the earlier meeting, October 18 at 5:10 PM.
In his early thirties, Diab is a member of Jibril PFLP-GC. After their meeting, Diab left in a car that belongs to Bassam Radi, a member of Adnan Younis terrorist cell. Younis, aka Abu Tarek, is also a member of the PFLP-GC. [6]
Dalkamouni later identified Diab as “a key player in the Lockerbie operation,” wrote Emerson and Duffy. “a courier of some of the bomb-making materials.” [7] Two witnesses, Diab’s flatmate Angelika Berner and his “German instructor, a kindly man named German Hoch” recalled a trip to Vienna Austria that Diab said he took in about mid-October. Both later told Emerson and Duffy that the BKA left them with a feeling Diab was thought to have “transported … the materials … to make the bombs,” or “transported the explosive material … of the type that exploded at Lockerbie.” [8]

Arrest, Release, Flight
When the mass arrests happened on October 26, Ramzi Diab was found at his house on Querstrasse 4, Frankfort-Main. [9] His documents were deemed fake, and there was no information on his arrest report other than birthdate. [10] “Under questioning by the BKA, Diab adamantly denied knowing Dalkamouni or being a member of the PFLP-GC,” wrote Emerson and Duffy in 1990. He then recalled meeting the boss, in passing, when presented with photos of him with Dalkamouni. [11]

He was released the very next day, along with most of those hauled in, for “lack of evidence.” The guns and bombs and any plots were all decided to be on Dalkamouni, Khreesat, and Ghadanfar alone. Like so many others, he fled upon release; Leppard cited a later BKA report that Diab “left the Federal Republic of Germany a few days after being released, present whereabouts unknown, possibly Austria.” [12]

This flight was probably guessed from the stories of Diab’s acquaintances Berner and Hoch, testifying to an earlier trip thataway. “One witness, a student called German Hock,” Leppard fumbled, “said he had seen Diab leaving Frankfurt on a train to Vienna. Under his arm was a Toshiba radio.” [13] That’s rather a twist, and unclear if this was the pre-arrest trip or his flight after. At trial, BKA officer Anton Van Treek was asked “when [Diab] was released, was he in possession of a radio/cassette recorder?” and responded simply “I am unable to say anything on that.” [14] The transcripts also offer a full list of October 26 arrestees, including Diab, released the following day, and, interestingly, his teacher friend German Hoch was among those hauled in, also released on the 27th. [15]

Diab is sometimes cited as the man who brought in one radio for modification and slipped away with one armed – both tasks also attributed to “Abu Elias.” An anonymous online comment says “one of Khreesat's bombs however, had been smuggled out of the West German apartment by the PFLP-GC terrorist Ramzi Diab.” [16] In his 1989 series of articles in the Sunday Times, David Leppard explained that the missing fifth bomb made by Khreesat “was smuggled to Malta by a known PFLP-GC terrorist called Ramzi Diab, and handed over to a Palestinian cell there.” [17] This whole theory died in its infancy, but not before spawning a TV movie.

Wherever he got away to and whatever with, as Emerson and Duffy wrote in early 1990 “Lockerbie investigators would like to find Diab, but they have been unable to do so.” But he wasn’t universally considered a villain; “some senior officials” had suspected that Diab called in the BKA raid, and “the Germans were told by Diab’s handlers that everything was under control” with the one bomb seized. “If Ramzi Diab was the second informant, as some investigators believe, he may not have known about Khreesat’s other four bombs, and if that is so, German authorities would would have been using Diab’s partial truth to confirm Khreesat’s wholesale lie.” [18] Further, the writers mused:
“For whom was Diab really working? Again, as with Marwan Khreesat, American investigators are not sure. Some believe that he had convinced the Germans that he was genuinely working for them. Others believe he may have been an informant for Israel. Some intelligence officials believe that, in an even stranger twist, there were Syrian informants in or connected to Dalkamouni’s network … just in case [Jibril] was not as forthcoming as he had promised.”[19]
David Leppard’s slightly later work On the Trail of Terror stated “the CIA had discovered that the other ‘mole’ inside Dalkamouni’s cell was Ramzi Diab.” The Agency, via lead investigator Vincent Cannistraro, believed Diab may have secured Khreesat’s fifth bomb and “may have taken it back to Syria.” It didn’t go well if so - on his return, Leppard writes, “Jibril is understood to have held a tribunal: he wanted to know how the BKA had managed so comprehensively to wind up his European network” Though Dalkamouni blamed Khreesat, “Jibril drew his own conclusions. Ramzi Diab was executed shortly afterwards.” [20] DeBraeckeleer says “the tribunal established that Diab was a mole for the MOSSAD.” [21] It was after this execution, Cannistraro told Leppard, that Jibril contracted with the Libyans to finish the job. [22]

[1, 3, 10, 11] Emerson and Duffy. pp 134-135
[2, 4, 9] Leppard, David. pp 10-11
[5] De Breackeleer, Ludwig. “Abu Elias Arrives in Germany: Diary of a Vengeance Foretold, part 112.” Canada Free Press. October 22 2008. http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/6194
[6] De Breackeleer, Ludwig. “What a Tragedy, What A Mess… Diary of a Vengeance Foretold, part 108.” Canada Free Press. October 18 2008.
[7] Emerson and Duffy p 262
[8] E+D pp 209-211
[12, 13] Leppard 13
[14] Day 76, p 8718
[15] p 9358
[16] http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=3298349
comment 29.
[17] Foot, p 6
[18, 19] Emerson and Duffy p 262
[20, 22] Leppard pp 211-212
[21] PFLP-GC Tribunal Sentences Ramzi Diab to death. Part 124 – NOVEMBER 3 1988

The Bedford Suitcase(s): master list

last edits Feb 17 2011

If we are to consider the possibility of a bomb introduction at Heathrow Airport, clearly we have to consider the account of Mr. John Bedford, longtime Pan Am luggage loader/driver at the airport. Bedford selected and was responsible for the initial loading of luggage container AVE4041PA, from which the blast would later originate. It’s been officially decided the bomb was in a reddish-brown hadshell Samsonite style suitcase, coming of a feeder from Germany and put in that container after Bedford left for the day.

However, only two suitcases of that type were seen in or destined for container 4041 – and these were the by Bedford himself, in roughly the spot the bomb would later detonate, well before the luggage from Germany arrived. An unabashed look at the simplest explanation would make one of the Bedford bags the source of that explosion, but the possibility was completely ruled out, on the official level, with ruthless force. Officially, Bedford's bags meant nothing - as much a coincidence as the Helsinki warning.

This post will serve to cover all relevant aspects of the two brown hardshell Samsonited John Bedford reported in container 4041. Most issues will be dealt with briefly here and in depth at the provided links.

Bedford statement to Detective Constable Adrian Dixon, January 9 1989
"I went to see Peter Walker in baggage build-up leaving Camjob in interline. I returned about 4.40 p.m., Camjob [sic] told me two further suitcases had arrived for PA 103 which he had put in the tin. I looked inside the tin and saw the suitcases that I had put in the tin still in the same position. Lying on their sides in front of the other suitcases, handles pointing towards the back of the tin, were two suitcases. They were hard suitcases, the type Samsonite make. One was brown in colour, and the other one, if it wasn't the same colour, it was similar. In size, they took up the remaining base area of the tin. [day 44, p 6463-65]
Please note he cites these two bags, introduced at the same time in his absence, as of the the same Samsonite hardshell style. And a careful reading shows they're apparently the same color. The qualifier "if not ... similar" may just be Bedford second-guessing his presumption this was a matching set of luggage. The Bedford suitcases.

Somehow in official pronouncements, presumptions, and future questioning I've seen, and even most of the critics and free-thinkers have rendered the plural is singular. John Bedford, it's said, reported a brown Samsonite, and another suitcase of a similar, but not same, color. Then it becomes "the suitcase" he saw. Below all is singular, but be aware that's by some human convention and not actual reported fact.

The posts

A Smoking Gun Left in Plain Sight
Feb. 17, 2011: An exhaustive explanation of what the Bedford bags were and weren't. In summary, they were extremely like the bomb bag, but not Megrahi's bomb from Malta. They were never found after the bombing, were called interline luggage, were by deduction not interlie luggage, or any passenger's luggage. They were sidelined at every chance, and yet remain the best of clue to what really happened on December 21 and just where and when.

Visualizing the Bedford story
Detailed graphics explaining the geometry of it all, based on direct quotes. 

Video: Two Hard Cases Solve Another
A well-scored 10-minute video explaining in part the Bedford evidence, with to-scale animations and the two-cases problem addressed head-on.  

Dr. Hayes aft first felt this square-foot chunk of solid suitcase material, quite large to be from the bomb case, was beneath the bomb and resting on the floor. Later he noticed it must have been resting on other luggage and been the bomb bag. Hmmm...   

Bedford on the color of that Brown Samsonite
His fading - or broken? - memory of the highly relevant color of that (singular) hard case in the bomb corner. 

Arguments scientific and logical, all faulty, about why Bedford's cases should be ignored. Multiple sub-posts linked here, a lot of information. 

Contradictory and shifting accounts to Met police in 1989, to the Fatal Accident Inquiry in 1990, and at Camp Zeist in 2000. Long quotes, minimal notes. 

Interline shed chronology
From trial transcripts, events as reported by Bedford, Kamboj, and others, distilled into one timeline for the afternoon of December 21. 

Yet another Red Flag From Heathrow
The only thing that has made me doubt any of the Bedford story is the shifting testimony of his boss, Peter Walker. That doubt is explored in more detail in the link below ("after..."), but mostly debunked in the comments there. 

After the break-In
Tying together Ray Manly's story of a cut lock to airside with Bedford's report. What might have happened in the 16 hours between them to have these clues unified in a London origin plot? One plausible narrative (albeit with two possibilities outlined for the middle part) traces my own best guess.  

The "Elimination" of the Bedford Suitcase(s)

(almost complete article in progress)

Note: Having a look now at David Leppard's book, I've decided to split the old post into two new ones, joined here. The first comments below reflect the previous version. This post will discuss both tracks, an official report and a dramatic blowing-up of things by political scientists, in general terms, how they relate in altering the course of the investigation. The switch was from an obvious and useful lead that neither the Americans nor Brits wanted to follow. And it was to a confusing muck in which a new plot could eventually be "discovered" and followed.

Also, here I'll address the decidedly non-scietific aspect in how this valid forensics work was twisted to insist something it simply couldn't do - "the bomb bag had to have come from Frankfurt and before that... we'll think of something. Just give us some time, okay?"

Shuffling Aside Bedford's Baggage
Not a whisker of the Libyan guilt storyline could have emerged if not for a key decision made early on about where the bomb came in from before being loaded onto PA 103. The official presumption was that the bomb had arrived in London on Pan Am 103A, a feeder flight / flirst-leg originating in Frankfurt, West Germany. Acceptance of this premise allowed a bag from Malta, and all that was attached to that, and eventually a guilty verdict for al Megrahi,

It was clear which luggage container had held the bomb; that was named AVE4041PA, and had been loaded first with various luggage at Heathrow, then filled with bags from PA 103A. As it was finally loaded, most luggage in 4041 was from Frankfurt, so by sheer numbers the bomb would more likely be in the majority batch. Perhaps riding on that wave of thought, on March 28 1989 Senior Investigating Officer (top Scot) John Orr told investigators gathered at the Lockerbie Incident Control Center (LICC):
“Evidence from witnesses is to the effect that the first seven pieces of luggage in the container belonged to Interline passengers and the remainder was Frankfurt luggage. […] To date 14 pieces of explosive-damaged baggage have been recovered and enquiries to date suggest that on the balance of probabilities the explosive device is likely to be amongst the Frankfurt baggage items. Of all the currently identified explosion-damaged luggage all but one item originated from Frankfurt.” [1, bold was LICC italics in original]
In this Frankfurt/London distinction for those damaged, one must wonder how he categorized the “primary suitcase,” the only brown, hardshell Samsonite among them. It matched the description and approximate location (see below) of the two maroony-brown hardshell Samsonites John Bedford reported as being in the container. These were loaded well before the German feeder arrived, and as blogger "Baz" points out, the "effect" that this was all interline baggage was not from "evidence from witnesses" but from the name of the shed (interline) where the suspect bags were inserted. They therefore constituted unwanted baggage that would have to be factually shuffled aside before the eventual story could unfold as it did.

The Sciencey Stuff - Two Tracks
Two tracks we can assess in some detail are covered that way in separate posts. First I recommend
part 1
the investigation, images, and explanations of Mr. Thomas Claiden. He assembled appendix F for the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch report on the Lockerbie non-accident. Based on decent forensics reasoning, he concluded the suitcase with the bomb was almost certainly not directly on the main floor panel, but otherwise at almost floor level, outboard aft quarter, or just above the left-hand Bedford suitcase, and slid a little left into the sloped-floor overhang area. This was only published in 1990, but it's more visual, which helps one form their own opinion from the damage. I don't disagree with anything of the essence here, it just doesn't say anything.

Track two is the Indian Head Forensics Tests of 1989. The tests showed that the reading inherent in the AAIB report was correct - the bomb was one layer up and not on the main floor. So the results were the same, if more dramatic and less public in their documentation.

Ultimately, the conclusion that Frankfurt was indicated relies on a stated assumption that the Bedford cases could not possibly have been stacked one on the other. If someone had stacked them, perhaps to make room for their feet as they prepared to load from 103A, the top one would be in the exact spot of the detonation. I suspect that's what happened.

Zeist Judges' Speculation
The judges at the 2000 trial explained the significance, by universal custom taking Bedford's cases as singular, in their final opinion.
It was argued on behalf of the accused that the suitcase described by Mr Bedford could well have been the primary suitcase, particularly as the evidence did not disclose that any fragments of a hard-shell Samsonite-type suitcase had been recovered, apart from those of the primary suitcase itself. [para 25]
Bedford then took container 4041 with 6-7 cases, to the "build-up area" and went home. It was taken to meet Pan Am 103A, and the case against Megrhahi was based on the "primary suitcase" being loaded from that luggage, and that based on the fact that it wasn't on the floor. For such an important aspect of the case, the exact details of where such a bag would end up later are hard to predict well, and impossible to predict with certainty. The judges are clearly aware of this:
"It was submitted that there was evidence that an American Tourister suitcase, which had travelled from Frankfurt, fragments of which had been recovered, had been very intimately involved in the explosion and could have been placed under the suitcase spoken to by Mr Bedford."
That might seem like a good clue why this bag wasn’t on the floor, but with a usual spherical propagation, the blast could cause the same damage if this suitcase was above it, below it, or beside it, depending on how they were arranged. That non sequitur leads to mental gymnastics to the effect that if a Frankfurt bag got under the ones Bedford saw, then anything is possible and two Samsonites are thus smeared out of relevance to make way for their brown Samsonite (I'm fairly sure it's the one reported by Giaka).
"That would have required rearrangement of the items in the container, but such rearrangement could easily have occurred when the baggage from Frankfurt was being put into the container on the tarmac at Heathrow. It is true that such a rearrangement could have occurred, but if there was such a rearrangement, the suitcase described by Mr Bedford might have been placed at some more remote corner of the container."
They might have been pushed over there, and never seen since, who knows. But we're quite certain they were not simply stacked up and pushed a few inches to the nearest 'corner.' The only thing solid they seemed to have was “the effect of forensic evidence was that the suitcase could not have been directly in contact with the floor of the container.” Emphasis mine, wishful reasoning theirs. See the above section for what that was all about.

Nowhere along the line were intact suitcases matching Mr. Bedford's story ever been produced intact and explained away. It's as if they both just disappeared. Or blew into tiny bits.

Desperately Seeking Education

April 3 2010

March 20 witnessed a slew of lamentations over seven months of freedom for the still-not-dead "Lockerbie bomber." One was a New York Post opinion piece called "A Terrorist's Last(?) Laugh." If they'd waited 12 days, the piece would have more punch with the 58th birthday of "Abdul Ali al-Megrahi" on April 1.

The comments following (with the notable exception of "Logika") were typical Americana - why are we so weak, why is Scotland so oil-hungry, send in the Mossad, send in missile strikes, we're being pansies and letting terrorists walk all over us, letting the Scottish walk all over us, I'm angry about something... Then I registered and weighed in:

Caustic Logic 03/22/2010 3:48 PM
Amazingly, I'm seeing something short of complete ignorance in these comments. Logika at least makes sense, and I have to wonder if we're related. People should be angered that Megrahi is still blamed, not alive. The real killers were never caught. The bomb did not come from Malta. Or Germany. It blew up 38 min. after leaving HEATHROW, as a Khreesat bomb loaded there would do. John Bedford saw it in its brown hardshell Samsonite case inside container 4041, right in the lower left corner where it blew up later. Megrahi could have nothing to do with that, since he was way down in Malta. The plus the other evidence being weak or fake proves the injustice of his release - he was released as guilty and sick, rather than innocent and sick.
I usually wind up getting the last word when I bother commenting somewhere. happily, not so here. Five days later, someone calling himself "Himself" fired back defensively:

Himself 03/27/2010 12:49 PM
Please ignore "Caustic Logic" or other armschair experts who dont know squat about this case and rely on other cranks with too much time on their hands. This is not a parlor game, where Adam whatzname wants people to add to his website claiming Megrahi was innocent. The man was found guilty by three senior scottish judges who heard all the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt. This was upheld on appeal by five scottish appellate judges. Adam should be ashamed of his silly efforts and get a life.

I went to respond, something about compensating for lack of a life quite well. But then my comment didn't take, and in fact all eleven previous comments disappeared (at least on my end). For about a day as I wrote up a rant, it said "0 comments," and then they reappeared, minus my attempted reply. So, feeling content to let "Himself" have the last word there, I'd invite him to continue the discussion here. He seems familiar enough with the site.

"Please ignore "Caustic Logic" or other armschair experts who dont know squat about this case and rely on other cranks with too much time on their hands."

First, I'm one of the cranks with too much time, not reliant on anyone. Second, if you've seen the site, sir, you'll be quite aware that a lack of knowledge is not the problem here.

I note how Megrahi's conviction, and its upholding, are mentioned in the spot one would expect to see a counter-argument - this is how investigators like Mr. Marquise cover themselves, kicking and screaming "but the judges agreed! The juuuuudges!" It's true. The first set were handed a stacked deck of dubious evidence, and their own lapses of reasoning are astounding (and documented, in real-time transcripts I have). The second set of judges, it seems, refused to question the first set. They heard contrary evidence, like the Heathrow break-in, but dismissed it with endless speculation since, circularly, "no feature of the additional evidence was consistent with the promotion of the plot by the Libyan secret service." [See: Appeal Court Dismissal of the Heathrow Theory]

So I know too little, smart man? Why don't you pop in here with comments and explain what I'm missing. For example, I used Bedford's report of the bomb bag(s) in the container; can you help me see why that's not a major clue? Did both of these brown hardshell cases get moved across the container, found unharmed, and reconciled with a passenger and explained away with actual reasoning? You don't know? Well why not? The Crown people had every chance to dismiss this theory by presenting the intact Bedford bags but have not done so. It's almost as if they just disappeared, or blew into small pieces, isn't it?

Can you better explain the forensics that went into deciding the bomb had to have come off of PA103A? Provide one iota of evidence that Megrahi had a case like that seen by Bedford, or that such a bag was ever on Malta or in Germany that day. Only in London is it seen and there in a matching set placed in the most deadly spot of the container. Do you believe there was in fact a THIRD such bag was later placed and blew up?

There are many other questions I could ask, but London origin is my project at the moment. Thanks for taking the time t explain what the hell you're talking about.

FROM LOCKERBIE TO ZEIST (via Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo)

*Note: What follows is an article on the establishment of the Camp Zeist Trial written by Professor Robert Black. It was previously published in a Maltese book edited by Joe Mifsud - Lockerbie: Qabel il Verdet (Before the Verdict), released in 2000.  It was sent in to me by Robert Forrester, and with Prof. Black's express permission, here it is, and interesting broad-sweep view of a years-long campaign to implement the trial the Americans had been demanding. (- C.L. March 2 '10)*

(via Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo)
Robert Black QC
Professor of Scots Law
The University of Edinburgh

"Call the diet: Her Majesty's Advocate against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhima."  

It was with those words that on Wednesday 3 May 2000 the long-delayed Lockerbie trial opened in the High Court of Justiciary sitting at Kamp van Zeist near Utrecht in the Netherlands.  There were those who predicted that this trial would never take place and there were those who worked tirelessly, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to try to ensure that it would not.  My purpose in this paper is to give you an account of my part in attempting to secure, over some rather powerful opposition, that there would in fact be a trial.

The Event
On Wednesday, 21 December 1988 at 7:03 pm GMT a Boeing 747 airliner owned and operated by Pan American World Airlines and cruising at 31,000 feet exploded above the small town of Lockerbie.  Pan Am Flight 103 had taken off from London Heathrow some 38 minutes before and was en route to JFK Airport in New York.  Aboard the aircraft were 243 passengers and a crew of sixteen.  None survived.  The vast majority of those on board were United States citizens, but other nationalities represented included British, French, Israeli, Hungarian, Canadian, German, Spanish, Belgian and Norwegian. Although the disaster occurred only four days before Christmas and every other transatlantic flight was fully booked, this particular aircraft was more than one-third empty, only 243 out of 412 seats being occupied.

Debris from the explosion completely demolished three houses in Sherwood Crescent, a small street of privately owned detached houses, and eleven townspeople were killed instantly.

The Investigation
Within a week it had become apparent to the joint team of British and American investigators that this had been no accident and that the cause of the destruction of the aircraft had been a bomb.  There then followed the most extensive criminal investigation ever conducted in Scotland -- or, it seems probable, anywhere else -- into an act of terrorism.  The investigation was under the control of the Dumfries and Galloway police -- the smallest force in Scotland.  Also closely involved in the investigation were other United Kingdom police forces and personnel from the British, United States, and west German intelligence services.

Around and to the south of Lockerbie some 845 square miles of land were combed for debris.  Over a period of several years more than 15,000 people were questioned; information and evidence were sought in more than 30 different countries.  The aircraft had been some thirty minutes late in leaving Heathrow.  Had it been on schedule, the bomb (assuming that it was detonated by a timing mechanism) would have exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, sparing the town of Lockerbie but making investigation of the accident and recovery of physical evidence very much more difficult.

In mid-1990 it was reported (in the Washington Post and the London Times among other places) that sources within the US Central Intelligence Agency were indicating that the evidence pointed towards the atrocity's having been committed by Ahmed Jibril's Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).  The theory was that this group had been commissioned and paid by Ayatollah Khomeini to destroy an American airliner in revenge for the American warship Vincennes shooting down in the Persian Gulf an Iranian Airbus containing pilgrims to Mecca on 3 July 1988 resulting in the death of all 290 people on board.

Libya Enters the Frame
It will therefore be appreciated that it came a something of a surprise when on 14 November 1991 the prosecution authorities in Scotland and the United States simultaneously announced that they had brought criminal charges against two named Libyan nationals who were alleged to be members, and to have been acting throughout as agents, of the Libyan intelligence service.

According to the Scottish and American prosecutors, what had happened was this.  The two Libyans had manufactured a bomb using a Toshiba cassette recorder, Semtex explosive and a digital electric timer (supplied and manufactured by a Swiss company, MeBo AG).  The device had been placed in a brown Samsonite suitcase in Malta, along with items of clothing purchased for the purpose from a particular shop (Mary's House) in Sliema.  Using stolen Air Malta luggage tags, the Libyans (one of whom had occupied the post of station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta) introduced the suitcase into Luqa  airport's inter-line baggage system as unaccompanied luggage on Air Malta Flight KM 180 from Malta to Frankfurt, with directions for its onward transmission (first) on to a feeder flight (PA  103A)  to Heathrow and (second) on to Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow to JFK in New York.

On 27 November 1991 the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States each issued a statement calling upon the Libyan government to hand over the two accused to either the Scottish or the American authorities for trial.  Requests for their extradition were transmitted to the government of Libya through diplomatic channels.  No extradition treaties are in force between Libya on the one hand and United Kingdom and the United States on the other.

Libyan internal law, in common with the laws of many countries in the world, does not permit the extradition of its own nationals for trial overseas.  The government of Libya accordingly contended that the affair should be resolved through the application of the provisions of a 1971 civil aviation Convention concluded in Montreal to which all three relevant governments are signatories.  That Convention provides that a state in whose territory persons accused of terrorist offences against aircraft are resident has a choice aut dedere aut judicare, either to hand over the accused for trial in the courts of the state bringing the accusation or to take the necessary steps to have the accused brought to trial in its own domestic courts.  In purported compliance with the second of these options, the Libyan authorities arrested the two accused and appointed a Supreme Court judge as examining magistrate to consider the evidence and prepare the case against them.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, the UK and US governments refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claimed to have amassed against the accused, who remained under house arrest until they were eventually handed over in April 1999 for trial at Kamp van Zeist.

The United Nations
The United Nations Security Council (of which the UK and the USA are, of course, permanent members) first became involved in the Lockerbie affair on 21 January 1992 when it passed Resolution 731 strongly deploring the government of Libya's lack of co-operation in the matter and urging it to respond to the British and American requests contained in their statements of 27 November 1991.  This was followed by Security Council Resolution 748 (31 March 1992)  requiring Libya to comply with the requests within a stipulated period of time, failing which a list of sanctions specified in the Resolution would be imposed.  Compliance was not forthcoming and sanctions (including trade and air transport embargos) duly came into effect in April 1992.  The range and application of these sanctions was  extended by a further Resolution passed on 11 November 1993.  The imposition of sanctions under these last two Resolutions was justified by the Security Council by reference to Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis that Libya's failure to extradite the accused constituted a threat to world peace.

An Attempt to Resolve the Impasse
I first became involved in the Lockerbie affair in early 1993.  I was approached by representatives of a group of British businessmen whose desire to participate in major engineering works in Libya was being impeded by the UN sanctions.  They asked if I would be prepared to provide (on an unpaid basis) independent advice to the government of Libya on matters of Scottish criminal law,  procedure and evidence with a view (it was hoped) to persuading them that their two citizens would obtain a fair trial if they were to surrender themselves to the Scottish authorities.  This I agreed to do, and submitted material setting out the essentials of Scottish solemn criminal procedure and the various protections embodied in it for accused persons. 

In the light of this material, it was indicated to me that the Libyan government was satisfied regarding the fairness of a criminal trial in Scotland but that since Libyan law prevented the extradition of nationals for trial overseas, the ultimate decision on surrender for trial would have to be one taken voluntarily by the accused persons themselves, in consultation with their independent legal advisers.  For this purpose a meeting was convened in Tripoli in October 1993 of the international team of lawyers which had already been appointed to represent the accused.  This team consisted of lawyers from Scotland, England, Malta, Switzerland and the United States and was chaired by the principal Libyan lawyer for the accused, Dr Ibrahim Legwell.  The Libyan government asked me to be present in Tripoli while the team was meeting so that the government itself would have access to independent Scottish legal advice should the need arise.  However, the Libyan government expectation was clearly that the outcome of the meeting of the defence team would be a decision by the two accused voluntarily to agree to stand trial in Scotland.

I am able personally to testify to how much of a surprise and embarrassment it was to the Libyan government when the outcome of the meeting of the defence team was an announcement that the accused were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland.  In the course of a private meeting that I had a day later with Dr Legwell, he explained to me that the primary reason for the unwillingness of the accused to stand trial in Scotland was their belief that, because of unprecedented pre-trial publicity over the years, a Scottish jury could not possibly bring to their consideration of the evidence in this case the degree of impartiality and open-mindedness that accused persons are entitled to expect and that a fair trial demands.  A secondary consideration was the issue of the physical security of the accused if the trial were to be held in Scotland.  Not that it was being contended that ravening mobs of enraged Scottish citizens would storm Barlinnie prison, seize the accused and string them up from the nearest lamp posts.  Rather, the fear was that they might be snatched by special forces of the United States, removed to America and put on trial there (or, like Lee Harvey Oswald, suffer an unfortunate accident before being put on trial).

 The Libyan government attitude remained, as it always had been, that they had no constitutional authority to hand their citizens over to the Scottish authorities for trial.  The question of voluntary surrender for trial was one for the accused and their legal advisers, and while the Libyan government would place no obstacles in the path of, and indeed would welcome, such a course of action, there was nothing that it could lawfully do to achieve it.

An Innocent Abroad
My journeys to and from Tripoli in October 1993 were interesting.  Because of UN sanctions, air travel to Tripoli was out of the question.  The normal procedure at that time was to fly from Europe to the nearest Tunisian airport on the holiday island of Djerba and then travel by car along the coast road to Tripoli, a frightening five-hour journey at the best of times but especially so when being driven at breakneck speed in a Libyan government black Mercedes whose driver clearly regarded it as the duty of every other road user to get out of the path of his vehicle and refused to concede even the possibility that any  road user, Tunisian or Libyan, might fail to do so. 

On my return journey I was unable to get a flight from Djerba to any European airport and so took an internal flight from Djerba to Tunis in the naive belief that flights to European destinations would be more frequent from the Tunisian capital.  On arrival in Tunis at 5pm I discovered that there were no further flights to any European destination that day.  I made a booking for an early flight to London the following morning and proceeded to try to find accommodation for the night.  It was only then that I discovered that a meeting of the Council of the PLO was taking place in Tunis and that there was accordingly not a single room to be had in any of the major hotels in the city.  Eventually, however, my taxi driver indicated that he had a friend who ran a small hotel and that he was sure that I would be able to find accommodation there.  He was indeed correct, though I suspect that I am the only guest in the history of the establishment who has ever paid for a room there other than by the hour.

The Neutral Venue Proposal
Having mulled over the concerns expressed to me by Dr Legwell in October 1993, I returned to Tripoli and on 10 January 1994 presented a letter to him suggesting a means of resolving the impasse created by the insistence of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States that the accused be surrendered for trial in Scotland or America and the adamant refusal of the accused to submit themselves for trial by jury in either of these countries.  This was a detailed proposal, but in essence its principal elements were: that a trial be held outside Scotland, ideally in the Netherlands, in which the governing law and procedure would be that followed in Scottish criminal trials on indictment but with this major alteration, namely that the jury of 15 persons which is a feature of that procedure be replaced by a panel of judges who would have the responsibility of deciding not only questions of law but also the ultimate question of whether the guilt of the accused had been established on the evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

In a letter to me dated 12 January 1994, Dr Legwell stated that he had consulted his clients,  that this scheme was wholly acceptable to them and that if it were implemented by the government of the United Kingdom the suspects would voluntarily surrender themselves for trial before a tribunal so constituted.  By a letter of the same date the Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya stated that his government approved of the proposal and would place no obstacles in the path of its two citizens should they elect to submit to trial under this scheme.

The UK Government's Initial Attitude
On my return to the United Kingdom I submitted the relevant documents to the Foreign Office in London and the Crown Office (the headquarters of the Scottish prosecution service) in Edinburgh.  Their immediate response was that this scheme was impossible, impracticable and inherently undesirable, with the clear implication that Professor Black had taken leave of what few senses nature had endowed him with. That remained the attitude of successive Lord Advocates and Foreign Secretaries for four years and seven months.  During this period the British government's stance remained consistent: United Nations Security Council Resolutions placed upon the government of Libya a binding international legal obligation to hand over the accused for trial to the UK or the US authorities.  Nothing else would do.  If Libyan law did not currently permit the extradition of its own nationals to stand trial overseas, then Libya should simply alter its law (and, if necessary, its Constitution) to enable it to fulfil its international duty.

Over the years British government sources put forward six specific objections to my proposal.  There was no merit in any of these objections, as I think I have conclusively demonstrated in an article published in November 1997: see “The Lockerbie Proposal”  1997 Scots Law Times (News) 304.

For almost five years successive governments of the United Kingdom (of both old Conservative and New Labour political persuasions) consistently and fervently maintained that the "neutral venue" scheme which I had proposed and which had been accepted by the Libyan government and defence lawyers in January 1994, was totally and absolutely unsatisfactory and could provide no resolution to the Lockerbie impasse.  For a flavour of the vehemence of  government opposition to the scheme, as recently as early 1998, reference may be made to the article by the then Lord Advocate,  Lord Hardie “The Lockerbie Trial” 1998 Scots Law Times (News) 9, to the statement made in the UN Security Council on 20 March 1998 by the UK Permanent Representative, Sir John Weston (see www.britain-info.org/bistext/ukmis/speeches/20mar98.stm) and to the  statement in the House of Commons on 29 April 1998 by Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett (see HC Hansard, 29/04/1998, cols 299-302).

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa expressed his strong support for the proposal during his attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Edinburgh in October 1997.  But that seemed to cut no ice with Robin Cook, the new Foreign Secretary who, admittedly, probably had other more personal matters on his mind at the time.  

Not surprisingly, Libyan patience at the refusal of the United Kingdom and the United States even to contemplate the “neutral venue” solution eventually began to wear thin.

In April 1998 Dr Jim Swire (the spokesman for the relatives group UK Families Flight 103) and I had a meeting in Cairo with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab Nations, Dr Esmet Abdul Majid, and were informed that in the light of more than four years of British and American intransigence the Libyans were seriously considering announcing withdrawal of their support for the proposal.  It was suggested to us by Dr Majid that it might be appropriate for us, if we wished to avoid this outcome, to make yet another trip to Tripoli.  This we did, and in a meeting with Dr Ibrahim Legwell were assured that it remained the position of the suspects that they would surrender for trial if such a court were established.  It was the Libyan government that was apparently, because of British and American procrastination, having second thoughts about permitting its citizens to leave the country to stand trial voluntarily before such a tribunal. 

The Libyan Foreign Ministry committee, with whom all of my previous dealings had been, arranged for Dr Swire and me to have a meeting with Colonel Gaddafi and this took place on 20 April 1998 at his reinforced concrete tent on the outskirts of Tripoli.  The meeting was initially a frosty one, with the Colonel refusing to make eye contact but instead staring straight ahead with his arms folded and making lengthy pronouncements about the inflexibility and intransigence over more than four years of the British government.  When eventually he interrupted his monologue to take breath, we were able to dive in with comments to the effect that the Labour government had been in office for less than a year, was still finding its feet in foreign affairs and that it was possible to detect some signs that its position over the Lockerbie issue might just be somewhat more flexible than that of its Conservative predecessor.  Gaddafi then made a few highly complimentary remarks about Tony Blair, and the remainder of the meeting was held in a much more friendly atmosphere.  After about an hour, we departed with the reassurance that the Libyan government’s policy in relation to a “neutral venue” trial would remain unchanged for at least a further six months.  As we were leaving Gaddafi's compound the then Libyan Foreign Minister, Omar al-Muntasser, who had been present at the meeting, said to us: "You made the Leader laugh three times!  Someone will pay for that!"  I think he was joking.

The Volte-face
From about late July 1998, there began to be leaks from UK government sources to the effect that a policy change over Lockerbie was imminent, and on 24 August 1998 the governments of the United Kingdom and United States announced that they had reversed their stance on the matter of a "neutral venue" trial.  In a letter of that date to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the British and American Acting Permanent Representatives to the UN stated:

 "....  in the interest of resolving this situation in a way which will allow justice to be done, our Governments are prepared, as an exceptional measure, to arrange for the two accused to be tried before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.  After close consultation with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we are pleased to confirm that the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has agreed to facilitate arrangements for such a court.  It would be a Scottish court and would follow normal Scots law and procedure in every respect except for the replacement of the jury by a panel of three Scottish High Court judges.  The Scottish rules of evidence and procedure, and all the guarantees of fair trial provided by the law Scotland, would apply."

The details of the arrangement -- the fine print -- are to be found in two documents: a British Order in Council (SI 1998 No 2251), made on 16 September 1998, conferring the necessary legal authority for Scottish criminal proceedings against the two Libyan suspects to be conducted in the Netherlands, and an international agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of the United Kingdom, concluded on 18 September 1998, making the diplomatic arrangements necessary for the "neutral venue" trial to take place.  The scheme set out in these two documents differs in detail from that which I proposed, and to which I had obtained Libyan assent, in January 1994; but the framework is the same.

Pitfalls along the Route
Although the British proposal was announced in late August 1998, it was not until 5 April 1999 that the two suspects actually arrived in the Netherlands for trial before the Scottish court.  Why the delay?  The answer is that some of the fine print in the two documents was capable of being interpreted, and was in fact interpreted, by the Libyan defence team and the Libyan government as having been deliberately designed to create pitfalls to entrap them.  And since the governments of the United Kingdom and United States resolutely refused to have any direct contact with either the Libyan government or the Libyan defence lawyers, these concerns could be dealt with only through an intermediary, namely the Secretary-General of the United Nations. 

Between 20 and 22 September 1998, Dr Swire and I were again in Tripoli and were able to provide to the Libyan government and the Libyan defence team a measure of reassurance regarding some of the issues that concerned them.  However, it was we  who (having received the information hot off the presses from a journalist in The Hague) had to inform the Libyan government that the chosen location in the Netherlands for trial was Kamp van Zeist, a former NATO base to which the air force of the United States still had extant treaty rights of access.  I anticipated that this information would cause the Libyans to renounce the "neutral venue" concept in high dudgeon and complain of the lack of good faith demonstrated by Her Majesty's Government in selecting, or agreeing to, such a site.  But they did not do so.  This, more than anything else, convinced me that the Libyan government and the Libyan defence lawyers genuinely wished a trial to take place and that the concerns they had expressed regarding details of the scheme now on offer were genuine concerns, not merely a colourable pretext for evading their earlier commitment to such a solution.

On 22 September we had a further meeting with the Leader of the Revolution.  On this occasion the meeting took place not in Tripoli but 400 kilometres to the east in a genuine (not reinforced concrete) Bedouin tent in a desert location inland from the town of Sirte.  Surrounded by sand dunes and noisily ruminating camels, Colonel Gaddafi, Dr Swire and I  discussed the details of the British scheme.  He accepted my assurance that at least some of the concerns that Libyan government lawyers had raised were unwarranted and that it would be worthwhile to continue to seek clarifications and reassurances through the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding the remaining issues. 

Incidentally, this meeting with Gaddafi was held on the day that President Clinton's deposition in the Monica Lewinsky case was televised.  In the course of the pleasantries that took place before we all got down to business, Gaddafi informed us that he had spent the morning watching the President's performance on CNN television.  What most shocked him, he said, was the revelation that on occasions while Miss Lewinsky was dutifully serving her President, the latter was speaking to foreign Heads of State on the telephone.    Gaddafi's comment  was that he thought that the President should have it cut off.

Although many within the governments of Britain and the United States and within the media were sceptical, the suspects did eventually, on 5 April 1999, surrender themselves for trial before the Scottish court at Kamp van Zeist.  That trial, after lengthy delays necessitated by the defence's need for adequate time to prepare, started on Wednesday 3 May 2000. 

I feel a distinct measure of pride in the part that I, a Lockerbie boy born and bred, and a simple professor of law, played in bringing it about.  I have reason to suspect, however, that my government feels  no  sense of gratitude towards me.   And I feel no pride whatsoever in the outcome of the proceedings.  The conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on the evidence led at the trial constitutes, in my view, a flagrant miscarriage of justice, and one that I hope to live to see rectified.

The Magnitude And Firstness of the Lockerbie Bombing

Adam Larson/Caustic Logic
March 9 2010
last edit March 10 2am

This post is for those too young to remember or too unclear or numbed to understand or feel the significance of the bombing of Pan Am 103 and the geopolitical maneuvers following it. At 7:00 PM on December 21, 1988, the darkest day of the year, Pan Am flight 103 was just reaching cruising altitude nearly six miles above southern Scotland. The Boeing 747 was carrying 243 passengers and a crew of sixteen, mostly returning home for Christmas. 38 minutes after they had left from London’s Heathrow airport to New York’s JFK, at a hair before 7:03, a bomb detonated in the forward cargo hold and ruptured the hull. What followed can best be understood by viewing this amazing and probably quite accurate animation:

Prior to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the bombing of Pan Am 103 had stood as the deadliest ever terrorist attack on American civilians, and it still holds a distant second place. 270 people died in the attack, 189 of them Americans, including many military service members, college students, and young children. Eleven residents of Lockerbie, Scotland were killed when the main part of the plane plowed into the Sherwood Crescent neighborhood.

What followed the crash was “the largest mass murder trial in British history,” first covering the 800 sq. miles of debris and later the global mazes of a cross-border plot. [NYT] Naturally, the Scottish police backed by the American FBI and other US and UK agencies led the investigation.

The responsible airline, Pan American Airways, had been until the 1980s an American giant of aviation, the World Trade Center of the skies. After Lockerbie, they were vilified, bankrupted and destroyed by a string of lawsuits filed over their egregious security breaches at Frankfurt Airport. This doesn’t even count the still unacknowledged security breach at Heathrow that allowed the bomb to slip onto PA103 there.

The actual perpetrators were also pursued; “Lockerbie was perhaps the first truly global terrorism investigation.” [Time] This gave American and British authorities more people than usual to tell how things are. Germany, Malta, Jordan, Switzerland, and Sweden especially had significant roles in forming or following the investigation’s course. This had led to Libya with the joint Scots-American indictments of al Megrahi and Fhimah in November 1991.

After that the case moved to another level and witnessed, in 1992, the United Nations Security Council demanding the two accused be handed over for trial in the U.S. Sanctions were imposed when the demand was (inevitably) refused. “This is the first time the Security Council has ever demanded the extradition of citizens of one country to stand trial in another or implicitly accused a member government of involvement in terrorism.” [NYT] When the two accused were eventually handed over in 1999 for a compromise trial the Americans had prevented for years, obviously it was the first time such a demand was honored.

Alan Gerson was involved with pressing lawsuits against Libya for victims’ families, wrote a book with Jerry Adler (The Price of Terror, 2001) that explained a massive first - the unprecedented rulings and Congressional act establishing that a “rogue state” like Libya was exempt from the coverage of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, “a much bigger change than the families had ever sought, or perhaps needed.”
“Early on, Gerson and Zaid had intended merely to carve out the narrowest possible exception to the rule of sovereign immunity. […] they never sought to achieve a new world order based on the rule of law […] Instead the government got the FSIA amendment, which […] opened the doors for individuals to take on foreign governments for a much wider range of offenses, with consequences no one quite anticipated.” [p 295]
The way to suing foreign governments for alleged violence against Americans opened by these Lockerbie-led rulings has since been used in cases against Iran, Cuba, and other unloved nations, besides Libya.

The trial of Megrahi and Fhimah itself was held at “Kamp van Zeist” in “neutral” Netherlands. It was “the first time a patch of overseas soil has been designated Scottish to allow such an event.” [NYT] It was also perhaps the first time such a trial had been held in “a former NATO base to which the air force of the United States still had extant treaty rights of access.” [Robert Black]

Assorted firsts of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist:
“… the first time a Scottish court has sat on foreign territory. Unusually, there was no jury.” [BBC]
“…the first Scottish murder trial to use judges instead of a jury. […] the first time a trial in what is nominally Britain has attracted the wide attention usually associated with the American courts." [NYT]
"'In many senses this trial is unique,' said John P. Grant, who leads a team of law professors from the University of Glasgow studying the trial and helping journalists understand Scottish law. 'It may become the longest trial in British history. It certainly will be the most expensive.'" [NYT]
“...the first time that LiveNote software has been used in a Scottish court to produce simultaneous transcripts; […] the most expensive and possibly the longest trial in Scottish legal history, employing the largest prosecution and investigation team without even including US Department of Justice personnel; […] held in what is quite possibly the most secure and most high-tech courthouse ever built." [Jurist]
The testimony of Libyan defector, CIA asset, FBI star witness, and obvious fabricator "Abdul Majid Giaka" was another first. As Gerson and Adler put it, “never before had the CIA permitted one of its intelligence sources to testify in open court about his work, and his testimony quickly showed why.” [p 282-83] The judges were forced to dismiss the tales that originally provided the skeleton of the case against Libya, while accepting the boneless mass that remained.

Following the guilty/not Guilty verdict of January 31 2001, Libya eventually negotiated a settlement with victims’ families – eventually settled in 2003 at $2.7 billion plus an admittedly hollow statement of “responsibility” for things Libyan agents actually do. Jim Kriendler of law firm Kriendler & Kriendler (New York), who represented some of the victim’s families (none too well says Gerson), called it “the first time that any of the states designated as sponsors of terrorism have offered compensation to families of terror victims." [UNWire] When Americans and the BBC use that agreement and mammoth settlement as evidence that the Libyans really did it, obviously that’s the first time such an original gesture was twisted in such a way.

In these and other ways, long before the controversial release and "Hero's welcome" granted to the "convicted bomber" in 2009, this Lockerbie attack and its long fallout are highly relevant and worthy of careful scrutiny. Considering the case underpinning all of the above is so full of questions, it becomes doubly so. It may stand nowhere near first among issues of global justice that demand action, but it's certainly one among many and a fascinating one at that.

Professor Black's Reward

Professor Black's Reward
The Lockerbie Divide 

15 March 2010

I'd like to address a minor controversy that arose recently, and may arise again, about Scots Law Professor Robert Black's negotiation of the framework for the trial that resulted in Megrahi's conviction in 2001. I recently re-posted Professor Black's 2000 article From Lockerbie to Zeist (via Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo), outlining his journey in the late 1990s to get the trial agreed to by all sides.  An anonymous reader posted a comment there reading in full:
Some observations and questions:

1)“It came of some surprise when on 14 November 1991 the prosecution authorities in Scotland and the United States simultaneously announced that they had brought criminal charges against two named Libyan nationals who were alleged to be members, and to have been acting throughout as agents, of the Libyan intelligence service”

Why would it come as such a surprise? Surely Pr. Black was well aware of Libya’s involvement and support of terrorist activities; including the Abu Nidal Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command – some of whom were arrested in the Autumn leaves sting in Germany, where bomb making equipment was siezed. Said equipment had many similarities (outside of the timing device) to the PA103 bomb.

2)Who exactly were the group of British businessmen who approached Professor Black and what exactly were their desired “major engineering works in Libya” ? Oil springs to mind. BP perhaps? Smacks of a deal in the desert… Oh what a wicked web…

3)Pr. Black insults the reader by insinuating that anyone in their right mind would believe that he (Pr. Black) would, on an unpaid basis, endure traveling to Libya against sanctions, and risk being kidnapped or killed at that time. But then again, perhaps Black defies the definition of “right mind”, and/or "unpaid".

March 9, 2010 2:19 PM
My limited experience and gut instinct say it's Richard Marquise, but at any rate likely an American with a deep connection to the case and a gripe against Black. Did the Professor just help arrange the trial to help end sanctions and make millions in oil kickbacks?  I had first agreed that oil was the most likely business to have sent people to the seek his help, and conceded that possibly "he got paid indirectly, or secretly, or what have you." I strongly suggested the commenter was involved in spinning the investigation, and asked how much he was paid, and closed with this ponderable:
If "unpaid basis" means literally that, in all way shape or form, I take his word. The point is, it doesn't change the fact that he arranged the framework for a trial where the Libyans WERE handed over to Scottish jusrisdiction as demanded. Megrahi was then convicted. The US maintains its sanctions though the UN does not.
You act as if this is a bad thing, helping arrange Camp Zeist. Why would one be upset and look to discredit such work? 
A concerned reader suggested I remove the comment, and maybe my responses, as being "over the mark" and plain offensive. Yeah, but it was on-topic, and a question people will only naturally wonder about. I was concerned enough to ask Professor Black himself. In his South Africa season at the moment, it took a day or so to hear of his lack of worry, and a clarification that will likely fail to satisfy Anonymous:
"I wasn't paid -- either by the businessmen or the Libyans. Indeed, the fact that no fee was involved was one of the main reasons why the Dean of Faculty (the leader of the Scottish Bar) recommended to the businessmen that they should approach me rather than any other member of the Scottish Bar. The businessmen in question were not involved in the oil industry: their field was civil engineering and construction."
- e-mail, March 13, 2010 11:13 PM
Was it oil-related engineering? Oh, give it a rest...

Robert Black helped change history a little, and to some people, this alone could be plenty reward for such works. Aside from that, if one is too cynical to accept hunger for Justice or the Common Good as motives, or a reward in the afterlife, we might also consider bragging rights as the "architect of the Lockerbie trial," or the position from which to publish a book on the adventure. He wouldn't be the first.

I'm just savvy enough to suspect multiple motives, and if money had been in there, I personally would see no ethical issues with it. That said, the professor wasn't paid. I'm ready to move on.  Let this post serve as the spot to discuss this issue any further, and leave From Lockerbie to Zeist for discussing that paper's content.

Iranian vs. Libyan Role in the Lockerbie Bombing


Critical Americans Speak in Whispers
Now-famous retired CIA guy Robert Baer is one who's always suspected Iranian involvement, with little if any help from Libya. Alan Gerson and Jerry Adler's 2001 book The Price of Terror mentions a meeting Baer had with PA103 families leader Victoria Cummock, in which he expressed his concern that Iran's role was minimized. Cummock, who lost her husband in the boombing, told the book:
"He voiced what Paul Hudson and I had been saying to each other all thhrough the end of 1990 and into 1991. We were getting the State Department briefings, and we both noticed there was less and less in them about Syria and the Iranians. Then we stopped hearing anything about them." [p 91]
This was all just "intelligence," as Marquise would call it, and "whispers" per Gerson and Adler, easily trumped by "evidence." This would seem so, but the intelligence was good and had some evidence of its own, and the evidence that replaced it pointing to Libya (alone or at all) is rotten down the line.

Official Takes
John Biewen and/or Ian ferguson wrote in 2000:
"Nonetheless, Cannistraro says he is persuaded that the Libyans are guilty. He says Qadhafi's government was in touch with the PFLP-GC and had, in fact, subsidized the group. But Cannistraro says he's convinced Qadhafi's men were hired to finish the Pan Am bombing only after the West German police broke up the PFLP-GC's operation. "I do think the Libyans carried it out. But I believe more it was a hand-off from the PFLP-GC after their own operational cell was compromised."

So, who conspired to bomb Pan Am 103? Iran, Syria, the PFLP-GC, or the Libyans? Cannistraro's answer is: maybe all of the above."

Alan Gerson and Jerry Adler, The Price of Terror, 2001:
"The French claimed to have information that both the UTA [772] and Pan Am [103] bombings were decided on at a meeting in Tripoli in September 1988. If true, that would tend to exonerate Jibril and Iran in the Pan Am bombing, because it implies Libya was planning the attack even before the PFLP-GC cell in Germany was rounded up; Jibril would have had no reason to hand off the job to the Libyans until after the arrests, in October. But American investigators never confirmed this September meeting." [p 98]

See also: Libya's "Admissions of Guilt" including a strong dose of Iranian initiative and the same motive. Cited there, an alleged confession by Gaddafi to an American journalist saying in part:
"We knew it would be comparable retaliation for the Iranian Airbus, but we were not told what the specific objective was [...] If we had initiated the plot, we would have made sure the accusing finger was pointed in the other direction and we would have picked Cyprus, not Malta, where some of the organization was done. The others picked Malta presumably to frame us." - Moammar Gaddafi, attributed by Arnaud de Borchgrave, Summer 1993 [2]

Biewen and Ferguson:
"But the Lockerbie indictment of 1991 pointed the finger only at the Libyans. In a comment shortly after the indictment, President Bush explicitly exonerated Damascus. "The Syrians took a bum rap on this," Bush said."
International Herald Tribune, Jan 13 1994
[see also Gerson and Adler, p 92]
"Libya Still Only Suspect in Bombing

There is no evidence that any country other than Libya was involved in the bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland in 1988, but the inquiry into the matter remains open, Prime Minister John Major said Wednesday.

Mr. Major was asked in the House of Commons about reports suggesting that Syria and Iran might have been involved in the bombing, which killed all 259 people on board the New York-bound flight and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.

Britain and the United States have named two Libyans as suspects in the bombing, and the United Nations has imposed sanctions against Libya because it has refused to extradite the suspects."
"Robert Mueller, U.S. Assistant Attorney General] We have no evidence to implicate another country in this disaster.
[Douglas Hurd, British Foreign Secretary] I understand the investigation has revealed no evidence to support suggestions of involvement by any other countries."
6 March 1995: Mr. Douglas Hogg: "The Lockerbie investigators have given exhaustive consideration to all information relevant to the Lockerbie bombing. The possible involvement by nationals of a number of countries has been very closely investigated. Despite the unprecedented scale of the investigation, the available evidence does not support charges against the nationals of any country besides Libya. But the investigation remains open and any relevant new information will be considered." [5]
[1] Biewen, John and Ian Ferguson. "Mass Murder Over Scotland." Shadow over Lockerie series. American Radio Works, 2000.
[3] http://www.psychedelic-library.org/lockerbie.htm
[4] http://www.american-buddha.com/francovich.maltesetran.htm
[5] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199495/cmhansrd/1995-03-06/Writtens-1.html

Frequently Un-Asked Questions

First posted 1/16/10
by Caustic Logic
lat edit 3/13/10

Recently, I started an on-line discussion to take questions from skeptics, in an attempted dialog that worked alright, considering. I started with a provocative statement that they should stop and consider if al Megrahi were really innocent. I kept arguing back instead of just taking note of the responses they gave. But I did take note, and can summarize the responses in categories. Below is a list based on that, but expanded to include more detail-oriented questions or points they should have posed.:

1) I don’t care, I don’t wan to think about it, click.
This is the ultimate stumper – aside from someone who doesn’t even hear your call or answer the phone, nothing’s more impossible to argue with. I have no rebuttal link for this one. It's your best bet if you're afraid of knowledge, and it's not too late to stop reading now.
Subsets of group 1 include those who do and don’t have strong opinions on the case despite their conscious denial of knowledge. I suppose that can't be helped.

2) Why should I care?
Dialog is now possible. This one should be easy enough to answer. 270 people were killed, and the real killers escaped unnamed as the Libyans have been harrassed for decades to distract us. Talk about "giving comfort to terrorists around the world" (to paraphrase Robert Mueller) Most of the world already knows or suspects this; it's mostly Americans who are grossly behind the curve on the issue.

3) Officials already did prove their case with evidence and a defense, and… whatever, and I see no reason to doubt their work.
There are tree sub-versions of this:
  • we have no right to question an official verdict (rare)
  • we have no reason to question the findings here (more common, often code for the above)
  • I don’t care enough to even consider reason or rights at all. (by far the most common implicit response)
The middle variant is an inherently reasonable approach to take, presuming only that one doesn’t know the specifics and knows that such proceding are supposed to be fair. However, manipulation is possible and when one finds or is presented with equally reasonable cause to suspect it, even faintly, such defense of ignorance no longer holds.

4) Do something with this other than tell me.
The "take it to the cops, kid" approach. Get off the internet and launch an investigation, prove your case in court, have a news story written in the New York Times, etc. This purports to be the most constructive offering, but also reflects an ironic anti-question stance. "I'll consider your questioning of the answers I was given by 'the authorities' as soon you've proven your one solid answer and convinced the same 'authorities' to tell me these new answers. Until it's official, it's just words." It's almost as if reality itself has no power to lend its weight to words. Either that, or we're hopelessly unable to discern that reality and must blindly rely on official decisions. Seems a depressing and almost Orwellian mindset but it seems to underpin most of the protest I've seen.

5) Circumstantial clues re: Megrahi’s activities and financing.
As the only evidence-based retort, this emerged as it had just made the news again at the moment I was asking for input. Megrahi had a mysterious business office in Zurich, and millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account. Oh, and since we know he’s a terrorist, that’s probably terrorizing money. So that proves he’s a terrorist, and his business was just a front for terrorizing. Again, a closer look reveals a different picture and shows how people's imaginations can run away with them.

6) Evidence isn't Proof
(once accepting some valid problems with the evidence and the case against Megrahi) A few problems with the evidence and the case doesn’t automatically prove (insert opponent’s assertion and/or a strawman here). Repeat process for each of the 188 points raised.

Other Questions that Might have been asked:
7) There are so many competing confusing theories but just one clear “official story.”
For whatever reason, there's been a lot of distracting noise and bad theorizing about this issue, like during the entire 1990s. CIA, drugs, ... Don't let it get you down. Simply check out the London Origin theory. It's clearer than you can imagine.

8) Okay, if Megrahi didn't do it, then who did, smart guy?
We think the "how" is addressed by the above linked London theory. There's no evidence of Libyan involvement there, nor of anyone really, in the sense of direct evidence that's been admitted. But the timing of the explosion, 38 minutes after takeoff, matched perfectly the average time delay of the airliner-altimeter bombs made just weeks earlier by Jordanian intelligence officer and "one of our guys" Marwan Khreesat.

Of course the PFLP-GC cell he was working with in West Germany (undercover, perhaps twice so) was busted in October 1988, but some members and at least one live altimeter bomb slipped away. If one of those was loaded at London, it was probably by a splinter off that PFLP-GC cell, managing to get one or perhaps two of Khreesat's devices onto PA 103, in the corner of AVE4041.

9) They had to be Libyan, because of the MEBO timer sold only to Libya.
Indeed, a chunk of a circuit board was found matching the MST-13 timer made by rather slippery Swiss company Mebo. Mebo says they made only 20 of these, on order for Libyan external intelligence (terrorism-linked) JSO. Several have been seized in two raids in 1986 and 1988 in Africa (Togo and Senegal). And then one was found at Lockerbie, say a few RARDE scientists.

Classified at PT/35(b) on its discovery in May 1989, it was only identified as a Libya-linked MST-13 a year later with held from J "Tom" Thurman and the CIA. This altered the investigation's course from a Khreesat-style altimeter bomb and allowed for multiple ascents (Malta-Frakfurt-London). And of course it pointed to Tripoli as the sponsors of the terror.

Some accept the timer bit as evidence, but look for other sources of the MST-13 to other groups: Mebo sales to others, fabrications made by the CIA or simply a knock-off company, a Western-seized copy cut up and planted in the debris? Mebo claims it handed some MST-13 handmade prototypes to East German Stasi, who in turn had backed the PFLP-GC. But this was not from a (brown) prototype but a (green-ish) machine-made board like those seized in Africa. Such speculation on alternate meanings for the MST-13 hasn't led anywhere yet.

This blogger concludes too many good reasons to discount PT/35(b) as valid evidence, and too few to accept it.
Main Post on the timer fragment PT/35(b)

10) The bomb came from Malta, which is where Megrahi was on that very day.
The bomb that brought down Flight 103 is alleged to have been introduced in Malta, sent on Air Malta flight 180 (KM180) to Frankfurt, and sent by its tags onto Flight 103. Indeed, KM180 took off from Malta at a time when Megrahi was at the airport there.

But the evidence showing this is neither decisive nor verifiable and contradicted by Air Malta's records for KM180 show no unaccompanied bags that could have been sent on to Flight 103. The evidence for such a bag came from the Frankfurt Airport end, and their computer luggage records seem to have disappeared right after the crash. A copy of the relevant part, what went onto Flight 103, surfaced by luck it seems, over a month after the bombing, but only got to Scottish police six months later, altering the investigation towards Malta in September 1989.

See: Evidence Reconsidered: The Bag from Malta

11) Tony Gauci identified the guy in a photo lineup, and a real lineup in court.
Maltese shopkeeper Anthony "Tony" Gauci was latched onto by Scottish police for having sold numerous clothing items found scorched at Lokerbie. Over many many interviews, he recalled selling enough of that assortment to a certain Libyan (he thought) on what seems November 23 1988, a day Megrahi was not on Malta. With some deep-tissue massage, this later became leading evidence of Megrahi's direct involvement in the bombing.

Gauci saw Megrahi's photo in the news just days prior to pointing to another one for police in 1990. Megrahi's face was on European news daily before Gauci again pointed in person in 1999. He was pointing to what he's described as the person most "resembling" and "like" the purchaser among the lineup shown. Aside from being 15 years younger, six inches shorter, and nowhere near the island on November 23, Megrahi could almost be the guy.

The sum total of Gauci's evidence, and the problems with it, is (or will be) covered in detail in another post.

12) Libya admitted responsibility and paid out billions of dollars!
Why would they pay up $2.7 billion and confess "responsibility," unless they knew they were guilty? Just to get out of sanctions? That's ... oh, pretty reasonable. But why won't they clearly admit guilt? Or did they? Not clear enough!
See: Libya's "Admissions of Guilt"

13) Just what is wrong with the evidence or case against Megrahi?
Pretty Much everything. Guided Tour of the Case Against Megrahi 
They've got one guy doing almost everything involved and getting caught at all of it. Then they whine about not getting the "big bosses" who had nothing left to do except "plot" the thing, and set the special timer to blow up right over Scotland, to find the miraculously resilient timer bits, etc...

14) I should know already, but… what IS the evidence against Megrahi?
Here, Wikipedia. I'll have my own post here sometime on that.

15) They couldn’t get away with a conspiracy! It would have been exposed!
Whatever happened here, it was gotten away with in spades. Please got look at what happened and then come tell me that again, buddy. Boy these people... wait, I wrote that "question."