Lockerbie, Hariri Case and the Perversion of the International Justice
The case against the Libyan citizen Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi has served to remind the world that it should not have illusions about the workings of the international justice system. Megrahi was condemned by a tribunal but that does not mean he was guilty of the attack which destroyed the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988. His compassionate release -he suffers from terminal prostate cancer- conveniently spared the potential embarrassment of all those involved in his unjust conviction.
Megrahi, the former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and another Libyan citizen, Lamin Khalifa Fhima, the station manager for LAA at the Malta airport, were prosecuted at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands but before Scottish judges, and under Scottish law. The two Libyans had been formally indicted in the United States and the United Kingdom in 1991. London and Washington then blamed Libya, saying that its leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, wanted revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986. “This was a Libyan government operation from start to finish,” declared a State Department spokesman. Both accused persons chose not to give evidence in court. On 31 January 2001, Megrahi was convicted of murder by a panel of three Scottish judges and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Fhimah was acquitted.
The sentence was not a surprise for many experts, who denounced the injustice of this verdict. Robert Black, a law professor of the University of Edinburgh, said that “no reasonable tribunal could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led,” and called his conviction “an absolute and utter outrage.” Hans Köchler, a UN-appointed observer at the trial, stated that “there is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime,” and condemned the court’s verdict as a “spectacular miscarriage of justice.” In fact, the verdict was issued although there was no evidence to support the accusation that Megrahi had put a suitcase with the lethal bomb in an Air Malta plane in Malta, so it would eventually be transferred to Flight 103 in London.
A piece of evidence presented by US and British Investigators was the MST-13 timer used in the bomb. Discovery of a fragment of the timer helped in the construction of a circumstantial chain that implicated him. This was the basis for Megrahi’s conviction. It was supposed to have been discovered months after the crash, in a shirt found many miles from the wreckage.
According to the investigation, 20 of these timers were sold to Libya by the Swiss electronics company MeBo. MeBo owner Edmund Bollier has consistently claimed that the MST-13 fragment could not have been part of the batch he sold to Libya on account of its coloring and the type of soldering employed. Evidence that emerged at the trial indicated that the CIA itself had a version of the MST-13 before 1988. More importantly, before the trial commenced, Bollier said that from their own research, they had concluded the bomb had not been located in the luggage container in a Samsonite suitcase, as the prosecution team claimed, but was jammed against the aircraft wall.
THE “MAGIC SUITCASE”
According to the investigators, the suitcase was somehow put aboard Air Malta flight KM180 to Frankfurt without an accompanying passenger and then the suitcase would been transferred in Frankfurt to the Pan Am 103A flight to London without an accompanying passenger and then transferred in London to the Pan Am 103 flight bound for New York without an accompanying passenger. However, according to the newspaper The Guardian, Air Malta itself made an exhaustive study of this matter and categorically denied that there was any unaccompanied baggage on KM180 or that any of the passengers transferred in Frankfurt to London flight. And a report sent by the FBI from Germany to Washington in October 1989 and quoted by Time also revealed profound doubts about this thesis. The report concluded: “There remains the possibility that no luggage was transferred from Air Malta 180 to Pan Am 103.”
In January 1995, more than three years after the indictment of the two Libyans, the FBI was still of the same mind. A confidential Bureau report stated: “There is no concrete indication that any piece of luggage was unloaded from Air Malta 180, sent through the luggage routing system at Frankfurt airport, and then loaded on board Pan Am 103.” The report added that the baggage records are “misleading” (The Independent). Moreover, “according to the international airline rules, baggage unaccompanied by passengers should not be allowed onto aircraft without being searched or x-rayed. Actual practice is, of course, more lax, but how could serious professional terrorists count on this laxness occurring three times in a row for the same suitcase?,” said William Blum, author of “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”.
Some tests indicated that the suitcase in question contained several items of clothing manufactured in Malta. According to Blum, the US and British version of events led the world to believe that Megrahi had been identified by the shopkeeper of a particular shop on the island, Tony Gauci, as the purchaser of the clothing. However, Megrahi was never presented to Gauci in person and the latter had previously made several erroneous “positive” identifications, including one of a CIA asset. Furthermore, after the world was assured that these items of clothing were sold only on Malta, it was learned that at least one of the items was actually “sold at dozens of outlets throughout Europe, and it was impossible to trace the purchaser,” indicated the Sunday Times.
Alex Duval Smith, a journalist for The Observer pointed out in 2007 one of the witnesses, whose testimony was crucial to condemn Al Megrahi, Swiss engineer Ulrich Lumpert, had apparently confessed that he lied about the origins of the above-mentioned timer. Moreover, CIA spy Abdul Majid Giacka, the so-called “star witness” at Luqa airport in Malta, also saw how his testimony collapsed in court.
On October 30, 1990, NBC News reported that “Pan Am flights from Frankfurt, including 103, had been used a number of times by the DEA as part of its undercover operation to fly informants and suitcases of heroin into Detroit as part of a sting operation to catch dealers in Detroit.” The TV network reported that the DEA was looking into the possibility that a young man who lived in Michigan and regularly visited the Middle East may have unwittingly carried the bomb aboard Flight 103. His name was Khalid Jaafar. “Unidentified law enforcement sources” were cited as saying that Jaafar had been a DEA informant and was involved in a drug-sting operation based out of Cyprus.
Filmmaker Allan Francovich made a documentary film about the Lockerbie case, The Maltese Double Cross, which presents Jaafar as an unwitting bomb carrier with ties to the DEA and the CIA. He claims that the bombing was a consequence of a CIA controlled drug running operation utilized to spy on Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian armed political groupings and factions. Francovich told The Guardian in 1994 he had learned that five CIA operatives had been sent to London and Cyprus to discredit the film while it was being made, his office phones were tapped and staff cars sabotaged.
According to Steve James, who has written several articles published in the World Socialist Web Site (wsws.org) about this issue, “journalists John Ashton and Ian Ferguson suggest in their book “Cover-Up of Convenience” that responsibility for Lockerbie may lie primarily with the intelligence services of several Western governments, particularly the United States. They point out that Charles McKee, a US Army Special Forces Major, and Matthew Gannon, the CIA’s Beirut deputy station chief, were amongst US officials who allegedly changed their plans to fly on PA103 at the last minute. One suggestion by some media is that these individuals were the target of a successful assassination attempt in which intelligence agencies themselves played a role.”
The authors suggest that “from as little as two hours after the crash, US intelligence officers were at the southern Scottish site. They were not looking for explanations as to the cause of the crash. They did not cooperate with local rescue services. Instead, they were searching for particular pieces of debris, luggage and particular corpses. Ashton and Ferguson quote finds of large quantities of cash, cannabis and heroin on the flight, as well as intelligence papers owned by McKee, whose luggage was removed and replaced. There were reports of helicopter-borne armed groups guarding and then removing a large box, and an unidentified body.”
Furthermore, a retired Scottish police officer claimed that the CIA planted evidence on the crash site that led to the conviction of Megrahi. On 28 August 2005, the daily Scotland on Sunday revealed that a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPO) had told the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that a fragment of an MST-13 timer circuit board central to al Megrahi’s conviction was “planted by CIA agents in order to implicate Libya for the atrocity.
James claims that those who have made allegations of possible CIA involvement include an ex-Mossad spy, Juval Aviv, hired by Pan Am to investigate the destruction of its aircraft, an erratic ex-US spy Lester Coleman, who at one point sought political asylum in Sweden, William Chasey, a Washington DC lobbyist, and Time journalist Roy Rowan.
LIBYA… AND NOW LEBANON
All these revelations suggest that the case against Libya was fabricated for political reasons bound up with US policy in the Middle East. Despite all the evidence, Megrahi was condemned. These same facts are now repeating themselves in Lebanon. Of all the possible scenarios, the international probe of the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has proved to be misguided by political considerations and has ignored sound evidence linking Israel with that crime. As it happened with the Lockerbie court, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will probably choose to accuse some Hezbollah members on the basis of false witnesses and evidences in order to get a verdict that provides Israel and the US with the necessary propaganda tool to weaken the Lebanese Resistance, stir up sedition in Lebanon, exert maximum pressure on the country to accede to its demands, and thereby strengthen Israel and the US´s grip on the entire Middle East region.
- Author calls Megrahi’s cancer ‘a gift for those with something to hide’ (scotsman.com)
- Deception over Lockerbie (Aletho News)
- The Lockerbie Bombing Seen as an Expression of a “Strenuous Disagreement” (Aletho News)