Friday, 23 June 2017

Forensic scientific dogmatism

[Seventeen years ago, the Crown’s principal forensic scientific witness, Allen Feraday, had just completed his evidence in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist.  Here is a contemporaneous commentary from the website The Lockerbie Trial which was edited by Ian Ferguson and me:]

As one of the Crown's key witnesses gave his testimony this week in Camp Zeist at the trial of the two Libyans accused of the bombing of Pan Am 103, one man, Hassan Assali watched news reports with interest as Allen Feraday took the witness stand.

Assali, 48, born in Libya but who has lived in the United Kingdom since 1965, was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to nine years. He was charged under the 1883 Explosives Substances Act, namely making electronic timers.

The Crown's case against Assali depended largely on the evidence of one man, Allen Feraday. Feraday concluded that the timers in question had only one purpose, to trigger bombs.

While in Prison Assali, met John Berry, who had also been convicted of selling timers and the man responsible for leading the Crown evidence against Berry was once again, Feraday. Again Feraday contended that the timers sold by Berry could have only one use, terrorist bombs.

With Assali's help Berry successfully appealed his conviction, using the services of a leading forensic expert and former British Army electronic warfare officer, Owen Lewis.

Assali's case is currently before the [English] Criminal Cases Review Commission, the CCRC. It has been there since 1997. Assali believes that his case might be delayed deliberately, as he stated to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw in a fax in February 1999: "I feel that my case is being neglected or put on the back burner for political reasons."

Assali believes that if his case is overturned on appeal during the Lockerbie trial it will be a further huge blow to Feraday's credibility and ultimately the Crown's case against the Libyans.

There is no doubt that a number of highly qualified forensic scientists do not care for the highly "opinionated" type of testimony, which is a hall mark of many of Feraday's cases.

He has been known, especially in cases involving timers to state in one case that the absence of a safety device makes it suitable for terrorists and then in another claim that the presence of a safety device proves the same, granted that the devices were different, but it is the most emphatic way in which he testifies that his opinions are "facts", that worries forensic scientists and defence lawyers.

In his report on Feraday's evidence in the Assali case, Owen Lewis states, "It is my view that Mr Feraday's firm and unwavering assertion that the timing devices in the Assali case were made for and could have no other purpose than the triggering of IED's is most seriously flawed, to the point that a conviction which relied on such testimony must be open to grave doubt."

A host of other scientists, all with vastly more qualifications than Feraday concurred with Owen Lewis.

A report by Michael Moyes, a highly qualified electronics engineer and former Squadron Leader in the RAF, concluded that "there is no evidence that we are aware that the timers of this type have ever been found to be used for terrorist purposes. Moreover the design is not suited to that application."

Moyes was also struck by the similarity in the Berry and Assali case, in terms of the Feraday evidence.

In setting aside Berry's conviction in the appeal Court, Lord Justice Taylor described Feraday's evidence as "dogmatic".

This week in the Lockerbie trial, Feraday exhibited that same attitude when questioned by Richard Keen QC.

Keen asked Feraday about Lord Justice Taylor's remarks on his evidence, but Feraday, dogmatically, said he stands by his evidence in the Berry case.

He was further challenged over making contemporaneous notes on items of evidence he examined. Asked if he was certain that he had made those notes at the time, he said yes. When shown the official police log book which showed that some of the items Feraday had claimed to have examined had in actual fact been destroyed or returned to their owner before he claimed to examined them, his response, true to his dogmatic evidence was the police logs were wrong.

Under cross-examination though, it did become clear that Feraday completed a report for John Orr who was leading the police Lockerbie investigation and in that report he stated he was,  "Completely satisfied that the Lockerbie bomb had been contained inside a white Toshiba RT 8016 or 8026 radio-cassette player", and not, as he now testifies, "inside a black Toshiba RT SF 16 model."

As recently as May [2000], the leading civil liberties solicitor, Ms Gareth Peirce, told the Irish Times that the Lockerbie trial should be viewed with a questioning eye as lessons learned from other cases showed that scientific conclusions were not always what they seemed.

Speaking in Dublin Castle at an international conference on forensic science, Ms Peirce said she observed with interest the opening of the Lockerbie trial and some of the circumstances which, she said, had in the view of the prosecution dramatically affected the case.

She asked herself questions particularly relating to circuit boards which featured in the Lockerbie case and also in a case that she took on behalf of Mr. Danny McNamee, whose conviction for conspiracy to cause explosions in connection with the Hyde Park bombings (another case in which Feraday testified) was eventually quashed. She asked herself whether the same procedures were involved.

Danny McNamee may be the most recent Feraday case to be overturned, Hassan Assali believes his case will be the next.

[RB: Hassan Assali’s conviction was quashed in July 2005. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, stated that Allen Feraday “should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in the field of electronics”.]

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Inconsistencies and contradictions of Lockerbie

[This is part of the heading over a lengthy item posted on this date in 2009 on the Ed's Blog City website. Reproduced below is the bulk of the text of the post.]

Since the release of the Dutch TV documentary, Lockerbie: Revisted, a number of curious unexplained inconsistencies in the accounts given by many of those who led the investigation have remained unchallenged. Officially anyway. The documentary maker Gideon Levy asked a number of important questions, crucial to the investigation and pivotal to the whole case, which were quite clearly not satisfactorily answered. Even more astounding, given the position and power of those in the investigation, some of the answers given by those entrusted to find those guilty of the bombing in 1988 directly conflicted with one another.

Mr Levy's first unexplained question relates to the PFLP-GC cell which was exposed by the German BKA and who's members were arrested in Neuss, Germany in October 1988, two months before the Pan Am bombing. They had been discovered with an array of weapons including a radio cassette manipulated into a bomb designed specifically for targeting aircraft. The key member of this group Marwan Khreesat, seemingly known to be the bomb maker, and part of a group planning on attacking American targets, was inexplicably released without charge and was thought to have left Germany for Jordan. After the bombing over Lockerbie, and it was determined that the bomb had been concealed in a radio cassette player, naturally suspicion focussed on the cell that had been exposed in Germany.

Lord Fraser, the former Lord Advocate entrusted in leading the investigation into the bombing, claims that the Scottish authorities were never given the opportunity to question Khreesat at any point with regard to any connection or knowledge about the Lockerbie bombing. Mr Khresat's involvement with the PFLP group and yet subsequent release can only be explained by deducing he was involved with very powerful individuals with the capability of securing such a release, and we can only conclude that the chance to question him was denied due to Khreesat's complex and unclear association with various intelligence and government agencies.

Richard Marquise, head of the FBI investigative team, states that he does not know why Khreesat was released by the Germans, and it is a matter Mr Levy should take up with the German government to clarify. Mr Marquise considers an explanation may be that Khreesat was working for the Palestinian group, as a bomb maker targeting US trains, bases and aircraft, but was also involved with the Jordanian intelligence services who enabled his release from Germany. Lord Fraser however, suggests that the only plausible explanation was that Khreesat was working for the Palestinian group while also involved with US intelligence therefore facilitating his release from Germany and proving someone who the Scottish authorities could not gain access to interview.

This in itself seems a disturbing chain of events and assumptions by those investigating the bombing of 103, and even more inexplicable to those who expect honest endeavour when seeking truth and justice from the investigators, especially given the nature of Khreesat's activities in Germany and his apparent history of expertise in bomb making. This cynicism is merely strengthened when Mr Fraser had stated unequivocally that neither he nor the Scottish prosecutors had ever gained access, despite repeated attempts, "they (the PFLP-GC cell) had simply disappeared", to interview Khreesat, while Mr Marquise seems quite indifferent to the fact that the German authorities had simply released a man of extremely dubious background clearly engaged in activities to cause serious harm to American citizens and institutions.

Mr Marquise does however state that to his knowledge Scottish prosecutors did in fact interview Khreesat, as did the FBI in 1989, clearly contradicting Lord Fraser's position, and that Scottish investigators were happy to accept Khreesat's word during an interview that he knew nothing of the Lockerbie bombing. That a key figure such as Khreesat, the man that according to Mr Marquise was "building the bombs", with the motive, method and capability of attacking US targets, and whether investigators had interviewed him or not, is not conclusively known to either of the two people leading the investigation, is simply incomprehensible.

Mr Levy then enquires about the possibilty of financial payments made to witnesses before, during or subsequent to the trial at Zeist in Holland where Al-Megrahi was found guilty. Inducement had been made to the public by the US authorities to "Give up these terrorists, and we'll give you upto $4 million" by the way of posters with photographs of the two Libyans, and presumably, naturally, by those investigating while interviewing suspects or witnesses. Even if not explicitly offered to those potential witnesses by investigators, the witnesses would be well aware of the financial reward that was available for the successful conviction of the two Libyan's.

Both Lord Fraser and Mr Marquise deny any financial reward, as promised in the posters and adverts issued, was made before or during the trial. However, while Lord Fraser is unaware of any payment subsequent to the trial, Mr Marquise will not comment. The only implication that can be made from this is that the reward offered before the trial and during the investigation was indeed paid to some witnesses after the trial. Any financial reward or inducement to those providing statements would surely render any testimony or information as lacking credibility and does not enhance the supposed search for 'truth' when life changing amounts of money are used as enticement.

So concerned with the implication of rewards to witnesses that Lord Fraser is reluctant to even comment on the suggestion that money was paid to witnesses after the trial without his knowledge.

The focus of the documentary then turns to the most pivotal and crucial piece of evidence found during the investigation and presented at the trial in Zeist. The fragment of microchip discovered 6 months (although the exact period has been disputed) after the disaster, and determined to be the most significant piece of evidence linking the bomb to a Swiss timer manufacturer who had links to Megrahi and Libya.

This particular piece of evidence, the microchip fragment, already somewhat controversial given the unexplained altering of the labels on evidence bags containing the 'charred' fragments, was examined and concluded had originated with the Swiss company called 'Mebo'. They had supplied these timers, it was claimed, to Libya, and Megrahi with his connections and dealings with Mebo, had used this timer in constructing the bomb which he then placed on a flight in Malta, later finding it's way onto the Pan Am flight from Heathrow.

Now it seems, neither Lord Fraser or Mr Marquise can conclusively explain who exactly made this identification of the timer fragment, and where this identification was made. In the UK or in Washington? By Mr Thurman or Mr Feraday? The fragment itself, or as part of the larger circuit board from where the fragment came? By photograph or the actual fragment?

Mr Marquise is certain that this evidence was transported from the UK to the US, and taken to the FBI labs in Washington, by a member of RARDE, thought to be Alan Feraday were the identification was made. The photograph of the tiny piece of fragment of the microchip (evidence PT35b) on a persons finger is claimed to be that of Thomas Thurman of the FBI, who was also the scientist who uncovered the microchips origin and connection to the circuit board made by Mebo. He claims in Mr Levy's film that the microchip was "brought over by UK authorities" to the United States were identification was made, and was conclusively re-identified in the UK by RARDE (Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment).

However, once again there are contradictions in the accounts given. Lord Fraser is adamant that no evidence recovered from the Pan Am debris has ever left his authority or the UK mainland. This would have compromised the whole investigation and could have resulted in accusations of manipulation and, or, contamination of any evidence purity. Detective Chief Supt Mr Stuart Henderson, head of the UK police investigation, also states that the evidence relating to Pan Am 103, any evidence, but specifically the fragment of microchip, never left the UK mainland, but in actual fact the US investigators and the FBI had travelled to the UK to identify the fragment at RARDE with Mr Feraday.

When the public are asked to trust the integrity of those we commend with providing the truth and justice our democratic society demands, expectations can be, on occasion, somewhat unrealistic. Especially when dealing with highly complex issues of international politics, international crimes of nation states and multi-national business corporations. The public however, do expect a genuine and honest search for these truths, and those we charge with this responsibility to fulfil those simplest and most honourable tasks to have carried out their duty, with conscience and integrity.

Those who died over Lockerbie, and the families of the victims deserve at least this. With the pain of a lost loved one however, the relatives of those who died have also had to endure the persistent inaccuracies, the constant contradictions, and the inexplicable decisions taken with respect to those who carried out the atrocity and how their government failed in their loved ones protection. Not by those who wish to seek conspiracies were there are none, and not by those who have ulterior motives for continuing to ask questions. But by the very investigators, police, professionals, experts, lawyers and those in power entrusted with upholding their faith in human kind and seeking justice in the supposed democratic nation we live in today. For those fundamental expectations and hopes are diminished with every conflicting statement, every unexplained area of the investigation, and every inscrutable and unaccountable decision taken by those with power in relation to finding the true perpetrators who organised and carried out the crime over Lockerbie in 1988.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

When truth is inconvenient

[On this date ten years ago a long article by Hugh Miles headlined Inconvenient Truths was published in the London Review of Books.  The following are excerpts:]

From the outset the Lockerbie disaster has been marked by superlatives. The bombing was the deadliest terror attack on American civilians until 11 September 2001. It sparked Britain’s biggest ever criminal inquiry, led by its smallest police force, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. It spelled the end of Pan Am, which never recovered from the damage to its reputation. The trial at Camp Zeist was the longest and – at a cost of £75 million – the most expensive in Scottish legal history. The appeal hearing was the first Scottish trial to be broadcast live on both television and the internet.

Lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent. (...)

Al-Megrahi applied to the SCCRC for a review of his case in 2003 and the commission has been reinspecting evidence from the trial for the last four years. It will submit its findings at the end of June. It looks likely that the SCCRC will find that there is enough evidence to refer al-Megrahi’s case back to the appeal court. The Crown Office has already begun reinforcing its Lockerbie legal team in anticipation of a referral.

If al-Megrahi is granted a second appeal, it will, like the original trial, be held before a panel of Scottish judges, without a jury. This time the trial will take place in Scotland, and if the glacial pace of proceedings in the past is anything to go by, it will probably not be heard before the summer of 2008. Al-Megrahi’s defence team would be ready to launch an appeal in a matter of weeks, but the prosecution would be likely to delay the hearing for as long as possible. If an appeal takes place, al-Megrahi’s defence team will produce important evidence that was not available at the time of the first appeal, evidence that seems likely not only to exonerate al-Megrahi but to do so by pointing the finger of blame at the real perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing and revealing some inconvenient truths.

Even the [official] who presided over the Lockerbie investigation and issued the 1991 arrest warrants for the two Libyans has cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. In an interview with the Sunday Times in October 2005, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, Scotland’s larger-than-life lord advocate from 1989 to 1992, questioned the reliability of the shopkeeper Tony Gauci, the prosecution’s star witness. ‘Gauci was not quite the full shilling. I think even his family would say [that he] was an apple short of a picnic. He was quite a tricky guy, I don’t think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times he would just get irritated and refuse to answer.’ Lord Fraser made it clear that this did not mean he thought al-Megrahi was innocent. But he had presented Gauci as a reliable witness; he went on to become the heart of the prosecution’s case. Now he was casting doubt on the man who identified al-Megrahi. (...)

Hans Köchler, the UN observer at Camp Zeist, reported at the time that the trial was politically charged and the verdict ‘totally incomprehensible’.

In his report Köchler wrote that he found the presence of US Justice Department representatives in the court ‘highly problematic’, because it gave the impression that they were ‘“supervisors” handling vital matters of the prosecution strategy and deciding … which documents … were to be released in open court and what parts of information contained in a certain document were to be withheld.’ ‘The alternative theory of the defence,’ he went on, ‘was never seriously investigated. Amid shrouds of secrecy and national security considerations, that avenue was never seriously pursued – although it was officially declared as being of major importance for the defence case. This is totally incomprehensible to any rational observer.’ The prosecution, Köchler noted, dismissed evidence on the grounds that it was not relevant; but now that that evidence has finally – partially – been released, it turns out to be very relevant indeed: to the defence.

Whatever happens, al-Megrahi may not have to wait long. As soon as a further appeal is scheduled, he can make an application to be released from custody: the convicted Lockerbie bomber, who was supposed to serve no fewer than 27 years in a Scottish jail, might well be free this summer. Whether al-Megrahi is freed pending his appeal – and what conditions would be applied if he were – depends largely on whether his defence team can convince the judge that he is not a flight risk. This may be hard to do. The judge might decide that if he left the country, he might choose to stay in Libya rather than come back next year for another round in court. If al-Megrahi is exonerated, many tricky questions will resurface, not least what to do about the $2.7 billion compensation paid by Libya to the relatives of the victims of the bombing. And then, of course, there is the question of who really bombed Flight 103.

In the first three years following the bombing, before a shred of evidence had been produced to incriminate Libya, the Dumfries and Galloway police, the FBI and several other intelligence services around the world all shared the belief that the Lockerbie bombers belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), a Palestinian rejectionist organisation backed by Iran. The PFLP-GC is headed by Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian army captain; its headquarters are in Damascus and it is closely allied with the Syrian president and other senior Syrian officials. In the 1970s and 1980s the PFLP-GC carried out a number of raids against Israel, including a novel hang-glider assault launched from inside Lebanon. Lawyers, intelligence services and diplomats around the world continue to suspect that Jibril – who has even boasted that he is responsible – was behind Lockerbie.

The case against Jibril and his gang is well established. It runs like this: in July 1988, five months before the Lockerbie bombing, a US naval commander aboard USSVincennes in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian airbus, apparently mistaking it for an attacker. On board Iran Air Flight 655 were 270 pilgrims en route to Mecca. Ayatollah Khomeini vowed the skies would ‘rain blood’ in revenge and offered a $10 million reward to anyone who ‘obtained justice’ for Iran. The suggestion is that the PFLP-GC was commissioned to undertake a retaliatory bombing.

We know at least that two months before Lockerbie, a PFLP-GC cell was active in the Frankfurt and Neuss areas of West Germany. On 26 October 1998, German police arrested 17 terrorist suspects who, surveillance showed, had cased Frankfurt airport and browsed Pan Am flight timetables. Four Semtex-based explosive devices were confiscated; a fifth is known to have gone missing. They were concealed inside Toshiba radios very similar to the one found at Lockerbie a few weeks later. One of the gang, a Palestinian known as Abu Talb, was later found to have a calendar in his flat in Sweden with the date of 21 December circled. New evidence, now in the hands of al-Megrahi’s defence, proves for the first time that Abu Talb was in Malta when the Lockerbie bombing took place. The Maltese man whose testimony convicted al-Megrahi has also identified Abu Talb. During al-Megrahi’s trial Abu Talb had a strange role. As part of a defence available in Scottish law, known as ‘incrimination’, Abu Talb was named as someone who – rather than the accused – might have carried out the bombing. At the time he was serving a life sentence in Sweden for the bombing of a synagogue, but he was summoned to Camp Zeist to give evidence. He ended up testifying as a prosecution witness, denying that he had anything to do with Lockerbie. (...)

Other evidence has emerged showing that the bomb could have been placed on the plane at Frankfurt airport, a possibility that the prosecution in al-Megrahi’s trial consistently ruled out (their case depended on the suitcase containing the bomb having been transferred from a connecting flight from Malta). Most significantly, German federal police have provided financial records showing that on 23 December 1988, two days after the bombing, the Iranian government deposited £5.9 million into a Swiss bank account that belonged to the arrested members of the PFLP-GC.

The decision to steer the investigation away from the PFLP-GC and in the direction of Libya came in the run-up to the first Gulf War, as America was looking to rally a coalition to liberate Kuwait and was calling for support from Iran and Syria. Syria subsequently joined the UN forces. Quietly, the evidence incriminating Jibril, so painstakingly sifted from the debris, was binned.

Those who continued to press the case against the PFLP-GC seemed to fall foul of American law. When a New York corporate investigative company asked to look into the bombing on behalf of Pan Am found the PFLP-GC responsible, the federal government promptly indicted the company’s president, Juval Aviv, for mail fraud. Lester Coleman, a former Defense Intelligence Agency operative who was researching a book about the PFLP-GC and Lockerbie, was charged by the FBI with ‘falsely procuring a passport’. William [Chasey], a lobbyist who made similar allegations in 1995, found his bank accounts frozen and federal agents searching through his trash. Even so, documents leaked from the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1995, two years after the Libyans were first identified as the prime suspects, still blamed the PFLP-GC.

Suspicions and conspiracy theories have swirled around Lockerbie from the beginning. Some of them are fairly outlandish. In Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse (2005), Brigid Keenan, the wife of the British diplomat Alan Waddams, reported that over dinner in Gambia, a former Interpol agent told her and her husband that the bombing had been a revenge attack by Iran, in retaliation for the downed airliner (though she didn’t say how he knew this). The Interpol agent claimed the cargo had not been checked because the plane was carrying drugs as part of a deal over American hostages held by Hizbullah in Beirut. Militant groups were being allowed to smuggle heroin into the US in exchange for information; the bomb had gone on board when the PFLP-GC found a loophole in this drug-running operation.

At least four US intelligence officers, including the CIA’s deputy station chief in Beirut, were on the Flight 103 passenger list. In the days following the bombing, CIA agents scoured the Scottish countryside, some reportedly dressed in Pan Am overalls. Mary Boylan, then a constable with Lothian and Borders police, has said that senior police officers told her not to make an official record of the CIA badge she recovered from the wreckage, asking her instead to hand it over to a senior colleague. Her testimony, too, is now in the hands of the SCCRC. Jim Wilson, a farmer from the village of Tundergarth, reported shortly after the bombing that he had found in his field a suitcase packed with a powdery substance that looked ‘like drugs’. He last saw the suitcase when he handed it over to the police, he said; he was never asked about it again.

When al-Megrahi was handed over for trial, Libya declared that it would accept responsibility for his actions. But it never accepted guilt. This distinction was spelled out clearly in Libyan letters to the UN Security Council. In a BBC radio interview in 2004, the Libyan prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, underlined once again that compensation had been paid because this was the ‘price for peace’ and to secure the lifting of sanctions. When asked if Libya did not accept guilt, he said: ‘I agree with that.’

If the court that convicted al-Megrahi now reverses its decision, then Libya would clearly have a case for demanding its money back. Since recovering the compensation from the relatives would be unthinkable, it is more likely Libya would pursue those responsible for the miscarriage of justice. ‘What they might try to do,’ Black suggests, ‘is to recoup the money from the British and American governments, who after all are responsible for the initial farce and the wrongful conviction in the first place. They paid that money on the basis of a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the British courts.’ Al-Megrahi’s acquittal on appeal would not ipso facto make a compelling case for Libya to have its money back: even if guilt can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt – the test of the criminal burden of proof – it could still be shown that it was more likely than not (which is the burden applied to civil cases such as compensation cases). If Libya paid the money for purely political reasons then, one could argue, it might have to live with that decision. When I asked the Foreign Office whether Britain would consider reimbursing Libya in the event of al-Megrahi’s exoneration, a spokesman declined to comment.

If al-Megrahi is acquitted, he will also have the right to sue for wrongful conviction. He could claim compensation to the tune of several tens of thousands of pounds. The Crown Office, which is headed by the Scottish lord advocate, is responsible for what happened, which means that al-Megrahi would sue the Scottish Executive. The lord advocate is now one of the ‘Scottish ministers’, whereas previously he – now she – was one of the law officers of the UK Government. The Scottish Executive might refuse to pay, blaming Westminster. Westminster, meanwhile, would argue that Lockerbie is and always has been a Crown Office matter and that the UK government has no say. A political storm is on its way, especially now that the SNP is in charge in Scotland.

Since the case against al-Megrahi was so weak, it is hard to understand how the judges who presided over the trial could have got it so wrong. Black has a view:

It has been suggested to me, very often by Libyans, that political pressure was placed upon the judges. I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges. What happened, I think, was that it was internal politics in Scotland. Prosecutions in Scotland are brought by the lord advocate. Until just a few years ago, one of the other functions of the lord advocate in Scotland was that he appointed all Scottish judges. I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the lord advocate.
The appointment system for judges has changed since the trial, but another controversial aspect of the al-Megrahi case may also be re-examined: the policies on disclosure. Compared to almost any other similar criminal justice system, Scotland does not have a proper system of disclosure of information. In England and Wales, the Crown has to disclose all material to the defence, according to rules set out in statute. In Scotland the Crown is allowed to modify or withhold evidence if it considers that withholding is in the ‘public interest’. At least the Scottish criminal justice system doesn’t have the death penalty. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Scots premiere for Lockerbie play

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2006. It reads in part:]

A play inspired by unsung heroes of the Lockerbie air disaster is to be given its Scottish premiere in Dumfries.

[The] Women of Lockerbie tells the story of volunteers who spent months washing and ironing the clothes of victims before they were returned to families.

It is a fictional story devised by New Jersey-based writer Deborah Brevoort.

She only heard about the Lockerbie laundry project 10 years after it happened but says it had a profound effect on her home country.

"The women of Lockerbie - they are almost holy to people here," she said. "It just had a profound impact.

"The few families that I have spoken to all credited the people of Lockerbie, the women and the laundry project in particular as being central to their ability to heal and live again.

"I approached this story with an incredible reverence and respect and admiration for the people of Lockerbie.

"I just hope and pray that the play is received with the spirit that I wrote it in."

Two of the cast live in Lockerbie - including Andy Morton who plays an American father whose son died there.

"Having been there in Lockerbie on the night of the disaster it was something I felt I wanted to do," he explained.

"What has been quite striking, though, is the play is not a history of what happened on the night of the disaster or indeed what happened later.

"It is a story about how people deal with bereavement and come to terms with loss using what happened in Lockerbie as a kind of springboard - as an inspiration."

[RB: Still today The Women of Lockerbie is one of the plays most frequently performed by American high school, college and other amateur theatre groups.]

Monday, 19 June 2017

Trial told of bomb timer links

[This is the headline over a report published on this date in 2000 on the BBC News website. It reads in part:]

The Lockerbie trial has heard further evidence allegedly linking one of the accused and a Swiss company which made the timer believed to have detonated the fatal blast.

One of Swiss firm Mebo's owners, Edwin Bollier, detailed the way it established links with Libya.

He said Mebo had sold a vessel which had been used as a pirate radio station in the North Sea to the Libyans and had supplied electronic equipment to Libyan organisations, including the secret service.

He went on to say how MEBO had devised an improvised detonation device for a bomb in a suitcase, based on an electronic pager.
Earlier his colleague, Erwin Meister, had explained how he had met one of the accused, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, in Mebo's offices in Zurich.

Mr Megrahi, said Mr Meister, was setting up a company there with another man, believed to be the head of the Libyan Secret Service.

The Crown alleges that this company was a front for terrorist activities.

Mr Meister confirmed to the court that the firm had supplied timing devices to Libya and also to the East German Secret Service.

On Friday, Mr Meister pointed to Mr Al Megrahi as a man he "had done business with".

But under cross-examination on Monday, Mr Meister admitted he had a bad memory and that his identification of one of the accused might have been from seeing so many press photos of the man rather than from his own recollection. (...)

Mr Meister acknowledged he had difficulty remembering details about his company's sale in 1985 to Libya of 20 sample timers with an MST-13 circuit board - the type that prosecutors have linked to the attack.

The witness repeated several times that he had a bad memory.
"It's a problem I've had for quite some time and it's getting worse," he said.

The defence is expected to argue that an explosive was loaded on to Pan Am 103 in Frankfurt by Palestinian guerrillas, not from a connecting flight originating in Malta, as the prosecution maintains.

Mr Meister first said he had only visited East Germany once but then agreed that he had made numerous trips to deliver equipment to the Stasi secret police, including a lie detector and a pager that scrambled messages into code.

Mebo had sold around 15 timers to East Germany before 1985 and supplied several more in late 1985, but Mr Meister insisted the timers sold in 1985 were different from the ones sold to Libya.

Prosecutors say the accused used their positions as Libyan Airlines employees to plant a suitcase with a bomb hidden in a radio cassette on board the plane.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The forces that cooked up the lie

[What follows is excerpted from a long article by Owei Lakemfa headlined There was a country called Libya published yesterday on the Nigerian website The News:]

Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi (...)  the best known son of Muammar Ghaddafi was set free this week. He had been detained for six years since November 19, 2011 when following the Libyan ‘Civil War’ he was captured by the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade while attempting to flee to Niger Republic. (...)

Saif, given his father’s legacy, his own force of character and the anarchy in the country, is a force to be reckoned with. Many of those who knew peace under Ghaddafi, had perhaps the best social security in the world and the joy of being able to carry out basic human activities like going to the market, taking children to school and family on a picnic, might be nostalgic for the old era. Many in the middle and upper classes who could go to the airport and take an international flight rather than risk a road journey to neigbouring Tunisia, might yearn for the return of the Ghaddafi days. Many of those who lived in a secured and peaceful Libya would long for the days they had a country worthy of its name. Therein lie the appeal of Saif.
A freed Saif may be crucial in national dialogue, restoration of peace, national reconstruction and unity; a country with multiple governments cannot be said to be a country. But in a large sense, his role will be determined by the forces on the ground, the logic of the Libyan trajectory, his perception of the various armed groups in the country, and of course, the extent of the intervention of Europe and America in the internal affairs of Libya.
It was these international policemen from Brussels and Washington who setup Libya for the kill. It was they and their agents who for decades sold the crap to the world that President Ghaddafi was a lunatic [sitting] on huge oil wells that they can put to better use. They were the forces that isolated Libya and were alarmed that Ghaddafi was not only bankrolling African unity but also wanted an international monetary medium of exchange independent of the NATO countries. They are the forces that cooked up the lie that Libya agents planted a bomb in the Pan Am Flight 103 which on December 21, 1988 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all 259 on board and 11 on ground. These are the same people who accused Libya of sponsoring terrorism and on April 14, 1986, without a declaration of war, bombed Tripoli killing over 70 people. They are the same gang that imposed a No-Fly-Zone over the entire country threatening to shoot down any aircraft that violated the ban, until the unforgettable Nelson Mandela flew into Libya daring them to bring down his aircraft. It is these same forces that engineered the February 2011 uprising from Benghazi and provided the insurgents massive air power to smash the Ghaddafi government and impose the present chaos.
But for these forces of colonialism and neo-colonialism, Libya might not today, be a basket case. But for them, tens of thousands of Libyans might not have died in half a dozen years of chaos, and the over five thousand Libyans who perished in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, might still have been alive. Libya was prosperous and self-sufficient, today, thanks to the West, 2.5 million Libyans are in need of humanitarian aid including food. Saif’s transformation since 2011, might be for good. 

A can of worms

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2011.

Conspiracy and cover-up in Lockerbie


[This is the headline over an article published yesterday on the Bread & Circuses website, vol 3 issue 11. It reads in part:]

In Libya, there were mass celebrations to honor the homecoming of their national hero, while in the Western press, there were repeated protests over the premature release of a convicted terrorist, but the whole sordid affair died within a short time, even if Megrahi hasn’t yet, and it has all been pretty much long forgotten.

If you think that’s the end of the story, you’re wrong. It’s just the beginning. And it’s a story that’s all too familiar, involving international intrigue, the CIA tampering with evidence, lies and cover-ups by disreputable prosecutors, and two world powers anxious to bring about a conviction at all costs, which included a $2 million payoff to buy fabricated witness accounting. As a result, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who may be one of the most hated men in the world, whose deteriorating health was considered too mild a punishment to many people around the world, and who has been incarcerated for perpetrating the attack on Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland since 1991, may also be innocent.

This won’t be the first time our Government has been involved in a conspiracy to commit murder, to cover up a crime, or to frame an innocent person to protect someone or something it considers more important in the big picture. In this case, the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and Scotland were driven by a powerful need to attach this terrorist attack to a face as soon as possible. Under the circumstances, it served all of their purposes to pin it on a Libyan, without having to go to war with Libya itself. At that point, it didn’t matter all that much which Libyan, since to us Westerners, they all look alike anyway.

Between the eagerness of Scottish prosecutors and Government officials to circumvent the procedures of law to make their story fit the facts, and the $2 million dollars the United States Government put up as a bribe to anyone believable enough sell a phony story to a panel of judges hearing this case, it wasn’t all that difficult to make up a scenario that fit the crime. From beginning to end, there were inconsistencies and problems with the gathering of evidence and procedural misconduct on the part of investigators from the police department and the attorneys building this case. Using every manipulative trick and fraud they could come up with, they managed to hammer the square pegs into the round holes and Megrehi was convicted, in spite of protests not only from him and his attorneys who were denied fair access to police evidence and adequate appeals, but to people around the world who looked at the case against Megrahi and called foul. Those included private investigators from around the world who have taken an unbiased look at the evidence, to Nelson Mandela who pleaded with the Church of Scotland to independently investigate the case against Megrahi on their own.

In 2009, under mounting pressure, the Scottish Government had no choice but to allow the appeal to reopen the case. At this point, the British, American, and Scottish Governments were in a quandary. The latest appeal process and the world attention it was bringing, was going to open more than a can of worms for those closest to the conspiracy. It was going to open all the evidence, including formerly withheld and altered evidence, much of which was clearly tampered with by the authorities pressing for a conviction, to public scrutiny that they were previously able to keep a lid on.

So instead of taking that chance on having to explain the obvious framing and conspiracy to defraud the Courts, a deal was struck and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was set free. While President Obama and Prime Minister Tony Blair were displaying their public outrage over Megrahi’s early release, behind the scenes they were wiping the sweat from each other’s brows, knowing that a serious political crisis had been averted. Unfortunately, the victims and their surviving families of the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, must live with the frustration of believing that the murderer of their loved ones was freed on humanitarian grounds, when in fact, they should be more outraged than anyone else that the truth of what really happened will remain buried with the dead.

This is one of those stories that you will not see in the mainstream news media run by multi-national corporations in this country. This story was reported in a documentary film released on Al Jazeera English, the Arab news network. Before you judge the reliability of the source based on prejudices and opinions formulated for you by the American news networks with a strong motive in not wanting us to listen to this news forum with an opened mind, please watch this video and judge for yourself.