While I’ve been aware of the media furor over Abdel Basset al-Megrahi’s release and return to Libya, only today did I happen across something that made me sit up and take interest in the affair. Read ahead.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, having served about eight years of a life-sentence imposed on him in 2001 for his role in bombing Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 259 crew and passengers and 11 people on the ground, was set free last month as an act of executive clemency by Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.
Well, why did Scotland release him? Those who know the West have a better question. Why did Scotland jail him in the first place?
The crime was heinous; the investigation slipshod, even corrupt. The evidence against the two Libyan suspects, Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was so flimsy it left the Scottish judges no choice but to acquit Fhimah.
They did convict Megrahi, but defensively, as if they were performing a patriotic rather than a judicial duty. The case against the Libyan rested on the evidence of a single witness, a Maltese shopkeeper named Tony Gauci. If he was mistaken, Megrahi had no tie to the atrocity.
If the trial proved anything, it was that Lockerbie wasn’t Megrahi and Fhimah’s idea. They didn’t order or finance it. At most, they were extras in a horror movie. For the investigators to put two minnows in the dock for a Moby Dick of a crime was itself a mockery.
The initial assumption was that the Pan Am jet was sabotaged by order of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Still the leader of Iran in 1988, the Ayatollah had promised the skies would “rain blood” after a missile from the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iran Air passenger flight with a loss of 290 lives a few months before.
The focus shifted to Libya later. A theory that Col. Gaddafi wished to get back at the U.S. and Britain for the 1986 bombing of his country seemed feasible. It also suited three U. S. administrations seeking to mend fences with Iran and Syria to build a coalition against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
If all you know about a subject comes from one source, it’s always a good idea to do some cross-referencing, just in case you’ve had the bad luck of reading one crackpot’s version of an otherwise accepted set of events. Since Wikipedia can often be relied upon to state both sides of the story, I headed there next.
The clothes were traced to a Maltese merchant, Tony Gauci, who became a key prosecution witness, testifying that he sold the clothes to a man of Libyan appearance, whom he later identified as Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.
However, an official report providing information not available during the original trial stated that Gauci had seen a picture of al-Megrahi in a magazine which connected al-Megrahi to the bombing, a fact which could have distorted his judgment.
A circuit board fragment, allegedly found embedded in a piece of charred material, was identified as part of an electronic timer similar to that found on a Libyan intelligence agent who had been arrested 10 months previously, carrying materials for a Semtex bomb. The timer allegedly was traced through its Swiss manufacturer, Mebo, to the Libyan military, and Mebo employee Ulrich Lumpert identified the fragment at al-Megrahi’s trial.
Mebo’s owner, Edwin Bollier, later revealed that in 1991 he had declined an offer from the FBI of $4 million to testify that the timer fragment was part of a Mebo MST-13 timer supplied to Libya. On 18 July 2007, Ulrich Lumpert admitted he had lied at the trial.
In a sworn affidavit before a Zurich notary public, Lumpert stated that he had stolen a prototype MST-13 timer printed circuit board from Mebo and gave it without permission on 22 June 1989, to “an official person investigating the Lockerbie case”.
Dr Hans KÃ¶chler, UN observer at the Lockerbie trial, who was sent a copy of Lumpert’s affidavit, said: “The Scottish authorities are now obliged to investigate this situation. Not only has Mr Lumpert admitted to stealing a sample of the timer, but to the fact he gave it to an official and then lied in court”.
Now, two sources are only slightly better than one, but assuming this isn’t all fiction, it’s always fascinating when the commonly accepted set of events turns out to be somewhat less than credible. The only thing I can think of at the moment that’s worse is the idea that Reagan was a good president to America. I’m not sure any amount of reasonable dialogue will bring around those who still claim that…