Lockerbie: Megrahi Was Framed

The hysteria over the release of the so-called Lockerbie bomber reveals much about the political and media class on both sides of the Atlantic, especially Britain. From Gordon Brown’s “repulsion” to Barack Obama’s “outrage”, the theater of lies and hypocrisy is dutifully attended by those who call themselves journalists. “But what if Megrahi lives longer than three months?” whined a BBC reporter to the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond. “What will you say to your constituents, then?”

Horror of horrors that a dying man should live longer than prescribed before he “pays” for his “heinous crime”: the description of the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, whose “compassion” allowed Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to go home to Libya to “face justice from a higher power.” Amen.

The American satirist Larry David once addressed a voluble crony as “a babbling brook of bullshit.” Such eloquence summarizes the circus of Megrahi’s release.

No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish village of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 in which 270 people were killed. The governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. Of course there were oil and arms deals under way with Libya; but had Megrahi proceeded with his appeal, some 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence would have set the seal on his innocence and given us more than a glimpse of how and why he was stitched up for the benefit of “strategic interests.”

“The endgame came down to damage limitation,” said the former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, “because the evidence amassed by [Megrahi’s] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice.” New witnesses would show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft — he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shop owner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and even failed to recognize him in the courtroom.

The new evidence would have shown that a fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, “discovered” in the Scottish countryside and said to have been in Megrahi’s suitcase, was probably a plant. A forensic scientist found no trace of an explosion on it. The new evidence would demonstrate the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was “transferred” through two airports undetected to Flight 103.

A “key secret witness” at the original trial, who claimed to have seen Megrahi and his co-accused al-Alim Khalifa Fahimah (who was acquitted) loading the bomb on to the plane at Frankfurt, was bribed by the US authorities holding him as a “protected witness.” The defense exposed him as a CIA informer who stood to collect, on the Libyans’ conviction, up to $4m as a reward.

Megrahi was convicted by three Scottish judges sitting in a courtroom in “neutral” Holland. There was no jury. One of the few reporters to sit through the long and often farcical proceedings was the late Paul Foot, whose landmark investigation in Private Eye exposed it as a cacophony of blunders, deceptions and lies: a whitewash. The Scottish judges, while admitting a “mass of conflicting evidence” and rejecting the fantasies of the CIA informer, found Megrahi guilty on hearsay and unproven circumstance.. Their 90-page “opinion”, wrote Foot, “is a remarkable document that claims an honored place in the history of British miscarriages of justice”. (Lockerbie — the Flight from Justice by Paul Foot can be downloaded from www.private-eye.co.uk for £5).

Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt canceled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned. He named Margaret Thatcher the “architect” of the cover-up after revealing that she killed the independent inquiry her transport secretary Cecil Parkinson had promised the Lockerbie families; and in a phone call to President George Bush Sr. on 11 January 1990, she agreed to “low-key” the disaster after their intelligence services had reported “beyond doubt” that the Lockerbie bomb had been placed by a Palestinian group contracted by Tehran as a reprisal for the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in Iranian territorial waters. Among the 290 dead were 66 children. In 1990, the ship’s captain was awarded the Legion of Merit by Bush Sr “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer.”

Perversely, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush needed Iran’s support as he built a “coalition” to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. “Like lazy and overfed fish,” wrote Foot, “the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and op en warmongering against Libya.” The framing of Libya for the Lockerbie crime was inevitable. Since then, a US Defense Intelligence Agency report, obtained under Freedom of Information, has confirmed these truths and identified the likely bomber; it was to be centerpiece of Megrahi’s defense.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred Megrahi’s case for appeal. “The commission is of the view,” said its chairman, Dr Graham Forbes, “that based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.”

The words “miscarriage of justice” are missing entirely from the current furor, with Kenny MacAskill reassuring the baying mob that the scapegoat will soon face justice from that “higher power.” What a disgrace.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (Bantam/Random House, 2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on September 16th, 2009 at 11:08am #

    Regardless of whether or not Megrahi “did it”, he was entitled to the Christian charity extended to him by the Scottish Government. As far as he is concerned, that should be an end to the matter. The question whether he really did it, or how he was received in Lybia, or whether his release was part of a deal and if it was, was the Scottish Government in the know are all separate issues, interesting in themselves, but irrelevant to the man’s release.
    The US reaction, particularly, the insulting letter from the FBI director, was an own goal. It revealed the US as a violent, hate-driven country and not the pure little defender of freedom and goodness it likes to pose as being.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 16th, 2009 at 6:59pm #

    What the framing of al-Megrahi revealed, for the umpteenth time, was the moral corruption and evil of the West. While the Western powers and their braindead, indoctrinated, populations, paint themselves as the apex of human achievement and morality, they are, in fact, quite different from that narcissistic self-image. The West today is not one iota different from what it was for centuries, during the epoch of imperialism and colonialism. It is arrogant, racist, contemptuous of all non-Western peoples, insatiably greedy and pitilessly murderous, if its vested interests are threatened. al-Megrahi may have been framed and lost years of his life, but he was not just murdered in cold blood, like the 300 Iranians on the air-bus shot down over the Gulf, or the millions slaughtered from Panama City, to My Lai, from Haditha to Mogadishu.
    The leaders of the West are as evil as humanity comes. They are pathological liars, indifferent to the fate of others, lacking all human sympathy (although prepared to fake it for the cameras) and are possessed of monumental egos. They preside over a system of exquisite wickedness where its functionaries can boast of the obliteration of a group of Afghan men, in the usual cowardly manner, by remote controlled missile, because one of the victims was tall, and Osama bin Laden is tall. These are fiends who target wedding parties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, then the resultant funerals, and then endlessly proclaim the ineffability of their ‘moral values’. In a way the Nazis were preferable, because at least with them the stench of psychotic hypocrisy did not rise so high. Is there anything more dreadful than evil cloaking itself falsely in the garb of righteousness?

  3. PeterD said on September 17th, 2009 at 5:31am #

    One can only thank the author of the above article for clarifying the circumstances surrounding the false charges against Libya, and against Megrahi in particular.