The Lockerbie Bombing (Pan Am Flight 103; December 1988)

Timble2

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Actually, I don't see why anyone should explain themselves to the US Senate, it's part of a foreign government, it has no authority here.
 

Kondoru

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Well, exactly.

and why do those articles talk about the Lockerbie Bomber?? We have no evidence he did it.

(except of course we could take my friends veiw that since he is a middle eastern male, he is guilty of something....she hates middle eastern males, for well, being middle eastern and male....dare I say she has an awful lot in common with islamics and male creatures of all stripes??)

----------

We could start a whole new theme by discussing why this individual (who has given up on free healthcare, as many good yankees would agree) has so say cancer....

....it would be a nasty disorder it would be very easy for someone to come down with; introduction of radioactive matter into the enviroment, for random example
 

Peripart

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Kondoru said:
and why do those articles talk about the Lockerbie Bomber?? We have no evidence he did it.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this case, I think the convention is that you refer to someone as "the accused" until they're convicted, but after they're found guilty, you can refer to them as the "Lockerbie bomber" or the "Flanders pigeon-murderer" witout any risk of being sued for slander and/or libel.

And clearly, there must have been some evidence for him to have been found guilty, even if that evidence now seems rather dodgy.
 

Yithian

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Timble2 said:
Actually, I don't see why anyone should explain themselves to the US Senate, its part of a foreign government, it has no authority here.
I'm inclined to see the American side of things here. 190 of the 270 victims of the bombings were American citizens and US senate has a responsibility to speak for both them and their surviving families. They may not have any 'authority', but they do have a strong ethical case to be given a full picture of what happened. It seems, as the story trundles along and ever more transpires, that there may well have been more to this whole release process than was first apparent.

Furthermore, their lack of current 'authority' over the conduct of the case is, in part, due to them having ceded it to the Scots. In truth, it was only with American acquiescence and facilitation (the venue was a disused US Airbase in Utrecht) that the trial could take place. The fact that the prosecution and trial were conducted under Scottish law was - in many - ways a compromise. The crime was committed over Scottish territory, but the US had previously lobbied for an extradition to America as it was an American flight with a majority of the victims being American. One presumes that assurances would have been given in return for the US dropping its (admittedly weaker) claims to jurisdiction, and I am quite sure they couldn't have conceived of a convicted perpetrator later walking free following dubious medical claims.

I've actually, speaking personally, no fundamental problem with releasing a prisoner on such supposed compassionate grounds, but the fact that he clearly was not nearly as ill as everyone was led to believe, does rather suggest to me that the Scottish legal professionals were made monkeys of. That is why I think we ought to be asking questions ourselves. For me, this isn't a matter of flag-waving; if we aren't going to look again and confess to an error if one is found to have been made, then I completely understand why the US would wish to start asking the questions we aren't. As to the BP angle, although it sounds like nonsense, I can't see the harm in investigating any allegations presuming evidence of some kind can be produced.

Also, as an aside, I think Alex Salmond is acting like an arse. That's usually fine, but in this case, he's showing up the rest of the UK, most of whom would not have wanted the bomber released in the first place. At the time, Brown wouldn't touch the matter with a barge-poll and now we have the absurd situation of Cameron saying it was a mistake and Salmond saying all was above board. The man who made the decision was effectively a nobody in a minority administration who spouted questionable nonsense about 'accounting for his actions to a higher power'. Such major decisions, - those that carry huge consequences for foreign policy - should be made and accounted for by - or on behalf of - the British government, not those elected by a minority of 8.5% (or so) of the UK population. That's akin to giving a sleepy parish council a controlling voice in a county's strategic planning unit; it's categorically silly.
 

ted_bloody_maul

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It depends - if you want the sleepy parish council to take the blame for a decision you agree with but don't want to be seen to be making then perhaps it's not so foolish.
 

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ted_bloody_maul said:
It depends - if you want the sleepy parish council to take the blame for a decision you agree with but don't want to be seen to be making then perhaps it's not so foolish.
Straight to the pith. 8)

I can't imagine of whom you could be thinking. ;)
 

Yithian

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The full text of Salmond's letter to Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is available online. He says:

As was highlighted last year, the Scottish Government rejected the application for transfer of AI-Megrahi under the PTA [Prisoner Transfer Agreement - that Labour liked and the SNP didn't - Yith] specifically on the basis that the US Government and families of victims in the United States had been led to believe that such a prisoner transfer would not be possible for anyone convicted of the Lockerbie atrocity. http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/6 ... rica.thtml
So, US understanding of the consequences of a conviction were the motivation for refusing a PTA. Fine.

However, he goes on to state:

The decision of the Scottish Government to release AI-Megrahi was made on the basis of an application for compassionate release. This is a separate and long-standing process within the Scottish justice system under which a total of 39 prisoners – including AI-Megrahi – have been released since the present provisions were introduced in 1993. http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/6 ... rica.thtml
The bombing happened in 1988. At this time the compassionate release provisions (to the best of my knowledge) didn't exist. That is the implication in this text.

Does Salmond think that the US government and victims' families would have accounted for the possibility of early release under a scheme that didn't currently exist when they gave their blessing to the unorthodox legal proceedings going ahead? The argument for not employing the PTA is equally applicable to that for 'compassionate release'!
 

rynner2

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The sad thing about this case (and many other criminal cases) is the demand by relatives of the victims for a scapegoat to shoulder the blame, irrespective of guilt.

It would be wonderful if our trials were perfect, and every conviction always nailed the guilty party, but we know that sadly this is not the case. Every time an appeal is succesful, you'll hear relatives complaining that the 'villain' got away with it.

The relatives have suffered trauma in their loss, and they want closure on it, and thus they will accept a guilty verdict even if, to many others, there is more than a suspicion of doubt.

That's human nature, even if it doesn't derive from what we like to think of as our superior reasoning processes.

Executing or imprisoning the wrong man may help a few bereaved people get past a troubled time in their life, but it doesn't serve justice.
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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I look forward to the moment, if push comes to shove, when the Scottish Government may be forced to lay all of the cards on the table. From everything I've seen of this sordid mess, so far, that could almost be fun. In a 'shit hits fan' sort of way.

Perhaps, they could even persuade George Galloway to do the honours? He might enjoy a return visit to Washington.
 

Timble2

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If a political deal hadn't been done in the first place, AI-Megrahi wouldn't have spent a second in jail, he was always the fall-guy, whether he was involved or not, it was expidient for Libya the US and UK for someone to take the blame. The US ceded jurisdiction, because there's no other way they'd have seen him prosecuted at all.
 

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Reply to Salmond from Senator Frank Lautenberg. Pretty reasonable IMO:

Frank Lautenberg Frank Lautenberg investigated the Pan Am bombing for the US government

US senator Frank Lautenberg has asked the Scottish government to reconsider its decision not to send officials to a hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Here is the letter in full:

Dear First Minister Salmond:

Shortly after the December 21, 1988 terrorist attack on Pan Am 103, I visited Lockerbie as a commissioner appointed by former President George H. W. Bush to investigate the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

One thing I took away from my journey was the determination of the Scottish Authorities to literally leave no stone unturned as they physically reached through the foliage and grassy areas searching for the tiniest piece of evidence to find the killers of the 259 people on board and 11 Lockerbie residents.

I also saw a warehouse filled with Christmas gifts for family and the kinds of artifacts that a college student might bring home from a long trip. The devotion of Scotland to find the perpertrators was clear, and all of us from the United States were certain that their arduous task would provide results.

Among the 270 lost lives, 38 came from my home state of New Jersey. As you would understand, their families endured immeasurable pain and suffering. When the perpertrator, Adbelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was convicted and imprisoned in Scotland there was a small degree of comfort to know that a price would be paid for his unconscionable deed.

Unfortunately, the events of last summer, the elevation of this killer to heroic status upon his return to Libya, and the allegations that a commercial transaction played a role in his release caused additional grief for the families that lost so much. These lingering questions about improprieties in Mr. Megrahi's release have only amplified the grief these families have experienced.

That is why I am pleading for direct representation from the Scottish goverment at our U.S. Senate hearing next week to help us seek answers. Your cooperation in sending a knowledgeable person will help establish a credible record of what transpired.
'Without compassion'

We are also witnessing the U.K Government claiming the release was entirely the decision of the Scottish government and vice versa. Each decision made regarding Mr. Megrahi - including the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, "Compassionate Release," and others - was a factor in his ultimate release and we are entitled to the truth no matter how painful.

Those who commit vicious acts of terrorism have to know that they will be punished without compassion. Your government's participation in our hearing will help send that message.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,

Frank Lautenberg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10749306
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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I think it only reasonable that First Minister of Scotland, Salmond, tell US Senator, Rautenberg, with all due respect, to go screw himself and play his dirty political games somewhere else.
http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn07232010.html

The Frame-Up

CounterPunch Diary. By Alexander Cockburn. July 23 - 25, 2010

"Was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?” Not too many guesses as to which oil company is under discussion: BP, current epitome of Big Oil at its foulest. But what populist rabble-rousers were posing the question? Look no further than that errand boy of finance capital, New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer.

...

It’s hard to conceive of anything surpassing this merry-go-round of grandstanding and self-serving hypocrisy, with the possible exception of BP, which freely admits corporate self-interest in this instance. It was the United States, specifically the CIA, which originally framed Megrahi, because in the late 1980s it was eager to divert the investigation from – of all countries – Iran. It was the Scotch judiciary which bowed to pressure from Westminster to ignore mountains of evidence to the contrary and to convict Megrahi. It was a British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who colluded with a U.S. President, G.H.W. Bush, in instigating this disgraceful miscarriage of justice. Will the Senate Foreign Relations Committee probe such matters? Of course not. Gillibrand and Menendez will erupt on schedule for the cameras and call it a day.

Megrahi was innocent, framed by the US and British security services. What follows is my brother, Andrew Cockburn’s investigation of the frame-up, which we published in our CounterPunch newsletter just after the original trial.

The original Lockerbie trial took place in 2000, presided over by three Scottish judges who travelled to a courthouse in the Netherlands, convicting Megrahi and acquitting his colleague, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

In a trenchant early criticism of the verdict, Hans Koechler, a distinguished Austrian philosopher appointed as one of five international observers at the trial in Zeist, Holland, by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, issued a well-merited denunciation of the judges' bizarre conclusion. “In my opinion,” Koechler said, “there seemed to be considerable political influence on the judges and the verdict.”

Koechler pointed out that the judges found Megrahi guilty even though they themselves admitted that his identification by a Maltese shop owner (summoned by the prosecution to testify that Megrahi bought clothes, later deemed to have been packed in the lethal suitcase bomb) was “not absolute” and that there was a “mass of conflicting evidence.”

Furthermore, Koechler queried the active involvement of senior U.S. Justice Department officials as part of the Scotch prosecution team “in a supervisory role.”

In essence, the case was based (a) on the presumption that the bomb timer on the Pan Am plane was from a batch sold by a Swiss firm to Libya; (b) that fragments of clothing retrieved from the crash site and identified as having been in the suitcase that contained the bomb, had been bought by the accused Megrahi from a shop in Malta; and (c) that a “secret witness,” Abdulmajid Gialka, a former colleague of the accused pair in the Libyan Airlines office in Malta, would testify that he had observed them either constructing the bomb or at least seen them loading on the plane in Frankfurt.

The prosecution was unable to produce evidence to substantiate any of these points or to encourage any confidence in Gialka’s reliability as a witness. The Swiss manufacturer of the timer, Edwin Bollier, testified he had sold timers of a similar type to the East Germans and conceded, in cross-examination by defense lawyers, that he had connections to many intelligence agencies, including not only the Libyans but also the CIA.

By the time of the trial, Gialka had been living under witness protection in the U.S.A. He had received $320,000 from his American hosts and, in the event of conviction of the accused, stood to collect up to $4 million in reward money. He had CIA connections, so the defense lawyers learned, before 1988.

The prosecution's case absolutely depended on proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Megrahi was the man who bought the clothes, traced by police to a Maltese clothes shop. In nineteen separate statements to police prior to the trial the shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, had failed to make a positive identification of Megrahi. In the witness box, Gauci was asked five times if he recognized anyone in the courtroom. No answer. Finally, the exasperated prosecutor pointed to the dock and asked if the man sitting on the left was the customer in question. Even so, the best that Gauci could do was to mumble that “he resembles him.”

Gauci had also told the police that the man who bought the clothes was 6 feet tall and over 50 years of age. Megrahi is 5 feet 8 inches tall, and in late 1988 he was 36. The clothes were bought either on November 23 or December 7, 1988. On an earlier occasion, when shown a photograph of Mohammed Abu Talb, a Palestinian terrorist whom the defense contended was the real bomber, Gauci used almost the same words with more confidence, declaring, according to his brother, that Talb “resembles” the clothes buyer “a lot.” Gauci's identification of Megrahi at the identity parade just before the opening of the trial was with the words, “not exactly the man I saw in the shop. Ten years ago I saw him, but the man who look [sic] a little bit like is the number 5” (Megrahi).

Megrahi was in Malta on December 7 but not on the November date. The shopkeeper recalled that the man who bought the clothes also bought an umbrella because it was raining heavily outside. Maltese meteorological records introduced by the defense showed clearly that while it did rain all day on November 23, there was almost certainly no rain on December 7. If it did rain on that date, the shower would have been barely enough to wet the pavement. Nevertheless, the judges held it proven that Megrahi had bought the clothes on December 7.

No less vital to the prosecution's case was its contention that the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 had been loaded as unaccompanied baggage onto an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, flown on to London, and thence onto the ill-fated flight to New York. In support of this, prosecutors produced a document from Frankfurt airport indicating that a bag had gone from the baggage-handling station, at which the Air Malta bags (along with those from other flights) had been unloaded, and had been sent to the handling station for the relevant flight to London. But there was firm evidence from the defense that all the bags on the Air Malta flight were accompanied and were collected at the other end. Nevertheless, the judges held it proven that the lethal suitcase had indeed come from Malta. When Granada TV broadcast a documentary asserting such a transfer as a fact, Air Malta sued and extracted damages.

The most likely explanation of the judges' decision to convict Megrahi despite the evidence, or lack of it, must be that either they panicked at the thought of the uproar that would ensue on the U.S. end if they let both the Libyans off, or they were simply given their marching orders by high authority in London. English judges are used to doing their duty in this manner – see, for example, the results of various “impartial” judicial inquiries into British atrocities in Northern Ireland over the years, such as Justice Widgery’s whitewash in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday.

In closing arguments, the prosecution stressed the point that Megrahi could not have planted the bomb without the assistance of Fhimah – that both defendants were equally guilty, and should stand or fall together. Nevertheless, the judges elected to find one of the two conspirators guilty and the other one innocent, a split verdict that Koechler found “incomprehensible.” It is, however, entirely comprehensible if we accept that the judges knew there was no evidence to convict either man, but that it was politically imperative for them to convict at least one.

Iran the Likely Sponsor

A former CIA official and friend of CounterPunch back at the time of the original trial in 2000, Andrew continues, notes that he had taken part in the original investigation of the Pan Am 103 bombing. He said that if the original CIA report was ever to be made public, it would provide “damning evidence” that “the Libyans were never directly involved in the Lockerbie bombing.” In fact, the evidence in the CIA’s possession pointed more clearly in the direction of the original suspects in the case, members of a group known as the PFLP-GC, closely linked to Iran.

The Iranians had a clear motive for an attack on an American airliner, following the destruction of an Iranian Airbus over the Persian Gulf carrying 290 passengers, including 66 children, on July 3, 1988. The U.S. Navy missile carrier Vincennes had casually blown it out of the sky despite clear indications it was a civilian plane. Afterwards, the U.S. Navy concealed the fact that the Vincennes had been in Iranian territorial waters at the time, refused to admit error or pay compensation, and handed out medals to the ship’s officers for heroism in combat.

The initial U.S. and British investigations pointed clearly to a case against the Iranians as having contracted with the Lebanon-based PFLP-GC, or a section thereof, to exact retribution. Two months before Lockerbie, the West Germans arrested members of this group outside Dusseldorf as they were preparing bombs specifically designed to bring down airliners. U.S. intelligence had traced a payment of $500,000 into the account of a professional bomber, Abu Talb, in April 1989. A British journalist showed the Maltese shop owner who sold the clothes found in the bomb-suitcase a photo of Talb, and he declared that the man in the photo “most resembled” the purchaser. At one point, the Scottish police were about to charge Talb who had, since 1989, been serving time in a Swedish jail for a series of bomb attacks in Sweden and Denmark.

In March 1989, however, Margaret Thatcher called President G.W.H. Bush to discuss the case. The two leaders agreed it was important to “cool it” on the Iranian angle, since they were in no position to punish the Tehran regime, which had just survived the eight-year war with U.S./U.K.-sponsored Iraq. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, it became more imperative than ever to obscure any suspicion of Iranian complicity in the Lockerbie bombing, given the importance of Iranian assistance in the upcoming war with Saddam Hussein. Thus the perennial “rogue,” Mummar Qaddafi, was drafted as the suspect of choice.

Another factor probably played a role in the Scotch decision to release him on compassionate grounds last year. Megrahi and his able legal team had been preparing an appeal which would have deeply embarrassing to the Scottish judiciary. But with the release, the thousands of pages of Megrahi’s appeal went into the trash bin and Megrahi will, in the complacent words of a Scottish government spokesman, “die a convicted man”, however long he evades the Reaper.

The irony is that today the U.S. would no doubt be only too eager to finger Iran as the perpetrator. Perhaps that at least might stir Schumer and his colleagues.

...
 

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Pietro_Mercurios said:
I think it only reasonable that First Minister of Scotland, Salmond, tell US Senator, Rautenberg, with all due respect, to go screw himself and play his dirty political games somewhere else.
I can appreciate - though I'm not an expert on the case - that you may have concerns about the safety of the conviction, but I can't square that with you not wanting the matter discussed. The suggestion seems to be that you think the investigation into the release is cynical and that the investigators know that - in truth - the man convicted was innocent. Salmond, on the other hand, (no friend of Maggie or the establishment) has said the conviction was sound: is he part of the conspiracy or merely a dupe? And are the whole of the Senate committee in on the deal? Is Rautenberg himself cynically deceiving the families he claims to be representing as to the truth behind the bombing? Why would the Senate be picking at this old wound if they knew the 'truth' - should it ever be revealed - would implicate their own government? I don't get it.

The article you posted was interesting, but it jumps from evidence that suggests a mis-trial to the accusation that Maggie & George cooked up a scheme and instructed judges to deliver the required verdict. This is empty bluster without some corroborating evidence. For me, it's cock-up before conspiracy every time, unless I see evidence for the latter. Everything here is interesting but circumstantial. Ironically, the case for a transatlantic conspiracy looks every bit as flimsy as that which secured Megrahi's conviction.
 

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Pietro_Mercurios said:
Perhaps, they could even persuade George Galloway to do the honours? He might enjoy a return visit to Washington.
That, I confess, would be a great piece of TV.
 

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Ok, so where are the human rights activists in all this?

(The one I have met I suspect are of the same liberal persuasion as my friend...)

What if the plane blew up of its own accord? It would be easy to fabricate evidence and frame someone.

And where is justice for those Iranians??
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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theyithian said:
... The suggestion seems to be that you think the investigation into the release is cynical and that the investigators know that - in truth - the man convicted was innocent. Salmond, on the other hand, (no friend of Maggie or the establishment) has said the conviction was sound: is he part of the conspiracy or merely a dupe? And are the whole of the Senate committee in on the deal? Is Rautenberg himself cynically deceiving the families he claims to be representing as to the truth behind the bombing? Why would the Senate be picking at this old wound if they knew the 'truth' - should it ever be revealed - would implicate their own government? I don't get it.

...
The implication is that there is question enough, over the conviction at high level, not just empty conspiracy stuff, coupled with the timeliness of the accusations involving BP's lobbying. that Raufenberg and chums are picking up a convenient stick with which to beat 'this old wound' because it involves BP, for cynical populist reasons. Have they no corporate lobbying in the United States?

Just as some are using the opportunity to take a whack at the Scottish Parliament, for similar reasons.
 

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I can appreciate - though I'm not an expert on the case - that you may have concerns about the safety of the conviction, but I can't square that with you not wanting the matter discussed.
Yeah - the questions around the safety of the conviction are separate to the issue on whether he should have been released on health grounds. Too many commentators on this seem to confuse the two.

If Megrahi was innocent, then he should have been cleared on appeal. If he was in fact guilty, then his offence was so grave that early release was inappropriate. The fact that Megrahi is still going almost a year after we were told he was at death's door increases my general cynicism around the case.
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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Quake42 said:
... If Megrahi was innocent, then he should have been cleared on appeal. ...

... increases my general cynicism around the case.
Increasing general cynicism around this case would probably be quite difficult. Hence the general dubiety concerning Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, shortly before the launch of his appeal. And round and round we go.
 

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Very long article, begins...

Special report: the Libya investment firm and the release of the Lockerbie bomber
Americans are questioning why a company was set up in London a week after news broke that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, may be released.
By Robert Mendick, Philip Sherwell in New York and Andrew Alderson
Published: 9:00PM BST 24 Jul 2010

The terraced house just around the corner from the American embassy in London looks like most in the affluent street. Tall and elegant, only the shiny brass plaque gives a clue to what lies beyond the black front door.

The name reads Dalia Advisory Limited, a company established by Libyan businessmen just a week after the country's officials were told the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was being considered for release on compassionate grounds.

Dalia Advisory is in fact a "front" for the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), a sovereign wealth fund with £80 billion, to invest in Britain and beyond. The Georgian town house, bought for £6 million, is, ironically, only a few yards from the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

Senior business sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that had Megrahi died in a British jail, the LIA would have taken its vast sums elsewhere. "If Megrahi had perished in Scotland, we would have become a pariah state as far as the Libyans were concerned," said one source.

Oliver Miles, a former ambassador to Libya and now deputy chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, said: "At the time of his release everyone knew that if he died in a Scottish jail, it would be bad for our relations."

etc...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... omber.html
 

Yithian

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The breaking news now - can't find a good free source online yet - is that a letter has emerged indicating that the Obama adminstration wanted him released rather than transferred!

If substantiated, this could show that one US hand does not know what the other was doing; it could be quite explosive.

edit: NOTW is the best I can find:
http://blogs.notw.co.uk/politics/2010/0 ... e+World%29
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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theyithian said:
The breaking news now - can't find a good free source online yet - is that a letter has emerged indicating that the Obama adminstration wanted him released rather than transferred!

If substantiated, this could show that one US hand does not know what the other was doing; it could be quite explosive.

edit: NOTW is the best I can find:
http://blogs.notw.co.uk/politics/2010/0 ... e+World%29
All the cards on the table? Not yet, probably.
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/politics/lockerbie-now-pressure-switches-to-america-1.1043458

Lockerbie: now pressure switches to America

Herald Scotland. Alison Campsie. 25 Jul 2010

Pressure is growing on the US government to release secret documents which detail its position on the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

As the trans-Atlantic row deepens over why Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was freed from a Scottish jail last summer, the US government is being urged to drop its ban on the publication of letters it sent to both the Scottish Government and Whitehall on the issue.

The US government refused Holyrood permission to make the papers public in a strongly worded letter last September, a month after Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, was allowed to return to Libya following his compassionate release.

But the move to make the documents public took a step forward as the Senate committee on foreign affairs prepares for Thursday’s inquiry into the prisoner’s release, with chairman Senator Robert Menendez requesting that the Scottish Government provide information on Megrahi’s release in five key areas.

They include “any documents including communications to or from Scottish Government officials, relating to the US government’s position on Al Megrahi’s release or transfer to Libyan custody.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said last night: “We have received another letter from Senator Menendez, who will chair next week’s hearing, and who has now asked for us to provide five categories of documents relating to the case. We are more than happy to do so, and indeed have already published all we hold on this issue, with the exception of some documents where permission for publication has so far been declined.

“These unpublished documents include correspondence between the Scottish Government and the US Government, whose release Senator Menendez has now requested. We would urge the Senator and his colleagues to work with their own Government so that the remaining information we hold can be published in the interests of maximum transparency.”

The Scottish Government also denied reports that Alex Salmond received a letter from committee member Senator Frank Lautenberg, who is said to have “pleaded” with the First Minister to send a representative to the hearing to add “credibility” to proceedings.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has turned down a request to give evidence at the inquiry, as has Dr Andrew Fraser, the Scottish Prison Service director of health and care, whose report that Megrahi had three months to live led to his release from Greenock Prison.

Mr MacAskill last night stuck by his refusal to give evidence in Washington. He said: “I am the Justice Secretary of Scotland. I am elected by the people of Scotland and I am answerable to the parliament of Scotland.

“I have been made available and co-operated with enquiries both in the Scottish Parliament and in Westminster, and that is where my jurisdiction lies.”

Mr MacAskill said he would be happy to provide Mr Menendez with the information he had requested, information which the Scottish government has already published on the internet.

He added: “The only matter that remains outstanding is communications between the American government and ourselves.

“The only reason that has not been published is that the American government has so far refused to give us the consent to publish it.

“If Senator Menendez, and indeed Senator Lautenberg, wish to lobby or persuade the United States government to allow the release of that information, we will publish it forthwith.”

...
 

Dr_Baltar

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Quake42 said:
If he was in fact guilty, then his offence was so grave that early release was inappropriate.
That's not how the law works (or should work). It applies to all or none. And what makes his offence more grave than other murders? Numbers?
 

Quake42

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That's not how the law works (or should work). It applies to all or none.
That's not true. It is perfectly possible to allow compassionate release on a discretionary basis. In fact it's my understanding that the law on this in Scotland is indeed discretionary and that other terminally ill prisoners have been refused early release... however as I commented much earlier in the thread, statistics on this seem frustratingly elusive.

If compassionate release was automatic once a doctor had given a prisoner less than 3 months to live, there would have been no need for MacAskill to be involved at all.

And what makes his offence more grave than other murders? Numbers?
Well, yes, the fact that he was convicted of the greatest peacetime atrocity the UK has ever seen does weigh quite heavily in my mind. The cold-blooded murder of hundreds of innocent people is of a rather different nature, IMO, than a pub fight that got out of control.
 

Dr_Baltar

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Quake42 said:
That's not true. It is perfectly possible to allow compassionate release on a discretionary basis. In fact it's my understanding that the law on this in Scotland is indeed discretionary and that other terminally ill prisoners have been refused early release... however as I commented much earlier in the thread, statistics on this seem frustratingly elusive.

If compassionate release was automatic once a doctor had given a prisoner less than 3 months to live, there would have been no need for MacAskill to be involved at all.
Well, it is discretionary, yes, but the discretion allowed is not based on the seriousness, or otherwise, of the original offence. Once certain criteria are met, it's my understanding that release is, to all intents and purposes, automatic. Any that have been refused release have not met all of the criteria required.

Well, yes, the fact that he was convicted of the greatest peacetime atrocity the UK has ever seen does weigh quite heavily in my mind. The cold-blooded murder of hundreds of innocent people is of a rather different nature, IMO, than a pub fight that got out of control.
Granted, but that's not really the comparison I was making. I apologise for not being clear enough on that. I just think phrases such as you've just used, "greatest peacetime atrocity the UK has ever seen", are not really helpful when it comes to making judgements under the law. Al Megrahi could be serving concurrent life sentences for every single one of the murders he (allegedly) committed or just a single life sentence for a pub fight that got out of control and it still really has no bearing on whether he's eligible for compassionate release. It might leave a nasty taste in the mouth but there you go. I think revenge is a dish best not served at all I'm afraid, it tends to leave a far more bitter and unpalatable legacy.
 

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Once certain criteria are met, it's my understanding that release is, to all intents and purposes, automatic
Again, I'm afraid that I just don't think that is right. If it was then the decision would have been made by prison and medical authorities without resort to MacAskill.MacAskill has claimed he was following procedures, but to my knowledge has never said that he was forced to make the decision or that his hands were tied in any way. Had he believed it was inappropriate to release Megrahi, then I don't doubt that he could have refused the application.

Al Megrahi could be serving concurrent life sentences for every single one of the murders he (allegedly) committed or just a single life sentence for a pub fight that got out of control and it still really has no bearing on whether he's eligible for compassionate release
Do you really think that the Scottish government would release Peter Tobin if he was found to be suffering from cancer?

Somehow, I doubt that very much.
 

Dr_Baltar

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Quake42 said:
Again, I'm afraid that I just don't think that is right. If it was then the decision would have been made by prison and medical authorities without resort to MacAskill.MacAskill has claimed he was following procedures, but to my knowledge has never said that he was forced to make the decision or that his hands were tied in any way. Had he believed it was inappropriate to release Megrahi, then I don't doubt that he could have refused the application.
Well, I'm certainly no expert. There are grounds on which MacAskill could have refused the application, yes. However, given that none of them applied to al-Megrahi, I understand any refusal of compassionate release could have been appealed and was unlikely to be rejected. Again, I'm not a lawyer so I'm only going on what I can find.

Do you really think that the Scottish government would release Peter Tobin if he was found to be suffering from cancer?

Somehow, I doubt that very much.
I doubt it too. Given Tobin's history (depending how ill he was), there's a good chance that he would reoffend or constitute a danger to the public (this being one of the principles taken into account when considering compassionate release).
 

ramonmercado

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Drs can get it wrong about cancer. A friend of mine was told last September that she had 6 months to live. Shes still around and drinking guinness.
 

rynner2

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US publishes Megrahi release letter

The US government has published a letter sent to First Minister Alex Salmond before the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted of murdering 270 people in 1988, and was freed on compassionate grounds last year because he is terminally ill.

It was claimed the US told Mr Salmond compassionate release was "preferable" to a transfer to a Libyan jail.

The letter confirmed this but it called for him to stay in Scotland if freed.

It said: "The US is not prepared to support Megrahi's release on compassionate release or bail.

"Nevertheless if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose."

The letter from August 2009 laid out two conditions which were important to the US administration and would "partially mitigate" the concerns of the 189 American victims' families.

It said: "The United States would strongly oppose any release that would permit Megrahi to travel outside Scotland.

"We believe the welcoming reception that Megrahi might receive if he is permitted to travel abroad would be extremely inappropriate given Megrahi's conviction for a heinous crime that continues to have a deep and profound impact on so many.

"As such, compassionate release or bail should be conditioned on Megrahi remaining in Scotland."

The letter's publication comes after Mr Salmond told a US senate committee they "may wish to pursue" Barack Obama's administration to get inter-governmental correspondence published relating to the bomber's release.

Mr Salmond directed the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to Scottish government documents published online but said it could not breach the long-standing practice of holding in confidence government-to-government communications, by publishing other material without the permission of the US government.

Committee member Senator Robert Menendez had also requested any Scottish government documents "relating to BP's negotiations for or interest in oil exploration in Libya".

The first minister stated in his reply to Mr Menendez: "There are no such documents."


The Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Thursday will examine the release, but invitations to give evidence to Mr Salmond, his Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill - who made the decision - and the former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have been turned down.

The option of Megrahi remaining in Scotland after compassionate release had been rejected by Mr MacAskill at the time on the grounds of security and cost.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-10769210

As they were discussing Megrahi's release last year, it seems as if America's present demonization of BP in this case is a bit of a red herring.
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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The Independent on Sunday has published a helpful, 'Megrahi: the story so far,' summary, this week.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/w...-whistleblowers-to-solve-riddles-2052881.html

The Megrahi mysteries: US senators ask whistleblowers to solve riddles

A year ago, the convicted terrorist was released. The world was told he had less than three months to live. But the inaccuracy of that diagnosis is not the only puzzle in this case

Independent on Sunday (Independent World). By Brian Brady. 15 August 2010

He should never have reached this milestone. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, stricken with terminal cancer, was given less than three months to live when he was spirited out of Greenock Prison and home to a delirious reception in Libya. But this week, the Lockerbie bomber, with his wife and five children, will mark the first anniversary of the Scottish Executive's decision to let him go, on "compassionate grounds".

A committee of American senators, furious at the refusal of any British politicians to appear before its inquiry into the release, is now appealing to "concerned citizens" to blow the whistle on any suspicious behaviour uncovered during the episode. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will seek people with "unique insight" into issues including Megrahi's medical condition and negotiations between BP and the Libyan government.

The appeal demonstrates the exasperation of the senators, in their quest to tease out more details of what they suspect was a "rigged decision" to get Megrahi out. But it also emphasises that, like the man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing himself, there are enduring mysteries over Megrahi that refuse to go away.

So who's idea was it to let him go, then?

The Scottish Executive originally opposed Megrahi's release and insisted that he be excluded from a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA), finally agreed with Libya in 2007. But, after Megrahi's condition was confirmed the following year, it started the process that would lead to his release.

The Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, maintains that the final decision was based on the advice of doctors. However, internal documents relating to the release record that a PTA application submitted by the Libyan government on Megrahi's behalf only three months before the release was "not structured to focus on health matters".

The Executive also denies making an agreement with the prisoner to persuade him to drop a potentially embarrassing appeal against his conviction, so his release could at least be speeded up. Megrahi's lawyers announced they had applied to withdraw the appeal on 14 August 2009, and six days later he was freed.

Although the then British government voiced its opposition to the MacAskill decision and stressed it was a matter for the Executive, UK ministers were not totally opposed to Megrahi's release. In a letter to the Executive, the then justice secretary, Jack Straw, reversed his opposition to Megrahi being included in the PTA, citing "overwhelming interests of the UK" – although he did not explain what these were. A Libyan politician, Abdulati Alobidi, also insisted to Scottish officials that he had been told Gordon Brown did not believe Megrahi should die in prison.

But he had three months to live: why is he still alive?

Medical advice presented to Mr MacAskill charted Megrahi's rapid deterioration and stated that his Libyan doctor came up with a prognosis of three months, and this was "confirmed by HMP Greenock's health centre doctor". The records also show that, in June and July 2009, several specialists agreed his cancer was "hormone resistant" – and said his prognosis had moved "to the lower end of expectations from 10 months ago". However, it added: "Whether or not prognosis is more or less than three months, no specialist would be willing to say."

Last month, the cancer specialist Karol Sikora suggested Megrahi could live for up to 20 years, although he later insisted he had said such a lifespan would be unusual. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the specialists who treated Megrahi had not been consulted by the non-specialist who certified his condition as terminal. It was also claimed that the prisoner had disclosed his plan to begin chemotherapy at a doctor's suggestion – which should have alerted medics to the possibility that he was not three months from death.

The confusion over Megrahi's true condition has become a central issue for the Senate committee, which is now calling on Scotland to surrender Megrahi's medical records.

What was Tony Blair's role?

The former prime minister was deeply involved in the negotiations that ultimately paved the way for Megrahi's release. When the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, was recently badgered by the US committee, he urged them to turn their attention to Mr Blair and "the deal in the desert" in 2007, when he is alleged to have agreed the PTA with Colonel Gaddafi as part of a wider plan to return Libya to the international community.

However, as The Independent on Sunday revealed last year, the process began four years earlier with a secret meeting between British, American and Libyan spies at the Travellers Club in Pall Mall, London. Immediately afterwards, Mr Blair and Colonel Gaddafi spoke on the phone and Libya was on its way back in from the cold. A former Blair adviser said this month that the PTA was a "reward" for Libya having given up its nuclear weapons. It has not been established if Megrahi's freedom was the price for closer co-operation.

What about BP?

BP, the central target of the US investigation, has acknowledged it had expressed concern to the British government about the progress of the PTA, but denied raising the Megrahi case. Mr Salmond said the company did not approach his administration over the issue.

But BP is inextricably linked to the Libya operation; in fact, it signed a £540m exploration deal during Mr Blair's visit to Tripoli in 2007, when the memorandum of understanding paving the way for the PTA was agreed. Sir Mark Allen, in charge of the Middle East and Africa department at MI6 until he became an adviser to BP in 2004, was deeply involved in the negotiations.

Were the Americans involved?

In public, the US has furiously criticised the Megrahi release, but behind the scenes it revealed a softer stance. Last year, the IoS revealed that the Americans had indicated that they would bankroll a scheme to put Megrahi under house arrest in Scotland, rather than see him go back to Libya. A letter leaked last week showed that they had secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be "far preferable" to free him than jail him in Libya. The US government refused permission for its official submission to the early-release process to be made public.

So, did he do it, or not?

Megrahi was found guilty of planting a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 and sentenced to life in January 2001. The judges found that "there is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to [Megrahi's] guilt". His co-accused was acquitted. But several people have questioned his guilt, claiming the court ignored reports that Iran-backed Palestinian groups could have committed the bombing, and pointing out that the Pan Am baggage area at Heathrow had been broken into the night before flight 103 arrived. Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper, said he remembered selling clothing to Megrahi that was wrapped round the bomb. Mr Gauci was later reported to have been paid $4m by the FBI as a reward for his testimony. Megrahi has never admitted carrying out the bombing and had been planning a second appeal.
Are conspiracies catching? :confused:
 
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