Lockerbie Bombing

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Lockerbie Bombing
Coordinates 55°6′55.99″N 3°21′30.69″W / 55.1155528°N 3.3585250°W / 55.1155528; -3.3585250Coordinates: 55°6′55.99″N 3°21′30.69″W / 55.1155528°N 3.3585250°W / 55.1155528; -3.3585250
Type bombing
Deaths 270
Wikipedia Pan Am Flight 103
Synthesis.png A synthesis page at The How, Why and Who of Pan Am Flight 103 summarises the material in this page and other related pages..


Boeing 747-121 "Clipper Maid of the Seas" pictured at Frankfurt Airport in July 1986
Pan Am Flight 103 wreckage - Cockpit section
Crater and property damage in Lockerbie caused by aircraft wreckage

On 21 December 1988 Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747-121 named "Clipper Maid of the Seas", was on a scheduled transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when there was an explosion on board. The aircraft broke up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie (Map), killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie were killed by large sections of the plane which fell in and around the town, bringing total fatalities to 270.

Thirteen years later, on 31 January 2001, Libyan citizen Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted of involvement in the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland. His co-defendant, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was unanimously acquitted. Megrahi's appeal against his conviction in January 2001 was refused on 14 March 2002 by a panel of five Scottish judges at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.[1]

In June 2007, Megrahi was granted leave for a second appeal against his conviction, on the basis of evidence that a miscarriage of justice could have occurred. [2] His appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal was abandoned by al-Megrahi in August 2009, just two days before the Scottish Government released him on compassionate grounds to return to Libya. The stated grounds for release were that he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and was likely to die within three months.

On 6 January 2014, The Ecologist published a controversial article entitled "Flight 103: it was the Uranium" with this introduction:

Mystery continues to surround the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie - who did it, how, and why? After 25 years study of the topic Patrick Haseldine reveals the shocking truth.[3]

Official Narrative

Full article: Lockerbie Official Narrative

In August 2001, Scottish Lord Advocate Colin Boyd presented what might be considered the definite statement of the Lockerbie Official Narrative at a conference of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law (ISRCL):[4] While admitting that "Politics and diplomacy were necessarily interwoven with this case from the start", there is no mention of Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia, and the evidence presented at the trial is presented as the unvarnished truth. Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines, was determined at the trial to be a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services and of being guilty of the bombing. The narrative is predictably self-congratulatory: "In conclusion, it seems to me to be absolutely right that the investigation of crime and the prosecutorial decisions which flow from that investigation must be taken independently of political influence... Political and diplomatic action secured the trial. The investigation of the case and the prosecution of the trial were driven by the evidence."

Geopolitical Background

At the time of the attack:

  • UK-US relations with Libya were icy over alleged Libyan sponsorship of terrorism and its stubborn refusal to 'see things the West's way'.
  • UK-US relations with Iran were slated for improvement following the cessation of the Iran Iraq war in which both sides had been armed by the West.
  • On 3 July 1988 Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian Airbus A300 airliner en-route from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, UAE was brought down by a missile fired by the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes, with the loss of 290 lives. The US government claimed that the Airliner had been mistaken for an attacking F14 Tomcat fighter.

The Investigation

The people and organisations involved

  1. Vincent Cannistraro - CIA task force officer in the brutal 1980s Iran-Contra campaign. Deployed a training manual of invasion and killing of Nicaraguan citizens and officials. Wrote "the anatomy of a lie" to cover up US government involvement in Nicaragua. In 1986 was commissioned by the US President to "Destabilize Libya and destroy the Gaddafi regime". Secretly worked to arm the Afghanistan Mujahadeen and Osama Bin Laden. His chief Admiral Poindexter chaired a top-level meeting - to which Cannistraro had access - to discuss the manufacture of evidence to destabilize the government of Yemen. He was head of the CIA Lockerbie team, but did not attend the trial to give evidence.

The Trial

Geopolitical Background

  • UK-US relations with Libya were being 'normalised' following Libya's agreement to extradite al-Megrahi for trial and its abandonment of its allegedly belligerent stance over previously core issues of policy on trade, oil and support for groups antagonistic to Western interests. The accommodation resulted in the lifting of UN trade sanctions against Libya which had progressively paralyzed its economy over the preceding decade.
  • UK-US relations with Iran were close to all-time lows and deteriorating over the usual issues of Iranian refusal to 'see things the West's way'

Personalities central to the prosecution's case

  1. Tony Gauci - The crown's star witness, a Maltese shopkeeper, reportedly paid a large amount by the CIA[5]
  2. Thomas Thurman - FBI Laboratory 'scientist'
  3. Alan Feraday - Former head of the forensic laboratory at Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) at Fort Halstead.
  4. Dr Thomas Hayes - Over the 1970s and early 1980s progressed to head the RARDE forensic laboratory. His testimony was central to the Lockerbie verdict. Yet he and two colleagues conspired to with-hold evidence from the 1974 alleged IRA Maguire Seven trial which would have indicated innocence. The Maguires were freed on appeal after fifteen years in jail. This matter was exposed in the Lockerbie trial, but the judges trusted Hayes' word implicitly.

Evidence withheld or not available at the time of the trial

  • Former CIA agent, Robert Baer, CIA Middle Eastern specialist, worked on the early stages of the investigation. He has repeatedly claimed that, in 1989, there was "Grade A intelligence" held by America to prove that Iran requested and paid for the Lockerbie bombing. If Baer is correct, then the bomb timer fragment which pointed to Libya must have been planted.
  • Lord Peter Fraser, Scotland's Chief Law Officer during the investigation and indictments, claimed in 1991 that witnesses would "prove the case beyond reasonable doubt." In 2005 he admitted to journalists that his chief witness Gauci was highly unreliable. Then in 2008, when questioned by a Times journalist, Fraser indicated suspicions that key evidence might have been planted with the knowledge of the CIA.
  • Shukri Ghanem, Libyan Prime Minister 2003 - 2006, has said, on at least two occasions in radio and television interviews, that Libya was not responsible and it paid the $2.7 billion compensation with great reluctance and only "to buy peace and move forward."
  • The alleged bomb timer fragment: Was it planted to frame Libya for the crime? The fragment's label had been altered by unknown persons. And its finding and examination by Dr Thomas Hayes proved highly suspicious. A series of scientific tests in 2009 have proved that its survival two centimetres from the centre of a high explosive fireball was impossible.[6]

Post-Trial developments

Dr John Cameron, Church of Scotland's scientist
Hans Köchler UN Observer at the Lockerbie trial

Cameron's Report on Forensic Evidence

Full article: Cameron's Report on Lockerbie Forensic Evidence

At the beginning of 2003, former South African president Nelson Mandela asked the Western Christian churches to intervene in what he termed "a clear miscarriage of justice", referring to the conviction of Megrahi at Camp Zeist. In July that year, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Professor Iain Torrance, took up the challenge and appointed the Church of Scotland's leading scientist Dr John Urquhart Cameron to conduct a scientific examination of all the forensic evidence which had convicted Megrahi. As a result, Cameron produced a damning report on the conduct of the forensic experts and on the evidence presented to the trial.[7]

Statement by UN Observer at the Trial

On 23 August 2003, Dr Hans Koechler, the United Nations Observer at the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands (2000-2002), released a "Statement on the agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and the Libyan Jamahiriya on the remaining issues relating to the fulfilment of all Security Council resolutions resulting from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie." The Statement concluded:

"17. The chapter of the Lockerbie investigation can only be closed when the full truth will have been established and when the question will have been satisfactorily answered why only a lone individual has been sentenced in a case that relates to a terrorist crime the commission of which required a vast and sophisticated operational network (most likely involving more than one country and/or terrorist organisation) and huge financial resources. An ambiguous declaration of "state responsibility" such as the one deposited with the UN Security Council does in no way answer the urgent and legitimate question as to personal criminal responsibility of individuals other than Mr Al-Megrahi (and eventually also from other countries) for the Lockerbie crime. A political deal such as the one concluded last week between the US, UK and Libya linking individual compensation with the lifting of multilateral and subsequently unilateral sanctions does not advance the cause of justice in the present case, but is part of the politics of national interest of the countries involved in the present dispute. The intelligence cooperation established between the three countries since September 11, 2001, in the area of counter-terrorism must not come at the expense of the search for truth in the Lockerbie case. The doubts and misgivings about the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands will only disappear when a full investigation of the crime by an independent commission will have been undertaken. Up to this moment the undersigned will maintain his doubts about the Lockerbie verdict and will consider the judgment concerning Mr Al-Megrahi – on the basis of an Indictment that was substantially modified in the course of the trial and altered by the judges as part of the Verdict – as a miscarriage of justice."[8]

Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission

On 23 September 2003 lawyers acting for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for a review of the case (both sentence and conviction), arguing that there had been a miscarriage of justice. On 1 November 2006, Megrahi was reported to have dropped his demand for the new appeal to be held at Camp Zeist.[9] In an interview with The Scotsman newspaper of 31 January 2006, retired Scottish Judge Lord MacLean – one of the three who convicted Megrahi in 2001 – said he believed the SCCRC would return the case for a further appeal against conviction:

"They can't be working for two years without producing something with which to go to the court."

MacLean added that any new appeal would indicate the flexibility of Scots law, rather than a weakness:

"It might even be the strength of the system – it is capable of looking at itself subsequently and determining a ground for appeal."

In January 2007, the SCCRC announced that it would issue its decision on Megrahi's case by the end of June 2007.[10] On 9 June 2007 rumours of a possible prisoner swap deal involving Megrahi were strenuously denied by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.[11] Later in June, The Observer confirmed the imminence of the SCCRC ruling and reported:

"Abdelbaset al-Megrahi never wavered in his denial of causing the Lockerbie disaster: now some Scottish legal experts say they believe him."[12]

On 28 June 2007, the SCCRC concluded its four-year review and, having uncovered evidence that a miscarriage of justice could have occurred, the commission granted Megrahi leave to appeal against his Lockerbie bombing conviction for a second time.[13]

In a statement dated 29 June 2007 Dr Hans Köchler, international observer at the Lockerbie trial, expressed his surprise at the SCCRC's narrow focus and apparent bias towards the judicial establishment:

"In giving exoneration to the police, prosecutors and forensic staff, I think they show their lack of independence. No officials to be blamed, simply a Maltese shopkeeper."[14]

Reliability of Tony Gauci

In 2005, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci was exposed as an unreliable witness by the man who in 1991 indicted Megrahi, former Scottish Lord Advocate Peter Fraser. In Fraser's words, Gauci was "an apple short of a picnic." And yet the judges trusted Gauci's contradictory and confused evidence, and ignored the fact that Gauci was on a promise of a multi-million dollar reward if Al-Megrahi was convicted. Michael Meacher, MP, also alleged bribery of the chief prosecution witness with the collusion of Strathclyde police and the US Authorities, though his blog post was later removed.[15]

Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds

On 20 August 2009, Megrahi's release was authorised by the Scottish Secretary of Justice, Kenny MacAskill under a 1993 Scottish statute enabling the release from prison of anyone deemed by competent medical authority to have three months or less to live.[16] The public were lead to believe that Megrahi had only 3 months to live.

Cable 08LONDON2673 (dated 2008-10-24) from the US Embassy London states however:

"Megrahi was first diagnosed on 23 September at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, both the FCO and the Scottish Crown office have told us; the second diagnosis was on 10 October. The two diagnoses match: he has prostate cancer that has spread to his bones, the cancer has advanced rapidly, and it is inoperable and incurable. Megrahi could have as long as five years to live, but the average life expectancy of someone of his age with his condition is eighteen months to two years".[17]

Another leaked cable, 09TRIPOLI65 (dated 2009-01-28) from the US Embassy Tripoli reports:

"The case of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is arguably the regime’s most sensitive political subject, in part because it involves a firm timeline in the form of the ailing al-Megrahi’s approaching death. Through remarks by senior officials suggesting that al-Megrahi is innocent and a steady diet of publicity about his case, the regime has limited its room for political maneuver. U.K. Embassy interlocutors here are planning for a scenario in which the U.K.-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement is ratified in early March and the GOL makes application shortly thereafter for al-Megrahi’s transfer to Libya. The U.K. Embassy expects a sharply negative GOL reaction if al-Megrahi dies in prison or if the Scottish Executive and/or FCO oppose his transfer".[18]

Another cable stated that the UK feared action by Libya against British interests if Megrahi died in jail.[19]

Channel 4 news presenter, Jon Snow, wrote that the report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission "states that after the trial Tony Gauci was paid $2 million, and that brother Paul got $1 million reward money" that after the trial Tony Gauci was paid $2 million, and that brother Paul got $1 million reward money. If true, these would be completely dynamite revelations. Of course, they would have come out in the appeal that Megrahi’s release prevented happening. It is inconceivable that this Scottish Review Commission’s report would not have surfaced at such an appeal. Does this perhaps explain why he was eventually bundled so speedily out of the country?"[20]

In fact, Megrahi died in 20 May 2012, almost three years after his release was authorised.[21]

Alternative Possibilities

South African Apartheid Regime

President P W Botha ruled apartheid South Africa between 1978 and 1989 and was responsible for gross human rights violations, including all the violence that was sanctioned by the State Security Council (SSC), an executive organ of his apartheid regime. Such violence included using torture, abduction, arson and sabotage, and murdering those opposed to apartheid.[22] An SSC subcommittee, chaired by 'superspy' Major Craig Williamson, targeted anti-apartheid groups and individuals.[23]

From Chequers to Lockerbie

Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson

The distance by road from Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence in Buckinghamshire, to the site in Scotland of the Pan Am Flight 103 crash on 21 December 1988 is 310 miles. It took more than 4½ years for President P W Botha to complete his murderous journey from meeting Margaret Thatcher at Chequers on 2 June 1984 to the sabotage at Lockerbie.[24]

The full article "From Chequers to Lockerbie" by Patrick Haseldine can be read here.

Highest profile Pan Am Flight 103 victim

Full article: Bernt Carlsson

Newspaper reports quickly identified the highest profile Pan Am Flight 103 victim as Bernt Carlsson, due to attend a ceremony in New York the next day, at the United Nations granting independence to Namibia. However, after a brief spell of attention, this angle of the bombing was not pursued by commercially-controlled media.

E-petition to HMG

E-petition to HM Government

In November 2013, former diplomat Patrick Haseldine created this e-petition calling upon HM Government (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to:

"Support a United Nations Inquiry into the deaths of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson"
On 9 September 2013, the London-based Hammarskjöld Commission reported that there was "significant new evidence" about the plane crash that killed United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and recommended that the adjourned 1962 UN Inquiry should now be reopened.
UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson was the highest profile victim on Pan Am Flight 103 which was sabotaged over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.
Since Bernt Carlsson's death has never been investigated, the British Government should propose extending the remit of the new UN Inquiry to cover the deaths of both senior diplomats: Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson.

The e-petition is open for signature by UK citizens and residents from 13 November 2013 to 13 May 2014, and can be signed here.

Media cover-up

Full article: Lockerbie Bombing/Cover-up

Within a few weeks of those December 1988 newspaper reports, Bernt Carlsson's name would hardly ever be mentioned again by the commercially-controlled media in the Lockerbie context. He rapidly became a "nonperson", whose death was never properly investigated. Patrick Haseldine alleges that Tiny Rowland recruited Emeritus Professor of Scots Law Robert Black to organise the British news blackout and that "for the past 20 years, Professor Robert Black has been suppressing the truth about the Lockerbie disaster".[Citation Needed]


Related Documents

Title Type Publication date Author(s) Description
Fragments of Truth WikiSpooks Page 1 December 2009 Mark Hirst
How Megrahi and Libya were framed for Lockerbie WikiSpooks Page 22 July 2010 Alexander Cockburn
Lockerbie - Bomber, Bomber, Bomber WikiSpooks Page 21 July 2010 Steven Raeburn
Lockerbie - The Syrian Connection WikiSpooks Page 1997 David Guyatt
Release of the Lockerbie Prisoner WikiSpooks Page Hans Köchler A report by the official UN Observer of the Lockerbie Trial in the Netherlands, commenting on the release on compassionate grounds of the only person convicted in the Lockerbie case.
File:The Framing of al-Megrahi.doc
The How, Why and Who of Pan Am Flight 103
The Lockerbie case and the corruption of justice WikiSpooks Page 9 August 2009 Hans Köchler
"Setting Up" Libya For The Lockerbie Bombing - Part 2 WikiSpooks Page 15 September 2004 Joe Vialls
The Canadian Connection To Lockerbie & Pan Am 103 WikiSpooks Page 14 February 1998 Joe Vialls
The Bomb Trigger on Pam Am 103 WikiSpooks Page May 2002 Joe Vialls
Setting Up" Libya For The Lockerbie Bombing - Part 1 WikiSpooks Page 15 September 2004 Joe Vialls

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