Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi in 1992 under arrest in Libya
|Born||Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi|
1 April 1952
Tripoli, Kingdom of Libya
|Died||20 May 2012 (Age 60)|
|Children|| • 4 sons|
• 1 daughter
|Supposed perpetrator of||Pan Am Flight 103|
|Subpage||•Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release|
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tripoli, Libya, and an alleged Libyan intelligence officer.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi told author John Ashton that it came as a complete surprise when, in November 1991, he and his former LAA colleague Lamin Fhimah were charged with the bombing (Fhimah was found not guilty). Megrahi maintained it was their decision to stand trial and that they were not ordered to by their government. He was repeatedly warned that he was unlikely to receive a fair trial, but believed he would be acquitted.
In 2000 at his trial which was held under Scots Law at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Crown expert witness Alan Feraday - who had been banned in 1993 by the English Lord Chief Justice Taylor - conspired with his US counterpart Thomas Thurman in fabricating the time bomb evidence that led to Megrahi's conviction. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years in prison: one year for every ten victims of the Lockerbie bombing.
During the decade he spent in prison, Megrahi's good manners and cooperative behaviour earned him the respect of the officers. He bonded with them through football, joining in their three-a-side matches at HMP Barlinnie and bantering about Glasgow's 'Old Firm' rivalry. Perversely, he supported Rangers, but his favourite player was Celtic's Henrik Larsson.
Megrahi was cheered by visits from well-known figures, most notably Nelson Mandela, and by hundreds of letters of support. In 2005 he was transferred to a low-security wing of HMP Gateside in Greenock, where he was placed among long-term prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. He was soon accepted by both inmates and officers, one of whom volunteered to Ashton:
- "We all know he didn't do it."
- 1 Sub-Page
- 2 Posthumous appeal
- 3 271st victim of Lockerbie
- 4 CIA wanted to assassinate Megrahi
- 5 Charges, conviction and punishment
- 5.1 Background
- 5.2 Indictment and arrest
- 5.3 Trial
- 5.4 Megrahi aka Abdusamad
- 5.5 Verdict
- 5.6 Prison visit by Nelson Mandela
- 5.7 Appeal
- 5.8 Judicial reviews
- 5.9 Second appeal
- 5.10 My dear brother Abdullah
- 5.11 Observations by UN Observer
- 5.12 Compassionate release
- 5.13 Same bad science and scientists
- 6 Death
- 7 Related Documents
- 8 References
- 9 External links
|Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release||51,974||The actual grounds for Megrahi's release may in fact be as "compassionate" as claimed; this may have been a convenient way to short cirtcuit increasing realisation that he had been falsely convicted.|
On 13 November 1991, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, LAA's manager in Malta, were indicted jointly by the US Attorney General and Scotland's Lord Advocate on charges of 270 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder, and breaching the UK's Aviation Security Act 1982 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988.
Following the indictment, Megrahi and Fhimah were arrested in Libya, which offered to put them on trial if the US and Britain would supply the evidence. The Libyan offer was rejected by the US and Britain, whereupon Nelson Mandela proposed to have the two accused Libyans tried in a neutral country and by independent judges.
Contrary to Mandela's proposal, Professor of Scots Law, Robert Black conducted a series of negotiations for the Lockerbie trial to be held without a jury and in front of a panel of three Scottish judges sitting in a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, which for the duration of the trial became British territory.
On 31 January 2001, the conspiracy to murder charge having been dropped, Megrahi was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. His co-accused, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was found not guilty and set free.
In February 2002, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi unsuccessfully appealed his conviction but, in 2003, applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for his case to be re-examined. On 28 June 2007, the SCCRC granted Megrahi leave to appeal against his Lockerbie bombing conviction for a second time. "Lockerbie Revisited", a Dutch documentary film, was broadcast in the Netherlands on the eve of the start at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh on 28 April 2009 of his second appeal. During the two-year delay between the SCCRC's ruling and the start of al-Megrahi's second appeal, he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Megrahi decided to abandon his second appeal in August 2009, a few days before being granted compassionate release from prison in Scotland and returning to Libya. On his return to Libya, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was initially hospitalized but was allowed to leave on 2 November 2009, taking up residence in a villa in Tripoli.
In October 2010, the Justice for Megrahi campaign group created an e-petition which called on the Scottish Parliament "to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988." Petition PE1370 is currently under consideration by the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, whose Chair is Christine Grahame.
In October 2011, al-Megrahi gave an interview from his bed in which he claimed that he had only days, weeks or months to live.
In April 2017, the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi launched a fresh effort to posthumously clear his name. Family lawyer Aamer Anwar said that a dossier of evidence will be delivered to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which will review it and decide whether to hand the case on to an appeals court. Al-Megrahi's widow Aisha said:
- "I wish to pursue this appeal in my husband's name to have his conviction overturned, to clear his name and to clear the name of my family.
- "The world will say sorry to my husband and my family one day."
On 11 March 2020, the SCCRC again referred the case of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to the High Court of Justiciary, the hearing of which has been delayed due to the COVID-19/Lockdown. The Commission sent a Statement of Reasons for its decision to the High Court. It has sent a copy of the document to Messrs Aamer Anwar & Co (whom the Megrahi family have instructed), the Lord Advocate and the Crown Agent.
The Commission is not, by law, permitted to provide members of the public with copies of its statement of reasons. However, given the continuing worldwide interest in this case, which sits uniquely within the criminal justice system in Scotland, the Commission decided to provide a fuller news release than normal by setting out a summary of the case history and providing brief details of the application made to it, the trial court’s findings and the Commission’s conclusions.
Gerard Sinclair, SCCRC Chief Executive, said:
- "When we referred this case in 2007 I never expected that, over 10 years later, we would be asked not only to revisit our original decision, applying the law as currently stated, but also consider a whole new set of materials which had become available in the intervening years. I’m pleased to report that, after another lengthy investigation and review, we are now in a position to issue our decision in this unique case.
- "It seems important to note that, this month, an entirely new Board of the Commission from that which considered the matter in 2007 has again decided to refer this case. The 419-page decision issued today, with voluminous appendices, is a testament to the hard work and diligence of our investigating team over the last 3 years, involving us in novel and challenging court procedures along the way, and I pay tribute to them. The Commission’s involvement in the case is, once again, at an end. It is now a matter for those representing the Crown and the defence to decide how to proceed at any future appeal. Thereafter, it will be for the appeal court to decide whether there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case."
Grounds of Review
The SCCRC considered the following six broad Grounds of Review:
- Ground 1: Insufficient Evidence
- Ground 2: Unreasonable Verdict
- Ground 3: Fresh Evidence: The Christmas Lights
- Ground 4: Non-disclosure
- Ground 5: Timer Fragment PT/35(b)
- Ground 6: The Suitcase Ingestion
but upheld only two of these grounds: Ground 2: Unreasonable Verdict and Ground 4: Non-disclosure. Thus it took the "entirely new Board of the Commission" 2 years, 8 months, and 7 days to confirm two of the six grounds their predecessors had already validated 13 years ago. The new Commission has simply reaffirmed that no reasonable trial court could have accepted that Megrahi was identified as the purchaser (of the clothes, traces of which were found in the bomb suitcase).
Limited chance of success
For the posthumous appeal to succeed, Megrahi’s legal team are limited solely to showing that his conviction was based upon the unreliable identification evidence given by the now-deceased Maltese shop owner Tony Gauci. Lawyer Aamer Anwar is unlikely to be able to challenge any of the other unreliable evidence given at the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial that:
- A time bomb triggered by an MST-13 Timer was wrapped in clothes purchased in Malta and packed inside the bomb suitcase
- The unaccompanied bomb suitcase was ingested at Malta's Luqa Airport on 21 December 1988
- Air Malta flight KM180 transported the bomb suitcase unaccompanied to Frankfurt airport
- Feeder flight Pan Am 103A transported the bomb suitcase unaccompanied from Frankfurt to Heathrow airport
- Pan Am Flight 103 transported the bomb suitcase unaccompanied from London's Heathrow until the aircraft exploded at 19:03 hours on 21 December 1988 over Lockerbie in Scotland
While the law does not inhibit Megrahi's legal team from trying to appeal on these additional grounds, the High Court of Justiciary is expected to reject any such appeal and focus on whether Megrahi or another Libyan terrorist is responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.
Five Judges reject appeal
In a 64-page Judgment on 15 January 2021, five Judges in the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland announced they upheld the original trial verdict and rejected the posthumous appeal against Megrahi's conviction. Following the Judgment, the family's lawyer Aamer Anwar said:
“Ali Al-Megrahi, the son of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, said his family were left heartbroken by the decision of the Scottish courts. He maintained his father’s innocence and is determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name and that of Libya.
“As of this morning, the Megrahi family have instructed our legal team to appeal to the UK Supreme Court and we will lodge an application within 14 days.
“The Foreign Secretary had refused to do so, this must happen for the truth to emerge.”
Mr Anwar said “significant material has been received by the legal team over the last several months, especially since the announcement by Donald Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr on 21 December 2020, when he stated that the USA wished to extradite a former Libyan Intelligence Officer, Abu Agila Mas'ud for the Lockerbie bombing, 32 years later”.
He said: “Masud’s confession to being involved in the conspiracy with Al-Megrahi to blow up Pan Am Flight 103, was supposedly ‘extracted’ by a ‘Libyan law enforcement agent’ in 2012, whilst in custody in a Libyan Prison. No new information appeared to be presented by Attorney General Barr.
“Of course, the problem for the US Department of Justice is that the case against Megrahi is still based on the eyewitness testimony of Tony Gauci stating that Megrahi bought the clothes. How can both men be held responsible?
“Undoubtedly there will now be huge pressure on Libya and the GNA, the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli to extradite Abu Agila Mas'ud to the US, but of course the American authorities will be also aware that if the Megrahi’s were to be successful at the UK Supreme Court, then ‘so called’ case against Abu Agila Mas'ud would crumble.”
Appeal to UK Supreme Court
A written Judgment issued by Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice General, said the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland "has had some difficulty in understanding the exact nature of the challenge".
It said: "Although the case is clearly one of public importance, the proposed grounds of appeal do not raise points of law of general public importance.
"The principles of law which the court applied were all well known, settled and largely uncontroversial in the appeal.
"For these reasons, the court refuses permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court."
Megrahi's son Ali al-Megrahi, who has maintained his father’s innocence and is determined to fulfil the promise he made to clear his name and that of Libya, clearly cannot accept the Scots Appeal Court ruling. He said:
- "My recommendation, Mr Anwar, is that you appeal to the UK Supreme Court to quash the Scottish Court in the Netherlands' 2001 conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on the basis of fabricated timer fragment evidence led by the "non-expert witness" Allen Feraday.
271st victim of Lockerbie
Relatives of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing have embarked on a legal bid to clear his name amid claims that his case is the "worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history". Six immediate members of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's family have joined forces with 24 British relatives of those who died in the atrocity to seek, ultimately, a third appeal against his conviction in the Scottish courts.
Campaigners say they are still "desperately seeking to get to the truth" 25 years after their loved ones were murdered and two years on from Megrahi's death. They have united to submit an application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for a review of the conviction, a move which could see the case referred back to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. They claim to have evidence that Megrahi was pressured by ministers to drop his second appeal.
Reversal of the guilty verdict would expose the US and UK governments "as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years", their lawyers claim. Quoting Megrahi's relatives, their solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said:
- "'We, the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, will keep fighting for justice to find out who was responsible for 271 victims of the Lockerbie disaster.' They, of course, include Mr Megrahi as its 271st victim."
The members of Megrahi's family involved have not being identified due to concerns for their safety.
Mr Anwar and campaigner Jim Swire today submitted three volumes of papers to the SCCRC in Glasgow, launching their application. Dr Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the bombing, said: "As relatives, we want to know all that is known about who was responsible for murdering our lovely families all those years ago. Who did it? Why am I and other relatives still desperately seeking to get to the truth 25 years after our families were murdered?"
The fact that Megrahi's own family have chosen to take forward an appeal bid could boost its chances of getting back to court. It is expected to be several months before the review body makes a decision on any way forward. The Commission will be asked to reconfirm the six grounds of appeal it cited in 2007. The application will also focus on "question marks" over material evidence, allegations of the Crown's non-disclosure of evidence and claims he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopkeeper who "gave a false description" of him. Mr Anwar said:
- "The case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history. A reversal of the verdict would mean that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would stand exposed as having lived a monumental lie for 25 years and having imprisoned a man they knew to be innocent for 10 years."
The legal team will also ask the SCCRC to consider the circumstances that led to Megrahi abandoning his last appeal. Mr Anwar said:
- "To date both the British Government and Scottish Government have claimed that they played no role in pressurising Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. However the evidence submitted to the Commission today claims that this is fundamentally untrue."
SCCRC chief executive Gerard Sinclair said:
- "As it does in every case, the Commission will now give careful consideration to this new application."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Mr al-Megrahi was convicted in a court of law, his conviction was upheld on appeal and that is the only appropriate place for his guilt or innocence to be determined."
The Lockerbie case remains a live investigation, with Scotland's criminal justice officials saying they will pursue any new lines of inquiry.
A Crown Office spokesman said:
- "We do not fear scrutiny of the conviction by the SCCRC. The evidence upon which the conviction was based was rigorously scrutinised by the trial court and two appeal courts, after which Megrahi stands convicted of the terrorist murder of 270 people. We will rigorously defend this conviction when called upon to do so. In the meantime we will continue the investigation with US and Scottish police and law enforcement, and will keep fighting for justice to find out who was responsible for 271 victims of the Lockerbie disaster."
On 5 November 2015, the SCCRC announced that the Board of the Commission had decided that “it is not in the interests of justice” to continue with a review of the conviction of the late Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. Consequently, the application has been refused.
CIA wanted to assassinate Megrahi
In June 2013, a Capitol Hill academic William C. Chasey, after being diagnosed with incurable cancer, reported that the CIA had made repeated approaches to him. They wanted to get him to attach tracking devices to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and his co-accused, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, so that they could assassinate them before their trial. "He wasn’t explicit but my belief is that the CIA wanted the suspects eliminated to stop any trial taking place and bury the alternative view that Iran and Syria were behind Lockerbie."
Charges, conviction and punishment
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was born in Tripoli and was educated in the United States and Cardiff, Wales. He was the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tripoli. It was alleged by the FBI and the prosecution in the Lockerbie case that he was also an officer of the Libyan intelligence service, Jamahiriya el-Mukhabarat.
Indictment and arrest
In November 1991, Megrahi and Fhimah were indicted by the US Attorney General and the Scottish Lord Advocate for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Libya refused to extradite the two accused, but held them under armed house arrest in Tripoli, offering to detain them for trial in Libya, as long as all the incriminating evidence was provided. The offer was unacceptable to the US and UK, and there was an impasse for the next three years.
On 23 March 1995, over six years after the 1988 attack, Megrahi and Fhimah were designated as United States fugitives from justice and became the 441st and 442nd additions on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. This list offered a US$4 million reward from the US Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Association, and United States Department of State, and $50,000 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for information leading to their arrest.
The parties eventually agreed on a compromise and a trial was held in the Netherlands under Scots law. The trial format was engineered by legal academic Professor Robert Black of the University of Edinburgh and was given political impetus by the then foreign secretary Robin Cook.
Protracted negotiations with the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and the imposition of UN economic sanctions against Libya brought the two accused to trial. Over ten years after the bombing, Megrahi and Fhimah were placed under arrest at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands on 5 April 1999. During his seven-year house arrest awaiting deportation and trial, Megrahi lived on a Libyan Arab Airlines pension and worked as a teacher.
The Scottish High Court of Justiciary at Camp Zeist was presided over by three senior judges and an additional, non-voting, judge. The two accused, Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, denied all charges against them. The full charges included the names of the murdered 259 passengers and crew of Pan Am Flight 103, and the eleven residents killed on the ground at Lockerbie in Scotland.
Representing Megrahi were his solicitor, Alistair Duff, and advocates William Taylor QC, David Burns QC and John Beckett. Fhimah was represented by solicitor Eddie McKechnie and advocates Richard Keen QC, (thirteen years later to be appointed Chair of the Scottish Conservative Party) Jack Davidson QC and Murdo Macleod. Both defendants also had access to a Libyan defence lawyer, Kamel Maghur, a former foreign affairs minister in the Libyan government.
Court proceedings started on 3 May 2000. A crucial witness against Megrahi for the prosecution was Tony Gauci, a Maltese storekeeper, who testified that he had sold Megrahi the clothing later found in the remains of the suitcase bomb. At the trial, Gauci appeared uncertain about the exact date he sold the clothes in question, and was not entirely sure that it was Megrahi to whom they were sold.
Megrahi aka Abdusamad
The Court heard that Megrahi had an alias, Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad, and that he was issued with a "coded passport" in that name. Megrahi used it on a visit to Nigeria in August 1987, returning to Tripoli via Zurich and Malta, travelling at least between Zurich and Tripoli on the same flights as Nassr Ashur who was also travelling on a coded passport. It was also used during 1987 for visits to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus. On 22 August 1987, "Abdusamad" flew from Zurich to Malta, stayed at the Holiday Inn there, and returned to Tripoli the next day. This trip was made "along with the said Nassr Ashur, who was then using a passport in the false name and using the false identity of Nassr Ahmed Salem." After a long break, Megrahi went out as "Abdusamad" only once in 1988 - on 20 December, when he flew with Fhimah from Tripoli to Malta, and again the next morning for the return trip, this time with Mohammed Abouagela Masud. The Zeist judges agreed that "the only use of this passport in 1988 was for an overnight visit to Malta on 20/21 December, and it was never used again."
A supposedly key piece of evidence for Megrahi's guilt occurred shortly after he was indicted on 14 November 1991 in an interview with Pierre Salinger when Megrahi denied being "Abdusamad" or being on Malta the day of the bombing. This was presented in the 2010 STV documentary "Lockerbie Bomber: Sent Home To Die" [23:18]:
- "You accuse me falsely. ... On 20 and 21 December 1988, at that time I wasn't there. Believe me, I was here in Tripoli with my family."
The editors had FBI lead investigator Richard Marquise follow the clip by saying "I realise that being a liar doesn't make you a terrorist murderer. But I think, again, it adds credibility to all the other factors that we led up to at that point." And Marquise was quick to offer up this lie, as one of his two or three points, nearly every chance he gets. This repeat play is itself a sign that he knows "all the other factors" need all the help they can get. At least once, Marquise called this "the biggest lie" the Libyan had told: Megrahi denied being a member of the Libyan Intelligence Service; he did not know "Abdusamad"; and he did not know MEBO. All were proven at trial to be lies. However, his biggest lie was his claim that on December 20-21 he had not been in Malta: "I was here in Tripoli with my family believe me." Why should anyone believe any of his claims today after his lies in 1991?
This early repudiation has been a verbal rope used by Marquise and many others, time and again over the years, to tie Megrahi to the bombing. In retrospect, he should probably have come clean as much as possible, but bare days after the shocking announcement, and revelation of his secret presence, that didn't happen. It seems cover-up won, at least for a moment. Perhaps it was reflexive on Megrahi's part, not grasping the reality of the charges against him, or a firm order from callous superiors despite Megrahi's own pleas. Either way, it was an unfortunate move on the part of the accused to say these words to a watching world, and one of the few things he actually did that contributed to his conviction.
The Zeist judges, considering in 2000 and 2001, referred to the 1991 interview in lieu of live testimony, which both accused declined to offer (they felt it was wiser to let the lawyers do the talking henceforth). Referring to the crucial visit, the judges mused:
- "It is possible to infer that this visit under a false name ... was a visit connected with the planting of the [explosive] device. Had there been any innocent explanation for this visit, obviously this inference could not be drawn. The only explanation that appeared in the evidence was contained in his interview with Mr Salinger, when he denied visiting Malta at that time and denied using the name "Abdusamad" or having had a passport in that name. Again, we do not accept his denial."
Megrahi was of course no longer denying his presence at the time, his representatives having surrendered to the Crown Office the passport with his photo and stamped 20 December, Malta. But Megrahi's, his counsel's, and his government's continued silence over this mission, presumably not bombing-related, allowed this inference that it was bombing-related to be possible. Besides pretending to genius status for rejecting a moot denial made to someone else a decade ago, the judges managed to bolster it with the other weak points to collectively sort-of-justify saying "guilty." An act of imagination, and otherwise it was down to the evidence that he actually was planning a bombing at the time. And it's this class of clues, as Mr Marquise likely knows, that needs some help. He called on the same imaginative reading of "Abdusamad" as support for the evidentiary case. But in reality there's much to suggest the oppposite - the hard evidence may have been planted and bribed into being in order to support the fabricated case against that suspicious-looking Megrahi and his false passport.
The judges announced their verdict on 31 January 2001. They said of Megrahi: "There is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the first accused, and accordingly we find him guilty of the remaining charge in the indictment as amended." Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he should serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole.
Megrahi was imprisoned at the high-security Barlinnie Jail.
Prison visit by Nelson Mandela
On 10 June 2002, Nelson Mandela visited Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for more than an hour at Barlinnie Jail in Glasgow. Megrahi described the meeting thus:
- "Three months after my transfer to Barlinnie, Nelson Mandela kept his promise to visit me. That the world’s most respected statesman should again take the trouble to demonstrate his solidarity gave me a great lift. We chatted for sometime, mainly about the unjust guilty verdict. Having spent 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island, the agonies of prison life were etched into his soul. He asked me about my living conditions, the standard of my food and my bed, clearly aware of the huge importance of those things to a prisoner’s well-being. Before he left I introduced him again to my family, who thanked him and presented him with a bouquet of flowers. I was allowed to take photographs of him in the reception area and he signed my Arabic version of his book 'Long Walk to Freedom', which describes his prison years. In it he wrote:
Following the meeting which took place in Megrahi's own cell within the prison, in a section nicknamed by other inmates as "Gaddafi's Cafe", Nelson Mandela held a 30-minute press conference and called for a fresh appeal in the case.
- "Megrahi is all alone," Mandela said. "He has nobody he can talk to. It is a psychological persecution that a man must stay for the length of his long sentence all alone." He added that al-Megrahi was being "harassed" by other inmates at Barlinnie. "He says he is being treated well by the officials but when he takes exercise he has been harassed by a number of prisoners," said Mr Mandela. "He cannot identify them because they shout at him from their cells through the windows and sometimes it is difficult even for the officials to know from which quarter the shouting occurs."
- "It would be fair if Mr Megrahi was transferred to a Muslim country - and there are Muslim countries which are trusted by the West. It will make it easier for his family to visit him if he is in a place like the Kingdom of Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt."
Nelson Mandela described in detail how a four-judge commission from the Organisation of African Unity had criticised the basis by which Megrahi came to be convicted at a special Scottish court, sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001:
- "They have criticised it fiercely, and it will be a pity if no court reviews the case itself. From the point of view of fundamental principles of natural law, it would be fair if he is given a chance to appeal either to the Privy Council or the European Court of Human Rights."
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. According to a report by the BBC, Dr Hans Köchler, one of the UN observers at the trial, expressed serious doubts about the fairness of the proceedings and spoke of a "spectacular miscarriage of justice".
On 24 November 2003, Megrahi appeared at the High Court in Glasgow, in front of the three judges who originally sentenced him at Camp Zeist, to learn that he would have to serve at least 27 years in jail – back-dated to April 1999 when he was extradited from Libya – before he could be considered for parole. This court hearing was the result of the incorporation into Scots law of the European Convention on Human Rights in 2001, nine months after Megrahi's sentence was imposed, which required him to be told the extent of the "punishment part" of his life term. On 31 May 2004 he was granted leave to appeal against his 27-year sentence. The appeal against sentence was scheduled to be heard in Edinburgh by a panel of five Judges on 11 July 2006. However, the Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal decided to postpone the July hearing to allow consideration of whether the appeal against sentence ought to be heard at Camp Zeist rather than in Edinburgh.
On 23 September 2003 lawyers acting for 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. 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. On 9 June 2007 rumours of a possible prisoner swap deal involving Megrahi were strenuously denied by the then-prime minister, Tony Blair. 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."
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. The second appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal was abandoned in August 2009, as an impediment to the legal power to release him to Libya under the Prisoner Transfer Scheme then operating in the United Kingdom. Ultimately, he was not released under this scheme, rather, on compassionate grounds due to his ill health. There was in the event, no requirement to drop his appeal against conviction.
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."
New information casting fresh doubts about Megrahi's conviction was examined at a procedural hearing at the Judicial Appeal Court in Edinburgh on 11 October 2007:
- His lawyers claimed that vital documents, which emanated from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and related to the Mebo timer that allegedly detonated the Lockerbie bomb, were withheld from the trial defence team.
- Tony Gauci, chief prosecution witness at the trial, was alleged to have been paid $2 million for testifying against Megrahi.
- Mebo's owner, Edwin Bollier, claimed that in 1991 the FBI offered him $4 million to testify that the timer fragment found near the scene of the crash was part of a Mebo MST-13 timer supplied to Libya.
- Former employee of Mebo Ulrich Lumpert swore an affidavit in July 2007 that he had stolen a prototype MST-13 timer in 1989, and had handed it over to "a person officially investigating the Lockerbie case".
On 1 November 2007 Megrahi invited Professor Robert Black QC to visit him at Greenock Prison. After a two-hour meeting, Black stated "that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction."
Megrahi's grounds of appeal were published in November 2009, two months after the appeal was abandoned.
My dear brother Abdullah
As everyone who follows the Lockerbie knows, two new suspects have been named: alleged bomb-maker Abu Agila Mas’ud and former Libyan security chief Abdullah Senussi. In truth, neither name is new, both have been suspects for almost 25 years. (I mistakenly said in a BBC interview on 15 October 2015 that both were named in the indictment against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah, which was issued in November 1991. They were not. Rather Senussi was named in a US State Department fact sheet that accompanied the indictment and Scottish police statements show that Mas’ud became a suspect in early 1991.)
It seems that the Crown Office’s decision to announce that it is pursuing new suspects is a response to Ken Dornstein’s film "My Brother’s Bomber", which has just been broadcast as a three-part series on PBS Frontline in the US.
I have written about the substantial flaws in the case against Mas’ud here and shall be writing more.
As far as I know, there is no significant new evidence to implicate Senussi. The case against him would appear to rest on the fact that he was one of Gaddafi’s most powerful thugs and was a friend and relative of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s. In view of the two men’s closeness, the private communications between them should be a focus for the Lockerbie investigation. I don’t know how much evidence of this survived the Libyan revolution, but one letter certainly did. It was reported by the Wall Street Journal on 30 August 2011, shortly after the fall of Tripoli, under the headline "In Letter to Tripoli, Bomber States His Case". The salient extracts follow:
- Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi maintained his innocence in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 throughout his trial and appeals — and did so in a private letter to Libya’s intelligence chief, discovered on Monday in intelligence headquarters in Tripoli.
- “I am an innocent man,” Mr. Megrahi wrote to Abdullah al-Senussi, a powerful official who was regarded as one of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s closest aides, in a letter found by The Wall Street Journal. The letter, in blue ink on a piece of ordinary binder paper, was apparently written while Mr. Megrahi was serving a life sentence in the U.K.
- The letter to Mr. Senussi was found in a steel, four-drawer filing cabinet in the intelligence chief’s office in Tripoli. The cabinet had been forced open, apparently by rebels who shot holes in the lock. The office lay in shambles, but many of Mr. Senussi’s personal papers appeared untouched. There was no way to immediately confirm the authenticity of the letter…
- It is unclear why he would have had reason to profess his innocence to Mr. Senussi, who was in a position to already know details about the bombing. It is possible that the inmate expected Scottish prison officials to read his letter before delivering it to the Libyan government.
- Mr. Megrahi insisted he was innocent throughout his original trial and subsequent appeals. Even after his conviction, mystery and unanswered questions about who else may have been involved have surrounded the case.
- In the letter, addressed to “My dear brother Abdullah,” Mr. Megrahi blamed his conviction on “fraudulent information that was relayed to investigators by Libyan collaborators.”
- He blamed “the immoral British and American investigators” who he writes “knew there was foul play and irregularities in the investigation of the 1980s.”
- He described in detail his latest legal maneuvering, focusing on the testimony by a Maltese clothes merchant that was critical to his conviction. The Maltese clothes merchant in question testified that Mr. Megrahi had purchased clothes from him that were later found in the suitcase that contained the bomb that brought down Flight 103.
- “You my brother know very well that they were making false claims against me and that I didn’t buy any clothes at all from any store owner in Malta,” Mr. Megrahi wrote to Mr. Senussi.
Although the WSJ was unable to verify the authenticity of the letter, it was almost certainly genuine. It reflected what Megrahi told everyone who knew him and the idea that someone would have planted a fake is nonsensical. The speculation that Megrahi expected the prison authorities to read his mail is incorrect, as he was free to pass letters directly to his lawyers and the Libyan consular staff who regularly visited him.
Let’s hope the Lockerbie investigators have asked the Wall Street Journal’s reporters for a copy of the letter.
Observations by UN Observer
In the June 2008 edition of the Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm, the UN Observer at the Lockerbie trial, Dr Hans Köchler, referred to the 'totalitarian' nature of Megrahi's second appeal process saying it "bears the hallmarks of an 'intelligence operation'." Pointing out an error on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website (FCO) and accusing the British government of "delaying tactics" in relation to Megrahi's second Lockerbie appeal, UN Observer at the Lockerbie trial Dr Hans Köchler wrote to Foreign Secretary David Miliband on 21 July 2008 saying:
As international observer, appointed by the UN, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands I am also concerned about the Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate which has been issued by you in connection with the new Appeal of the convicted Libyan national. Withholding of evidence from the Defence was one of the reasons why the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred Mr al-Megrahi's case back to the High Court of Justiciary. The Appeal cannot go ahead if the Government of the United Kingdom, through the PII certificate issued by you, denies the Defence the right (also guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights) to have access to a document which is in the possession of the Prosecution. How can there be equality of arms in such a situation? How can the independence of the judiciary be upheld if the executive power interferes into the appeal process in such a way?
"Ultimately, it will be for the Court to decide whether the material should be disclosed, not the Foreign Secretary."
On 15 October 2008, five Scottish judges decided unanimously to reject a submission by the Crown Office to the effect that the scope of Megrahi's second appeal should be limited to the specific grounds of appeal that were identified by the SCCRC in June 2007.
In January 2009, it was reported that, although Megrahi's second appeal against conviction was scheduled to begin on 27 April 2009, the hearing could last as long as 12 months because of the complexity of the case and volume of material to be examined. At a preliminary High Court hearing in Edinburgh on 20 February 2009, Megrahi's Counsel, Maggie Scott QC, was informed that a delegation from the Crown Office was due to travel to Malta to "actively seek the consent for disclosure" of sensitive documents that could determine the outcome of the second appeal.
Scottish ministers denied in April 2009 they had clandestinely agreed to the repatriation of Megrahi before the start of his second appeal on 28 April.
Kenny MacAskill announced in May 2011 that the re-elected SNP Government would seek to change Scots law to allow publication of the SCCRC report, which can presently be blocked by any party that provided evidence to the review. Nevertheless, The Herald published this report online in March 2012.
- Full article: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release
- Full article: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release
On 20 August 2009, after Megrahi agreed to abandon his appeal, he was granted "compassionate release" by Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, and flew back to Tripoli accompanied by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.
Same bad science and scientists
Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who overturned the miscarriage of justice convictions of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, has backed the call for a full inquiry into the Pan Am Flight 103 debacle, and has directly criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in shoring up "layers and layers of deceit" in the Lockerbie case. Peirce says that the construction and maintenance of the discredited case against Megrahi has required active participation from those at all levels of the criminal justice system, with both tacit and overt support from the top of the political hierarchy.
"In the most notorious cases, everyone played their part, absolutely everybody," Peirce says. "A big part of the blame lies within those who form the criminal justice system. It looks as if in the prosecution of the Lockerbie case, the defendants met the same fate, even to the extent of the same personnel featuring, in the person of the forensic scientists."
The principal forensic analyst, Thomas Hayes, employed by the Crown to testify against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the same discredited analyst who was proven to have fabricated his evidence in the manufactured case against the Guildford Four.
He and Alan Feraday testified that the key forensic evidence, a fragment of circuit board, survived the explosion of Pan Am 103 and left traces of clothing connected to a shop in Malta. The owners of that shop provided the identification of Megrahi to the court, and were later found to have been paid in millions of dollars for their testimony. This testimony has been widely discredited by EU explosives consultant John Wyatt and others who claim that such an thing is not possible in physics.
"That was the most shocking revelation to me," Peirce says.
"Exactly the same forensic scientists who produced the wrongful conviction of Guiseppe Conlon, the Maguire family and of Danny McNamee, and had been stood down for the role they played. Yet here they were. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a prosecution, far less a conviction in Lockerbie. What shocked me most was that I thought that all that had been gone through on Guildford and Birmingham, the one thing that had been achieved was that nobody would be convicted again on bad science. But yet in the Lockerbie case, it isn’t just the same bad science, it is the same bad scientists."
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died at home in Tripoli on 20 May 2012 at the age of 60. His funeral was held the following day, on 21 May.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at a NATO summit in Chicago, said that it was a day to think of the victims of "an appalling terrorist act". Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also stated that people should use the occasion of al-Megrahi's death to remember the Lockerbie victims. The Guardian reported that Libyans "expressed relief rather than sadness" at news of al-Megrahi's death, as he was a reminder of the international sanctions that had impoverished the country following the bombing.
Many families of the Lockerbie victims called for al-Megrahi's appeal to be reopened following his death and headed by investigators outside of Scotland, claiming that it would exonerate al-Megrahi. Cameron refused, stating, "I’m very clear that the court case was properly done and properly dealt with."
Alex Salmond said it was up to Megrahi’s relatives to apply to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to seek a further appeal, adding that his death "ends one chapter of the Lockerbie case, but it does not close the book". 
|Document:Bloggers Under Siege - Craig Murray Charged with Contempt of Court||blog post||27 April 2020||Ludwig De Braeckeleer||From Lockerbie to the Russia Hoax, Craig Murray has of course upset people in high-places, including some who work for Intelligence Agencies.|
|Document:CIA wanted to kill Lockerbie bomber before trial||article||5 July 2013||Gareth Rose|
|A report of William C. Chasey's allegation (after being diagnosed with incurable cancer) that CIA agents tried to convince him to plant homing devices on Megrahi and Fhimah as part of the plot to assassinate them before the Lockerbie trial.|
|Document:Ex-Scottish Government Ministers: Political Consequences of Public Statements||Letter||16 March 2018||Robert Forrester||Professor Robert Black said that Kenny MacAskill’s contention in his new book that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had not bought the clothes wrapped around the explosive device that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 amounted to “the end of the conviction”.|
|Document:Fragments of Truth||article||1 December 2009||Mark Hirst|
|Document:How Megrahi and Libya were framed for Lockerbie||article||22 July 2010||Alexander Cockburn|
|Document:Justice for Megrahi awaits at the Supreme Court||Letter||4 April 2021||Patrick Haseldine||My recommendation, Mr Anwar, is that you appeal to the UK Supreme Court to quash the Scottish Court in the Netherlands' 2001 conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on the basis of fabricated timer fragment evidence led by the "non-expert witness" Allen Feraday|
|Document:Lockerbie Lies||Article||22 December 2017||Steven Walker||The Lockerbie bombing remains a text book case of a terrible tragedy causing considerable pain and suffering to relatives whose search for answers and clarification about why and how their loved ones died have taken second place to geo-political manoeuvres, deliberate meddling in legal processes, and the murky world of secret service wheeling and dealing on behalf of governments with no respect for human decency.|
|Document:Lockerbie bombing: Megrahi's posthumous appeal rejected by Scottish judges||Article||19 January 2021||Steve James||No explanation or significance has been attached to a break in at Heathrow airport, where security was poor, the night before, adjacent to the luggage loading area for PA103.|
|Document:Lockerbie case: new accusations of manipulation of key forensic evidence||Statement||28 August 2007||Hans Köchler||Those responsible for the mid-air explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 will have to be identified and brought to justice. A continuation of the rather obvious cover-up which we have witnessed up until now is neither acceptable for the citizens of Scotland nor for the international public.|
|Document:Megrahi Obituary||obituary||21 May 2012||Tam Dalyell||The day after Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died, Tam Dalyell opines that he was not the Lockerbie bomber.|
|Document:Pan Am Flight 103: It was the Uranium||article||6 January 2014||Patrick Haseldine||Following Bernt Carlsson's untimely death in the Lockerbie bombing, the UN Council for Namibia inexplicably dropped the case against Britain's URENCO for illegally importing yellowcake from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia.|
|Document:Release of the Lockerbie Prisoner||report||21 August 2009||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.|
|Document:The Framing of al-Megrahi||Article||24 September 2009||Gareth Peirce||It is not difficult to achieve a conviction of the innocent|
|File:Koechler-lockerbie-appeal report.pdf||report||26 March 2002||Hans Köchler||A report on the appeal proceedings at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands|
- "Legal doubt over Megrahi's guilt"
- "The Lockerbie bomber I know"
- "Lockerbie and Megrahi: Timeline"
- "Pan Am 103 – Lockerbie verdict"
- "SCCRC Statement of Reasons"
- "Lockerbie Revisited"
- "Progress record"
- "Government admits Megrahi always had 50/50 chance of living past three months"
- "Lockerbie bomber Megrahi living in luxury villa six months after being at 'death's door'"
- "Public Petition PE1370"
- "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi says west exaggerated role"
- "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dies in Tripoli"
- "Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60"
- "Lockerbie Bomber Case Revived as Family Launches Effort to Clear His Name"
- "Lockerbie – Trial Start Delayed by COVID-19"
- "News Release: Application on behalf of Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi"
- "Lockerbie - Diabolical Endgame (Part I: SCCRC & the Grounds of Appeal)"
- "LOCKERBIE CONVICTION: POSTHUMOUS APPEAL"
- "OPINION OF THE APPEAL COURT, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY"
- "Al-Megrahi family 'devastated' as Lockerbie appeal court judges uphold conviction"
- "Al-Megrahi family 'devastated' as Lockerbie appeal court judges uphold conviction"
- "Judges reject Lockerbie bomber family's bid to appeal to UK's highest court"
- Document:Justice for Megrahi awaits at the Supreme Court
- "New Lockerbie bomber appeal sought"
- "SCCRC refuses the application to review of the conviction of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi"
- "Truth Never Dies"
- "Lockerbie bomber: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – a profile"
- "Profile: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi"
- "Lockerbie trial Judges"
- "Full charges, and names of 270 victims"
- "QC Richard Keen appointed Scottish Tory Party chairman"
- "Commentary on Dr Hans Koechler's Lockerbie report"
- "Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction"
- "Abdusamad on Malta: The Biggest Lie They Could Find"
- "Lockerbie trial verdict"
- "Fhimah was found 'not guilty'"
- "Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi treated for 'advanced cancer'"
- "Nelson Mendela’s message to Megrahi"
- "Mandela meets Lockerbie bomber"
- [ "Mandela appeals on behalf of Lockerbie bomber"]
- "Lockerbie Appeal Judgment"
- "UN monitor decries Lockerbie judgment"
- "Statement by Dr Hans Köchler, international observer at the Lockerbie trial"
- "Leave to appeal against sentence"
- "Appeal can be held in Edinburgh"
- "SCCRC ruling by the end of June 2007"
- "PM says no deal over Megrahi"
- "Evidence that casts doubt on who brought down Flight 103"
- "SCCRC referral of Megrahi case"
- "Statement by Dr Hans Köchler"
- 'Secret' Lockerbie report claim BBC News 2 October 2007
- "Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction" The Guardian 3 October 2007
- "US paid reward to Lockerbie witness, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi papers claim" The Guardian 2 October 2009
- "Lockerbie trial: an intelligence operation? New revelation about financial offer to key witness from Switzerland"
- "Vital Lockerbie evidence 'was tampered with'"
- "Megrahi release was compassionate, not political"
- "Major appeal cases back in court"
- "Concern at Lockerbie lawyer claim"
- "Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi - My Story"
- "In Letter to Tripoli, Bomber States His Case"
- "What Megrahi told Senussi about Lockerbie"
- "UN Observer to the Lockerbie Trial says 'totalitarian' appeal process bears the hallmarks of an 'intelligence operation'"
- "FCO reply dated 27 August 2008"
- "Judgment on the scope of Megrahi's second appeal"
- "Lockerbie investigators to travel to Malta to seek new evidence"
- "Ministers deny that Lockerbie bomber will be moved to Libya"
- "SNP plans law change over Lockerbie files"
- "Lockerbie exclusive: we publish the report that could have cleared Megrahi"
- "Exclusive: Guildford Four and Birmingham Six solicitor condemns Tony Blair’s role in the 'layers and layers of deceit' in Pan Am 103 case"
- "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dies in Tripoli"
- "Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's death generates little sadness among Libyans"
- "New call for Lockerbie inquiry as Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi dies"
- "Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi: The Lockerbie bomber is dead"
- Lockerbie Case Judgement
- Pan Am 103 – Lockerbie: the judges
- Trial and appeal reports by Dr Hans Köchler, international observer appointed by the United Nations
- Aims & Objectives of Justice for Megrahi campaign
- Website of Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph
- Dr Jim Swire: My hopes
- London Review of Books – The Framing of al-Megrahi by Gareth Peirce 24 September 2009
- Blackout of Mandela Blueprint for Lockerbie Justice by Patrick Haseldine
- Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi - My Story Website Created September 2009, containing the grounds for appeal against conviction.
- Investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
- Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial
- Pan Am Flight 103 conspiracy theories
- Hans Köchler's Lockerbie trial observer mission