| Ian Ferguson
(author, broadcaster, journalist, researcher)
|Justice for Megrahi
"Lockerbie Cover-Upper" Ian Ferguson
Ian Ferguson is a Scottish author, journalist and film researcher who has closely followed developments in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing case beginning with the November 1991 indictment of the two accused Libyans: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah
"Shadow Over Lockerbie"
In March 2000, just two months before the start of the Lockerbie bombing trial, Ian Ferguson broadcast the documentary "Shadow Over Lockerbie" on American RadioWorks in which he probed an alleged secret drug smuggling operation run by the CIA in 1988 between the Middle East and Europe.
In an article for Minnesota's Hamline University – published on 10 April 2003 but written in March 2000 – Ian Ferguson explained what drew him to the Lockerbie case:
- "Five men on board were members of the American intelligence community. Could they have been the intended targets? A young Lebanese-American, Khaled Jaafar, alleged to have been a drug courier in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation, also was on board. Could he unwittingly have checked the suitcase containing the bomb?
- "There also were several stories about some high-ranking diplomats who weren't on board – having changed their flight plans at the last minute and avoided death on Pan Am 103. There were reports of several warnings about the bombing – including one known as the Helsinki warning that was very specific about a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to New York. This was dismissed as a hoax by the FBI, but even today there remain many unanswered questions related to these warnings. Normally flights around Christmas are full; Pan Am 103 was only two-thirds full.
- "All sorts of fanciful (or not so fanciful) theories abounded, from (DEA and/or CIA) drug operations gone wrong, to a possible attack on the five intelligence personnel, to one that suggested Bernt Carlsson, a high ranking UN diplomat, may have been the intended target.
- "Against this background, the world was told in November 1991 that US and Scottish investigators had finally found the real culprits. In a joint announcement, they named two Libyans, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, as the bombers of Pan Am 103. My study of the detailed indictment against these two was probably the single most important factor in my decision to research this case further."
Dutifully executing his cover-upper role, Ian Ferguson made absolutely no mention, in the "Shadow Over Lockerbie" film itself, of the obvious targeting on Pan Am Flight 103 of Lockerbie’s highest profile victim: UN Assistant Secretary-General, Bernt Carlsson.
The Lockerbie Cover-Up began in the early 1990s and involved shifting the focus of blame for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 away from Libya and towards Iran, Syria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC). But the prime object of the exercise was – as it is today – to suppress any publicity in the corporate media of the targeting by apartheid South Africa of Pan Am 103’s highest profile victim, who was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson.
The Lockerbie Cover-Up was devised by the late British tycoon Tiny Rowland, whose South African mining interests had been under threat of UN legal action from Bernt Carlsson. Into a team of Lockerbie Cover-Uppers, Tiny Rowland decided in 1993 to recruit Robert Black QC, Emeritus Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, and a number of journalists – including John Ashton and Ian Ferguson. Following Tiny Rowland's death in July 1998, buccaneering businessman Tony Buckingham is believed to have assumed responsibility for the Lockerbie Cover-Up.
Ian Ferguson and Robert Black QC proceeded to establish TheLockerbieTrial.com website as "a platform for exploring and investigating both the legal and political ramifications of one of the most important and unique trials in history." The now defunct website says it was "edited by an award-winning investigative journalist and an esteemed member of the Scottish Bar," and "intended to help the reader learn about how the trial is structured, and the background of various people involved in all aspects of the Lockerbie Investigation." The website goes on to quote from Ian Ferguson’s letter to a father who lost his daughter on Pan Am Flight 103: "I am sure there are other higher ideals in life, mine are pretty simple. The fact that I do it passionately is that I am trying to ask questions on behalf of others who are not here to ask for themselves. Long term, I believe in the human spirit for good and someone will break ranks and fill in all the blanks. In all my career, no case has been more deserving of this. Lack of accountability is now seen in some quarters as an asset. The man in the street is constantly been given the notion by our leaders that it is OK to blame someone else. What happened to honour?"
Cover-Up of Convenience
Following the Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction for the Lockerbie bombing on 31 January 2001, Ian Ferguson and fellow journalist John Ashton wrote a book entitled "Cover-up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie".
According to the blurb: "Based on many years’ research, this book demonstrates that the truth was buried to protect the hidden agendas of Western policy in the Middle East, demolishing the case against Libya, it presents shocking evidence that the terrorist masterminds lay in Iran, Syria and Lebanon and also raises questions against the Western intelligence services."
The book’s 'Index' runs to 14 pages but the name Bernt Carlsson is nowhere to be found. Which turns out to be a very revealing omission since the 'Acknowledgments' page states: "A multitude of people warrant acknowledgment, far too many, in fact, to list here. The relatives of the Lockerbie victims deserve particular thanks, chief among them Martin and Rita Cadman, Pam Dix, John and Lisa Mosey, Sanya Popovic and Jane and Jim Swire.
Fellow journalists gave generous help, including Jan-Olof Bengtsson, Ronen Bergman, John Coates, John Cooley, Con Coughlin, Don Devereux, Rob Evans, Paul Foot, Drago Hedl, Björn Hygstedt, David Jessel, Shelley Jofre, David Johnston, Jürgen Krönig, Gunter Latsch, John Loftus, Neil Mackay, Joe Mifsud, David Milne, Mats-Eric Nilsson, Margaret Renn, Murdoch Rodgers, Frank Ryan, Kjetil Stormark, Phillip Wearne, Terry Wrong and David Yallop."
The three italicised names demonstrate that the authors Ian Ferguson and John Ashton have been unwittingly hoist with their own petard. Inconveniently for the Cover-Uppers:
- 'Message of Spring'
- In the eleven and a half years that have passed since the bombing of Pan Am 103, I have learned so very much about love and grief and life. I recall how excruciatingly painful the first spring was after the bombing – and indeed so many springs thereafter. How possibly could life be springing anew everywhere, when the man I loved was dead, and it seemed as though my soul, too, was dying within. Somewhere along the way, though, I began to see that the message of spring was a powerful and universal one, found in so many religions and different cultures. It was hardly a surprise that within the Christian faith, the death and resurrection of Christ was said to happen in the spring....I began to find first, solace and later, hope, in the fact that the way of the world is that life, no matter what, begins again. And as long as there is life, and renewal, there is hope. So this year, my eleventh spring post-Pan Am 103, I do feel that my late fiancé is with me, in my heart, looking at the joy and beauty of spring.
- -Sanya Popovic, NY, lost her late fiancé on Pan Am Flight 103, December 21, 1988
b. Jan-Olof Bengtsson is the political editor of Kvällsposten newspaper in Malmö, Sweden, and a renowned investigative journalist. Mr Bengtsson's most important work - although perhaps the least publicised - is his series of three articles in Sweden's iDAG newspaper on 12, 13 and 14 March 1990. Never published in the English language, the iDAG articles featured Sweden's UN Commissioner for Namibia Bernt Carlsson who was the most prominent victim of Pan Am Flight 103 which was sabotaged over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988. Bengtsson alleged that Commissioner Carlsson's arm had been twisted by the diamond mining giant De Beers into making a stopover in London for a secret meeting and into joining the doomed flight, rather than taking as he had intended a Sabena flight direct from Brussels to New York.
c. John Coates interviewed Bernt Carlsson in Granada TV’s World In Action documentary "The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds": The United Nations Council for Namibia enacted in 1974 a Decree for the Protection of the Natural Resources of Namibia, under which no person or entity could search for, take or distribute any natural resources found in Namibia without the Council's permission. Any person or entity contravening the Decree could be held liable for damages by the future government of an independent Namibia. Companies like De Beers have ignored the law but now attitudes at the UN are beginning to harden: The man responsible for Namibia under international law, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was asked about Namibia's diamonds:
- "The corporation has been trying to skim the cream which means they have gone for the large diamonds at the expense of the steady pace. In this way they have really shortened the lifespan of the mines. One would expect from a worldwide corporation like De Beers and Anglo American that they would behave with an element of social and political responsibility. But their behaviour in the specific case of Namibia has been one of profit maximisation regardless of its social, economic, political and even legal responsibility. The United Nations this year  in July started legal action against one such firm – the Dutch company URENCO which imports uranium."
- Bernt Carlsson replied: "All the companies which are carrying out activities in Namibia which have not been authorised by the United Nations are being studied at present."
[World In Action documentary "The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds" was broadcast by Thames Television on 28 September 1987.
- Camera: Howard Somers;
- Sound: David Woods;
- Film Editors: Oral Ottey, John Rutherford;
- Dubbing Mixer: John Whitworth;
- Production Assistants: Adele McLoughlin, Judith Fraser;
- Investigation by: Laurie Flynn and John Coates;
- Editor: Stuart Prebble;
- Executive Producer: Ray Fitzwalter.]
In March 2002, Ian Ferguson was interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly online. He is no "big friend of Libya." But Scottish journalist Ian Ferguson is certain the wrong man is on trial for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, writes Judit Neurink from Camp Zeist. He shuns photographers. The back of his book about the Lockerbie case bears no photo, because as an investigative journalist, Ian Ferguson, wants to be able to do his undercover work without being recognised. Only recently he put this sound policy to work and was handed his biggest scoop in years. He had received a tip that one of the main witnesses at the Lockerbie trial, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, had been offered luxurious holidays in Scotland by the Scottish police. He was eager to follow up the lead, but he had already spoken to Gauci before. He sent a friend (George Thomson) instead to visit Gauci in Malta, and the shopkeeper unknowingly spoke about the trips. It was a journalistic coup for Ferguson and another piece in the puzzle he has been putting together for the last 11 years about the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
- "Gauci knows me, because I did research on Malta and spoke to him. He would never have told me this," Ferguson told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Since May 2000, Ferguson has haunted the special Scottish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands set up to try the Lockerbie suspects. He can be found in the public gallery, or conversing with many of the key observers and members of the prosecution and defence, with whom he has become well acquainted. Fuelled by his determination to uncover the truth in this extraordinary case, Ferguson has been prolific and consistently successful. He is one of the few journalists who, 13 years after the Pan Am crash which killed 270 people, is still coming up with new leads.
- "It's like pulling bits of wool from a sweater. If you pull long enough, the whole sweater will come apart."
In his book "Cover-Up of Convenience", which was released last year, Ferguson is quite adamant the Libyan defendant Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who last year was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attack in 1988, is not guilty. An appeal is pending at Camp Zeist. Ferguson has argued that Libya was blamed for the attacks by the US and Britain at a time when it was politically inconvenient to accuse the real culprits. This contention positions Ferguson squarely on one side of the line that divides Camp Zeist. On the one hand, there are those who believe Libya was behind Lockerbie. Many of the families of the American victims of the bombing fall into this camp. On the other hand, there are those who are starting to wonder. But Ferguson defines the distinction differently. There are "those who have collected information about the case, and those who did not," he says. He started digging in the case in 1991, when two Libyans were named as the main suspects behind the attack.
- "It seemed an odd state of affairs that a terrorist group would have sent a bomb unaccompanied on a plane, hoping it would pass security at two airports and reach its destination," Ferguson explains. "And also: Libya did not have a reputation for blowing up planes."
Because of his belief that the Libyan defendants were fall guys in a web of political intrigue, Ferguson has been accused of being a "conspiracy theorist".
- "But I am the opposite," Ferguson says. "Because, in my experience, acts of terror are usually very simple." He admits that in the Lockerbie case, he does see a conspiracy, "but one that leads away from the real perpetrators."
His investigations have come under fire at times, most notably when he probed an alleged secret drug line run by the CIA in 1988 between the Middle East and Europe. When he was putting together a radio documentary about the Lockerbie bombing for American Public Media, his colleagues at the Washington desk pressured him to cut the part about the drug running. Meanwhile, he was also receiving threats.
- "I know I have been followed whilst making the documentary, and that telephone calls were intercepted," he says. "When my wife phoned me in Switzerland, she heard a voice saying: 'American wife of the journalist, we are watching you'." Ferguson says the drug case and the threats are clearly linked. "Every time I got near something to do with that case, the threats would increase." Even so, he is not really worried: "If something happens, worrying about it would not have helped anyway. I could have scripted my e-mails, but I never did – because I am not doing anything wrong." But he says that he is always aware that his calls might be monitored. "If you do this kind of research, it would be very naive to think you have not attracted the attention of the secret services."
He can talk for hours about the case. When asked if working on the same case for more than 10 years does not point to an obsession, he is resolute in his denial.
- "When you are obsessed, you can't judge rationally. But I've stepped back time after time to see where I was standing." To him it is more a matter of passion – the professional passion of a journalist who loves his work. "I want to speak out for the little man who is powerless against the state. In the Lockerbie case, it is not Great Britain and the Scottish Crown against Libya. No, it's those two against, originally, two individuals."
The man accused of perpetrating the bombing with al-Megrahi, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted last year because of lack of evidence. This does not mean Ferguson is a great friend of Libya, as has been said of him.
- "Because I criticise the prosecution, I have to be in favour of Libya. But I am in favour of justice," he says. At the appeal, he says, it is Scottish justice that is standing trial. "I am ashamed, as a Scot, to see how our judicial system has been manipulated. I have proof that from the moment the plane crashed, members of the American secret service have been involved in removing evidence, in tampering with it. And at Camp Zeist, at the back, five CIA men are in attendance. I cannot imagine the Scottish could have accomplished the same in the US."
Ferguson is also critical of the Scottish judges, who he maintains never gave al-Megrahi the benefit of the doubt. He dismisses the defence as "very weak," and blames the defence team for not using his scoop about Gauci's Scottish holiday to further their case. But his main frustration is his conviction that the real culprits have been allowed to escape scot-free.
- "Justice will only be done when the real people responsible are caught and prosecuted. But the problem there is, the truth lies with the secret services, especially in the United States."
US Media in the Spotlight
In 2003, Ian Ferguson participated in ‘The Great Debate: Is Anti-Americanism Xenophobic?’ This is the record of the discussion held at Newcastle Playhouse:
Chair: Caspar Hewett
- Rachel Ashton, Director, Lockerbie 103
- Jon Bryan, Lecturer in Sociology, Newcastle College
- Des Dillon, writer of Lockerbie 103
- Ian Ferguson, journalist and co-author of "Cover up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie"
- Doug Henderson, MP
- Peter Hetherington, Regional Affairs Editor, The Guardian
- Ian Ferguson opened with the comment that George Bush Senior once described Saddam Hussein as "our kind of guy" yet now Saddam has fallen within America's 'terrorist of the month' category, alongside Osama bin Laden. He argued that the link between them is very tenuous. Ferguson sees a theme running through the Lockerbie investigation; that of expediency. Implicating Libya at the time was an easy target, while they are the equivalent of Albion Rovers in terms of their terrorist threat. There was a representative of the families affected by Lockerbie present who asked, given that Jack Straw had turned down the demand for a public enquiry, what should be done next in terms of the campaign for a public enquiry.
- Ian Ferguson felt that it is reprehensible that the Labour government has not pursued a public inquiry. The conclusions of investigation into Lockerbie left us with more questions than answers. The trial left us feeling cheated, as there was no defence and no explanation. Nine days before Pan Am 103 flew, there was one seat left on the flight, but by the time it flew it was only two-thirds full. Were people given warnings? And more importantly, why has this information been restricted for reasons of 'national security'?
There was a question from the floor on how many people were on the flight.
- Ian Ferguson said that the flight was a third empty, which is absurd before Christmas. This information was withheld for some time on the grounds of national security. Ferguson questioned why it should be a matter of national security. Reporters have been blocked again and again in trying to get hold of these facts and it is unclear why.
The panel were asked if they thought politicians could stop the impending war [in Iraq].
- Ferguson expressed trust in individual politicians, especially those who have stood up to Tony Blair. But he felt that, with the wheels in motion, Blair and Bush would not and could not stand down. He does not trust the machinery of politics to stop it. Doug Henderson was also sure that the war would happen, and felt that this was clear as long as six months ago. It is more a case of how we get to that point. The Turkish decision whether to let troops use their soil could only delay things, probably by as little as two weeks. Henderson argued that people have to make their voices heard for the politicians to react, but this now needs to be on a global scale. He saw a lot of instability ahead.
Ian Ferguson stated that he lives in France, is married to an American, and used to live in the USA. America is such a big country, and many people feel quite removed from Washington. They are concerned about their own doorstep. The media feeds the American people nonsense. George W Bush may not know the capital of the Czech Republic, but this is because he does not need to. The USA has a huge military stock, and the need to use it. The price of the warheads is suppressed. The mentality is: "Watch out 'they' are going to get us."
The Anglo-Dutch documentary "Lockerbie Revisited" (never shown on British TV) was broadcast in the Netherlands on 27 April 2009, the day before Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s second Appeal began at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. The film’s researcher, Ian Ferguson, spoke extensively throughout the film:
- "You can say it’s reverse engineering. What they’ve done is actually start out with: ‘Here are the suspects, let’s now go back and see if we can make the suspects fit the crime’."
Narrator Gideon Levy asked:
- "What did he Megrahi do exactly?"
- "Well, the prosecution and the court convicted him of causing a suitcase with an improvised explosive device to be loaded onto the plane in Malta, transferred onto a Pan Am feeder flight in Frankfurt and then to London and then the plane exploded over the borders town of Lockerbie. The court found him guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder."
- "What do you think?"
- "I think the court had little evidence upon which to convict al-Megrahi. And I do believe that, having investigated the case very thoroughly, he is innocent of the charges laid against him and that other people carried out this atrocity."
Concerning Marwan Khreesat, bomb-maker for the terrorist group PFLP-GC: Ferguson:
- "So Peter Fraser is saying they weren’t able to interview him. I find that very strange. I think they didn’t want to interview him."
- "What I’m constantly thinking is why is [the FBI’s] Mr Marquise telling me that the Scottish police did interview Khreesat and why is Lord Fraser saying they wanted to interview Khreesat but were not given the opportunity by the Americans. What if Khreesat was an American double agent and that his device, his bomb, was put on the plane Pan Am 103: what would that mean?"
- "Well, that would mean that if he was a double agent it would mean that American intelligence was involved in the blowing up of one of their own planes indirectly or directly."
- "So that would be a good reason to go and look for Libyans?"
- "Oh, I think you’ve always got to look at the motive. Why would the focus of an investigation change: one has to look at what is the motive for changing the focus of an investigation. If such an investigation would lead that some of the participants of this act were actually employees by proxy even of US intelligence then there’s a perfectly good motive for moving away the focus of the investigation."
- "Now we’re making conspiracy, or is this reality?"
- "Well, they could both be the same things. They’re not mutually exclusive."
- "Why was this fragment – this so-called crucial piece of evidence – it was never tested for explosive residue?"
- "Can you believe that? I mean can anyone believe that? We’re testing large amounts of fuselage of this plane, of the wreckage for explosive residue, testing baggage containers, they were swabbing them. And yet Mr Douse who was an expert from RARDE was asked why this crucial fragment was not tested for explosive residue, and he said ‘budgetary reasons’. What, they ran out of money for a cotton swab to be taken across a thing the size of your fingernail? There’s something not right about this fragment."
In another interview towards the end of the "Lockerbie Revisited" film, the FBI’s Richard Marquise changed his mind and was prompted by DCS Stuart Henderson to say that the "fragment never came to the US." Marquise volunteered that he actually saw the timer fragment (PT-35) in London, but Henderson corrected him saying Marquise had seen it where all the other evidence was kept in the UK. Before taking his leave, Henderson emphasised to the camera:
- "there are no hidden holes to find because the culprit is in custody - take my word for it!"
Ian Ferguson was given the last word in "Lockerbie Revisited". He said:
- "This could bring an end to the appeal. If the Crown knew that this was all going to be heard in public, they may well drop their opposition to the appeal and al-Megrahi goes free. That's how f*****g important it is. This could bring the Scottish judicial system and the FBI into f*****g complete disrepute, and frankly they would not want this linen to be washed in public!"
24 August 2009: "How Lockerbie bomber appeal threatened Scottish justice"
- "Shadow over Lockerbie" (archived)
- "Shadow over Lockerbie" (Printable Story) by Ian Ferguson, March 2000
- "American RadioWorks presents Shadow Over Lockerbie"
- "Pan Am 103: Searching for the truth"
- "From Chequers to Lockerbie"
- "Flight 103: it was the Uranium"
- "Blackout over Lockerbie"
- "Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie"
- "Flight from the truth"
- "Important lacuna - Bernt Carlsson"
- "Sanya Popovic: Former fiancée of Bernt Carlsson"
- "Sanya Popovic on Twitter"
- "Bernt Carlsson's secret meeting in London"
- "Bernt Carlsson and the Case of the Disappearing Diamonds"
- "The Ferguson Interview"
- "Ian Ferguson debates"
- "Lockerbie Revisited"