Lockerbie: What Really Happened

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Publication.png Lockerbie: What Really Happened
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Author(s)Al Jazeera
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The third in the series of TV documentaries on the Lockerbie bombing by Al Jazeera
MEBO timer fragment

"Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" is the title of the third TV documentary by Al Jazeera which investigates the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988 when 270 people were killed:

Only one man, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan citizen, was tried and found guilty of causing the explosion. But he protested his innocence at the time of his trial in Camp Zeist in Holland in May 2000, and continued to do so up until his death in Tripoli in May 2012.
For three years filmmakers working for Al Jazeera have been investigating the prosecution of al-Megrahi.
Two award-winning documentaries, screened on Al Jazeera in 2011 and 2012, demonstrated that the case against him was deeply flawed and argued that a serious miscarriage of justice may have taken place.
In the first episode, "Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber", we followed defence investigator George Thomson as he revealed how forensic evidence presented at al-Megrahi's trial was not only inaccurate but appears to have been deliberately tampered with.[1]
Then in "Lockerbie: Case Closed", we revealed the hitherto secret assessment of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) - an independent public body in Scotland - which had re-examined the case in detail and had recommended that it be referred back to the courts for possible dismissal.
Crucially, our film also showed how new scientific tests comprehensively undermined the validity of the most significant piece of evidence linking the bombing to al-Megrahi and Libya - a fragment of electronic timer found embedded in the shredded remains of a shirt, supposedly bought by the convicted man in Malta.
The timer, the prosecution had claimed, was identical to ones sold to Libyan intelligence by a Swiss manufacturer. But as our investigation proved, it was not identical - a fact that must have been known to British government scientists all along.
Now, in our third and most disturbing investigation, we answer the question left hanging at the end of our last programme: if al-Megrahi was not guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, then who was?[2]

The third part of this special series was shown on Tuesday 11 March 2014 at the following times GMT:

Tuesday 20.00; Wednesday 12.00; Thursday 01.00; Friday 06.00; Saturday 20.00; Sunday 12.00; Monday 01.00; Tuesday 06.00.

Al Jazeera invited viewers to submit comments on the documentary for broadcasting by @AJStream on Thursday 13 March 2014 at 19.30. At 18.00 Al Jazeera reported:

Al Jazeera's #Lockerbie investigation is a moving story, so our convo is postponed one week to take recent developments into account.[3]


Craig Murray "secret intelligence report"

Craig Murray and the "secret intelligence report"

On 11 March 2014 in the evening, Al Jazeera premiered its long-awaited documentary "Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" which concluded that the Lockerbie bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by the PFLP-GC, with help from Hezbollah. The film also suggested that Libya may have had a role. Many morning newspapers carried the story and former British Ambassador Craig Murray wrote on his blog:

The information on Lockerbie published in today’s Daily Mail from an Iranian defector, matches precisely what I was shown in a secret intelligence report in the FCO just around the time of the first Iraq War – that a Syrian terrorist group was responsible acting on behalf of Iran.[4] It was decided that this would be kept under wraps because the West needed Iran and Syria’s quiescence in the attack on Iraq.
I was at the time Head of Maritime Section in the FCO’s Aviation and Maritime Department (AMD). I was shown the report by the Head of the Aviation Section, who was deeply troubled by it.
The UK authorities have known for over 20 years that Megrahi was innocent. The key witness, a Maltese shopkeeper named Tony Gauci, was paid a total of US$7 million for his evidence by the CIA, and was able to adopt a life of luxury that continues to this day. The initial $2 million payment has become public knowledge but that was only the first instalment. This was not an over-eagerness to convict the man the CIA believed responsible; this was a deliberate perversion of justice to move the spotlight from Iran and Syria to clear the way diplomatically for war in Iraq.
It will of course be argued, probably correctly, that now Syria and Iran are the western targets, it is in the interests of the CIA for the true story to come out, (minus of course their involvement in perverting the course of justice). That is why we now hear it was Syria and Iran. But it so happens that is in fact the truth. Even the security services and government can tell the truth, when the moment comes that the truth rather than a deceit happens to be a tactical advantage to them.[5]

Disinformation campaign

Former diplomat Patrick Haseldine commented:

Craig, a fortnight before the Lockerbie bombing, I was suspended from the FCO’s Information Department for writing a letter to The Guardian in which I criticised Mrs Thatcher for being soft on apartheid South Africa’s state sponsored "terrorism". Following my suspension on 7 December 1988 until John Major sacked me on 2 August 1989, I visited the FCO just twice: for a disciplinary hearing on 28 February 1989; and a meeting of the No 2 Diplomatic Service Appeal Board on 5 May 1989. I cannot therefore refute what the Head of AMD's Aviation Section told you.
However, I would discount that "secret intelligence report" you saw - two years after Pan Am 103 went down - as part of a disinformation campaign and an elaborate cover-up of those really responsible.
Please see my article "Flight 103: It was the Uranium" published in The Ecologist on 6 January 2014.[6]
For more information, please see my Facebook article "Lockerbie: Ayatollah’s Vengeance Exacted By Botha’s Regime".[7][8]

Craig Murray rejoined:

Hi Patrick,
Of course I am very well aware of your theories which are certainly plausible. But the intelligence I saw was regarded as very inconvenient, something out of line with the official story which needed to be buried; it wasn’t being put up as a blind.[9]

"Not for South Africa Eyes"

Another commentator, Mark Golding, added:

Patrick Haseldine’s charge concerning Lockerbie is of course credible; the intelligence that Craig Murray had the privilege to observe I would describe as nocuous to the treachery in Namibia patently obvious to me having read and memorised "Not for South Africa Eyes" secret naval signals at the time.
URENCO supplies nuclear power stations in 15 countries. On 22 April 2013, agent David Cameron’s coalition government announced plans to sell its share in URENCO, about £3bn. In her spirit, agent Cameron serves to prevent prosecution for the Thatcher administration’s criminal morals in the fight for Namibian independence from apartheid South Africa.
Re-visiting the Iranian connection serves as a convenient smokescreen for the privatisation and sale to proceed later this year and another nail in the Lockerbie coffin.[10]

John Ashton

John Ashton, author, journalist and film researcher
Mesbahi says "the whole system of Iran" was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing

On 12 March 2014, John Ashton published his review of Al Jazeera's documentary "Lockerbie: What Really Happened?":

Al Jazeera last night premiered its long-awaited documentary "Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" The programme’s broad thrust, with which I agree, is that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by the PFLP-GC, with help from Hezbollah. It also suggests that Libya may have had a role, which I don’t rule out.
Before commenting further, I should make a declaration of interest: I was paid consultant and interviewee for the producers’ previous Al Jazeera programme "Lockerbie: Case Closed", (which you can view here) which was broadcast on the day that "Megrahi: You are my Jury" was published, and was also a paid consultant during the development phase of this one, although I was not involved with the production itself. The most significant discoveries I made during the development phase were of no great interest to the producers, so I took them to Channel 4 News, who took a different view and commissioned a special report, which was broadcast on 20 December (you can view it here).
Last night’s programme has generated a lot of media coverage, but contains little that hasn’t already been reported previously. Most of the coverage has led on the allegations made in the film by Abolghasem Mesbahi, the German-based Iranian defector, who alleged that the bombing was carried out in revenge for the US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655. His claims have been reported as if they are new, but they are not: they originally surfaced in the German media in 1996 or 1997. Mesbahi gave his first broadcast interview about Lockerbie to the German channel ZDF in 2008 and Al Jazeera’s interview, which was in fact shot by ZDF, featured in another ZDF documentary last month.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mesbahi states: "Iran decided to retaliate as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system of Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini. The target of the Iranian decision makers was to copy exactly what’s happened to the Iranian Airbus. Everything exactly same, minimum 290 people dead. This was the target of the Iranian decision makers."[11]
Mesbahi was a former senior official in Iran’s security service, Vevak, and was based in, among other places, Paris and Bonn. In late 1988 he was imprisoned briefly as a suspected US double agent and in 1996 defected. He claimed to have first hand knowledge of the plot that resulted in the 1992 murder, by Iranian agents, of several leading Kurdish separatists in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. His testimony proved crucial in the subsequent trial of some of the Iranians. It was not until some months after his defection that he began to talk about Lockerbie.
Last year I spoke to a leading German journalist who is very familiar with both Mesbahi and the Lockerbie story. While he believes that the evidence that Mesbahi gave in the Mykonos case was credible, he is very sceptical of his claims about Lockerbie.
By Mesbahi’s own admission, all his information about Lockerbie was second-hand. His accounts to the German police (documented in memos disclosed to Abdelbaset’s lawyers pre-trial) were erratic. Some of his claims were unlikely, others patently nonsense. He claimed that the Iranian government initiated the operation and Iranian foreign minister Velajati held talks with Muammar Gaddafi, during which they’d agreed on a joint operation in which Iran would be responsible for the explosives and Libya for the electronics. There was no reason for Iran to rely on the Libyans to sort out the electronics, when they had plenty of other bomb makers at their disposal. He did not mention the PFLP-GC and instead suggested that the operation was not only commissioned by the Iranian government, but also largely undertaken by Iranian agents.
Mesbahi said that the technical instructions for the bomb came from the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO). He initially claimed that it was assembled and loaded at Heathrow by Libyan agents who had access to the airport’s ‘secure area’ (by which, presumably, he meant airside), but later claimed that it was assembled there by a ANO members. He also said that the bomb was activated by a chemical detonator, which again seems unlikely. He reported that the Iranians sent explosives to London after which the green light was given to the Libyans to deliver the electronic components. This, a source told him, was done by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah only days before the bombing. However, there is no evidence that they were in London at any point. It is clear that Abdelbaset was in Prague and Switzerland from 9th to 17th December and that he and Lamin were in Malta on the 20th and 21st. I suspect that Abolghasem Mesbahi stitched together a story that would implicate Iran, while accommodating the official 'Libya-did-it narrative'.
Another disappointing aspect of the programme was the prominence it gave to the claims of the Operation Bird reports, about which I have written previously (here and here). Some of the reports’ key allegations are, in my view, unlikely, in particular the claim that the PFLP-GC’s German ringleader, Hafez Dalkamoni, attended a crucial planning meeting in Malta in October 1988. This claim is contradicted by documentary and witness evidence gathered by the BKA, which is far stronger than the evidence that the programme presented to corroborate the claim (essentially, a 1989 Maltese newspaper article).
The film was on more solid ground when it presented US Defense Intelligence Agency reports from 1989 and 1990, which implicated the PFLP-GC and Iran in the attack. Unfortunately, it implied that the reports were secret and stated that they would have been used at Abdelbaset’s second appeal. Neither suggestion was true: the reports had no role in the appeal and are available online having been declassified many years ago.
There were other exaggerated and misleading claims. For example, the commentary stated "this programme has learned" that Tony Gauci had picked out a photo of Mohammed Abu Talb before his partial identification of Abdelbaset. In fact it is well known that, when shown a photo of Abu Talb by the police in October 1989, Gauci said that he resembled the clothes purchaser. The programme also stated that the Toshiba radio-cassette player that housed the Lockerbie bomb was of the same type as the one seized by the BKA during the "Autumn Leaves" raids, but in fact it was substantially different.
On the plus side, the film contained powerful interviews with former CIA investigator Robert Baer, researcher and campaigner Morag Kerr and, surprisingly, the former Times political editor Robin Oakley. Overall, though, it was a wasted opportunity.[12]

Magnus Linklater

On 12 March 2014, in an article headed "Nothing to justify a new inquiry" in The Times, former newspaper editor Magnus Linklater wrote:

There may be a case for staging a fresh inquiry into Lockerbie. This film does nothing to advance it. For all the sensational headlines it has provoked, it contributes no new evidence, merely a recycling of familiar allegations.
"Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" by Al Jazeera
Those allegations are, of course, far more enticing than the evidence that originally convicted the Libyan, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi — conspiracy theories always are. The Al_Jazeera documentary suggests not only that the guilty verdict passed on him by a Scottish court was a miscarriage of justice, but that an "executive decision" to redirect the evidence and implicate Libya rather than Iran was taken early on.
Asked after the film was shown in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, how high up this decision went, the producer suggested that it was taken in the White House. That is some claim. In order to believe it, however, one has to accept the kind of evidence that would be described in a court of law as hearsay.
For all the talk about CIA documents, incriminating cables and terrorist cabals meeting in secret to plan the bombing, no new written evidence is produced to back it up.
Suspects are approached for confirmation about their roles, and shy away from the confrontation; lines of inquiry are left hanging in the air; worse, the main source of the allegations — a defecting Iranian — has been touting his information around for at least 15 years.
There may well be grounds for appeal. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission reported that the identification of al-Megrahi as the man who bought the clothes in which the bomb was wrapped was based on unreliable evidence, which it thought should be tested again. However, it is a long road from that to a claim that the entire Lockerbie case was a miscarriage of justice.
Robert Baer: "Department of Justice's executive decision: go for Libya"
Just one section of the film serves to illustrate the point. A former CIA agent, Robert Baer, is interviewed at length. He claims that the bombing was carried out by a terrorist suspect called Abu Talb, who was rewarded after its success with large amounts of Iranian money.
The SCCRC examined this in great detail, interviewing Baer three times in all. In the end, however, the Commission concluded that nothing he said would have stood up in court.
"As with all intelligence," the SCCRC reported, "the validity of his information was very much dependent upon the reliability of its source, for which in many cases Mr Baer was unable to vouch."
It would, of course, be good to have the Lockerbie evidence tested again in a court of law. However, the one opportunity to do that was forfeited by al-Megrahi himself, when he chose to return to Libya rather than pursue his appeal. If al-Megrahi remains a convicted terrorist in the eyes of history, he only has himself to blame.[13]

Morag Kerr's comments

Dr Morag Kerr in an earlier Al-Jazeera episode

Commenting on 13 March 2014, Morag Kerr's alter ego "Rolfe" insisted that the bomb went on board at Heathrow:

Magnus Linklater is being a bit disingenuous here. What he says about the bulk of that documentary is essentially true, and it more or less chimes with what John Ashton has been saying. However, there's a bit of it that most people seem to have overlooked, but which Magnus most certainly should not have overlooked.
You guessed it, I'm talking about the part where I explained that the forensic evidence shows that the bomb went on board at Heathrow. It wasn't emphasised in the film and it hasn't been mentioned at all in any of the publicity, but Magnus was already aware of the issue and so should have picked up on it without any difficulty.
That part has nothing to do with Abolghasem Mesbahi or any other dodgy Middle Eastern spies. It has nothing to do with "this shady character told me something he won't repeat on camera". It has nothing to say about who was responsible either, which may be why nobody is paying attention.
The fact is, though, that a careful analysis of the blast-damaged luggage and airframe shows beyond any doubt at all that the bomb was in the suitcase Bedford saw in the container an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed. That gives Megrahi an unbreakable alibi for the crime, because he was in Tripoli at that time. THAT is why we need an inquiry, not because of anything said by someone I wouldn't trust to tell me the time of day.[14]

Barry Walker

On 13 March 2014, Barry Walker's alter ego "Baz" expanded upon Magnus Linklater's critique of the Al Jazeera documentary:

Jessica de Grazia, former Manhattan assistant district attorney
Marwan Khreesat, former PFLP-GC bomb-maker
George Thomson, former Scottish police detective on the trail of PFLP-GC suspects in Malta
A very good article and I certainly agree with the first paragraph. The Al Jazeera documentary was dire beyond belief. It was like a rehash of the Maltese Double X dropping Khalid Jafaar and "SPAG" and bringing in even dodgier evidence. I point this out as somebody who suggested to the Crown Office in 1996 that the primary suitcase may have been brought to England on the Gothenburg Ferry.
Morag Kerr was very good though but stuck out like a sore thumb as the documentary kept banging on about Abu Talb visiting Malta. (The film falsely claimed Abu Talb was in Sweden at the time of the 'Autumn Leaves' arrests.)
Legal investigator Jessica de Grazia, the Phyllis Diller character, was a hoot (she seemed to think Ahmed Jibril was still alive) although I think she and Operation Bird (a turkey?) were meant to be taken seriously. Not by me. Her spiel was shot through with holes too numerous to mention.[15]
The point is this was not just a lousy documentary - it casts light on Megrahi's defence team. 'Operation Bird' was central to his appeal! As I pointed out in my article "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil" the defence team were staring at irrefutable evidence that page 51 of Dr Hayes' notes was faked but instead they come up with something as credible as Majid Giaka and Vincent Cannistraro combined.
We also had, yet again, Robert Baer (living rather well in Aspen) telling us the CIA were disinterested seekers after the truth convinced Iran was behind the Lockerbie bombing. This is the same Robert Baer who was on TV last week discussing the CIA's 30-year campaign to overthrow Gaddafi! (Incidentally the man who told John Ashton that Khalid Jafaar was a member of the PFLP-GC!) And how come he still has his card indexes from his days in the CIA?
There was George Thomson in Malta poring through old copies of newspapers and discovered an article in Maltese featuring photographs of Abu Talb and Hafez Dalkamoni. Well I'm not convinced of whatever point they were trying to make.
And what a finale, a film of the outside of Marwan Khreesat's apartment and a recording of George Thomson having an argument with Abu Talb's son. TV highlight of the week!
Mr Linklater makes some good points about CIA "intelligence" but actions speak louder than words. What interests me is the mad dash to get Matthew Gannon onto flight Pan Am 103. To me this indicates advance knowledge flight PA103 was doomed.[16]

On 21 March 2014, Baz added:

I thought George Thomson was the best thing in the Al Jazeera documentary. What a pro. How he managed to listen to Jessica de Grazia's ludicrous claims without corpsing escapes me.[17]
He was even more po-faced inspecting the flat where this March 1988 terrorist summit took place. I was particularly impressed by the several ashtrays on the "conference table" - better than a bottle of HP sauce and a bottle of brewers' condiment! That made it look really authentic. Bit of a crush with just six seats round the table though!
He even kept a straight face in the Malta library where he "discovered" Abu Talb was in Malta in October 1988. Who'd have guessed! And Dalkamoni too! Must have been a double being watched by the BKA in Frankfurt!
I wondered where they got this daft idea of a terrorist summit involving all of Qatar's current or recent enemies. Then it struck me - Frank Drebin in the opening scene of the Naked Gun 2½![18]

Al Jazeera's next film?

Bernt Carlsson memorial in Dryfesdale Cemetery

Following the premiere of "Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" on Tuesday 11 March 2014, Nur Nasreen Ibrahim (@Nuri_ibrahim) of Al Jazeera tweeted to Patrick Haseldine @BerntCarlsson saying "We are covering #Lockerbie Thurs 1930 GMT on @AJStream. Interested in commenting? See more:…" Haseldine volunteered this comment:

Al Jazeera's next film - "Flight 103: It was the Uranium"
The question raised in Al Jazeera's documentary "Lockerbie: What Really Happened?" was not even hinted at - let alone answered - in the film. That is because no mention was made of Pan Am Flight 103's highest profile victim: United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson.
On 6 January 2014, The Ecologist magazine published my article entitled "Flight 103: It was the Uranium".
To discover who really was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, Al Jazeera might consider making a documentary based on that article in The Ecologist. I should be very happy to act as a paid consultant and interviewee for such an Al Jazeera documentary.
I can be contacted by email here:
Patrick Haseldine
Emeritus Professor of Lockerbie Studies[19]

At 6:00pm Al Jazeera reported:

Al Jazeera's #Lockerbie investigation is a moving story, so our convo is postponed one week to take recent developments into account.[20]

Patrick Haseldine responded:

Can we please have the precise date and time for the postponed #Lockerbie show? (Patrick_Haseldine#Al Jazeera's next film)[21]

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