August 15, 2003
The Independent (UK)

Libya Gives 1.7bn to the Victims of Lockerbie, But the Questions Remain

by Andrew Buncombe and Paul Kelbie

. . . For some, the announcement - almost 15 years after Pan Am Flight 103 [a Boeing 747-100] was blown from the skies over the small Scottish border town - will bring a degree of finality and closure. For others, it will bring fresh trauma. What it certainly will not do is answer the many questions about the bombing, its investigation or the prosecution and subsequent conviction of a Libyan agent that remain unanswered.

. . . What many of the relatives, including Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, continue to point out is the huge number of number of unanswered questions surrounding the bombing.

Why, for instance, did Western investigators suddenly focus on Libya, when for several years they believed that two Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist groups - the Frankfurt-based PFLP-GC and the lesser-known PPSF - were responsible? Why, Mr Swire has asked, did flight 103 explode 38 minutes after take-off from Heathrow en route to New York - a timescale that has the exact hallmark of the sort of "ice-cube" timer that the PFLP-GC had used before? What does one make of the evidence presented by the prosecution?

Why did the CIA need to pay its star witness, Abdul Majid Giaka, $2.7m (1.7m) to give evidence? Why was that evidence only forthcoming after he had received the money?

Why did the Scottish judges choose to accept part of the testimony of the Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who sold Megrahi clothes that were later found wrapped around the bomb? Why was the court persuaded when he admitted he could not definitely identify the suspect?


Enver Masud, "Pan Am 103: Lockerbie Verdict 'Astonishing'," The Wisdom Fund, February 6, 2001

Ferguson book John Ashton and Ian Ferguson, "Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie," Mainstream Publishing Company (November 2001)

[The brother of a victim of the Lockerbie disaster has vowed to reject a multi-million pound compensation deal from Libya because he does not believe it has been proved guilty of the attack.--Stephen Khan, "Lockerbie brother: 'I don't want 6m, I want the truth'," The Observer (UK), August 17, 2003]

[WHY did the court accept identification evidence from Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci when it knew that Gauci would receive $4m reward from the USA if Al-Megrahi was convicted? --"Lockerbie . . . In search of the truth," August 23, 2003

Adam Sage, "Gaddafi hails new era after 'deal' over French air disaster," Times Online, September 1, 2001

[The United Nations security council yesterday ended 11 years of sanctions against Libya, clearing the way for 270 families of the Lockerbie bomb victims to each be paid $4m, or 2.5m, compensation. . . .

If the US were to lift its sanctions, unlikely in the current climate, the families will each receive another $4m. If Libya is removed from the state department's list of terror sponsors, they will get an additional $2m - a total of $10m for each family. If the US does not lift its sanctions within eight months, the families will receive only $1m more, or $5m per victim. . . .

Yesterday's vote had been postponed for more than three weeks while French families whose relatives were on a UTA flight bombed over the Niger desert in 1989, killing 170, renegotiated a settlement made with Libya in 1999. France settled on $33m for all the families. But, embarrassed when they saw what Lockerbie families were getting, the French demanded more. UTA relatives announced on Thursday an agreement that would lead to a settlement.--Gary Younge and Brian Whitaker, "Lockerbie relatives see UN end Libya sanctions," Guardian, September 13, 2003]

"Lockerbie families demand inquiry," BBC News, December 21, 2003

"Libya signs UTA bombing payout," BBC News, January 9, 2004

"Libyan PM denies country's guilt," BBC News, February 24, 2004

"'Doubts' over Lockerbie evidence," BBC News, August 19, 2005

Marcello Mega, "Police chief: Lockerbie evidence was faked,", August 28, 2005

[Michael Scharf, who was the counsel to the US counter-terrorism bureau when the two Libyans were indicted for the bombing, described the case as "so full of holes it was like Swiss cheese" and said it should never have gone to trial. . .

Robert Black, professor of Scots law at Edinburgh University and the principal architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist, described the Lockerbie case as "a fraud". . . .

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, said: "Myself and Michael Scharf are coming from exactly the same position. I went to the trial and became convinced after watching it unfold that the case was full of holes."--Liam McDougall, "Lockerbie trial was a CIA fix, US intelligence insider claims," Sunday Herald, November 12, 2006]

[Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for the 1988 atrocity in which 270 people died when Pan-Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has been investigating Megrahi's case since 2003, recommended the second appeal.--"Lockerbie bomber allowed appeal," BBC News, June 28, 2007]

[Libya could demand the return of the $2.7bn in compensation it paid to the victims' families - without ever accepting guilt.--Roger Hardy, "Lockerbie: The awkward questions," BBC News, June 28, 2007]

Alex Duval Smith, "Vital Lockerbie evidence 'was tampered with," Observer, September 2, 2007

Lucy Adams, "Revealed: CIA offered $2m to Lockerbie witness and brother," Herald, October 3, 2007

[The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission identified six aspects of the case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi where it believes that "a miscarriage of justice may have occurred".--Michael Howie, "Lockerbie evidence withheld from defence," Scotsman, October 4, 2007]

[A Libyan "double agent" who was central to the CIA's investigation into the Lockerbie bombing exaggerated his importance in Tripoli's intelligence apparatus and gave little information of value, yet is still living at the US taxpayers' expense in a witness protection programme, according to previously unseen CIA cables.

. . . Majid Giaka arrived at the Lockerbie bombing trial in the Netherlands. He described how he had seen Megrahi and his co-accused, Khalifa Fhimah, at Luqa airport before the bombing with a large brown suitcase. But the CIA cables confirm that nearly two years before, Mr Giaka didn't remember anything.

At the Lockerbie trial, the four judges described some of his evidence as "at best grossly exaggerated and at worst simply untrue" and concluded he was "largely motivated by financial considerations".--Guy Smith, "CIA memos reveal doubts over 'key' Lockerbie witness," Independent, August 31, 2008]

[A Scottish court ruled Wednesday that Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi can make a wide-ranging appeal against his conviction.--"Convicted Lockerbie bomber wins legal victory," Associated Press, October 15, 2008]

Glenn Kessler, "Libya's Final Payment to Victims' Fund Clears Way for Normal U.S. Ties," Washington Post, November 1, 2008

[Swire added on Sky News television: "There are very worrying rumours circulating in Scotland that he may have been persuaded to accept the concept of compassionate release in return for withdrawing his appeal. --Katherine Haddon, "Lockerbie bomber to be freed: British media," AFP, August 12, 2009]

AUDIO: Severin Carrell, "There's a split between victims' relatives in the UK and US'," Guardian, August 19, 2009

[ . . . many British families supported his release on compassionate grounds, with many unconvinced that he was fully, or even partially, responsible for the atrocity.--Haroon Siddique, Dan Milmo and Severin Carrell, "Lockerbie bomber freed from prison," Guardian, August 20, 2009]

Jerry Adler, "The End of Lockerbie," Newsweek, August 20, 2009

[On the flight from Scotland, Mr. Megrahi was accompanied by Saif al-Islam, the son of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, stamping an official imprimatur on his release and reinforcing the official Libyan view that Mr. Megrahi was a scapegoat used by the West to reinforce its depiction of Libya as a pariah state.

The welcome was another slight for Washington, which had sought strenuously to persuade Libya not to permit a hero's welcome for Mr. Megrahi and had opposed his release.--Alan Cowell and A. G. Sulzberger, "Lockerbie Convict Arrives Home in Libya," New York Times, August 20, 2009]

Reevel Alderson, "Megrahi: 'A convenient scapegoat?'," BBC News, August 20, 2009

Peter Beaumont, Ewen MacAskill and Nicholas Watt, "Lockerbie fury grows as Gaddafi meets bomber Megrahi," Guardian, August 22, 2009

[1986: Libya is accused of bombing a Berlin disco, killing two U.S. servicemen. A defector from Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, claims it framed Libya. Khadaffy demands Arabs increase oil prices.

1987: The U.S. tries to kill Khadaffy but fails. Eighty-eight Libyan civilians die.

1988: France wages a secret desert war with Libya over mineral-rich Chad. France's secret service, SDECE, is ordered to kill Khadaffy. A bomb is put on Khadaffy's private jet but, after Franco-Libyan relations abruptly improve, the bomb is removed before it explodes.

1988: The U.S. intervenes on Iraq's side in its eight-year war against Iran. A U.S. navy Aegis cruiser, Vincennes, violates Iranian waters and "mistakenly" shoots down an Iranian civilian Airbus airliner in Iran's air space. All 288 civilians aboard die. Then vice-president George H.W. Bush vows, "I'll never apologize ... I don't care what the facts are."

The Vincennes' trigger-happy captain is decorated with the Legion of Merit medal for this crime by Bush after he becomes president. Washington quietly pays Iran $131.8 million US in damages.Eric Margolis, "Lockerbie Part of a Bigger Story,", August 30, 2009]

[No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish village of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, in which 270 people were killed. The governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. Of course there were oil and arms deals under way with Libya; but had Megrahi proceeded with his appeal, some 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence would have set the seal on his innocence and given us more than a glimpse of how and why he was stitched up for the benefit of "strategic interests".

"The endgame came down to damage limitation," said the former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, "because the evidence amassed by [Megrahi's] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice." New witnesses would show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft - he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopowner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and even failed to recognise him in the courtroom.

The new evidence would have shown that a fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, "discovered" in the Scottish countryside and said to have been in Megrahi's suitcase, was probably a plant. A forensic scientist found no trace of an explosion on it. The new evidence would demonstrate the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was "transferred" through two airports undetected to Flight 103.

A "key secret witness" at the original trial, who claimed to have seen Megrahi and his co-accused, al-Alim Khalifa Fahimah (who was acquitted), loading the bomb on to the plane at Frankfurt, was bribed by the US authorities holding him as a "protected witness". The defence exposed him as a CIA informer who stood to collect, on the Libyans' conviction, up to $4m as a reward.--John Pilger, "Megrahi Was Framed," New Statesman, September 3, 2009

Severin Carrell, "US paid reward to Lockerbie witness, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi papers claim," Guardian, October 2, 2009

[Thus the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 remains a mystery. If two years of investigating Iran produced no evidence, and the evidence used to convict Megrahi was fake, who was responsible for the horrific crime?--Andrew I. Killgore, "Taking another look at the Destruction of Pan Am 103,", March 2010]

[He said: "When I go to see him it is not that difficult because I don't feel I'm going to see my daughter's murderer because I am satisfied he didn't do it."--Lucinda Cameron, "Lockerbie father visits Megrahi in Libya," Independent, September 20, 2010]

[In 2007, after the testimony of a key government witness was discredited, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission agreed to reconsider the conviction as a grave miscarriage of justice. However, that review was proceeding slowly in 2009 when Scottish authorities released Megrahi on humanitarian grounds, after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. . . .

The Scottish court's purported reason for finding Megrahi guilty - while acquitting his co-defendant Lamin Khalifa Fhimah - was the testimony of Toni Gauci, owner of a clothing store in Malta who allegedly sold Megrahi a shirt, the remnants of which were found with the shards of the suitcase that contained the bomb.

The rest of the case rested on a theory that Megrahi put the luggage on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, where it was transferred to a connecting flight to London, where it was transferred onto Pan Am 103 bound for New York, a decidedly unlikely way to undertake an act of terrorism given all the random variables involved. . . .

As historian William Blum recounted in a article after Megrahi's 2001 conviction, "The case for the suitcase's hypothetical travels must also deal with the fact that, according to Air Malta, all the documented luggage on KM180 was collected by passengers in Frankfurt and did not continue in transit to London, and that two Pan Am on-duty officials in Frankfurt testified that no unaccompanied luggage was introduced onto Pan Am 103A, the feeder flight to London."

There also were problems with Gauci's belated identification of Megrahi as the shirt-buyer a decade after the fact. Gauci had made contradictory IDs and had earlier given a physical description that didn't match Megrahi. Gauci reportedly received a $2 million reward for his testimony and then moved to Australia, where he went into retirement.--Robert Parry, "Trying 'Shock and Awe' in Libya,", April 27, 2011]

Lucy Adams and John Ashton, "Lockerbie exclusive: we publish the report that could have cleared Megrahi," Herald Scotland, March 25, 2012

FILM: "Lockerbie: Case closed,", May 21, 2012

Jim Swire book Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph, "The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father's Search for Justice," Birlinn (July 6, 2021)

[The US announced charges against Abu Agila Masud two years ago, alleging that he played a key role in the bombing--David Cowan, "Lockerbie bombing suspect in US custody,", December 11, 2022]

Lockerbie: The official website of Dr Jim Swire and Lockerbie researcher Peter Biddulph

Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi: My Story

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