Megrahi released in deal for oil

The media furore surrounding the release of the ‘Lockerbie bomber’ seems to have missed one salient point: he was innocent.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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When Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill allowed the release of the ‘Lockerbie Bomber’ in August, the British public witnessed a barrage of national and international condemnation via their television screens and newspapers.

This hysterical outpouring had the aim of concealing from the public the incontrovertible truth that an innocent man had been convicted of a crime he did not commit, and of thus further concealing the machinations of US and British imperialism.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. A second appeal granted in 2007 and begun this year was dropped after an application for release on compassionate grounds was made when Mr Megrahi was diagnosed as being terminally ill with cancer.

It is quite clear that the second appeal, if it had taken place, would have finally cleared Megrahi’s name and exposed the whole corrupt process that convicted him. Writing in the New Statesman , John Pilger accurately summed up the situation:

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 ‘strategic interests’ to which John Pilger refers, are, in reality, the immediate interests of imperialism. These immediate interests are the very reason Megrahi was convicted in the first place and are conversely the reason he has been allowed to return home to Libya to die.

In the first instance, Libya was made a scapegoat because it opposed the invasion of Iraq in the first Gulf war. Now, the imperialists have been forced to free Megrahi in order to obtain access to Libya’s vast oil wealth and lucrative arms contracts. Indeed, much of the frothing in the US press can be ascribed to bitterness that the British, having struck the deal and released Megrahi, have gained access for Shell and BP to Libya’s oilfields, thus stealing a march on their US rivals.

Pan Am 103

The initial investigation of the bombing consistently pointed towards the Palestinian group the PFLP-GC (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command), which was based in Syria. The US and British investigators became convinced that this group, was the prime suspect.

Mrs Thatcher is reported to have communicated to the US that British intelligence sources believed ‘beyond doubt’ that the bomb had been placed by a Palestinian group in reprisal for –the American downing of an Iranian civilian passenger plane carrying mostly pilgrims on Haj to Mecca. (See ‘Lockerbie, the flight from justice’ by Paul Foot)

Less than a month before the Lockerbie bombing, West German police had even raided PFLP-GC safe houses and seized explosives, detonators, Pan Am timetables, etc.

In 2001, Lalkar carried a report from Australia’s Green Left Weekly entitled ‘Behind the Lockerbie frame-up’, which detailed the twists, turns and about-faces of the investigators and prosecutors. At that time, the key question was put to readers about the decision of the investigators to turn a blind eye to evidence pointing towards the PFLP-GC:

What changed between 1988 and 1991? Syria’s Hafiz Assad was an enthusiastic participant in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, whereas Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi opposed the war and campaigned for a peaceful settlement.

The article exposed the pragmatic change of direction taken in service to imperialism,

On December 16, 1989, the New York Times reported that Scottish investigators had announced that they had ‘hard evidence’ that the PFLP-GC was behind the bombing.

In October 1990, US and British authorities suddenly did a backflip as the US build-up in the Gulf was gathering pace following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Investigators’ attention suddenly shifted from the Syria-backed PFLP-GC to Libya. In 1991, the two Libyans were formally indicted.

New evidence

The case against Megrahi was summed up in Lalkar as follows:

The prosecution case, and the judges’ verdict, rested fundamentally on two points: it was Megrahi who purchased the clothes which were packed into the suitcase that contained the bomb, and that suitcase began its fateful journey in Malta rather than either Frankfurt airport or at Heathrow.

Yet Megrahi was never positively identified as the man who purchased the clothing, the prosecution did not provide any physical or documentary evidence to link Megrahi to the suitcase or the bomb components, and no evidence was offered to prove that the suitcase began its journey in Malta, let alone that it was Megrahi who sent it on its way.

The guilty verdict hinged most on the testimony of Tony Gauci, the owner of the clothes shop in Malta. In their judgement, the judges stated: ‘We are nevertheless satisfied that his identification so far as it went of the first accused as the purchaser was reliable and should be treated as a highly important element in this case.’

The ‘evidence’ of Mr Gauci is most disturbing. He is reported to have given a false description of Megrahi in 19 separate statements, and even failed to recognise him in the courtroom. According to the BBC, he is now living in Australia, and in October 2007 The Guardian reported that Mr Gauci had allegedly received a $2m reward in return for giving evidence. (‘Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction’, 3 October 2007)

In his New Statesman article , John Pilger continued that

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 onto 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.

Megrahi defiant

Mr Megrahi spoke to the BBC following his release, saying:

The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction. I have been faced with an appalling choice: to risk dying in prison in the hope that my name is cleared posthumously or to return home still carrying the weight of the guilty verdict, which will never now be lifted. The choice which I made is a matter of sorrow, disappointment and anger, which I fear I will never overcome.” (‘Lockerbie bomber freed from jail’, 20 August 2009)

Defiant, and determined to expose imperialism for the crime it has committed against him, Megrahi has published documents online that would have been presented as part of his appeal.

Readers may be interested to view these documents at