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Deception over Lockerbie

By       Message Maidhc Ó Cathail     Permalink
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"By way of deception, shalt thou wage war"

- Motto of the Mossad, Israel's Intelligence Service

The scenes of flag-waving Libyans welcoming home Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the man known as the Lockerbie bomber, further discredited Muslims in the minds of many. For those whose knowledge of the story is derived mainly from TV news, it appeared to be a callous celebration of mass murder, lending credence to the belief that "Islam" and "terrorism" are virtually synonymous. A closer look at the facts surrounding the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, however, reveals a pattern of deception by those who have most to gain from making Muslims look bad.

While the news reports dutifully recorded the protestations of outrage by Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and others at what appeared to be an unseemly hero's welcome for a convicted terrorist, they neglected to mention that Libyans were celebrating the release of a countryman whom they believe had been wrongfully imprisoned for eight years. Also omitted from the reports was any indication that informed observers of Megrahi's case in Britain and elsewhere are likewise convinced of his innocence.

Robert Black, the University of Edinburgh law professor who was the architect of the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, says that "no reasonable tribunal could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led," and calls his 2001 conviction "an absolute and utter outrage." Prof. Black likens the Scottish trial judges to the White Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass who "believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Hans Köchler, a UN-appointed observer at the trial, states that "there is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime," and condemns the court's verdict as a "spectacular miscarriage of justice." And Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the 270 killed on December 21, 1988, dismisses the prosecution's case against Megrahi and fellow Libyan Lamin Khalifa F'hima as "a co*k and bull story."

According to that "co*k and bull story," Megrahi, the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), conspired with Lamin Khalifa F'hima, the station manager for LAA in Malta (who was acquitted), to put a suitcase bomb on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt. At Frankfurt, the lethal suitcase had to be transferred to another flight bound for London Heathrow. Then in Heathrow Airport, it would have to be transferred for a second time onto the ill-fated Flight 103 destined for New York.

But for that rather implausible scenario to be true, the Libyans would have to have had an inordinate faith in the reliability of baggage handlers in two of Europe's busiest airports at one of the busiest times of the year. Less optimistic would-be bombers would surely have slipped the bomb-laden suitcase on board in London. Fueling suspicions that this is indeed what happened, investigating police were told by a security guard at Heathrow that the Pan Am baggage storage area had been broken into on the night of the bombing.

The reported break-in at Heathrow was part of 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence that Megrahi's defense could present at an appeal, which in 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, after a three-year investigation, recommended he be granted.

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But before that appeal could be heard, the compassionate release of Megrahi, suffering from terminal prostate cancer, conveniently spared the potential embarrassment of all those involved in his dubious conviction. More significantly, it also averted awkward questions being raised, in the likely event of the Libyan being acquitted, about who actually planted the bomb, and why.

Reel Bad Muslims

Many of those who doubt Libya's responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, perhaps not surprisingly in the current climate, tend to suspect other Muslim countries of involvement. The most popular theory is that Iran hired the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmed Gibril to avenge the "accidental" shooting down by the USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988 of Iran Air Flight 655, which killed all 288 civilians on board.

Others believe that Abu Nidal, the founder of the infamous Black September terrorist group, may have been involved. If they're right, it raises disturbing questions about who was ultimately responsible for the Lockerbie atrocity. In his fine biography of Nidal, "A Gun for Hire," British journalist Patrick Seale confirms long-held suspicions that many in the Middle East have had about the "Palestinian terrorist" who did more than anyone to discredit the Palestinian cause. "Abu Nidal was undoubtedly a Mossad agent," Seale asserts. "Practically every job he did benefited Israel."

Interestingly, one theory which has the PFLP-GC collaborating with Abu Nidal on behalf of Iran, has been espoused by a former Mossad staffer, Yuval Aviv, whose New York-based investigative agency, Interfor, prepared a report for Pan Am's insurers on the Lockerbie bombing.

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Writing under the pen name Sam Green, Aviv also authored Flight 103, a fictional account of the Lockerbie tragedy he claims is "based solidly on real-life facts," in which the vengeful Iranians enlist a Palestinian terrorist, Ahmed 'The Falcon' Shabaan, to do their dirty work. Aviv, who inspired Steven Spielberg's "Munich," hopes his director friend will convert his Lockerbie tale into another Hollywood blockbuster.

Hardly any mainstream commentators, however, have questioned the trustworthiness of a former Mossad agent, who retains close ties with the intelligence service, fingering Palestinians and Iran for a terrorist attack which killed 189 Americans, thereby blackening the reputation of two of Israel's greatest foes in the minds of those it wishes to convince that the U.S. and Israel face a common enemy.

Dirty Tricks

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Maidhc O'Cathail is a widely published writer based in Japan.

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