Lockerbie After 24 years: Back to Square One
On May 20th Abdel Baset Al-Meghrahi the only Lockerbie convict died at his Damascus district home, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. Nearly three years ago he was released from Scottish jail for humanitarian reasons and “allowed to return to Libya to die” as the Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill put it. The man was already diagnosed with prostate cancer in terminal stage. His doctors gave him weeks or months to live but he lived for nearly three years.
Dr. Jim Swire whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy believed neither Libya nor Mr. Al-Megrahi had anything to do with the Lockerbie tragedy. He has been very critical of the court that handed down the verdict against Mr. Al-Meghrahi. I happen to share the same belief with Dr. Swire whom I met and even shared spot on a TV talk show in 2009
In his search for the truth Dr. Swire visited Libya couple of times, met the late Colonel Gathafi, and became close to Mr. Al-Meghrahi regularly visiting him in jail in Scotland. Last December the two men met for the last time in Tripoli. Reporting on the meeting Dr. Swire wrote that Mr. Al-Megrahi “ was concerned that I as a victim’s father should get access, on his death, to all the information that had been amassed to fight his abandoned appeal.“
In my own search of the truth immediately after the 2001 trial ended I communicated briefly with Dr. Hans Köchler the UN appointed observer to the court. Dr. Köchler was very certain about the unreliability of the prosecutor’s star witness; a Maltese shop owner named Toni Gauci. Mr. Gauci’s evidence was crucial to convict Abdelbast as it was the only “strong” evidence that directly linked the convict to the cloths in which the bomb was wrapped. Yet when cross examined Mr. Gauci failed to recall the same details twice nevertheless his evidence was taken into account by the court sitting in Camp Zeist, The Netherlands. Ever since his appearance at the court Mr. Gauci disappeared without trace. He could not be found in Malta not anywhere else. That is until a year ago when a private detective, working for a TV documentary, spotted him back in his little home in Valetta, Malta. Of course he could not be approached for interview.
Until the last minute of his life Mr. Al-Meghrahi loudly protested his innocence expressing his determination to clear his name. He told me the same thing when I met him in 2010. Our meeting was arranged in his house with the hope that I will write a TV documentary telling his side of the story which never told. Inching towards his death I was impressed by his sharp memory and determination to clear his name. Despite the fact that he appeared weak and frail at the time he was welcoming and aware of political events particularly following the Tunisian revolt.
I later found out that a London based publisher was helping Mr. Al-Meghrahi write his memories. One of Saif al-Islam Gathafi’s assistants who arranged my meeting with him later confirmed the news to me in a phone conversation. I would urge who ever behind the project to publish the book as soon as possible as it’s sure to reveal previously unknown details.
It is now emerged that Mr. Gauci was offered USD 2 million by the CIA in order to testify against Mr. Al-Meghrahi in 2001 after which Mr. Gauci disappeared from Malta altogether. This important information was never shared with the defense lawyers at the time of the trial.
Now that Mr. Al-Meghrahi died and Colonel Gathafi gone before him does the world know the truth about hat fatal night of December 1988? Unfortunately not. We are back to square one despite the fall of the Gathafi regime and the availability of the entire archives of the Libyan state to anyone who wanted to read particularly after the total collapse of the government last September. I’m certain that most of the Libyan State archives are not in the hands of Western intelligence services since “revolutionary brigades” had little interest in reading. It’s horrific how the government building with important documents where looted in Tripoli and other cities!
The only persons alive today who could shed some light on the case are Saif al-Isalam Gathafi who is jailed in Libya and Abdallah Sanusi the former head of the Libyan intelligence jailed in Mauritania. Another person who should know something is Mr. Abuzed Dorda the former head of the Libyan espionage organization known as Aljamahyria’s External Security Establishment Mr. Dorda’s trial opened last week in Libya.
It is now appropriate to try to find out who destroyed the Pan Am Flight 103 24 years ago killing 270 innocent people. It is important not only for the victims’ families to find out the truth but also to the reconciliation process in Libya if a new stable and democratic country is to emerge. If the United Sates and the UK governments in particular seek justices it’s time to open the case again to try to find out what really happened over Lockerbie. Mustafa Fetouri is an independent Libyan academic and journalist. He won the EU’s Samir Kassir award for the best opinion article in 2010.