posted on Aug, 13 2009 @ 11:30 AM
Officers from the RAF, CID, Scottish police and the CIA spent the Christmas of 1988 combing the bleak lowlands around Lockerbie, Scotland. They
were looking, over 850 square miles, for remnants of Pan Am Flight 103, which had left London’s Heathrow airport on the early evening of December
21. The Boeing 747, the Maid of the Seas, had 259 passengers and crew aboard, 189 of whom were Americans, and was on the Atlantic leg of a Frankfurt
– London – New York – Detroit flight.
Just after 7pm, the Maid of the Seas had entered Scottish airspace at around 30,000 feet, out of sight and sound as it approached the small town of
Lockerbie. Then at 7.03pm, 38 minutes into the flight, a bomb had exploded in the forward luggage hold. The disintegrating plane hurtled earthwards,
with the fuel - laden wings exploding into Lockerbie’s homes, killing eleven townsfolk. Although its thought that some 150 passengers survived the
initial explosion, everyone on board was killed on impact.
Police and intelligence services from the US, UK, Germany and the Middle East joined in the search for the killers, focusing on Syria, Libya, Germany,
Scotland, London, Beirut and Washington. But it was not until November 14, 1991 that the two Libyan intelligence officers, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al
Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah were indicted for blowing up PA 103 by the Scottish Crown Office and the State Department. Then it was another ten
years before a Scottish court, which Libya insisted should be set up in Holland, could try the two men for murder and conspiracy to destroy an
In January 2001, after an eight – month trial with three judges but no jury, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Khalifa Fhimah was cleared. The case
took so long to come to court because the Libyan government persistently denied the charges, and for seven years, refused to hand over the pair,
despite the imposition of punitive UN economic sanctions in 1992. These sanctions were finally lifted in August 2002, after the Libyan government
offered to pay $2.7 billion in compensation.
However, Libya’s president Mohammed Qaddafi has always insisted that Al Megrahi didn’t do it, as has his prime minister, Shokri Ghanem, who told
BBC Radio 4 in February 2004 that Libya had paid the compensation in order to get the sanctions lifted, not because it accepted guilt. The payout was
the “price of peace”, as Ghanem put it, and resulted in the sanctions being suspended and diplomatic relations with Britain restored. Evidently,
those who thought Libya’s official statement accepting responsibility “lacked remorse” were right. But the Libyan government isn’t alone in
protesting its innocence, and many believe that the country was the victim of far bigger conspiracies.
The case against the Libyans
The prosecution had charged that Al Megrahi and Khalifa Fhimah had placed a Samsonite suitcase containing a Toshiba radio filled with plastic
explosive onto an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt. There, it was alleged, the case had been transferred onto PA 103. The bombing was said to be an act
of revenge for the April 1986 US air attack on Tripoli, itself revenge for Libya’s supposed involvement in the bombing of a Berlin nightclub
frequented by US marines. Under the mercurial Colonel Qaddafi, Libya was perfectly capable of such outrages. By the mid – 1980’s, he was seen in
the West as a madman who had turned his oil – rich country into the worlds number one terrorist state ( an image sufficiently familiar for Libyan
terrorists to feature in the 1985 comedy film, Back to the Future ). Qadaffi’s delusions of pan – Arabian grandeur and of breaking the West’s
hold over the Middle East marked him out as an international troublemaker.
Libya wasn’t the first, or biggest suspect
During the trial, the Arab news network Al Jazeera reported that former Iranian intelligence official Ahmed Behbahani claimed responsibility for
international attacks carried out by the Iranian government, including Lockerbie. The news agency’s notion that this might “have an impact on the
current trial in the Netherlands” wasn’t borne out, and Al Jazeera suggested that Behbahani might have some desire for revenge against the Iranian
government. Both the Organisation of African Unity and Nelson Mandela, however, have questioned the validity of Al Megrahi conviction, with the latter
visiting Al Megrahi in his Glaswegian prison in 2002. During the trial, both of the Libyans had pleaded not guilty, and blamed Syrian – backed
Most tellingly, the German government refused to back the US and UK indictment of the Libyans. Investigations by the then - West German police into
the Frankfurt link had pointed to an offshoot of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Syrian – backed Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). Police raids on PFLP-GC cells in West Germany prior to the bombing had uncovered radio bombs and
barometric (altitude-triggered) fuses. One of the seventeen suspects arrested during the raids, Mohammed Abu Talb, had a calendar on which he had
circled December 21 – the date PA 103 had crashed. But Talb, who was placed in Malta at the time of the bombing, ended up as a key witness for the
prosecution, for which he was granted lifelong immunity. However , in 2005, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who presided over the Lockerbie investigation
and issued the two arrest warrants, told The Sunday Times that Talb was “unreliable”, and “an apple short of a picnic”.
The fact was, by late 1989, there was “virtually no disagreement” among investigators and intelligence agents that the PFLP-GC was responsible, as
David Johnson reported that year in his book Lockerbie: The Tragedy of Flight 103 – a claim repeated in Steven Emerson and Brian Duffy’s The Fall
of Pan Am 103.