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The Lockerbie Bomber: The Case Reviewed
Pan Am Flight 103 taxied out of the gate at Heathrow Airport in London at 6:04 p.m. on December 21, 1988 - four days before Christmas. The 243 passengers and 16 crew members were preparing themselves for a relatively long flight to New York. After taxying for a few minutes, Flight 103, on a Boeing 747, took off at 6:25 p.m. They had no idea that they only had 38 more minutes to live.
By 6:56 p.m., the plane had reached 31,000 feet. At 7:03 p.m., the plane exploded. Control had just been issuing Flight 103's clearance to start its oceanic segment of their journey to New York, when Flight 103's blip went off their radar. Seconds later the one large blip was replaced with multiple blips traveling downwind.
Wreckage was strewn over 50 square miles. Twenty-one of Lockerbie's houses were completely destroyed and eleven of its residents were dead. Thus, the total death toll was 270 (the 259 aboard the plane plus the 11 on the ground).
Pan Am Revenge
As revenge for the bombing of a Berlin nightclub where two U.S. personnel were killed, President Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya's capital Tripoli and the Libyan city of Benghazi in 1986. Some people think that bombing Pan Am Flight 103 was in retaliation for these bombings.
Revenge by Iran
In 1988, the USS Vincennes (a U.S. guided missile cruiser) shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing all 290 people on board. There is little doubt that this caused as much horror and sorrow as the explosion on Flight 103. The U.S. government claims that the USS Vincennes mistakenly identified the passenger plane as an F-14 fighter jet. Other people believe that the bombing over Lockerbie was in retaliation for this disaster.
The investigators believe they received a "big break" when a man and his dog were walking in a forest about 80 miles from Lockerbie. While walking, the man found a T-shirt which turned out to have pieces of the timer in it. Tracing the T-shirt as well as the maker of the timer, investigators felt confident they knew who bombed Flight 103 - Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.
11 years to LONG
In 1994, Libya agreed to a proposal that would have the trial held in a neutral country with international judges. The U.S. and the U.K. refused the proposal.
In 1998, the U.S. and the U.K. offered a similar proposal but with Scottish judges rather than international ones. Libya accepted the new proposal in April 1999.
Though the investigators were once confident that these two men were the bombers, there proved to be many holes in the evidence.
On January 31, 2001, Megrahi was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Fhimah was acquitted.
On August 20, 2009, the UK gave Megrahi, who suffers from terminal prostate cancer, a compassionate release from prison so that he could go back to Libya to die amongst his family.
On 5 December 1988 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a security bulletin saying that on that day a man with an Arabic accent had telephoned the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, and had told them that a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, West Germany to the United States would be blown up within the next two weeks by someone associated with the Abu Nidal Organization. He said a Finnish woman would carry the bomb on board as an unwitting courier
Investigators also discovered that an unaccompanied bag had been routed onto PA 103, via the interline baggage system, from Luqa airport on Air Malta flight KM180 to Frankfurt, and then by feeder flight PA 103A to Heathrow. This unaccompanied bag was shown at the trial to have been the suitcase that contained the bomb. In 2009 it was revealed that security guard Ray Manley had reported that Heathrow's Pan Am baggage area had been broken into 17 hours before flight 103 took off. Police lost the report and it was never investigated or brought up at trial
The clothes were traced to a Maltese merchant, Tony Gauci, who became a key prosecution witness, testifying that he sold the clothes to a man of Libyan appearance, whom he later identified as Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. However, an official report providing information not available during the original trial stated that Gauci had seen a picture of al-Megrahi in a magazine which connected al-Megrahi to the bombing, a fact which could have distorted his judgment
That he had first suggested the plan to bomb the Pan Am flight to Ahmad Jibril, who heads a Syrian-backed armed group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).
This organisation was a prime suspect in the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie attack, but has denied any involvement.
Mr Behbahani also said Iran spent 90 days training a group of Libyans for the operation.
This would fit in with another theory, that the Lockerbie bombing could have been ordered, planned and carried out by a coalition of Iranians, Libyans and Palestinians.
Libya is alleged to have been motivated by a desire to avenge the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.
There are those who go even further, claiming that the trial at Camp Zeist is a cover-up of kinds, in which the two Libyan suspects are the 'fall-guys' in the whole affair, allowing any governments involved to claim that justice has been done, and the affair brought to a close.
"The truth has not come out. I think the investigation found out what it was told to find."
The Airline tags are Found
April 1991: Fhimah's diary is found in an office in Malta. It has entries linking Fhimah to Megrahi and, crucially, to the collection of airline baggage tags which would have been vital to enable an unaccompanied bag to be taken from Luqa Airport. At the same time Scottish detectives checking Maltese immigration records track Megrahi's visits to the island, and that he stayed the night before the bombing in a hotel room. From there, hotel records show he made an early morning call to Fhimah's flat.
Shirt Found and Bomb Fragments
June 1990: The piece of electronic timer circuit board embedded in the shirt fragment found near Newcastleton is positively identified as part of an MST-13 timer. The shirt was found alongside pieces of speaker from the radio cassette player and - crucially - pieces of the instruction manual for the player. This proved the bomb had been in the cassette player.
15 February, 1991: Mr Gauci identifies Megrahi from a police photospread as the man who bought the clothes in his shop.
13 April, 1999: Tony Gauci again identifies Megrahi, this time in an Identification Parade at Camp Zeist.
Libya accepts responsibility
Libya has reached political agreement with the United States and Britain to accept civil responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and pay up to $10 million in compensation to victims' relatives, a source close to the talks said.
A Warriors Welcome
TRIPOLI, Libya – The only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing returned home Thursday to a cheering crowd after his release from a Scottish prison — an outrage to many relatives of the 270 people who perished when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded.