Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lockerbie : What Price Justice?

This headline comes from this weeks Private Eye magazine in the UK, which carries an article examining the claims in a recent BBC documentary regarding financial rewards made to witnesses who gave evidence at the original Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in 2001.

In BBC2's recent 'Conspiracy Files' about the blowing up of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Richard Marquise, the FBI agent who headed the US side of the investigation 20 years ago, emphatically denied that any reward money had been paid to witnesses.

In reply to a claim by Edwin Bollier, the boss of a Swiss company said to have manufactured the timing device used in the bomb, that he had been offered money by the FBI, Marquise said: "I can promise you we offered everyone who was involved in the case the exact same - nothing. They were never offered anything for their testimony, for their information concerning the case."

Clearly this was a case of the left hand of American Law enforcement not knowing what the right was up to because Majid Giaka, the "star" witness at the trial of the two Libyans originally accused of the bombing, was handsomely rewarded by the CIA.

Readers of Paul Foot's special report on the atrocity may remember that a series of internal CIA cables about Giaka - a proven liar and cheat who claimed he was in the Libyan Intelligence when in fact he merely repaired their cars - showed that agents themselves thought he was a man of little credibility. But these were originally withheld from the 2001 trial of Al-Megrahi and his co-accused, Fhimah (who was acquitted by the Scottish Judges). Those same judges agreed that Giaka's evidence - that he saw the pair with a large brown case at Luqa, the Maltese airport - was "at best grossly exaggerated and at worst untrue", and "largely motivated by financial considerations".

Curiously in convicting Megrahi, however, they never questioned why the prosecution should rely on such a corrupt and desperate liar and overlooked the fact that the names of both defendants had come from Giaka in the first place. Instead they relied on the only other evidence that incriminated Megrahi : his identification 11 years after the event by Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who said he sold him the 13 items of clothing that were packed around the bomb. But Gauci had seen a picture of Megrahi only a few days before he made the crucial identification. This too was withheld from the original trial.

Inconsistencies and doubts surrounding Gauci's identification now form one of the six grounds outlined by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for concluding Megrahi may be the victim of a miscarriage of justice. There were unconfirmed reports that part of the concerns outlined in the confidential 80-page SCCRC submission were that Gauci too was paid a large amount of CIA "compensation".

And for final confirmation that the Americans paid out money, the 'Reward for Justice' website of the US state department outlines the Lockerbie case. It says it has "paid more than $72m to over 50 people who have provided information that prevented international terrorist attacks or brought to justice those involved in prior acts."

(c) Private Eye 2008

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