Professor Black's Reward

Professor Black's Reward
The Lockerbie Divide 

15 March 2010

I'd like to address a minor controversy that arose recently, and may arise again, about Scots Law Professor Robert Black's negotiation of the framework for the trial that resulted in Megrahi's conviction in 2001. I recently re-posted Professor Black's 2000 article From Lockerbie to Zeist (via Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo), outlining his journey in the late 1990s to get the trial agreed to by all sides.  An anonymous reader posted a comment there reading in full:
Some observations and questions:

1)“It came of some surprise when on 14 November 1991 the prosecution authorities in Scotland and the United States simultaneously announced that they had brought criminal charges against two named Libyan nationals who were alleged to be members, and to have been acting throughout as agents, of the Libyan intelligence service”

Why would it come as such a surprise? Surely Pr. Black was well aware of Libya’s involvement and support of terrorist activities; including the Abu Nidal Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command – some of whom were arrested in the Autumn leaves sting in Germany, where bomb making equipment was siezed. Said equipment had many similarities (outside of the timing device) to the PA103 bomb.

2)Who exactly were the group of British businessmen who approached Professor Black and what exactly were their desired “major engineering works in Libya” ? Oil springs to mind. BP perhaps? Smacks of a deal in the desert… Oh what a wicked web…

3)Pr. Black insults the reader by insinuating that anyone in their right mind would believe that he (Pr. Black) would, on an unpaid basis, endure traveling to Libya against sanctions, and risk being kidnapped or killed at that time. But then again, perhaps Black defies the definition of “right mind”, and/or "unpaid".

March 9, 2010 2:19 PM
My limited experience and gut instinct say it's Richard Marquise, but at any rate likely an American with a deep connection to the case and a gripe against Black. Did the Professor just help arrange the trial to help end sanctions and make millions in oil kickbacks?  I had first agreed that oil was the most likely business to have sent people to the seek his help, and conceded that possibly "he got paid indirectly, or secretly, or what have you." I strongly suggested the commenter was involved in spinning the investigation, and asked how much he was paid, and closed with this ponderable:
If "unpaid basis" means literally that, in all way shape or form, I take his word. The point is, it doesn't change the fact that he arranged the framework for a trial where the Libyans WERE handed over to Scottish jusrisdiction as demanded. Megrahi was then convicted. The US maintains its sanctions though the UN does not.
You act as if this is a bad thing, helping arrange Camp Zeist. Why would one be upset and look to discredit such work? 
A concerned reader suggested I remove the comment, and maybe my responses, as being "over the mark" and plain offensive. Yeah, but it was on-topic, and a question people will only naturally wonder about. I was concerned enough to ask Professor Black himself. In his South Africa season at the moment, it took a day or so to hear of his lack of worry, and a clarification that will likely fail to satisfy Anonymous:
"I wasn't paid -- either by the businessmen or the Libyans. Indeed, the fact that no fee was involved was one of the main reasons why the Dean of Faculty (the leader of the Scottish Bar) recommended to the businessmen that they should approach me rather than any other member of the Scottish Bar. The businessmen in question were not involved in the oil industry: their field was civil engineering and construction."
- e-mail, March 13, 2010 11:13 PM
Was it oil-related engineering? Oh, give it a rest...

Robert Black helped change history a little, and to some people, this alone could be plenty reward for such works. Aside from that, if one is too cynical to accept hunger for Justice or the Common Good as motives, or a reward in the afterlife, we might also consider bragging rights as the "architect of the Lockerbie trial," or the position from which to publish a book on the adventure. He wouldn't be the first.

I'm just savvy enough to suspect multiple motives, and if money had been in there, I personally would see no ethical issues with it. That said, the professor wasn't paid. I'm ready to move on.  Let this post serve as the spot to discuss this issue any further, and leave From Lockerbie to Zeist for discussing that paper's content.


Anonymous said...

"Minor controversy" ??? "Sorry" posted on Pr. Black's blog.... No add'l comments on either blog.... How interesting. Details???

Caustic Logic said...

Sure, anon. If you're the same anon, it might be exciting to be withing a controversy, but it really is pretty small, I think. The "sorry" was just my uncertainty (no more comments, etc.) I'm not sure what I was sorry for, except maybe agreeing with you that maybe "unpaid" meant only "paid later" or something.

A 'concerned reader' named Haseldine noted that insecurity and tried to leverage it into a retraction, for some reason. Then the professor himself said he wasn't all upset that someone had doubted him. I'd hoped not. It might not be worth another post even, but too late now.

So, care to debate Black's possible payments, motives, actual actions, ethics, etc.? Is there something bad about actually negotiating the solution all sides could (eventually) agree to? When the end result was bringing two alleged mass murderers up for a trial on the amazing evidence collected by the Scots and SCOTBOM team?

How do you feel about the fact that a trial did eventually happen, despite overwhelming doubt that it ever could?

Caustic Logic said...

Oh, and thanks for the return comments (??). Any adversarial company is rare and appreciated.