Guided Tour of the Case Against Megrahi

Guided tour of the Case Against Megrahi
Including the stuff you haven’t been told yet
Posted by Caustic Logic

The Playing Field
The conviction of al Megrahi, while occurring in a court of Law and claiming judicial stature and legal authority, was ultimately a human decision, open to question and potentially flawed. The whole point of a trial is to remove doubt within reasonable reach, and bring legal authority in line with verifiable reality. But in fact, a close look shows how it is all based on a careful assemblage of evidence brought by the prosecution (the Crown), and then given more credence – individually and collectively - than it should by the three-judge panel appointed by, essentially, the prosecution.

Some evidence, like the crucial Heathrow break-in on the day of the bombing – were fully suppressed by police and hidden for over a decade, so the trial defense couldn’t find it even by looking. On the other hand unsubstantiated intelligence from secret CIA sources was accepted often without question. In these and other, more subtle ways, the playing field was kept far from level.

The product so transformed into legal reality had resulted from a joint American-UK effort, headed by Scottish Police and the FBI, both having an early team (1989-1990) and a later team. Throughout, but especially early on, they pursued an “evidence-led investigation,” as often stated. This is both true and untrue; as explained across this site, the investigation was in fact led by a certain cluster of evidence, pointing towards Libya, and away from another cluster, pointing at a more rational but less convenient perpetrator and method. It was evidence-led-away-from-evidence investigation.

The Scottish police (and their UK friends) worked jointly with the FBI (and their myriad friends). Key evidence was handled strangely. Certain experts with a reputation for delivering politically useful forensics were routinely used. Some leads were pursued enthusiastically while other were cut short without warning. These occurred not at random, but based on decisions from decision-makers. One must be forgiven for suspecting that the assembly of evidence that would lead the case was, itself, led by political considerations.

The evidence then:
Below find summarized the evidence claimed and problems with each point. Citations will be few, generalizations and summaries abundant. For some points I will cite relevant paragraphs of the Zeist Court's final opinion (PDF link) The dedicated posts linked for each is where more useful detail, exact quotes, evidence, sources, and links to further sub-explanations can be found (when they're all filled in).

A) Star Witness Giaka
Dedicated post: Evidence Reconsidered: Star Witness Giaka
It seems the first faint outlines of the Megrahi/Fhimah plot "proven" at Camp Zeist was first sketched out by Libyan defector turned CIA/FBI informant/fabricator. Named Abdul Majid Giaka, he had first made contact with the CIA a few months before Lockerbie, and soon proved useful in pinning the blame on Libya. Giaka entered DoJ witness protection in mid-1991, and his evidence given to a grand jury a few months later sealed the deal for an indictment in mid-November, leading to UN sanctions, more sanctions, and later the Camp Zeist trial and Libya's "admission of responsibility."

The witness' credibility was thrashed at trial in 2000, both by his own fantastical stories and by the CIA's embearrasing revealed admissions that they didn't trust him either. Nearly all his testimony was discarded, but the prosecution's case in general suffered no guilt-by-association fallout. His presumably false stories did still wind up resembling the legal reality almost exactly, which is curious. For example, he didn't really see the accused at the airport with a brown Samsonite, as the Judges decided; he didn't mention this meeting at all until mid-1991, when he would have probably reported such a meeting at the time. [Opinion of the Court, para 44] They do seem to believe that's about what happened - Megrahi at least, at the airport, loading a bown Samsonite suitcase. So how did Giaka get such an idea in his head, if he didn't see it happen, and wasn't being coached to launder "intelligence" into "evidence?" Surely the same suitcase turning up in his fantasies is not coincidence? They admit he's likely a knowing fraud:
"It is also in our view clear that whatever may have been his original reason for defection, his continued association with the American authorities was largely motivated by financial considerations. […] Information provided by a paid informer is always open to the criticism that it may be invented in order to justify payment, and in our view this is a case where such criticism is more than usually justified." [para 42]

And yet they seem to accept he was doing the inventing all on his own, or that no one else on the prosecution side had the same thought and just naively assumed his info was genuine. The judges seem to take in good faith that the Crown and its associates were not farming Giaka for framing Megrahi, and that no "Contempt of Court" had occurred in this probable con operation. The Judges' decision then considered the following evidence of most importance.

B) Tony Gauci's Identification
Dedicated post: Evidence Reconsidered: Tony Gauci's Identification
After Giaka's disappointing acceptance, the Prosecution had to rely more heavily on another weak point - the tentative fingering of al Megrahi as the guy that bought the clothes that were packed around the bomb.

As evidence, it was, obviously legally admissible.

C) Bag From Malta
Dedicated post: Evidence Reconsidered: Bag from Malta
The claim of an unaccompanied luggage item from Malta, rather than such a known item, is another key plank of the official narrative. Somehow still unexplained, German authorities failed to secure the luggage records of Frankfurt Airport before they were routinely deleted, and for the first month after the crash, what went on there would be a mystery (or known but unacknowledged). It was only at the end of January 1989 that German police got a copy of the relevant part of that data - what went onto feeder flight PA103A - off of an airport employee (Bogomira Erac) who'd printed it for a souvenir. To this day, it's her lucky copy that is cited as the "only record" of what moved through the airport that day. Its authenticity has never been questioned by investigators, despite its broken evidence chain and unverifiability.

It's not entirely clear why, but Scottish police didn't get word of the Erac printout, publicly anyway, for another six months, in mid-August 1989. By then they'd already tried Malta, based on the bomb-damaged Maltese clothing they'd been finding. Bolstered by evidence that a bag from there was indicated,

D) Timer Fragment
Dedicated post: Evidence Reconsidered: Timer Fragment
a fragment of circuit board bearing a notable "one" shaped touch pad, designated PT/35(b).
This key forensic clue is probably the most visually memorable and convincing to the general public. However important it's supposed to have been, it has been demonstrated and makes perfect sense that PT/35(b) should not have been found at all if it were genuinely involved in that explosion.

E) Radio Model
Dedicated post: Evidence Reconsidered: Toshiba RT-SF16 Radio
It turns out the precise model of radio used was a clue of Libyan guilt, if not the most conclusive. It was determined a Toshiba RT-SF16 variation of the sadly named BomBeat series had held the bomb. A decent majority of these made were apparently sold to a Libyan company connected to the JSO intelligence agency. Since the JSO are accused of the bombing, it would indeed help to find one of these. Prosecutors were however able to secure at least one SF16 model for a control sample. So it's possible non-Libyans can possess them.

Nonetheless, remarkable logical lengths were gone to to illustrate the model. The radio remains themselves were unclear on the model, being too fragmented and melted to get more than a "consistent with" rating relative to the SF16. Luckily, quite readable portions of the enclosed paper user's manual were alleged to have survived and identified the model. The most ridiculous is PK/689, inset here, alleged to have survived a semtex supernova before the blast had spread and weakened and then ruptured the hull. Addressing the unrealistic damage to this evidence, the folks who found it say it was almost totally intact when they handed it in to police. I'd wager it didn't say RT-SF16 model back then either.

F) Various supporting clues, allegations, and chatter
- Swiss bank account
- Offices in Zurich
- MST-13 purchase attempt
- Travels to Malta and denials
- Alias "Abdusamad"
- "Taggs"
- Etc... will all be addressed by one or another of our knowledgeable contributors.

Questionable Rulings
Based even just on the evidence presented and the logic of it, the Justices made numerous calls that have been criticized as unsound or unfair.
- Accepting certain convenient evidence from witnesses generally dismissed as frauds (Giaka and Bollier notably).
- Acceptance of December 7 as the clothing purchase date, despite all specific clues pointing to a dat Megrahi wasn't there.
- Failure to consider the timing of the explosion and its relevance to the bomb style
- Failure to consider Libya's or anyone else's alleged motive for targeting PA 103

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