US charges Libyan man over Lockerbie bombing as American facts contradict Crown’s

US charges Libyan man over Lockerbie bombing as American facts contradict Crown’s

James Wolffe QC

The US yesterday charged a Libyan man in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, on the 32nd anniversary of the atrocity.

Abu Agela Masud has been charged with making the bomb used in the attack. US Attorney General Bill Barr said he was confident that authorities would be able to extradite Mr Masud for trial.

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was the only man convicted over the bombing. Mr Megrahi was convicted on 31 January 2001 of the murders of the 243 passengers and the 16 crew on board Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York, and 11 residents of Lockerbie, on 21 December 1988.

“According to the criminal complaint affidavit Masud built the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 and worked with Megrahi and Fhimah to carry out the plot,” Mr Barr told a press conference at the Department of Justice.

“The affidavit also alleges that the operation had been ordered by the leadership of Libyan intelligence and that after the downing of the aircraft Gaddafi had personally thanked Masud for the successful attack on the United States.

“In addition to his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing Masud also was involved, as we allege, in the 1986 bombing of La Belle discotheque in Berlin which killed two American servicemen and a Turkish woman.”

Mr Barr, 70, leaves office tomorrow and the new charges are regarded as an attempt of his to complete unfinished business. He was attorney general in 1991, when he announced the original charges against Mr Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, who was acquitted.

US charges Libyan man over Lockerbie bombing as American facts contradict Crown’s

Aamer Anwar

Solicitor Aamer Anwar said in a statement on behalf of the Megrahi family: “Having watched the press conference by US Department of Justice with Attorney General William Barr, we are left wondering what is new 32 years later. He appears to rely on the confession of a former Libyan intelligence officer Masud.”

The statement also notes the convenience of Mr Masud’s confession to the crime.

“Yet this confession was supposedly ‘extracted’ by Libyan law enforcement agents in 2012 at a time that the Libyan government based in Tripoli fought for international recognition from the UN, the UK and USA, as Masud languished in custody in a Libyan prison. Lawyers would normally ask what were the circumstances and the checks and balances of such a convenient confession, unless of course the rules of Guantanamo are observed i.e. an abuse of law.”

The statement adds: “No new information was presented by AG Barr and it appears to be a desperate attempt to resurrect a Lockerbie case, whilst we await the decision of the appeal court over the miscarriage of justice appeal of the late Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.”

Mr Anwar’s statement also points out the contradiction in the US complaint against Mr Masud and the Crown’s position on the narrative of events.

“What was significant was that tucked away in the criminal complaint against Masud was his claim that he bought the clothes to put into the samsonite suitcase that is claimed went on to blow up Pan Am Flight 103. Of course only a few weeks ago in the appeal court – and for the last three decades – the Crown has argued that it was Megrahi that bought the clothes according to the eyewitness testimony of Toni Gauchi. How exactly can both men be held responsible?”

It concludes: “Mr Barr’s attitude to Scotland was deeply patronising and insulting to our independent legal process. For the Megrahi’s the basis of everything said if the conviction against the late al-Megrahi were to be overturned then the case against Masud would be non-existent.”

The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, said: “For 32 years the families of the 270 people murdered in this atrocity have shown extraordinary and enduring dignity in the face of the loss they suffered on the terrible night of 21 December 1988.

“Scottish prosecutors and police have had a long-established and strong working relationship with US law enforcement agencies throughout this investigation.

“This relationship will continue to be important as the investigation progresses with the shared goal of bringing all those who committed this atrocity to justice.

“Scottish prosecutors will continue to work with US colleagues but we will not comment in detail on [the] announcement given that the Scottish criminal investigation is ongoing and there is an appeal before the court in relation to this crime.”

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