US plans to bring charges against Lockerbie suspect ‘convenient’

US plans to bring charges against Lockerbie suspect ‘convenient’

Aamer Anwar

Criminal charges against another suspect in the Lockerbie bombing are to be brought in the coming days by US authorities, in a move described as “convenient” by the legal team for the Megrahi family, who are challenging the only conviction in the case.

The US Justice Department is expected to unseal charges against Libyan bomb expert, Abu Agila Mas’ud, as the anniversary of the bombing approaches.

It is thought that Mr Mas’ud may have known the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted over the atrocity. During the preparation for his trial in the Netherlands, however, Mr Megrahi told his lawyers that he did not know Mr Mas’ud.

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.

A statement issued on behalf of the Megrahi family by their solicitor, Aamer Anwar, states: “How ‘convenient’ that this should happen just as the decision of the Megrahi miscarriage of justice appeal in the Scottish courts is awaited.

“It’s difficult not to be cynical about the motivation of the Americans, that on the eve of the anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing as well as the appeal decision, the US now wish to indict an individual, 32 years after the bombing – what exactly have they been doing up until now?”

It adds: “Megrahi’s family understand he was accused of being involved in a conspiracy, by a discredited Abdul Majid Giaka, a Libyan double agent who had become a CIA informant. There has always been a suggestion that Giaka, whose evidence was largely rejected by the court, may have fabricated matters to make himself seem more valuable to the Americans, in the hope of being relocated to his dream life in the USA.

“It is certainly clear that Giaka’s evidence very much suited the Americans in that he sought to implicate both accused at trial, and he provided key evidence against Mr al-Megrahi. Clearly if the conviction of the late al-Megrahi was overturned then the case against Abu Agila Masud is likely to fall apart.”

The late Pierre Salinger, who was press secretary to US presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, gave evidence at the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist but was refused permission by Lord Sutherland to give exonerating evidence. He had claimed he knew who the real bombers were. Lord Sutherland told him: “If you wish to make a point you may do so elsewhere, but I’m afraid you may not do so in this court.”

The statement on behalf of the Megrahi family also notes that the US authorities have shared no information with their legal team and indicates that an explanation will be sought from the Lord Advocate as to why information relevant to the appeal has not been disclosed.

It warns: “Both the British and US governments know that if the conviction is overturned then real questions would need to be answered as to why an innocent man al-Megrahi was sent to prison whilst also punishing the people of Libya for a crime they did not commit.”

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