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LOCKERBIE UPDATE 6/9/00

Contents:

Lockerbie Court Ignores Iranian Defector's Claim

Analysis: Lockerbie trial 'unbalanced' (BBC NEWS)

Iranian Connection Claimed

The Special Defense (which implicates Palestinian terrorists.)


Lockerbie Court Ignores Iranian Defector's Claim

05/6/2000 BBC NEWS/Reuters

The court hearing the Lockerbie bombing case against two Libyans has ignored an Iranian defector's claim that Tehran was behind the 1988 airliner explosion, which killed 270 people. Explosives analysts testified at the Scottish court, sitting in Camp Zeist, Netherlands, where two alleged Libyan intelligence agents are accused of murder.

The scientists described tests carried out on debris from the destroyed Pan Am 747 to identify the explosive substances contained in the charge that burst the jetliner's hull 38 minutes after take-off from Heathrow airport en route to New York.

Court officials refused to comment on Iranian defector Ahmad Behbahani's claim that he recruited a radical Palestinian terrorist living in Syria, then imported and trained Libyan operatives to do the job.  They would not say whether he might be called as a witness in the trial.

International legal experts say allegations of Iranian involvement in the bombing will not necessarily bear on the culpability of the Libyan defendants.  "We are talking about two individual defendants," said Amsterdam University international law professor Andre Nollkaemper. That was separate from the question of who had given them the task to blow up the airliner.

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, told Reuters that if the material contained in the CBS report were true, the CIA should submit it to Scottish police. "It's very important. As far as we're concerned, as seekers after truth and justice, we welcome all new material," he said. "This man has admitted being the man who selected terrorist targets. If so, he is a suspect in this case. We need to see what they (the prosecution) are going to do about it."


Analysis: Lockerbie trial 'unbalanced' (BBC NEWS)

By Legal Affairs correspondent Joshua Rozenberg
(Take care, Joshua, you´ll probably lose your media accreditation now.....:-)

The Lockerbie case is probably the most interesting and important criminal trial currently taking place anywhere in the world. But you are not likely to be reading or hearing very much about it in the weeks and months to come. Bringing the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing before a court of law was a major achievement.

But that is about as far as the compliments go.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah have denied murder, conspiracy to murder, and destroying an aircraft. They are being tried under Scots law by three judges. The judges sit without a jury in a specially built court near Utrecht in the Netherlands. Huge sums of money have been spent by the Scottish Court Service on providing facilities for the media, but no attempt has been made to give reporters what they actually need to cover the trial.

A vast structure has been erected so that 16 television reporters can simultaneously broadcast live from sheltered positions overlooking the court. But television companies are not allowed to bring editing equipment onto the site. Journalists have been given a huge media centre with places for 240 reporters to watch the trial on a closed circuit television link.

But the Crown Office, which is responsible for Scottish prosecutions, will not provide even the most basic information - such as who the witnesses are and how they spell their names.

In any other court case, reporters normally find out what is going on by having a quiet word with the lawyers during adjournments. But that is impossible when the lawyers are only visible through the glass.

Both prosecution and defence lawyers have offices in the court building, so you can not even see them at lunchtime. This no doubt suits the prosecution very well. The Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, seems pleasant enough when you ambush him in the car park but you can tell he would much rather not be answering difficult questions.

Why, for example, does an official from the United States Justice Department sit alongside prosecution lawyers in court?

Why did the Lord Advocate run out of witnesses on several occasions during the early days of the trial, forcing unnecessary adjournments?

The two accused do not deny that a plane exploded over Lockerbie, killing 270 people. Even the judges got fed up with hearing an endless succession of police officers explain which piece of wreckage was found in which particular field. Why couldn't the prosecutor have agreed the uncontroversial evidence with defence lawyers in advance?

The Crown Office in Edinburgh is about as uncommunicative today as its nearest English equivalent, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was some 15 years ago. All this would have mattered less if the media had more to go on than the outline of the prosecution's case contained in the formal indictment.

In English trials the prosecution summarises the case against the defendant in an opening speech, making it easier to understand the significance of the evidence when it comes. There are no opening speeches in Scottish criminal trials, presumably to avoid the risk that juries will decide cases on the strength of what's alleged rather than what can be proved. But what harm would an opening speech have done in a case where there is no jury?

Attempts to fill the information gap were made by a group of academics from Glasgow University.

Unfortunately one of their number was a retired diplomat, Andrew Fulton, who had spent time in Saigon and East Berlin. He was not to be seen again after an article in the British newspaper The Guardian guessed he must be from MI6, the British intelligence service.

In this climate of conspiracy, it is hardly surprising that the Sunday Herald newspaper ran a story in Scotland last month headlined 'Lockerbie report leaves trial in chaos'. The story, that the prosecution had been forced to seek an adjournment because one of its star witnesses had cast doubt on where the bomb had been positioned on Pan Am 103, was roundly and convincingly denied by the Lord Advocate.

A different prosecution witness, from the government's Air Accidents Investigation Branch, admitted that he had wrongly calculated the likely position of the bomb on the plane. This could be crucial in establishing whether it was in the suitcase allegedly put on the plane in Malta by the two accused. The prosecution were forced to adjourn while it examined new scientific evidence. Nearly two weeks were lost.

While that was going on, somebody rewired the courtroom; as a result, the sound system no longer worked and another day was wasted while technicians fixed it. Defence advocates had told the prosecution they wanted a crucial piece of evidence brought into court - a wrecked baggage container in which the bomb was allegedly placed.

Prosecution lawyers pointed out that none of the doors in the specially-built courtroom was wide enough so another day was lost while the baggage container was cut into two pieces. It would be wrong to blame the Lord Advocate for everything that has gone wrong. Colin Boyd himself admitted he was not ready for the start of the trial.

The impression is that the defence have all the best tunes.

With a trial as unbalanced as this, the fear is that justice will be the loser. 


Iranian Connection Claimed 

June 7, 2000  University of Glasgow site: http://www.law.gla.ac.uk/lockerbie/displaynews.cfm?nc=1&theyear=2000

The prestigious CBS 60 Minutes programme on Sunday carried claims that Iran planned, directed and funded the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. An associate producer of the programme, Roya Hakakian, herself Iranian-born,said that she had interviewed Ahmad Behbahani who was under protection in a refugee camp in central Turkey. Behbahani claimed that he was formerly a senior intelligence official in Iran and that he had documents to provethat Iran was behind the bombing.

To quote the CBS Web site: "He told her [Hakakian] he coordinated all of the terrorist activities that the Iranian government carried out outside of Iran, including the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. He said it was Iran,not Libya, that planned and financed the operation. It all began, he said, when he proposed the job, along with a blueprint,to Ahmed Jabril,the radical Palestinian terrorist. Behbahani claimed Jabril replied by saying he agreed with the plan and that he sent a list of requirements,which included explosives… Behbahani said Iran proceeded by bringing in a group of Libyans into Iran, and training them at a special site called the Lavison School for a period of 90 days."

Subsequently, the Iranian defector was moved to Ankara where he is reportedto be being debriefed by Turkish and CIA officials, Turkish intelligence conceding that it is questioning a man identified as Seyyid Behbabhani.

It appears that Behbahani had entered Turkey illegally in March and had contacted the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with a view to obtaining asylum in the United States.

Iran intelligence Minister, Ali Yunesi, is quoted as saying that "since the establishment of Iran's [intelligence] Ministry, no person named Ahmad Behbahani has been working with the ministry." Ahmed Jabril, in an interview with Iranian radio, denied that he knew anyone of that name.

It will be recalled that the indictment against Megrahi and Fhimah does not mention any involvement by Iran, nor indeed by the Government of Libya. The indictment merely alleges that they, being members of the Libyan intelligence service and while acting in concert with others, performed certain illegal acts which resulted in the destruction of Pan Am 103.Also, the special defence of incrimination, lodged at the very start of the trial, incriminates "Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command", an organisation with which Ahmed Jabril is known to be associated.

Author: Professor John P. Grant © 2000


Special Defence Read 

May 3, 2000, University of Glasgow site: http://www.law.gla.ac.uk/lockerbie/displaynews.cfm?nc=32&theyear=2000

The Special Defence of Incrimination lodged on behalf of the Accused Libyans was read to the Court this morning at the start of the trial.

he pair watched impassively after they identified themselves. They are able to hear the procedings translated into Arabic instantaniously.

In the document the accused are correctly referred to as the "Panel". The Special Defence states:

"DUFF, for the Panel, Abdelbaser Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi, states that the Panel pleads not guilty and further, specially and without prejudice to said plea, gives notice that at his trial the Panel may lead evidence calculated to exculpate himself, which evidence may tend to incriminate the persons listed in the Schedule attached to this Notice in the commission of the drimes libelled in the indictment, either singly or in concert with others in the Schedule or in concert with others unknown."

The attached Schedule identifies two groups of persons and one individual. The groups are both Syrian based organisations: Members of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front and the Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command. Finally Parviz Taheri, "crown witness 996" is also identified.

The Court adjourned at 11:48 local time and is due to return shortly.

Author: Martin J Kerr © 2000