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LOCKERBIE UPDATE
Ahmad Behbahani
June 5, 2000

Contents:

IRANIAN LINK TO BOMB ON PAN AM 103, The Guardian 6/5/00

Iranian defector says he organised Pan Am bombing, Electronic Telegraph 6/5/00

Iranian link to bomb on Pan Am 103

Iranians blamed for Lockerbie bombing

Ian Black © 2000, Monday June 5, 2000

Sensational evidence that Iran planned and financed the 1988 Lockerbie bombing could cast a new shadow over the trial of two Libyans accused of the murder of 270 people.

According to a CBS news report last night, an Iranian defector, named as Ahmad Behbahani, who is said to have coordinated Iranian terrorist operations for a decade, has documents to prove his claims.

The CIA is debriefing Mr Behbahani, now in protective custody in Turkey, the CBS News TV programme 60 Minutes reported.

The two Libyans, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, are accused of planting the bomb on Pan Am 103, and are now being tried before Scottish judges at the former US airbase of Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

The two, described by the prosecution as members of the Libyan intelligence services, deny the charges, blaming two Syrian-based Palestinian factions, one with links to Iran.

Intriguingly, defence lawyers have also told the court they will seek to incriminate a crown witness, Parviz Taheri. Nothing is known about him, but his name is Iranian.

The explosion over Lockerbie in Scotland killed all 259 Pan Am passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

Suggestions that Iran was involved are not new. Early on it was assumed that the incident was in retaliation for the downing of an Iranian airliner over the Gulf in July 1988.

Iran, then still ruled by the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, vowed that the skies would "rain blood" after the USS Vincennes shot down the Iran Air flight, killing 290 people.

Tehran, master minding the holding of western hostages in Lebanon, was thought to have ordered the destruction of the Pan Am airliner with the help of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of PalestineGeneral Command.

It seemed equally plausible to assume that Libya might have wanted to avenge the US and British bombing of Libya in 1986, itself retaliation for an alleged Libyan terrorist attack on US servicemen in Berlin.

In November 1991, the two Libyans were indicted and handed over for trial last year. Hearings began at Camp Zeist last month and are scheduled to last for at least a year.

Scottish legal authorities have said that they will punish any contempt of court, though the absence of a jury means that the case is taking place in a legal no man's land.

Media reports have cast doubts over a Swiss witness who made the timer that triggered the bomb and a Libyan defector now living in the US who was said to have seen the accused loading the bomb on to a feeder flight in Malta.

Other theories have suggested that Palestinian terrorists infiltrated a US intelligence operation which used Pan Am Flight 103 to smuggle heroin, in a complex dirty-tricks, drugs-for-hostages deal.

According to an Iranian defector to Germany, Iran, with Libya and the Palestinian terrorist group led by Abu Nidal, plotted the crime.


Iranian defector says he organised Pan Am bombing
By Ben Fenton © 2000, in Washington, Electronic Telegraph 6/5/00

AN Iranian defector claimed yesterday that he orchestrated the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

A man who identified himself as Ahmad Behbahani said in an interviewed for a programme broadcast by CBS television last night that he had been in charge of Iran's state-sponsored terrorism operations for more than a decade until four months ago.

He told journalists for the network that among the operations he had masterminded was the bombing of Flight 103, which killed 270 people when the Boeing 747 crashed on to Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. Two Libyans are standing trial for the bombing in a Scottish court in Holland.

According to a press release for the 60 Minutes programme, Behbahani told CBS his organisation recruited the Libyans, trained them in Iran and gave them a bomb to put in the aircraft.

Behbahani was identified by British parliamentarians in 1996 as being the head of the intelligence section of the Iranian president's office under President Rafsanjani. He was said to have organised a dozen assassinations in Europe between 1986 and 1999.

The report by the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, headed by Lord Avebury, said Behbahani was a relative of Mr Rafsanjani and "designates the targets for assassination as well as deciding which organ is to carry out the plots". Lord Avebury said yesterday: "If this man is Behbahani, then obviously he was a crucial figure in the intelligence set-up in Iran and his information would be extremely important."

There had been a major shake-up of Iran's intelligence operations and prominent members of the organisation had been arrested in January, about the same time that Behbahani told CBS he had lost power in Iran, Lord Avebury said.

Intelligence sources in Washington confirmed that they were aware of the defection of Behbahani, who was now in Turkey. They also said he was being interviewed by American intelligence agencies who would be asking him about Lockerbie. One source said: "Clearly if he checks out and his knowledge of Lockerbie has bearing on the trial, we would pass it on to the appropriate authorities."

Patrick Clawson, an expert on terrorism at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: "If this man is who he says he is, it is quite an impressive defection. I believe that his dates do go back to that period [1988] and he would clearly know a great deal about what Iran had to do with it if anything. If I were a lawyer on either side at the Lockerbie trial, I would want to know what he had to say. It could turn the whole thing on its head."

But the claim on 60 Minutes that Iran had trained Libyan agents to carry out the airline bombing prompted a note of caution from ShaulBakhash, an Iranian living in Washington who studies the Teheran government closely.

He said: "I think that part of it makes the whole thing very difficult to believe. Iranians have a great contempt for Arabs unless they are Shi'ite Muslims like themselves, and . . . are particularly contemptuous of Libyans. I cannot see they would entrust such a delicate task to Arab proxies."