LOCKERBIE UPDATE 6/6/00
Source: Latest News - The Lockerbie Crisis © 2000 (The best site on the web about the Lockerbie trial)
Click. Lester Coleman receives final release date: February 2001
Click. Full coverage of week 6 of the Lockerbie bombing trial
Click. Swiss witness demands re-testing of Pan Am 103-explosion
Click. CBS "60 Minutes": Iran behind Lockerbie - feature
Click. Extra background info regarding Ahmed Behbahani
Click. New book with details of Pan Am 103-investigation [about the Gannon's work spying on the Lebanese drug operation.]
05/06/00 The attorney of the alleged whistleblower on Pan Am 103. Lester Coleman, has now received his final sentence and the release date. The former DEA-agent´s 10-month sentence from Judge Platt earlier this week has nothing to do with the "state case" against him in Kentucky. So the time he served in the Lexington jail will not be concurrent with the 10-month sentence he received this week. His sentence, according to attorney Paul Rinaldo, will extend till February, 2001.
05/06/00 CNN NEWSMore news of the aleged defection of Ahmed Behbahani, the man who claimed Iran was nehind the bombing of Pan Am 103: In France on Sunday, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the exiled first president of Iran's Islamic Republic, said Behbahani left Iran two months ago and sought refuge in another country. Bani-Sadr's office interviewed him on a number of matters, including political assassinations. Bani-Sadr said Turkish authorities had hidden Behbahani and a second person, a Mr. Akbari, once top aide to former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian, who also spoke to CBS News. Akbari also left Iran two months ago seeking refuge, Bani-Sadr said. Among Behbahani's jobs in Iran was vice-commander of the Qods Army, which Bani-Sadr said was a division of the Revolutionary Guard whose responsibilities included terrorist activities abroad.
05-09.06/00 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. 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.
BBC´s Joshua Rozenberg criticises the environment at the Camp Zeist court and gives an ironic analysis of the Crown´s job so far - will the Crown Press Office hunt him down now ?
LOCKERBIE BOMBING TRIAL WEEK 6 (05-09/06, 2000)
05/06/00 Since the start of the trial in early May, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd and the prosecution team have been working hard all weekdays. Yet they haven´t been allowed to rest during week-ends. Every Sunday since the trial began has been a "bloody Sunday" for the Crown with either Ed Bollier or Scottish Sunday papers publishing "explosive" facts that have tickled the patience of even the judges in this trial.
The up-coming Sunday will be no different ! On June 11, a major Sunday paper will publish another nasty surprise article, followed by a new request to the Crown, filed by the controversal head of the tiny Swiss electronics firm MEBO AG. In his request Ed Bollier will ask for an entire series of re-testing of the explosion on board Pan Am 103, as well as he will reveal the names of the forensic and explosive experts and institutes that have helped him prepare and complete the latest 2 explosive-reports. On this website my readers can have a little pre-taste of what is coming up:
MEBO Declaration, dated June 5, 2000
NOTE ! The names of the explosive experts, the scientific instiute and the publishing paper (in Bollier´s declaration) will remain censored until Saturday June 10, 2000, where the full information will be made visible to all readers. This action has been decided upon due to copyright agreements with the newspaper who has the publishing rights for this news on Sunday June 11, 2000, and due to the fact that the Lord Advocate will not receive the entire and uncensored report until next week.
05/06/00 BBC NEWS/ CBS NEWS/ PA etc. A man identifying himself as a senior Iranian intelligence service defector has said that Iran, not Libya, masterminded the Lockerbie bombing. If true, the allegations could radically influence the trial currently under way of two Libyans accused of being behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.
SOUND FILE: Ian Black from The Guardian/Observer comments on this issue (June 5, 2000)
You need REAL AUDIO PLAYER in order to listen to sound-file!
Iran has rejected the statement, describing the defector, Ahmad Behbahani, as a "dubious individual" whose allegations were part of a plot that was doomed to failure. Iran has consistently denied accusations that it was behind the bombing. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammad Hossein Adeli, is currently visiting Turkey, but has made no comment on the latest development.
Interviewed on the CBS current affairs programme "60 minutes", Mr Behbahani said that Iran had funded and masterminded the bombing of the Pan Am plane. Mr Behbahani defected from Iran four months ago, crossing the border into Turkey following a rift with his colleagues. He is now under protective custody, and is reported to be seeking asylum in the US. "I am in a difficult position. I fled to Turkey because they were going to kill me," he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper. "I want America to grant me asylum... I know a lot about Iran's terrorist actions, " he added.
An Iranian-born journalist, Roya Hakakian recorded his comments during an interview at the apartment building Mr Behbahani shared with other Iranian exiles in Turkey. But only he was guarded by the Turks -- by as many as five heavily armed policemen. He was not allowed out of the complex, nor were visitors allowed in to see him, including a 60 Minutes crew. In fact, Turkish intelligence and the local police didn't want 60 Minutes there at all. They showed up in waves to question the crew, and to stop the cameraman from taping near the refugee complex. To get around Turkish security, 60 Minutes asked its associate producer, Iranian-born Roya Hakakian, to sneak in to the refugee complex, dressed as an Iranian refugee.
Because everyone entering the complex is searched, she went in without a camera. Her conversation with Behbahani was not recorded. Behbahani explained to her that security was tight because the Turks believed Iranian agents were in the country -- with orders to kill him. Hakakian recounted that he said, "Well, you could very well be one of those; I personally posed as a reporter when I killed (leading dissident) Mr. (Abdolrahman) Ghassemlou in Vienna."
Mr Behbahani said he had until recently been responsible for all "terrorist" operations carried out by the Iranian government beyond its borders. He reportedly said these operations had included the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The CBS program makers were prevented by the Turkish authorities from recording an interview. However, Behbahani told them that he himself had first suggested the airliner bombing to Ahmad Jibril, who heads a radical Syrian-backed group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
Mr Behbahani said he had then brought into Iran a group of Libyans who underwent 90 days of training to prepare them to carry out the bombing, in coordination with Ahmad Jibril. Hakakian said Behbahani was very proud to also mention that the bomb was so sophisticated that it required such intensive training. The renewed allegations of Iranian involvement in the Lockerbie bombing coincide with the trial of two Libyans accused in the case, which is currently under way at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands.
The CIA had confirmed that the man was in Iranian intelligence, CBS’s 60 Minutes news programme said last night. Lesley Stahl, an editor for the programme, said the man had claimed in an interview to have orchestrated all Iran’s overseas assassinations and other major acts of terrorism over the past ten years."He told us about several different acts of terrorism that he says the government of Iran was not only involved in but directed, planned, financed," Stahl said. One of those acts was the bombing of Flight 103. After the defector was contacted by the network in a refugee camp in Turkey, Robert Baer, a terrorism specialist formerly at the CIA, was asked by CBS to test Behbahani’s credibility.
Speaking over a cell phone that had been smuggled into the refugee camp, Mr Baer asked what he described as a control question. The question was about the assassination of a Kurdish dissident. "He volunteered a name which I know, which the intelligence community knows to be behind the operation, and indeed he was correct about that name," Mr Baer said. "That name is not public. It’s absolutely not public." Behbahani claimed he had documents that could prove Iran orchestrated the Lockerbie bombing for which Libyan agents Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah are being tried under Scots law in the Netherlands.
Ms Stahl said Behbahani had claimed that Iran had hired the Libyans, brought them to Libya, trained them, the bomb was built in Libya and then they were sent off to perpetrate the crime. He had proposed the attack to Ahmed Jibril, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC). Under questioning by the defence in the Lockerbie trial, a Scottish detective, Gordon Ferrie, confirmed that the PFLP-GC was initially suspected in the bombing, but was later dropped as a suspect, for lack of evidence. A spokesman for the group has denied any involvement.
Mr Baer, who worked on the Pan Am 103 investigation for the CIA, said the agency initially thought the bombing was an Iranian operation, a response to the downing of an Iranian commercial airliner by the USS Vincennes in which 290 people died, 250 of them Iranian. Baer, who worked on the CIA's Lockerbie inquiry, told CBS: ''He's the only person that has tied Libya and Iran into Pan Am 103, into the Lockerbie bombing. This is the first authoritative source that I've ever heard that connected the two countries together. It was always a mystery.''
Baer said: "This changes it absolutely. This -- he is implicating two states in this operation. It will throw the whole prosecution's case into doubt and they would have to reopen the investigation based on his information. Rather than having two Libyan individuals on trial, we would have two countries on trial."
Explaining his flight from Iran, the defector said in the interview that he had lost out in a power struggle among Iran’s hard-liners and was arrested. He escaped four months ago to a refugee camp in central Turkey, where he was now living in a heavily guarded block of flats with other Iranian refugees facing the threat of assassination. On Behbahani, the producer said: ``I traced the tone of someone who was extremely bitter, and was willing to go to any lengths in order to get revenge. He had fallen out of favor with the Iranian officials, with the government of Iran, and he just wanted to get back at them, at any cost.''
Mr Baer said on 60 Minutes that if the defector’s story is onfirmed "it is a smoking gun" for the Clinton administration as it would mean that Iran had conducted numerous acts of war against the US and "the United States could not help but respond in some fashion. The [Clinton] administration would like to leave a legacy in the Middle East. It would at least like to move a little bit farther forward with Iran and Libya. That may, if he’s [the defector] real ... that would fall apart very quickly." Last night, the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, told CNN: "It’s an interesting report. We'll have to see it. The Pan Am 103 trial is going on now. I think it’s inappropriate to comment on the specifics of it."
Behbahani then offered to give 60 Minutes financial records and others documents that he said would prove Iran' involvement in Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist incidents. Hakakian tried to sneak in again to get the documents. But less than five minutes after the second clandestine meeting with him, Turkish authorities swept into the refugee camp and took him away. 60 Minutes believes he is now in Ankara, 150 miles away from the camp. As he was being taken away, he managed to get a message to 60 Minutes that he was afraid the Turks were going to send him back to Iran, where he fears he faces certain death.
At this point, 60 Minutes contacted a high-level official in Washington to ask what, if anything, they knew of Behbahani's status in Turkey. The answer was: absolutely nothing. Not only didn't they know he was in Turkey, they had never heard of him. According to a source, the CIA contacted MI-6, British Intelligence, which did know who Behbahani was. "How do you know?" the CIA asked. "You told us!" was the answer. When the CIA checked its files again, it confirmed that a man named Ahmed Behbahani orchestrated Iranian terrorism. Baer said if Behbahani is authentic, he would be the highest level defector to ever have come out of Iran.
The CIA station chief in Ankara and the U.S. ambassador contacted the Turkish government, which denied their requests for a meeting with Behbahani. The ambassador filed a formal protest. When asked why the Turks didn't want Behbahani to talk to the Americans, Baer said: "My opinion is the Turks (because) he knew so much -- wanted to clean him out first on information relating to Turkey. And then decide what to do with him." Behbahani came out with documents and, he told 60 Minutes, videotapes.
Baer said: "He has asked to air these documents and everything else on 60 Minutes. But we were prevented from taking those documents by the Turks." One of the things that points to Behbahani being at the very least a high-level Iranian official is the way the Turks guarded him before they took him away to Ankara. Baer said: "Since we've been here, we've been under surveillance in the hotel, walking around town. They've beefed up security at the refugee compound. It's clear that this man has something to say." He wanted to say it to 60 Minutes because, as he put it, he is suspicious of Washington.
Baer said, "His belief is that if he were to give these documents to the U.S. government, the U.S. government would bury them, because it would have to react to them." Baer said if Behbahani can prove what he is saying: "It is the smoking gun. He is claiming the government of Iran conducted war against the United States -- numerous acts of war and the United States could not help but respond in some fashion." Baer said this is the United States' worst nightmare, "especially for this administration," because: "The administration would like to leave a legacy in the Middle East. It would at least like to move a little bit farther forward with Iran and Libya. That may, if he's real that would fall apart very quickly."
Noting the power struggle between reformers and conservatives in Iran is having some benefits, with people fleeing and aching to talk, Baer said: "...If I were the CIA, I'd put two people on the border to monitor the refugees coming across." When reminded he himself has said that he is not sure that the U.S. government wants to know, Baer said: "Well, that's true. You caught me." When asked if that's why 60 Minutes was in Turkey first, Baer said: "I found it very strange that the U.S. government didn't know, and we found it first… just by showing up and asking questions."
CIA debriefers finally met with the defector for several hours on Friday and again on Saturday in Ankara to begin the process of determining his credibility and evaluating his evidence. Their verdict so far, conveyed to 60 Minutes by an official in Washington: he was in Iranian intelligence. They could not or would not tell 60 Minutes any more. As for the idea that the Clinton administration wants to look the other way, the official said, "The U.S. government wants to get to the truth of all terrorist incidents, and we don't have a deaf ear when people offer us credible information."
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  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."
60 Minutes-program about Pan Am 103 Trial from April 1999 (full transcript + pics) Website of CBS Original CBS story link, incl. Lockerbie Bombing Interactive page and sound/video files Motive: was American Pan Am 103 revenge for Iran Air Flight 655 ? Iranian News links
Extra background info:
Ahmed Behbahani has been mentioned in Western media several times the last few years. Below are some extracts from articles mentioning the Iranian terror chief:
Darius Bazargan and Igal Avidan , IRAN: MODERATE EU RESPONSE TO IRANIAN TERRORISM VERDICT . , Inter Press Service English News Wire, 04-15-1997:
"Planning and execution of terrorism "is coordinated within the Intelligence Section of the (Iranian) President's Office, a section established by (Iranian President) Rafsanjani when he became President, and directed by him," claimed a 1996 report by the London-based Parliamentary Human Rights Group entitled "Iran: State of Terror." "It is run by Ahmad Behbahani, a relative of the president, and designates the targets for assassination, as well as deciding which organ is to carry out the plot. "
Douglas Davis, Iran's terror: The finger is at Rafsanjani's door. , Jerusalem Post, 07-05-1996, pp 09:
"According to this structure, all proposals for terrorist attacks are initially endorsed and ultimately authorized by Rafsanjani himself. Approved proposals are then passed on to the Intelligence Section in the President's Office, a unit which was established by Rafsanjani and which coordinates all such operations. The daily functions of this unit are run by Ahmad Behbahani, a relative of Rafsanjani, who designates targets and, if approval is given, decides which state organ will execute a particular operation......Before orders are given to execute a plan, however, the feasibility of the operation is tested by the Ministry of Information and Security. If it passes this test, the plan is presented to the 15-man Supreme Security Council (SSC), headed by Rafsanjani, for final approval (see box).
After receiving SSC approval, authority for the operation reverts to Behbahani's Intelligence Section in the President's Office, which then passes on the task to the branch Behbahani has selected to execute the task: The Ministry of Information and Security, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, or both.
The head of the chosen branch, along with his logistics and operational chiefs, studies the plan. He then presents detailed requirements for the operation to Behbahani, who, in turn, consults with appropriate ministries and officials."
June, 2000 CBS NEWS One of the 189 Americans killed when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, just before Christmas 1988 was a CIA officer, reports CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv. A new book, by former Time correspondent Ted Gup, says 34-year-old Matthew Gannon, an Arabic-speaking CIA officer, was returning from an undercover mission in Beirut "to gather intelligence on a number of terrorist cells."
The Book Of Honor also reveals that Gannon's father-in-law, Tom Twetten, was director of covert operations at the CIA at the time who helped plan the air strikes on Tripoli. It's believed the Pan Am bombing was in retaliation for those raids. Now retired in Vermont, Twetten told CBS News he has assured himself the two Libyans on trial are the bombers "the right guys" but they probably didn't know a CIA operative was aboard the doomed jet.
"The agency maintains that identifying its casualties, even decades later, would endanger foreign nationals who may have provided the CIA with intelligence," writes Gup, a former Washington Post investigative reporter who now teaches journalism at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "But the oft-invoked argument wears thinner and thinner as the years wear on and bereaved families are asked to bear their losses in continued silence."