Defector: Iran Planned Pan Am 103

June 4, 2000 CBS NEWS + REUTERS An Iranian defector claiming to have run Iran's terrorism program told CBS News 60 Minutes that Iran planned and financed the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, in which 270 people died. 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl's report will air on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

According to a statement from CBS, the CIA began debriefing the man, who claims to be Ahmad Behbahani, the coordinator of Iran's overseas acts of terrorism for at least the past decade, after 60 Minutes interviewed him and checked his story with administration officials in Washington. He is now in protective custody in Turkey. Intelligence officers who have debriefed the man tell 60 Minutes he is "in intelligence," but say nothing more. Stahl told CBS Radio that Behbahani claims to have orchestrated all Iran's overseas assassinations and major acts of terrorism over the past ten years, until about four months ago.

``Among the things he told '60 Minutes' was that it was not the Libyans but the Iranians who masterminded and financed the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. He says he has documents that can prove it.''

"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. Behbahani claims he has documents that can prove Iran orchestrated the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, for which alleged Libyan agents Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima are being tried by Scottish judges in a Netherlands courtroom. "He says that Iran 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," Stahl said.

Defense lawyers for the two Libyans have made clear they intend to cast suspicion on a Palestinian group as the party responsible for the bombing. Under questioning by the defense, Scottish detective Gordon Ferrie confirmed in court that a Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist group was initially suspected in the bombing, but was later dropped as a suspect, for lack of evidence. A spokesman for that group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, is denying any involvement.

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper has reported that a British public relations firm working for the Libyan government is looking for Israeli intelligence officers to testify for the defense, and place the blame on Palestinian terror groups. Iran vowed the skies would ``rain blood'' after the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air flight in July 1988, killing 290. It was widely assumed at first that Tehran ordered the destruction of the Pan Am airliner with Syrian-sponsored help.

Background info:
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 files Motive: was American Pan Am 103 revenge for Iran Air Flight 655 ?

Extra background info:
The above mentioned Ha´aretz article is from May 3, 2000. I was not aware of the article until today.