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Lockerbie: 'Experts,' Mysterious Timer
[Analysis] Investigation clouded by accusations of planted evidence
Ludwig De Braeckeleer (ludwig)     Print Article 
Published 2007-07-10 12:02 (KST)   
"Megrahi셲 verdict is the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years. Every lawyer who has taken the trouble to read the judgment of the trial court says 'this is nonsense', and it is nonsense. It really distresses me. I will not let it go." --
Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh University, architect of the Pan Am 103 trial held in Zeist under Scots Law
In the months following the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, someone discovered a piece of a grey Slalom-brand shirt in a wooded area located about 25 miles away from the town. According to a forensics expert, the cloth contained a tiny fragment -- 4 mm square -- of a circuit board. The testimony of three expert witnesses allowed the prosecutors to link this circuit board, described as part of the bomb trigger, to Megrahi.

This version of events, which was accepted by the three judges who convicted Megrahi of murder at the Zeist trial in January 2001, raises at least four different issues.

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Firstly, the circumstances of the discovery of the board are uncertain. Secondly, and the point is crucial, the circuit board twice miraculously changed color in between the time of its discovery and the day it was presented at the trial. Thirdly, none of the experts is trustworthy in the light of past experiences. Last and not least, a former CIA agent and a Scottish policeman have told the defence and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC] that the evidence had been planted by the CIA.

The Discovery of the Timer Fragment

There have been different accounts concerning the discovery of the timer fragment. A police source close to the investigation reported that it had been discovered by lovers. Others have said that it was picked up by a man walking his dog. In the end, the official version, as presented by a former investigator, claims that it was found by a policeman "combing the ground on his hands and knees."

According to documents obtained by the Scotland on Sunday, the entry of the discovery is recorded at widely different times by UK and German investigators. Moreover, a new page has been inserted in the record of evidence.

According to statements made by the persons who found them, the manual of the Toshiba radio in which the bomb is said to have been located, as well as the babygro in which the radio was wrapped were recovered intact. During the trial, they were shown in pieces. Explosive experts have long pointed out that the patterns of the damage made by the bomb were inconsistent with the alleged location.

The Circuit Board Miraculously Changes Color

Forensic analysis of the circuit board fragment allowed the investigators to identify its origin. The timer, known as MST-13, is fabricated by a Swiss Company named Mebo, which stands for Meister and Bollier. The company has indeed sold 20 MST-13 timers to Libyan military.

Twice before the trial, Bollier was invited by the Scottish police to examine the fragment. On the first occasion, he immediately pointed out that the brown color of the board indicates that the device was experimental and that it had never been commercialized and could not have been delivered to Libya. On the second occasion, he was shown a green fragment board similar to those he had sold to Libya.

Finally, at the trial, Bollier was presented a fragment of a circuit board completely burnt down. As he requested to explain the significance of the issue, Lord Shuterland told him that his request was denied.

Expert Witnesses?

Three self described experts have helped the prosecutors to link the timer to Megrahi. Dr Thomas Hayes and Allan Feraday work at the DERA Forensic laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent. Thomas Thurman worked at the FBI explosive forensics laboratory.

Dr Hayes was employed at the Royal Armament Research Development Establishment (RARDE). In 1995, RARDE was subsumed into the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). In 2001, part of DERA became the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Dr Hayes testified that he collected the tiny fragment of the circuit board on May 12, 1989. He testified that the fragment was green. His colleague, Alan Feraday, confirmed his story.

The record is inserted on a loose-leaf page with the subsequent pages re-numbered by hand. What is more, the index number he gave to the piece is higher than some entry he made three months later. At the young age of 43, Hayes resigned just a few months after the discovery of the timer fragment.

Based on the forensic Dr Hayes had supplied, an entire family [The Maguire seven] was sent to jail in 1976. They were acquitted in appeal in 1992. Sir John May was appointed to review Dr. Hayes forensic evidence.

"The whole scientific basis on which the prosecution in [the trial of the alleged IRA Maguire Seven] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone, the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the conviction," said Sir john May.

In the Megrahi셲 case, Dr Hayes did not even perform the basic test which would have established the presence of explosive residue on the sample. During the trial, he maintained that the fragment was too small while it is factually established that his laboratory has performed such test on smaller samples.

Dr Alan Feraday셲 reputation is hardly better. In three separate cases where men were convicted on the basis of his forensic evidence, the initial ruling was overturned in appeal. After one of these cases in 2005, a Lord of Justice said that Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in the field of electronics.

In October 2005, Dr Hans Kochler, one of the international observers at the Lockerbie trial, issued a report regarding Feraday셲 grave misgivings.

"The credibility of a key forensic expert in the trial, Mr. Alan Feraday, has been shattered. It was revealed that in three separate cases, men against whom Mr. Feraday gave evidence have now had their convictions overturned. In the first case where Mr. Feraday's credibility had been questioned the Lord Chief Justice had stated that Mr. Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in electronics.

According to forensic scientist, Dr Michael Scott, who was interviewed in the documentary "The Maltese Double Cross -- Lockerbie", Feraday has no formal qualifications as a scientist.

Thomas Thurman worked for the FBI forensics laboratory in the late 80s and most of the 90s. Thurman has been publicly credited for identifying the fragment as part of a MST_13 timer produced by the Swiss company Mebo.

Again, his record is far from pristine. The U.S. attorney general has accused him of having altered lab reports in a way that rendered subsequent prosecutions all but impossible. He has been transferred out the FBI forensic laboratory.

The story shed some light on his formation. The report says "Williams and Thurman merit special censure for their work. It recommends that Thurman, who has a degree in political science, be reassigned outside the lab and that only scientists work in its explosives section."

Was the Evidence Planted?

It has long been rumored that a senior former Scottish officer, who has worked at the highest level of the Lockerbie inquiry, has signed a statement in which he claims that evidence has been planted. UK media have now confirmed the story. Thus, the Scottish officer has now confirmed an allegation previously made by a former CIA agent.

If Not the Libyan, Then Who?

As I consider beyond belief that a three year U.S.-UK joint investigation could not uncover a single shred of authentic evidence linking Megrahi to the bombing, I have little choice but to conclude, as many have suspected over the years, that an innocent man is serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail.

The conclusion has profound effects as it also implies that UN sanctions may have been wrongly imposed over a nation for almost a decade. It also means that the culprits of this odious act of terror have escaped justice.

"Western intelligence had indisputable evidence that the Iranians were, in July 1988, planning to attack aircraft. We were aware that an Iranian from the Iranian National Revolutionary Guard corps went to a Palestinian camp outside Beirut where he met Dalkamoni. It was grade A intelligence. It doesn't get any better... Two days after Lockerbie, there was a transfer payment of $11 million dollars," CIA Middle East specialist Robert Baer says.

Craig Murray, a former UK Ambassador confirms the story.

"From late 1989 to 1992, I was the Head of the Maritime Section of the FCO and No 2 in the Aviation and Maritime Department (for those into FCO arcane, the Maritime Section was headed by a Grade 5 First Secretary and the Aviation Section by a Grade 6 First Secretary). This was the period of the invasion of Kuwait and first Gulf War, in which the Maritime Section, including me, mostly got picked up and deposited in an underground bunker as the FCO part of the similar to those he had sold to Libya Embargo Surveillance Centre. We did intelligence analysis on Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement and organized interdiction worldwide.

In this period I mostly lived in my underground bunker, quite literally, and didn't get back to the FCO much to keep an eye on the rest of my section. On one occasion when I did, I was told something remarkable by a colleague in Aviation section.

At this time we suddenly switched from blaming Iran and Syria for the Lockerbie bombing to blaming Libya. This was part of a diplomatic drive to isolate Iraq from its neighbors in the run-up to the invasion. Aviation section were seeing all the intelligence on Lockerbie, for obvious reasons. A colleague there told me, in a deeply worried way, that he/she had the most extraordinary intelligence report which showed conclusively that it was really Syria, not Libya, that bombed the Pan Am jet, and that the switch was pure expediency.

I asked if I could see the report, and my colleague declined, saying this was too sensitive and dangerous; the report was marked for named eyes only. That in itself was extremely unusual -- normally we would pass intelligence reports freely to each other, signing the register for them. That is all I know."

In the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing, journalists widely reported that the act of terror had been carried out by a Syria based Palestinian group hired by Iran to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian civil airliner by a U.S. warship a few months earlier.

"This line of inquiry persisted until April 1989, when a phone call from President Bush senior to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned her not to proceed with it. A year later, British and U.S. armed forces prepared for an attack on Saddam Hussein's occupying forces in Kuwait. Their coalition desperately needed troops from an Arab country. These were supplied by Syria, which promptly dropped out of the frame of Lockerbie suspects. Libya, not Syria or Iran, mysteriously became the suspect country," wrote Paul Foot in The Guardian on March 31, 2004.

Incidentally, the man who has been the prime suspect since day one could still face charge. Contrary to a widely held belief, he has not been granted immunity from prosecution. "Mohamad Abu Talb could still face charge with mass murder," the Crown Office has just confirmed.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer

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