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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack over Lockerbie in Scotland. 270 persons were killed by a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 in transit between London Heathrow and New York, just a few days before Christmas 1988. Today everyone involved knows that the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was based on a fraudulent mock trial. Thus, the investigators are now back to looking at the original suspects, the Palestinian terrorist organization PFLP-GC. That involves two Palestinians serving lifetime sentences in Sweden. But the trail has never been properly investigated, explains journalist Anders Carlgren, who has followed the scandal since it first began.
On the shortest day of the year, December 21st 1988, at 6:30 PM, the giant Pan Am jumbo jet took off from London Heathrow, destination New York. The plane, which had suffered an 18 minute delay, reached its cruise altitude of 10,000 meters over the tiny Scottish town of Lockerbie.
Then it blew up. Half a kilo of Semtex placed in a suitcase located in the front portside luggage compartment blew a hole of several square meters in the fuselage. 175,000 liters of jet fuel exploded, and tore Flight 103 to shreds. Only a dull bang was heard in the skies over Lockerbie, but soon afterwards 259 tattered bodies, Christmas presents and wreckage rained on the town, distributed over several square kilometers. The cockpit landed fairly intact on the ground. Eleven persons on the ground were killed as their houses were destroyed. A crater in the middle of town threw up around an estimated 1,500 tons of earth and building materials. Two Swedes were among those killed, the diplomat Bernt Carlsson and flight hostess Siv Engström.
It was the worst terrorist attack to date. Investigators spent a lot of time piecing together the wreckage in a makeshift hangar, and they soon found the remains of the bomb. A brown Samsonite suitcase had contained the bomb, which had been built into a Toshiba radio, detonated by a timer. The suitcase also contained clothes, which were traced to a shop in Malta.
The intention had been to blow up the airplane over the Atlantic, so that it would be buried there forever, but due to the delay at Heathrow, the bomb exploded over land.
Authorities soon pointed towards the Palestinian terrorist organization PFLP-GC, based in Syria, and its leader Ahmed Jibril. The attack on Pan Am was meant as revenge by Iran after the American warship USS Vincennes had mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus with 290 pilgrims on their way to Mecca. Ayatollah Khomeini said after the shooting that ”the sky must be raining blood”.
Just two months before the Lockerbie bombing, West German police had cracked down on a terrorist cell outside of Düsseldorf, apprehending 17 members of none other than PFLP-GC. The most important find was four Semtex bombs build into Toshiba radios.
But a fifth bomb had gone missing, and it turned out that it had been hidden by the bomb builder of the terrorist cell, Marwan Kreeshat. The legendary European correspondent for ABC News Pierre Salinger later interviewed Kreeshat in prison. In that interview Kreeshat said that he was convinced that it was precisely his bomb that had brought down Pan Am Flight 103. It is also documented that during the fall of 1988, great sums were transferred from Iran to the German terrorist cell, in several batches via a variety of Middle Eastern banks.
But the Palestinian-Iranian trail sudden went cold and non-existent in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. That invasion and the first Gulf war entirely changed the direction of the investigation, documentably at American request. During the preparation for the war, it was important to keep both Syria and Iran calm. The PFLP-GC was now entirely uninteresting and – unexpectedly – the rogue state Libya was pointed to as responsible for the act. The United Nations complied with a request to impose extensive sanctions against Libya.
One of the persons no longer under investigation was the Swedish-Palestinian Mohammed Abu Talb, then a resident of Uppsala. He had entered Sweden on a false passport. Abu Talb probably had ties to the German terrorist cell, as he and three other Swedish-Palestinians repeatedly traveled to places like Frankfurt and Munich. Abu Talb had a background as chief of bodyguard forces in Lebanon and in Syria, and in the Soviet Union he had received training in handling targeting robots.
Today many investigators and relatives of victims are convinced that Abu Talb obtained the fifth Semtex bomb and had it loaded onto the airplane in Frankfurt, where Pan Am 103 had begun its route. It was determined that the bomb-containing suitcase had been loaded without belonging to any passenger.
Three years before the Lockerbie bombing, in 1985, Abu Talb along with three Palestinian co-conspirators were behind the bombing of a synagogue in Copenhagen and similar bombs against airplane companies in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, both of which caused much death and destruction.
In May 1989 the four terrorists were apprehended in Sweden, and December 21st, one year after Lockerbie, Mohammed Abu Talb and Marten Imandi were sentenced to life prison. The two others received significantly milder punishments.
Investigations showed that Abu Talb had been in Malta during the fall of 1988, and that Marten Imandi had stayed in Malta for a longer period. In the Uppsala home of Abu Talb, police also found a calendar with a circle around December 21st. And in a recorded wiretap , the Abu Talb’s wife was heard saying to someone else: ”get rid of the clothes immediately.” A suitcase similar to the one holding the bomb was found at that person’s residence.
Both Abu Talb and Marten Imandi are now free after having had their life sentences converted. Abu Talb was also sentenced to deportation, but is nevertheless still in Sweden, as the government cannot decide which country he is to be deported to – Egypt, Syria or Lebanon. He has repeatedly applied to have his deportation cancelled, most recently last year, but his application was turned down every time. Marten Imandi, however, cannot be deported, as he is a Swedish citizen.
But this Swedish trail to the Lockerbie bombing has never been followed to the end, after the US and Great Britain surprisingly pointed to Libya as the guilty party. After many long and hard negotiations, Moammar Gadaffi agreed to turn over two Libyans to a special Scottish court located at an old military base in the Netherlands. After two rounds of mock trial, one of them, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, was convicted to 27 years of prison. Gadaffi paid 2.7 billion dollars to the relatives of the victims. The sanctions were lifted, and in return, Great Britain obtained profitable oil contracts. Al Megrahi was returned to Libya in 2009, where he died later from prostate cancer.
We know today that the owner of the shop in Malta, Tony Gauci, who sold the clothes found in the bomber’s suitcase, lied when he pointed out Al Megrahi in a confrontation; he had been shown a picture of Al Megrahi in advance. We also know that Tony Gauci received two million dollars from the US for testifying in the two mock trials. There are many other errors and repeatedly changing explanations in his testimony.
Abu Talb was also forced to testify during the trials, but he denied any kind of involvement, and claimed that he had been babysitting in Uppsala at the time. That alibi, however, has never been verified.
A year ago, Scottish newspapers published an 800-page report of he investigation from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which had been classified since 2007. The report pointed out extensive lying, fraud, perjury, bought witnesses and other mistakes during the legal process.
Mohammed Abu Talb and his terrorist associates in Sweden and Germany do not enjoy immunity from the Scottish authorities. Therefore there are good reasons to resume investigation of the Swedish-Palestinian trail.
Länk till Dispatch International, där artikeln finns i både svensk och engelsk version. http://www.d-intl.com/?lang=sv
Uppdatering den 17 februari 2013: Den skotske professorn i juridik, Robert Black, har på sin sajt lagt upp större delen av denna artikel. http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.se/
Professsor Black är en av de mest vederhäftiga kritikerna av hela Lockerbieskandalen. Ironiskt nog var han en av arkitekterna bakom upprättandet av domstolen i Kamp van den Zeist i Holland som dömde Abdelbaset Al Megrahi. Därefter tog Robert Black kraftigt avstånd från hur de båda rättegångarna genomfördes. Han har också skrivit en lång rad artiklar om fallet.