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On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet carrying 243 passengers and 16 crew members, took off from Heathrow Airport in Britain, bound for New York.
May 20, 2012 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60. [NYTimes.com] Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, has died in Libya, family members told news agencies on Sunday, nearly three years after Scotland released him on humanitarian grounds, citing evidence that he was near death with metastatic prostate cancer. He was 60.
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, he wasn't lying about dropping dead, so there's that.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on May 20, 2012


This article makes it clear what a politicized hash was made of the Lockerbie investigation.
posted by mhoye at 11:23 AM on May 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


I guess it's some measure of comfort to realize that "humanitarian grounds" can be used to release someone from prison who showed no interest in looking at humanitarian grounds with the violence he committed.

That's truly a sign of a mature society, I think.

Other than that bit of solace, this man gets no . from me.
posted by hippybear at 11:40 AM on May 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Word, hippybear. On all three points.
posted by zardoz at 11:44 AM on May 20, 2012


Well, it may have been a cop-out to allow them to let him go (and cosy up to Gadaffi, who was playing nice at the time) and a bit of a weasely admission that he was fitted up for Lockerbie. Of course, maybe he wasn't, or maybe he was a spy but not involved. It's all deeply murkey.
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on May 20, 2012


everyone should read mhoye's link before commenting
posted by moorooka at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Scotland released him on humanitarian grounds

Not humanitarian grounds, BP oil grounds. BP signed a billion dollar oil deal with Gaddafi.

"The company has confirmed it did press the UK government for a PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement) with Libya because it was aware that a delay might have "negative consequences" for UK commercial interests. However, it has said it did not express a view about the specific form of the agreement which was a matter for the UK and Libyan governments."

In other words, just do whatever necessary to get the oil deal done.
posted by JackFlash at 12:01 PM on May 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


A boy was lying at the bottom of the steps on to the road. A young laddie with brown socks and blue trousers on. Later that evening my son-in-law asked for a blanket to cover him. I didn't know he was dead. I gave him a lamb's wool traveling rug thinking I'd keep him warm. Two more girls were lying dead across the road, one of them bent over garden railings. It was just as though they were sleeping. The boy lay at the bottom of my stairs for days. Every time I came back to my house for clothes he was still there. "My boy is still there," I used to tell the waiting policeman. Eventually on Saturday I couldn't take it no more. "You got to get my boy lifted," I told the policeman. That night he was moved.

Fuck this guy. May his assigned demon in hell never get bored.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Previously,on the evidence used to convict al-Megrahi.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2012


.

Magrahi was innocent.

See my fpp on this subject. Seriously, watch the videos, get the private-eye lockerbie special (it can be obtained online for free if you look for it).

From the fpp:

Five years ago the SCCRC produced a still unreleased report saying there were 6 grounds for Magrahi to appeal his conviction, which he was planning to do before he was released on compassionate grounds. The report is so secret that even the Scottish Justice secretary has not been allowed to see the it.

Seriously, read Robert Black QC FRSE, (who is often referred to as the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands) blog.

From Magrahi's wikipedia page:

"The deputy head of the US embassy in London, Frank LeBaron, wrote in a letter to the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond stating that the US believed al-Megrahi should remain in prison for his role in downing Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, and continued: "Nevertheless, if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose." This same letter stressed the importance to America of a 3-months prognosis, despite it not being a legal requirement in Scotland: "any such release should only come after the results of independent and comprehensive medical exams clearly establishing that Megrahi's life expectancy is less than three months"."

I really cannot believe people still think Magrahi was guilty. I mean you seriously think the US government acted with integrity and honesty on this one subject when you shurely know they don't/didn't on many many others. Magrahi was sent down becaus ethe USA wanted him sent down.

Also watch "The Maltese double cross" (on youtube). The Pan Am plane was most likely blown up as retaliation for the USS Vicennes blowing up an Iranian passenger airliner several months before.
posted by marienbad at 12:25 PM on May 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


.

I don't think it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he did it.

From mhoye's link: Al-Megrahi is reported as saying that he has evidence, which will be revealed on his death, that will prove his innocence.

That could be interesting.
posted by motty at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2012


Yeah, I believe at least one of the Lockerbie victim's parents believe he was innocent.
posted by Decani at 12:28 PM on May 20, 2012


From mhoye's link: Al-Megrahi is reported as saying that he has evidence, which will be revealed on his death, that will prove his innocence.

I wouldn't be holding my breath on that.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jackflash, please learn the difference between the Scottish government and the UK government and that way you'll avoid unwittingly smearing the Scottish government with the antics of the UK government. Thanks.
posted by Flitcraft at 1:05 PM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


So he's dead huh.

Boo fucking hoo.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:22 PM on May 20, 2012


Needs burninhell tag.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:25 PM on May 20, 2012


I'd give him a

?

...as neither a . nor a burninhell seem appropriate, give the questionable nature of his role in Lockerby.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, not even the NYT article makes a very strong case for this guy being involved.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:33 PM on May 20, 2012


I guess it's some measure of comfort to realize that "humanitarian grounds" can be used to release someone from prison who showed no interest in looking at humanitarian grounds with the violence he committed.

That's truly a sign of a mature society, I think.



Except it's highly likely that Reagan pinned it on him to avoid admitting that Iran got revenge for our shoot down of an Iranian airliner.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:33 PM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


marienbad, thanks for the link to your previous post, which I missed the first time around. I'm looking forward to reading through this.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:38 PM on May 20, 2012


Sorry, Flitcraft, but the Scottish government was deeply complicit in whatever dodgy deal was struck between London and Tripoli. See Malise Ruthven's article Deception over Lockerbie?, which explores the political background to Megrahi's release.
posted by verstegan at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs burninhell tag.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:25 PM on May 20 [+] [!]


Anti-eponysterical?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:48 PM on May 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Perhaps all we really learn from this is that prostate cancer is a very slow growing disease.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:06 PM on May 20, 2012


I'm not a fan of the (then- and) current Scottish government, but it is difficult to see how the decision to release Megrahi could have crossed the party-political firebreak as well as traversing the rather decoupled bureaucracies of the two governments and parliaments. It is important to remember that foreign policy is a reserved matter. Neither the Scottish nor the UK governments come out of the matter smelling of roses, but it is important to distinguish the musky whiff of lobbying emanating from Westminster from the sharper tang of expediency one can detect near Holyrood.

Did the British government push hard for the arrangement that came about? Possibly. But that is pure speculation and I suspect we'll have to wait.

This is a good time to move on, unless there are actual suspects out there that can be brought before a court where they have a realistic prospect of conviction, or there are more general issues with the Scottish legal system that need to be addressed.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2012


Sorry Verstegan but those claims have been discussed before and that article is just the same old red herrings again.

To save repeating myself my previous posts are here and here about the prisoner transfer agreement and the Sikora claims.
posted by Flitcraft at 2:24 PM on May 20, 2012


I'd give him a

?

...as neither a . nor a burninhell seem appropriate, give the questionable nature of his role in Lockerby.


Hear, hear. It's a terrible tragedy, but we might not know the truth to it yet, or ever. Condemnation is worthy for a guilty man, but we can't be sure if or what al-Megrahi is guilty of.

Such a mess.
posted by Jehan at 2:26 PM on May 20, 2012


I should also have added this post
posted by Flitcraft at 2:28 PM on May 20, 2012


He must've been guilty! He was convicted, just like Carlos DeLuna!

I once served on a jury in a murder case. We hung 8-4 for conviction based on identity issues (a few years before DNA evidence came into regular use, I spent some time parsing some complicated blood sample evidence before coming to the conclusion that he was the guy getting beat up over there, while the guy with the gun was over HERE). After it was all over, the Assistant DA admitted to a group of jurors that the 'eyewitness' evidence was bad but they prosecuted him anyway, hoping to get him to roll over on his brother, who they REALLY suspected. Instead, he told a tall tale about a 'cousin' on the stand, which the DA tore apart at the retrial, and he was convicted.

If ever allowed on a jury again, I will assume innocence (which will probably ensure I will never get on a jury again).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:55 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


After it was all over, the Assistant DA admitted to a group of jurors that the 'eyewitness' evidence was bad but they prosecuted him anyway...

That story strains credulity, as the ADA's statement to you is an admission of malfeasance. And he's just shooting the breeze with jurors, casually dropping notes that could land him in prison? That just doesn't line up. That's a bad episode of Law & Order.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:23 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be holding my breath on that.

Oh me neither.

Much material already in the public domain sheds serious doubt on the conviction.

The problems with the initial investigation, the forensic evidence and the inconclusive, contradictory statements of the Maltese shirt salesman who was given $2 million by the US government for his trouble are all discussed in the Peirce article linked above (via well known woo-woo conspiracy theory merchants the London Review of Books). There's also the conclusion of Hans Köchler, the Austrian UN observer, that the initial verdict of guilt was 'inconsistent' and that the failure of Megrahi's appeal was a 'spectacular miscarriage of justice'.

Despite all this nothing is happening. It's hard to imagine what else could possibly be revealed that would change anything.

Still, as this thread makes clear, there are still plenty of people around who are quite happy to see any arbitrary brown-skinned Muslim with a beard get convicted of anything at all whether there exists credible evidence that they did it or not.

Plenty of others are pretty convinced there is a major miscarriage of justice going on.
posted by motty at 4:20 PM on May 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


> Still, as this thread makes clear, there are still plenty of people around who are quite happy to see any arbitrary brown-skinned Muslim with a beard get convicted of anything at all whether there exists credible evidence that they did it or not.

It's definitely reminiscent of threads about Al-Awlaki. Same clueless people dropping the same ill-considered babble as if they know anything deeper than what they read in Time.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:52 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A relative of mine - a Lockerbie resident - was killed on the ground. When the lurch to "IT WAS LIBYA!" happened years after the event, everyone knew it was a fit up. Al Megrahi didn't do it - read the Private Eye collection of articles as suggested above - they were fairly contemporaneous, and right on point.

Also, Gareth Peirce (from mhoyes's linked article) is unbelievable. Read that article.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 6:08 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's definitely reminiscent of threads about Al-Awlaki. Same clueless people dropping the same ill-considered babble as if they know anything deeper than what they read in Time.

You mean Anwaer Al Awlaki, former head of Al Quesda in Yemen? this Al-Awaki? No mate, not in the slightest bit similar. Kindly take your hobby horse elsewhere.
posted by Artw at 6:19 PM on May 20, 2012


Criminal cases are ultimately about creating a narrative that is consistent with the data. Conflicting information doesn't necessarily weaken the case as a whole; we accept that our sources of knowledge are not perfect and that the narrative may not actually be what happened. The narrative is, in a way, a framework for presenting facts to the jury.(*) It would be quite possible for a juror to reject the entire narrative and base his or her entire judgment on the demeanor of the accused.

I frankly think Megrahi was guilty. The narrative supporting his conviction is far more plausible than the suggested alternatives, and Megrahi's behavior and the behavior of Libya's government after the conviction indicate a consciousness of guilt. I don't know whether the bombing happened the way the prosecutors argued, but that isn't the question. The question is whether he was responsible. And on that matter, I am persuaded.

(*) Or judge, or other trier of fact.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:13 PM on May 20, 2012


In the documentary, the Ollie North connection with behind-the-scenes Libya policy in the Reagan administration was pretty interesting. I would have liked to have heard more about that.
posted by carter at 8:46 PM on May 20, 2012


I find the push to exonerate Megrahi (and by extension, Gaddafi) from the Lockerbie bombing rather unconvincing. Mostly because Gaddafi most definitely was behind the very similar bombing of UTA 772, less than one year after Lockerbie. Also, Libya later accepted responsability for both bombings.

Anyway, I was thinking about Lockerbie quite recently, because I just started reading "The Black Swan", which, a few pages into the book, is already irritating me enormously. One of the things that has irritated me is that Taleb calls 9/11 a "Black Swan" event, not just unpredictable but even "inconceivable" before the fact. Now, that is bollocks: not only was there advance notice of AQ schemes to hit within the US, but there had already been a thwarted attempt to fly a hijacked airliner into a landmark building in the middle of a major city.

Lockerbie, on the other hand, truly was a Black Swan. The terrorists intended Flight 103 to blow up over the Atlantic. Instead, fate made it explode over a Scottish village. This had several major unintended consequences:
a) Firstly, it gave the attack a much bigger emotional impact than intended. If things had gone as planned, Flight 103 would have just been a disappearing radar blip in the middle of the ocean for most people other than the direct friends and relatives of the victims. Instead, pictures of debris, destruction, corpses and shredded human remains were beamed all over the planet. We cannot underestimate how much the emotions this unleashed have influenced subsequent historical events.
b) Secondly, it left evidence that would otherwise have been swallowed by the ocean. We may argue about how carefully the investigation was carried out, but without this, there would hardly have been an investigation at all. Most people are still puzzled about what happened to Itavia 870, for instance.
c) Thirdly, the devastation it unintendedly brought onto Lockerbie was duly noted by other wannabe terrorists, which surely led them to start pondering on the use of airliners as air-ground missiles. There's thus a straight line from Lockerbie to 9/11.
posted by Skeptic at 2:46 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I frankly think Megrahi was guilty. The narrative supporting his conviction is far more plausible than the suggested alternatives, and Megrahi's behavior and the behavior of Libya's government after the conviction indicate a consciousness of guilt. I don't know whether the bombing happened the way the prosecutors argued, but that isn't the question. The question is whether he was responsible. And on that matter, I am persuaded.
In your Gut?
posted by fullerine at 3:00 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my gut as well as my head.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:06 AM on May 21, 2012


scrbd link to Private Eye Special Report: Lockerbie - The Flight From Justice.
posted by adamvasco at 4:14 AM on May 21, 2012


Wow, did anyone on here who is hating on Magrahi actually bother to watch any of the docs I posted? Or read any of the articles posted by others?

All the people here saying "Burn in hell Magrahi" and similar, I take it you know more about the case than the Scottisch Criminal Cases Review Commisiion then, as they publishes a massive report that investigated every aspect of it.

Also, in the Maltese Double Cross film, the head of Security at BA states "I have seen the passenger and loading manifests for the Air Malta flight, there were no unnaccompanied bags on that plane" and so does the PI who was hired by Pan Am to investigate it.

If there was no unnaccompanied bag on the Air Malta Flight it would have been immpossible for Magrahi to have done it. This is the crux of the matter - the stuff that happened in Malta.

Watch the docs, read my previous post. Seriously, you have been sold a lemon by the American government and you have swallowed it whole.
posted by marienbad at 4:22 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of mefi's more acidic members like lemons.
posted by adamvasco at 4:49 AM on May 21, 2012


"Humanitarian Grounds" = This guy is debilitated, no danger to anyone, and why should our tax dollars foot his medical bills? Send him off to die.

Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour, (R) is an avowed practitioner of this fiscally sound tactic.
posted by Renoroc at 7:34 AM on May 21, 2012


All the people here saying "Burn in hell Magrahi" and similar, I take it you know more about the case than the Scottisch Criminal Cases Review Commisiion then, as they publishes a massive report that investigated every aspect of it.

Quoted for truth. An independent, government commission with no connection to any of the political needs that drove any part of this concluded that the case should be reopened because there were serious indicators that there was a miscarriage of justice.

The dead giveaway would have been the trial was held in Belgium on a US Military base. Why?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:04 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, technically, it was actually a former U.S. military base (in the Netherlands), and that was agreed between Gadaffi and Westminster...

The more interesting fact around the Camp Zeist trial is that the guy who came up with it was Robert Black QC [Chair in Scots Law at Edinburgh]. He was born, raised, and educated in Lockerbie (and nearby Dumfries). He was also pushing for the appeal:
In an interview with The Scotsman on 1 November 2005 Professor Black said Megrahi's conviction was "the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years." He vowed to continue his fight to have the case brought back to the appeal courts. "I have written about this and nobody is interested," Black said. "Every lawyer who has ... read the judgment says 'this is nonsense'. It is nonsense. It really distresses me; I won't let it go."
Now, sometimes people do pull a Pauling in their area of expertise, but it should definitely provide pause for thought. Especially, as if he isn't guilty then those who were got away with it; aided and abetted in part by those who pushed the verdict through with dodgy evidence and testimony. It may be that he was guilty, but method matters, not just results.
posted by titus-g at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2012


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