CIA telegrams were kept secret, claims Lockerbie lawyer

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The Independent Online

Defence lawyers for the Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing protested yesterday after they were denied full access to crucial American intelligence papers.

Defence lawyers for the Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing protested yesterday after they were denied full access to crucial American intelligence papers.

The 25 telegrams written by Central Intelligence Agency officers cover interviews 14 years ago with a Libyan double agent, Abdul Majid Razkaz Salam Giaka, who has emerged as a significant prosecution witness.

Bill Taylor the counsel for Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, complained yesterday he had only seen edited versions of the cables, even though the prosecution had seen full copies of the documents.

His protests delayed the resumption of the trial as it reopened at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands yesterday after a three week summer break.

Mr Giaka worked with the two accused, Mr Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, as an assistant manager at Libyan Arab Airlines at Luqa airport in Malta in 1986. He was, allegedly, a Libyan intelligence officer but had contacted the CIA and agreed to become an "asset", using his airline job as a cover.

Mr Giaka is alleged to have crucial evidence about the role of the accused in planning and carrying out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, on 21 December 1988. The bomb killed all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

Mr Giaka, who has been living in the United States under a witness protection scheme, is due to give evidence this week but Mr Taylor told the court yesterday that the prosecution had had unfair access to the CIA telegrams. He said the Crown had given the defence censored versions of the documents, and had been told "formally and informally" that both sides had seen the same material. But he had since learnt that Alan Turnbull, for the prosecution, had seen unedited versions of the documents.

This, Mr Taylor said, meant the position was "radically different". He quoted the European Convention on Human Rights, now incorporated into Scottish law, which meant the disparity impeded the accused's right to a fair trial. He said: "A fair hearing requires that the prosecution disclose to the defence all material evidence for or against the accused."

Colin Boyd, the Lord Advocate and Scotland's chief prosecutor, said the edited words related to methods of intelligence gathering, codenames, locations and so on. He said: "What is taken out are all matters which relate to the national security interests of the US and to the security and safety of individuals." He did not have the authority to release the unedited documents, he said.

Mr Megrahi, 48, and Mr Fhimah, 44, have plead not guilty to charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act.

* A man who lost his parents and sister in the Lockerbie crash died after being struck by a train. Stephen Flannigan, 26, was hit on Friday as he walked home in Heywood, Wiltshire, and later died in hospital.