Robert Fisk: Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is dead. Now we'll never know the truth about Lockerbie

As a former Libyan intelligence officer, Megrahi's hands were dirty

Robert Fisk
Monday 21 May 2012 14:10 BST
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died two years and nine months after being released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died two years and nine months after being released from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds (Reuters)

So the old scoundrel has died. Midday Tripoli time, at his home, peacefully, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, after a long struggle with cancer, "bravely borne" no doubt. But "scoundrel", nonetheless, not because he arranged the Lockerbie bombing – many have the gravest doubts he ever did – but because he was a member of Gaddafi's intelligence services and no-one who served the Great Leader as a "mukhabarat" agent had clean hands. If he was wrongly convicted, what did he do in the service of his master? Cliché time: his secret dies with him.

Lawyers take a pragmatic view of all this. Up in Scotland, a bevy of solicitors who fought for Megrahi and believed others may have put the bomb on Pan Am flight 103, still keep their voluminous files on their now late client.

Identification – based on a photo of the "guilty" man which the court was not told about – was always a pretty dodgy piece of evidence upon which to convict Megrahi, even without the later revelation that the CIA were paying out cash and contaminating the integrity of a witness.

No, Megrahi's lawyers were preparing a file that delved into piles of German interrogations of young men who may really have planted the bomb on a flight from Frankfurt to connect with Pan Am 103 at Heathrow.

The Germans had gone a long way to establishing that a Lebanese killed in the airliner was driven to Frankfurt by unknown Lebanese militants, and that the bag containing the bomb was actually put on the baggage carousel for checking in by the passenger's Lebanese handler – who had been looking after him in Germany.

I've gone through these files and I long ago concluded that they were devastating. There was a Lebanese connection – probably a Palestinian one, too. And there was a press conference in Beirut held by Ahmed Jibril, head of the pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command in which Jibril (born Palestine 1938), suddenly blurted out – without ever having been accused of the atrocity – the imperishable words: "I'm not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They are trying to get me with a kangaroo court." Of course, there was no court, not then, just a bunch of pseudo-diplomats and journalists with too many "intelligence connections", who were fingering Syria for the Lockerbie crime.

Eventually, of course, all sides did well when the Scots decided that poor old Megrahi was going to kick the bucket within six months and might as well go home. To the mystification of his lawyers, Megrahi had forgone a judicial inquiry into his case in order to go back to Tripoli – and, as we now know, our Government was all too happy to see him off.

Wikileaks disclosed that British oil companies were more than keen to see the dying man shipped back to Tripoli to save their newly-acquired interests in Libya. The Americans were enraged – but not as enraged as they might have been if Megrahi's lawyers had been given the chance to tear the whole Lockerbie trial to bits.

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