Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Update on Lockerbie.

In the latest Al-Jazeera documentary on the Lockerbie bombing a former Iranian intelligence officer was interviewed. Abolghassem Mesbahi claims that Tehran decided to retaliate against the US after the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988.  As an intelligence officer Mesbahi answered to President Rafsanjani and claimed Ayatollah Khomeini backed the plan to avenge Flight 655. The civilian airliner was mistaken for an F14 Tomcat about to attack and shot down over the Persian Gulf and 290 people died. Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein reported back in 1988: "A pair of binoculars could have told the officers of the Vincennes what was flying overhead. But binoculars don’t cost half a billion dollars. The more complex the weaponry, the deeper the pork barrel and the more swollen the bottom line." It was in December 1988 that Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

It seems plausible. In 1996 the Clinton administration cut a deal with President Rafsanjani to compensate the families of the victims with payments of over $200,000 per passenger amounting to more than $60 million. A part of the deal was that the US government did not apologise nor admit any responsibility for what it maintains was a 'mistake'. The Iranian government has consistently disputed this claim. Al-Jazeera interviewed Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, who claims that the Iranians turned to a free-lance Palestinian group to take down five planes. The group in question has been named by various sources as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC for short). The main problem is that we may never know the full truth as the trial of al-Megrahi was clearly so flawed. It's doubtful that there will be any retrospective investigation.

Al-Jazeera has covered this subject before. In 2011 the channel gave a platform to Scottish defence investigator George Thomson, who claims that the forensic evidence against al-Megrahi was "inaccurate" and may have been contaminated. In 2012 Al-Jazeera interviewed al-Megrahi on his deathbed and revealed that the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission had re-examined the case and had recommended it be referred back to the courts. I've covered this story myself on and off since 2009 when al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds to the outrage of the US hawks and their British sycophants. I first came across the claims in an article by John Pilger, which I drew heavily on in my early writing on this subject. Since then a lot has transpired in Libya, the Gaddafi regime disintegrated before a NATO onslaught and the country now seems to be rapidly descending into anarchy.

After Al-Jazeera released its documentary the BBC, the Independent, the Daily Mail, and the Telegraph, have given the claims coverage. With both Gaddafi and al-Megrahi in the ground it may be time for a serious reflection on what went on in 1988 and how the Lockerbie case was handled in the British legal system. It certainly seems that the UK media has opened itself to the possibility that Iran retaliated and that in turn opens up all kinds of troubling questions.

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