The Address | Benghazi – Libya
SCOTLAND – Using diplomatic contacts which led to an agreement to extradite the brother of the Manchester bomber, investigators from Scotland and the US are increasingly hopeful they will be given permission to interview Abdullah Senussi and Abu Agila Mas’ud, the Scottish Sun reported.
Senussi is said to have been the Lockerbie mastermind and Agila Mas’ud the bomb-maker. Both are held in a Libyan prison, according to the Sun report.
Police involved in the Lockerbie investigation, which is still live, have been encouraged by recent assurances from Head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, that his government is willing to extradite Hashem Abedi, wanted for questioning in Britain following the attack at an Ariana Grande pop concert in which 22 people were killed.
Hashem’s brother, Salman Ramadan Abedi, was the suicide bomber who carried out the atrocity.
The Head of GNA told the BBC earlier this year that there are active plans to extradite Abedi, adding: “We are fully cooperating because we understand the suffering of the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.”
The same diplomatic channels which led to that agreement are being used to effect a breakthrough in the Lockerbie investigation. Officers report that the response from Libya has been “positive and constructive,” the Scottish Sun said.
So far, 30 years after the atrocity, only one suspect, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has been convicted for the bombing. He died in May 2012.
Despite claims by campaigners who believe that the conviction of al-Megrahi was a miscarriage of justice, the Crown Office remains convinced that the original verdict was correct.
Inquiries by The Times have revealed that the Crown Office commissioned an independent report into allegations that there had been a deliberate plan to steer evidence way from Palestinian terrorists and towards Libya.
Investigators were asked to “double and triple check” every aspect of the case. They concluded that the original conviction was sound, and that allegations that evidence had been tampered with, or deliberately withheld could not be substantiated.
Senussi, formerly Muammar Gaddafi’s right-hand man, has been sentenced to death, but that has not been ratified by Libya’s parliament. Masud was given a 12 year sentence for unrelated bomb-making offences.
He has been identified as the Libyan who was with al-Megrahi in Malta on the day the bomb was loaded onto the Libyan flight to Frankfurt that connected to PanAm103, which exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. He is named on an indictment drawn up by the Crown Office.
The development comes as prospects for a further appeal against al-Megrahi’s conviction gain ground. Aamer Anwar, the Glasgow-based solicitor representing the Libyan’s family, as well as British campaigners convinced of his innocence, has told The Times that he hopes an application to lodge the appeal will be successful early next year.
Controversially, Mr Anwar claims that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC,) which is carrying out a full review of the grounds for appeal, now accepts that pressure was put on al-Megrahi to drop his appeal.
Both Scottish and British governments have consistently denied that they intervened. They maintain that al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds after he had developed cancer, made a personal decision to drop his appeal because he thought it would speed his release.
Mr Anwar says, however, that evidence of pressure brought by both British and Libyan governments has now been accepted by the authorities.
“We are past the first hurdle, and that is that they [SCCRC] have accepted that pressure was placed on Megrahi,” he said.
“The question of why he abandoned the appeal is an important part of the application. Pressure was placed on him by both the British and Libyan governments, following ‘the deal in the desert’ [a meeting between Tony Blair and Gaddafi in 2004] It is clear that there were shenanigans going on behind closed doors. He had six months to live – the alternative was to die in prison.”
Last night the SCCRC refused to confirm or deny the allegation.
Mr Anwar added that the appeal would be based on “six solid grounds” highlighted in a 2007 report by the SCCRC which suggested that they might constitute a miscarriage of justice. Most of them revolve around the principal witness for the prosecution, Tony Gauci, who is said to have been unreliable on his identification of al-Megrahi, and to have been offered rewards for his testimony.
However, Mr Anwar said that the appeal would cover “additional” grounds. Previously campaigners for al-Megrahi have suggested that the whole investigation was flawed. This week, The Times reported claims that the timer fragment found after the bombing, was of a later manufacture.