(Picture: Air Accident Investigators)
For years, the former Labour MP, Tam Dalyell, insisted that there were fundamental flaws in the accepted explanation of what caused the Lockerbie disaster.243 passengers and 16 crew were killed on 21 December 1988. Another 11 people died in the ground. After a three-year investigation involving both Scottish police and the American FBI, the finger of blame was firmly pointed at Libya – then a pariah state.
It took 11 years before the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was persuaded after protracted negotiations to hand over the two men who were eventually tried at Camp Zeist. Only one of them, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted and sent to prison in Scotland. However, Mr Dalyell, sounding like a lone voice in the wilderness, continued to question both the evidence and the result of that trial. In interview after interview, he insisted that the investigators had been looking in the wrong place and that the real culprits would be found in Iran.
Now, a documentary from the Arab television station, Al Jazeera, has presented evidence which suggests that he may indeed have been right. Indeed, it appears to cast doubt over the entire investigation, because documents obtained by the network and verified by security experts point instead to the involvement of Iran Secret Service, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine – General Command.
The documentary backs up Tam Dalyell’s assertion that the bombing of the American aircraft was an act of revenge for the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by USS Vincennes earlier in 1988 which killed 290 people. The television station said it had obtained US Defence Intelligence Agency cables confirming the commission of the operation by Iran. As part of its investigation, the reporters secured interviews with a former CIA agent and a senior Iranian intelligence official.
The former CIA man, Robert Baer, claimed that the CIA and FBI investigations diverged completely…because the case was being run by the Department of Justice in complete disregard to the intelligence. “As far as I can tell,” he told the programme, “someone said, look, Libya is vulnerable to prosecution, small country, Gaddafi sated, let’s go for it.” He insisted he was not giving a controversial opinion – adding that, on the intelligence side, the CIA “to a man” said it was Iran.
The documentary will be shown at 8 o’clock tonight on Al Jazeera – Lockerbie: What Really Happened?