US rejects World Court hearing on Lockerbie claims

December 11, 1991

By Steve Painter

The United States and British governments have rejected Libyan government proposals for the World Court or another independent international tribunal to investigate charges against two Libyan nationals over the 1988 Lockerbie disaster. They have threatened boycott, and possibly military, action against Libya if it does not hand over the two.

The Libyan government has arrested the two, Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khailifa Fhimah, and is investigating the charges though it says there is little evidence that they prepared or planted the bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland with the loss of 270 lives. The US and British governments have reportedly also rejected an invitation to participate in the Libyan investigation.

The US-British charges are the latest of several theories about the bombing. Soon after the disaster, the London Independent reported that some observers believed the bombing had the markings of the Israeli intelligence organisation, Mossad, which may have been seeking to discredit Palestinian or other Arab organisations.

Later, there were various claims that Iranian and/or Syrian-backed Palestinian groups planted the bomb.

Then, last July, the London Times reported claims by Lester Knox Coleman, a former US intelligence officer who had gone into hiding abroad. He claimed to have worked in Cyprus for a secret organisation called MC10, which was linked to the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

Coleman claims MC10 was involved in running "controlled deliveries" of heroin from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to the US in order to trace sources and receivers of the drug. The operation was carried out in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Part of it involved a courier, Khaled Jaafar, being allowed to get luggage aboard Flight 103 unchecked at Germany's Frankfurt airport.

Coleman says German police investigating the bombing were concerned that Jaafar's bags may have been switched before being placed on the flight. Reports last year indicated that the Iranian embassy in Beirut had been tipped off in advance that two US agents from the Middle East would be aboard flight 103.

Since the Lockerbie bombing, two Lebanese members of the five key MC10 personnel in the Middle East have met violent deaths, one in a bombing and one in a shooting, and Coleman is in hiding. Meanwhile, the DEA is denying any involvement in such an operation, a claim Pan Am lawyer James Shaughnessy has described as "incredible" and "simply false".

Whatever the truth of Coleman's story might be, the sudden US-British discovery of "Libyan involvement" seems remarkably convenient following the shifts in US alliances in the Middle East during and since the Gulf War. It being no longer convenient to blame Syria or Iran, Libya t. The latest charges also come as George Bush's popularity hits its lowest point, after peaking during the Gulf War.

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