AN Egyptian terrorist could be named this week as a likely suspect in the Lockerbie bombing 25 years after the terrorist atrocity in which 270 people died, it has been claimed.
A newly published report called Operation Bird claims the man responsible for the atrocity was Mohammed Abu Talb, who was later convicted of a campaign of bombings.
Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing in January 2001 and given a life sentence. After a cancer diagnosis he was controversially released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds and died in Tripoli last year.
However, it has been claimed that Megrahi may have been wrongly jailed for the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.
Investigative news website Exaro has alleged that a cover-up by American intelligence service the CIA led to a miscarriage of justice.
Exaro alleges that a critical piece of evidence in the prosecution case against Megrahi – a fragment of circuit board for a timer – was faked, and that remnants of a Slalom-branded shirt in which the timer fragment was supposedly found had been tampered with.
The bomb was also allegedly planted in luggage put on the plane at London’s Heathrow airport, and had not, as the prosecution claimed, been loaded by Megrahi in Malta to connect with a feeder flight from Frankfurt to London.
The new claims have been put forward by a London-based team of private investigators, Forensic Investigative Associates, who were commissioned by lawyers for Megrahi.
Talb is placed at key meetings with other Middle East terrorism suspects ahead of the Lockerbie attack, the authors of the new report claim.
The report – which will be aired in an Al Jazeera TV documentary this week – also claims that Talb was a suspect in the original investigation. However, he gave evidence against Megrahi at his trial in 2001 in return for immunity from prosecution.
The authors of the report are Jessica de Grazia, a former New York chief assistant district attorney, and Philip Corbett, who was chief security adviser to the Bank of England after a career as a top-ranking officer with the Metropolitan Police.
They said: “We have never seen a criminal investigation in which there has been such a consistent disregard of an alternative and far more persuasive theory of the case.”
The 2002 report would have been central to a second appeal by Megrahi had it not been abandoned because of his controversial release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009, it is claimed.
Investigators concluded that police were misled in their investigation into the bombing – and that a government agency, probably the CIA, was behind the cover-up.
Ms De Grazia and Mr Corbett wrote that their investigation “leads us to believe the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing was directed off-course as a result of government interference”.
They said: “In our experience, the decision to intervene would have been made at the highest level of government, most likely a top executive of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The decision would have been communicated in both blunt and subtle ways down the chain of command to the line investigators.
“Since political interference in investigations runs counter to the professional ethos of US and UK law enforcement agents, superiors would have played on fear, timidity, gullibility, greed, ambition, patriotism, and other human frailties to silence the qualms of the line investigators.”
Talb was jailed for life in Sweden in 1989 after being convicted of carrying out terrorist bombings in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Amsterdam, Holland, in 1985. He has been living in Sweden since his release, and has always denied any involvement with the Lockerbie bombing.
But the report alleges he had close links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was initially blamed for the Lockerbie bombing.
British doctor Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died aged 23 in the Lockerbie bombing, told Exaro: “Talb is a life-long, proven terrorist.”
Dr Swire added: “He has completed 20 years in prison for bombings in Scandinavia, and is now out of prison and living in Uppsala in Sweden.
“I believe he played a crucial part in causing the Lockerbie disaster. My elected government actively prevented me from obtaining my human rights to know why my daughter’s life was not protected, and who it was who killed her.
“That still makes me extremely angry and also very sad.”