Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lockerbie Star Witness Stumbles ; the CIA's Double Agent Wound Up His Testimony - Seen as Damaging to the Prosecution - Thursday

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lockerbie Star Witness Stumbles ; the CIA's Double Agent Wound Up His Testimony - Seen as Damaging to the Prosecution - Thursday

Article excerpt

Prosecutors in the Lockerbie bombing trial struggled yesterday to restore the credibility of their key witness after lawyers defending the two Libyans charged with destroying Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 accused him repeatedly of lying so as to claim a $4 million reward.

But as Abdul Majid Giaka, a former Libyan double agent, wound up his long-awaited testimony, he had offered only weak and faltering explanations of apparent inconsistencies in his evidence tying the two defendants to the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died.

Mr. Giaka's stumbling performance under cross examination could be crucial to the outcome of the trial. "If the vigorous cross examination of Giaka ... results in what is clearly important evidence being discounted by the judges ... this will be detrimental to the prosecution case," says Clare Connelly, a Scottish legal expert attending the trial.

Libya and Scottish law

The case is being heard under Scottish law in the Netherlands under an arrangement that persuaded Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi to turn over Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah for trial, after enduring eight years of international sanctions.

But victims' relatives following the case said they were not discouraged. "It was a little unsettling" to hear such an important witness fumble, acknowledges Paul Zwynenburg, whose brother was killed in the bombing. "But looking at the big picture, this is one blip on the radar screen," he says.

Giaka, who has been hiding in the United States under the witness-protection program for the past nine years, was shielded from public view as he testified. White blinds were pulled over the bulletproof glass window that separates the court from the public gallery, and the TV monitors relaying court proceedings showed only a mosaic of black, brown, and beige squares as he spoke. His voice was electronically distorted into an unidentifiable growl.

The Giaka connection

Giaka, who worked with the two defendants at the Libyan Airlines office at Malta Airport, and who became a CIA informant four months before the bombing, was expected to be the only witness able to directly link the two men to the attack. He said he had seen Mr. Megrahi arrive at Luqa Airport from Tripoli days before the Pan Am flight blew up, and take a brown Samsonite-like suitcase from the baggage carousel. Investigators believe a bomb hidden in a tape recorder within such a suitcase blew up the Pan Am plane.

Giaka also told the court that he had been asked in 1986 by another LIbyan intelligence agent to prepare a study on the feasibility of slipping an unaccompanied suitcase onto a British airplane at Malta's airport. …

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