FBI Agent on Stand in Lockerbie Case
CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AP) _ An FBI agent read interviews with a Palestinian bomb maker in the Lockerbie trial Tuesday as lawyers opened their defense of two Libyans charged in the 1988 downing of a Pan Am jet liner that killed 270 people.
FBI operative Edward Marshman read from transcripts he gathered during Lockerbie investigations in November 1989, almost one year after Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Marshman’s interview with Jordanian double agent Marwan Khreesat was introduced by the defense to deflect the blame for the attack from their clients to two radical Palestinian groups.
Khreesat told the FBI he supplied five explosive devices to the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, one of two groups the defense has implicated in the bombing.
The PFLP-GC was the focus of early Lockerbie probes before the two suspects, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, were indicted in 1991 on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder.
After being arrested in Germany, Khreesat began working as a double agent for American intelligence. He told them he had manufactured five bombs similar to the one used to bring down the flight on Dec. 21, 1988.
``The explosives were wrapped in aluminum tape and covered in glue,″ Marshman said, according to the transcript. ``The glue was used to conceal the smell of the explosives.″
Khreesat also told the FBI he had met with the leader of the PFLP-GC, Ahmed Jibril, and other Palestinian extremists while working in Germany for Jordanian intelligence.
Prosecutors say the bomb was packed into a Toshiba cassette recorder and routed onto the New York-bound plane in a brown Samsonite suitcase.
``It was bronze in color, just like in the catalogue,″ Khreesat said about the tape player, ``It would only hold about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of plastic explosives.″
After Marshman’s testimony, presiding judge Ranald Sutherland adjourned hearings until Jan. 8, when the defense hopes to present information from the Syrian government that may deepen suspicion against the Palestinian group.
Earlier Tuesday, meteorologist Joseph Mifsud took the stand to counter testimony that one of the defendants purchased clothes and an umbrella in Malta, where they were allegedly working for Libyan intelligence.
Prosecutors say the suitcase containing the bomb was tagged in Malta for London via Frankfurt, Germany. They say charred clothing found in the wreckage of the Lockerbie crash was purchased in Malta by al-Megrahi. Shopkeeper Toni Gauci earlier testified that Megrahi resembled the man who had purchased the items.
The prosecutors ended its case against the two Libyans on Nov. 20 after calling 230 witnesses.
During the trial, new evidence surfaced, apparently linked to Palestinian operations, that led to repeated delays for further investigation, and a document was still being awaited from Syria.
Showing the court’s impatience, Sutherland warned that the postponement granted Tuesday was the last unless ``most exceptional circumstances″ came up.
The trial was being conducted at a special Scottish court on a former U.S. air base in the Netherlands.
Under Scottish law, the defendants only have to create sufficient doubt about the accusations to result in a ``not proven″ ruling, which would be tantamount to an acquittal.
Last week, the court dismissed a request that Fhimah be acquitted immediately for lack of evidence.