30 years on, remembering the 270 people who lost their lives in the Lockerbie bombing

by Kenny MacAskill


As the thirtieth anniversary draws near the focus once again returns to Lockerbie. For, on the night of 21 December 1988, a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103. Only one man has ever been convicted, and despite an extensive global manhunt and inquiries, trials and appeals conspiracy theories continue to run.

The atrocity wasn’t a one-off event, but part of a chain of action and re-action as the West and some of the Arab world perpetrated terror and counter-terror over decades. More recent outrages have perhaps dulled memories, but in the years leading up to Lockerbie terror was perpetrated, from airport massacres in Rome and Vienna to bombings in Berlin and attacks on cruise liners. The West reacted in kind, including bombing Gaddafi’s compound. And so it continued until July 1988, when the USS Vincennes brought down an Iranian airliner for which initially there was neither an apology nor atonement. Revenge was sought, a bounty put up and a group hired to carry it out. Events were set in motion which, despite the interception of a terror cell and the awareness of an imminent attack, resulted in the tragic events of that December night later that year.

Cover 9781785900723

The pursuit of justice, though, was to be subservient to global, strategic and economic affairs. Big business wanted access to Libya’s natural wealth and Western powers sought a bulwark against Islamicist terror. The crime had been perpetrated by the North African state, albeit in conjunction with many other nations and groups. Someone had to be brought to trial though, but who? The USA and the UK brokered an agreement through the UN with NATO. There was to be no regime change and those offered up for trial were the lowest ranking officials the West would accept, and the highest-ranking that Libya would release. As the Scots – and myself in particular – were castigated, British leaders embraced Gaddafi and American leaders behaved similarly. From rendering prisoners to training the Libyan despots’ elite brigade, the hypocrisy was manifest, and well documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

It was a web of intrigue with even the supposed ‘hero’s reception’ for Megrahi who I released on compassionate grounds being fake news. The alliance sought with Libya was exchanged for NATO bombing to bring Gaddafi down. Prisoners rendered to him for torture by MI6 and CIA were supported in the uprising, yet are now the enemy in turn.

The reason that conspiracy theories still run is not because there remain a few unanswered questions, as the culpability of Libya is clear and the criminal investigation was thorough. Instead it is because the UK and USA prefer to obfuscate their complicity and refuse to reveal the extent of their involvement with Gaddafi. What I wrote a few years back still stands true: Scottish justice was to be just a small cog in a very large wheel of international intrigue.


The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice | Kenny MacAskill | @KennyMacAskill