Lockerbie Lawyers Question Palestinian on Family Terror Links
Defense lawyers for two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing questioned a convicted Palestinian bomber about his family's links to terrorist activities Tuesday.
The Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Talb, 46, is serving a life sentence in Sweden for bomb attacks against Jewish organizations in Europe.
Answering questions from William Taylor, one of two defense lawyers, Talb explained his complex relations with his family, some of whom have been implicated in terrorist activities.
Talb was an early suspect in the Lockerbie bombing. But investigators abandoned that line of inquiry before the defendants, Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 48, and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, were indicted in 1991.
Pan Am flight 103, bound from London to New York, blew up over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie at 7:03 pm on December 21 1988, killing 259 persons aboard, mostly Americans, and 11 on the ground.
The prosecution called Talb to the stand last week to try to stop the defense shifting blame for the bombing from the defendants to him.
Talb told the court Tuesday that his sister-in-law Dalal had led an attack on a bus in Tel Aviv.
"It was Ehud Barak himself who killed her," he said -- a reference to Israel's current prime minister, a former elite commando officer -- without being asked to expand on the incident.
His other sister-in-law Rachida was jailed in London for an attack against the Iraqi ambassador to Britain. The defense focused on a mysterious telephone call that Talb made to her from Malta in October 1988, about two months before the Lockerbie bombing.
The prosecution contends the bomb the Libyans are accused of planting on the plane was assembled in Malta, flown to Frankfurt wrapped in clothing in a suitcase on a so-called "feeder flight," and was transferred at Frankfurt to the ill-fated Pan Am jet.
But the prosecution's 80-minute examination of Talb last week portrayed his Malta stay as an innocent visit with a baker friend, Abdu Salam.
According to Taylor, Talb's brother-in-law Mahmud Al-Megrabi was trained to make bombs in Syria in 1985. From Syria, Taylor said, he returned to Sweden where the family lived with 5,000 US dollars (5833 euros) and four detonators.
He said the family started making bombs together at their home in Uppsala -- three were built in the bathroom according to Taylor, but Talb would give no confirmation.
Dressed in an impeccable charcoal-grey suit, blue shirt and tie, Talb sometimes refused to answer the lawyer, particularly when he was questioned about being in the former Soviet Union in the early 1970s.
Answering questions from the prosecution last week, Talb testified he was at home on the night of the Pan Am bombing, caring for his two young children while his wife was at a hospital with her sister-in-law who was giving birth.
At the time, the defense objected to Talb's seemingly innocuous testimony, calling him a "spoiler witness" whose sole purpose was to blunt the force of the defense's cross-examination, which would have more force once additional information was obtained.
A spokesperson for the Crown prosecution said: "We will be calling no further witnesses pointing at the two defendants, only those that can discredit the defense.
"Any other witnesses we call will be intended to blunt the special defense," said the spokesperson, referring to a defense that seeks not only to exonerate the defendants but to shift guilt to another party, in this case a Palestinian group or groups.
The trial is being held under Scottish law at this former US military base, declared by the Dutch government as Scottish territory for the duration, under a complex multi-nation arrangement that persuaded Libyan leader Moammer Kadhafi to turn over the suspects -- CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)