DR. JIM SWIRE'S VISIT IN EGYPT + LIBYA TO LOBBY FOR SOLUTION OF THE LOCKERBIE CRISIS TOGETHER WITH SCOTTISH LAW EXPERT RESUME 15-24 .April 1998 Updated on the 24th of April 1998
Dr. Jim Swire's trip to Egypt in April 1998April 15-1998 Dr. Jim Swire is a man that doesn't give neither in nor up: for almost 10 years he has lived a life of a professional lobbyist - not for political purposes, but to find justice for the death of his eldest child Flora, who was killed aboard flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. His persistence to find a solution to the ongoing Lockerbie Crisis is admirable. Others call dr. Swire for naive and "duped" by Libya - but nevertheless his struggle continues with this latest effort. Former efforts have brought him to meeting political leaders of the world to discuss the possibility to allow two Libyan suspects to be brought to trial in a 3rd part country. His latest effort in that direction happened in April 1998.
On the 13th of April, the British BBC issued following news:
"Relatives of the British victims of the Lockerbie crash are to meet Arab League officials this week to discuss the current deadlock over the trial of two Libyan suspects. A representative for the families, Dr Jim Swire, will travel to Cairo on Tuesday for the meeting.
He will be joined by Robert Black, a professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, who has proposed the two Libyans should be tried in a neutral country under Scottish law. The Arab League is trying to find a compromise solution to the problem of where the trial should be held. But the British Government is adamant the two suspects, Abdel Basset Ali Al Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, stand trial either in Scotland or the United States.
Dr Swire said: "We will go out there to see if there is any way forward as far as achieving a fair criminal trial is concerned. The Arab League have been looking for a solution which meets the needs of the accused, Britain and America, for as long as we have, and they have agreed, like Libya has agreed, that neutral country trial under Scots law is acceptable." Dr Swire said the visit was "extra urgent" because the chances of a criminal trial could be jeopardised by the families of some American victims who are considering suing for civil damages against Libya.
"This is very serious, as we have a rising tide towards a civil case in America which would almost certainly mean a lot of money would be paid to out to relatives, but it would also mean that justice would not be done nor would be seen to be done," he said. A civil action could see million of pounds from frozen Libyan assets paid out to relatives, including British families. It would rely on the release of evidence compiled against the two Libyans by British and American investigators - but will the evidence hold secret for the last 6 years reach the public in such a trial ?
Dr Swire said he had received a letter from the American lawyers who represented the families of the American victims of Pan Am, informing him the British relatives could also claim damages. Last year the Crown Office refused a request from two American relatives, Bert Ammerman and Joe Horgan, to publish the evidence built up against the two suspects. Dr Swire said he would be writing to the Lord Advocate to make sure this position has not changed. "
Jim Swire to work on Robin Cook for change of viewBefore he went to Egypt, dr. Swire contacted the British Foreign Minister Robin Cook on the 8th of April 1998. At the meeting with relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie terrorist bombing on that day, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary said: "I was very pleased to see the families again, and we had a useful exchange of views. The Government shares the families' need to see justice done for this atrocity, and we discussed how we plan to achieve this aim. We will not cease our efforts until justice has been done. This has been another opportunity to underline our determination."
Dr Swire, who talked intensively with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, said: "We undoubtedly got it through to him that the absence of truth and justice is adding to the suffering to which the whole group are exposed." Swire said British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had told him there were new diplomatic proposals in the works but it was too early to pass them on to relatives. Dr Swire, who hopes to meet Colonel Gaddafi, admits the trip could backfire if the Libyans use him for propaganda purposes. "That is a risk we have to take."
The family of a Lockerbie bombing victim told yesterday why they have turned down a chance to join a multi-million pound legal claim, in order to see alleged killers brought to court. Dr Swire spoke with the British Berkley-family on Sunday to discuss how a trial could be held in a neutral country under Scottish law.
More about the Berkley family and their work with dr. Swire to prepare this trip to Egypt press here to read!
Meanwhile in Egypt that week, Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel Meguid met the families of the victims of a 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Arab League welcomed the position of those the victims' families who disapprove on the efforts of the US and Britain to force Libya to hand over the suspects to the two concerned countries.
Abdel Meguid confirmed that the meeting was useful in delineating many principles, the most important of which is the importance of respecting Libya's dignity and appreciating the AL's position of accepting the use of Scottish law to address the case in a trial in a neutral country.
Swire said, "The Arab league has shown a deep concern with our same concern, which is achieving justice regarding this crisis, and we as a group of the victims' relatives are not concerned with policy but our concern is to reach justice through a fair trail." He also said the AL had made many efforts to ease the impasse over the Lockerbie bombing, and said his group came to consultations concerning methods of breaking the current deadlock and to listen to Abdel Meguid.
Positive expectations after talks with Arab LeagueSwire and Black held more than an hour of talks with League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid, who said he would deliver the new proposal to the Libyan government. Speaking after his meeting with the Arab League, Dr Swire said: "We had an extremely fruitful discussion. They were extremely receptive.
"They agreed to pass on our suggestions to the Libyans. It is very much better they come from a fellow Arab than a Westerner like me. If a suggestion is only partially palatable it is better to come from someone you trust." Dr Swire called on all sides to strike a compromise because UN sanctions on Libya had failed to work and moves for a civil trial were gathering pace in the US.
"They all need their heads knocking together over this," said Dr Swire."The people who have made the most compromises are the Libyans. "It is about time all sides talked about compromise instead of shouting at each other from the touchlines. I am not here to talk politics. I am here to talk truth and justice."
``We are very keen to put an end to this tragedy in a way that would respect Libya's rights and sovereignty,'' Abdel-Meguid said. ``It is up to our Libyan brothers to decide.'' Swire said: ``We are here because the Arab League has some influence on (Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi).'' Black said the British government was under pressure to close the case and had been shamed by South African President Nelson Mandela's visit to Tripoli in October. ``The World Court and Mandela caused some tremors and although they were not very big, we think they helped crack Britain's granite-like stance,'' he said.
Scottish law expert blames USA and UK for keeping the deadlockThe Scottish lawyer Robert Black said on the 16th of April in Cairo after the talks with Abdel Maguid, that his latest proposal to end a dispute between Libya, Britain and the United States over the trial of two Libyan suspects in a 1988 airliner bombing would be his last. Black gave no details on the modifications in the more recent proposal. But he said there was ``fine-tuning'' to make it more acceptable to the British and Americans. ``What we are hoping for is that continued pressure on these two governments will cause them to see the errors of their ways,'' Black said.
Robert Black told a news conference he was ``51 percent sure'' the Libyans would accept the modified proposal. He would not give details, but Black and Swire are suggesting the suspects be tried under Scottish law in a neutral venue by an international panel of judges, without a jury. But Robert Black, a legal expert advising the victims' families, said there was little hope the United States would accept the proposal, although international pressure succeed in winning Britain's support. ``One simply has to give up on the American government, '' Black said. ``They are unmovable.''
``It's now plain that the United States and the United Kingdom as far as I know are the only two nations in the civilised world which are not saying 'this is a sensible compromise solution, accept it','' Black said after meeting the head of the Cairo-based Arab League. ``What I am hoping is that the United Kingdom can see the error of its ways if it is given an opportunity marginally to save face. They have to find a solution. If this proposal does not work then I suspect that this may very well be the end of the line.
``I can't very well go on drafting scheme after scheme, that are accepted by one side but rejected outright by the other. All three are going to have to accept something with which they are not 100% happy in order for there to be a compromise," he said. "If they are prepared to do that then there is a remote possibility of progress. But I wouldn't put it above saying there is a slight chance. But any chance is better than no chance."
Swire slammed the British government for not moving fast enough to end the crisis. ``For six years, I have been waiting for the men charged with the brutal murder of my daughter to be put on trial but on March 20, the permanent representative of my country in the United Nations was busy telling the Security Council that the sanctions they imposed on Libya were not working. ``Why have you kept us waiting for six years when they are not working? They are demolishing the thing they invited us to depend on and if that doesn't make you angry, then it should.''
Jim Swire, who acted as representive for British victims of the bombing, said Abdel-Meguid would pass the new proposal to the Libyans.
Swire and Black travel to LibyaAfter the meeting in Cairo ended with the spirit of good hope and positive expectations, representatives of victims of Pan Am Flight 103 traveled to Libya on Thursday to discuss a compromise plan to bring two Libyan suspects to trial for the 1988 bombing of the jetliner. Libyan officials had agreed to meet with Jim Swire, who represents a British-based group of victims, and Robert Black, the victims' legal adviser, said Talaat Hamid, a spokesman for the Arab League.
Swire had said he hopes to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to discuss the proposals. It was not clear if such a meeting will take place. Dr Swire said he had thought the talks in Cairo would only involve"fine-tuning" proposals that the Arab League would present to the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
However, the proposals met with such a swift and positive reaction from the Libyan government that now Dr Swire will travel to the Libyan capital Tripoli on Thursday to present them.
Dr Swire said:"The response has come back so promptly that we feel we must go."
Breaking of deadlock in Libya ?Jim Swire held talks in Libya on Saturday with the justice minister about the trial for two suspects in the attack, Libya's official news agency reported on the 19th April. James Swire, and victims' legal adviser Robert Black met Justice Minister Mohammed Belgasim al-Zuwiy after arriving in Tripoli.
They discussed suggestions by Swire and Black ``concerning reaching ... a fair and just trial of the two suspects in a neutral country,'' Libya's official news agency, JANA, reported. Swire and Black drove 215 miles from Tunisia to the Libyan capital Saturday, Swire's spokesman, David Ben-Ariyeh, said in London. Swire told Ben-Ariyeh he was grateful for the ``efficient and warm welcome'' they received.
Black and Swire held talks in Tripoli this week with Legwell and Libyan foreign affairs and justice officials. They also met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a bid to gain support for a trial plan formulated by Black. The most important meeting was held with the Libyan lawyer for Fhima and Megrahi in Tripoli, dr. Ibrahim Legwell. Ibrahim Legwell said he told Scottish lawyer Robert Black and Jim Swire, that his two Libyan clients were ready to stand trial under Scottish law in a neutral country.
``We agreed on several basic points and details,'' Legwell told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Libyan capital Tripoli. ``I confirmed to them, as I have done previously, that my clients would stand for trial before such a court, which will be set not in Scotland nor the United States, but in a neutral country,'' he added. ``We also agreed that it would be established with an international panel of judges to be agreed upon and presided over by a senior Scottish judge. The court would operate under the criminal law and procedures of Scotland,'' he added as well.
``We also are very concerned about how to ensure the safety, the security and the rights for our clients pending, during and after the trial,'' he said. Legwell said Libya's Justice Minister Mohamed Belgacem Zwai, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, and Libya's representative at the U.N., Abouzid Omar Dourda, attended part of his meetings with Black and Swire when these issues were discussed.
Zwai said he expected a settlement of the dispute over where to hold the trial.``We expect we will reach a solution that satisfies all parties before the World Court issues its decision,' ' he told reporters in Cairo late Monday. Black and Swire also met Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Omar Mustafa al-Montasser in Libya and then Gaddafi Monday at the end of their visit. The Libyan revolutionary leader had in the past said he would support whatever the suspects' lawyers accepted.
Black and Swire left Tripoli Monday for Cairo, where they were to submit their proposal and results of their talks in Tripoli to Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) chief, Salim Ahmed Salim, Legwell said. Zwai met Abdel-Meguid Tuesday, officials in Cairo said. Black and Swire also undertook to persist in their efforts to persuade the British government to join Libya in accepting the proposal, he added.
Legwell said the plan was that if Black's proposal was accepted by Britain, regional groupings such as the Arab League, the OAU and the European Union would submit to the Security Council a text approving the plan ahead of suspending the sanctions.
Jim Swire arrived in cairo on the eve of the 21st April, and he told Reuters by phone, that Libya had agreed to surrender the two suspects to the Netherlands for trial. ``I think the importance probably of what we've done is they (the Libyans) have renewed that undertaking and they have reinforced it,'' he said. ``This (proposal) was given the blessing of the leader subsequently,'' Swire said of his 40-minute meeting with Gaddafi. `The problem of course is will the west set up the court that is required, I don't know what else the Libyan government can do to prove that they mean it when they say they would come.''
On the 23rd of April 1998, dr. Robert Black issued a press release regarding his and dr. Jim Swire's journey to Egypt and Libya. Read the Press Release from dr. Robert Black
Swire believes Libyans are innocent if given fair trial -the return to Cairo 23/24.4.1998Dr. Swire returned to Egypt Thursday the 23rd of April and he said the United States and Britain should accept Libya's agreement to have two Libyans tried in a neutral country for the airline bombing which killed 270 people. Swire said the United States and Britain were not doing enough and that he believed the two suspects would not be found guilty if they were given a fair criminal trial.
He was speaking to Reuters in Cairo after talks with Organisation of African Unity (OAU) chief, Salim Ahmed Salim, and Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid on his efforts to have the suspects tried in a neutral country. ``I emerge from this believing the offer from the Libyan government is a genuine offer and I think this is the best option,'' he said. `The problem is my government is not seeking a proposal. What is the point of standing on the touchlines?''
``I believe the Libyan offer is genuine but it cannot come to anything unless the west makes a move,'' Swire said. He said the Libyans had ``seemed positive'' about a proposal to have the United Nations secretary general appoint the judges. ``(British Foreign Secretary) Robin Cook did say at our last meeting that no avenues were closed, and he would consider any reasonable proposal,'' Swire said. ``I think that gives me the go-ahead to explain to him that I believe the Libyan offer is genuine.
``I am sure that if he had looked he would have seen as soon as he took office that the sanctions have no chance of success,'' Swire said. ``One has to come back to the question - why are they so determined to take a position which they must know by now is not going to lead to trial? ``For what it's worth I believe that a prosecution would fail. But I think there is much more to it than that,'' he said.`I have seen material which gives the evidence that would destroy a prosecution case in the first two days of a trial.'' ``But of course it needs to be subjected to the interrogation of a fair criminal court. It's for a court to judge.''
Swire said he had a letter from the German chancellor saying ``his men have no knowledge of the passage of the bomb through Frankfurt airport.'' Asked if he thought the two men accused were guilty, Swire said: ``My strong personal opinion is that if tried they could not be found guilty, but I do need a court to prove this...It must all be examined by a proper criminal court.''
Reactions from USA, UK, Libya and elsewhere
Americans refuse Libyan offer and dismiss the achievements of dr. Swire and professor Black.American families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing on Tuesday denounced a reported agreement to have two Libyan suspects tried in the Netherlands. The Americans' attorney said Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed on the plane and who negotiated with Libya on behalf of some British families of victims, had no authority to make such an agreement. ``It's not a valid arrangement,'' New York attorney Lee Kreindler said. ``As far as I'm concerned, Dr Swire represents only Dr Swire.'' The Americans' attorney said Swire had no authority to make such an agreement. ``It's not a valid arrangement,'' New York attorney Lee Kreindler said. ``As far as I'm concerned, Dr Swire represents only Dr Swire.''
One of the American relatives said Swire had been ``duped'' by Libya, which maintains that the two suspects could not receive a fair trial in either the United States or Britain. Kreindler said Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the December 1988 bombing of the plane over the Scottish village of Lockerbie, ``was not speaking for any of my clients that I know about and we represent between 20 and 30 British families.'' Stephanie Bernstein of Bethesda, Maryland, who lost her husband Michael in the bombing, also said on Tuesday that Swire did not represent the majority of families. ``This is another in the long line of efforts by the Libyans to avoid turning the suspects over for trial,'' Bernstein said. ``He is being duped by the Libyan government and it's quite sad, I think it's tragic.''
The U.S. State Department also dismissed the reported agreement and insisted the suspects must be handed to Britain or the United States. ``Libya is obligated under (U.N.) Security Council resolutions to deliver the suspects for trial in either the U.K. (Britain) or the U.S.,'' spokesman Lee McClenny said. ``We have no doubt that this latest Libyan agreement reflects a desire to evade its obligations rather than a willingness to see justice done,'' he added.
British reactions to dr. Swire's trip to Libya and EgyptThe British Foreign Office said it hoped to speak to Swire when he returned, but stressed that he had been acting in a private capacity during his visit to Libya.
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