Evidence used to convict Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was faked and police may have been misled by a member of the US secret services, according to a report by two leading investigators.
Their report instead blames Mohammed Abu Talb, a terrorist with links to Palestinian militant groups who is currently living in Sweden after serving a prison sentence for bombings in Europe.
Megrahi was given a life sentence for the bombing in 2001. He was released eight years later by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds as he had terminal cancer, and died last year.
The “Operation Bird” report – by Jessica de Grazia, former chief assistant district attorney in New York, and Philip Corbett, a former police officer and ex-security advisor to the Bank of England – concluded Talb had bribed a worker at Heathrow to smuggle the suitcase containing the bomb onto the flight.
The report also said a key piece of the evidence – part of a circuit board allegedly used in the bomb’s timer – was faked and a shirt in which it was supposedly found had been tampered with.
Ms de Grazia and Mr Corbett were commissioned to look into the case by Megrahi’s defence team while it was working on his second appeal, dropped after his release.
Their report, which was written in 2002 but never published, suggested police were “directed off course” and that this was “most likely” done by a senior official in the CIA.
“We have never seen a criminal investigation in which there has been such a consistent disregard of an alternative and far more persuasive theory of the case,” it added.
Talb was jailed for life in Sweden after being convicted of carrying out terrorist bombings in 1985 in Copenhagen, Denmark and Amsterdam, Holland. He did not respond to a request for comment from Al-Jazeera television.
Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was a passenger on the plane, said Talb was “a life-long, proven terrorist”.
“I believe he played a crucial part in causing the Lockerbie disaster,” Dr Swire told Exaro, an investigative news website. “My elected government actively prevented me from obtaining my human rights to know why my daughter’s life was not protected, and who it was who killed her.”
Former MP Tam Dalyell, who helped enlist Nelson Mandela to negotiate the deal that saw Libya surrender Megrahi for trial, said that Megrahi was an innocent man used as a “sanctions buster” for Libya.
“I was amazed they didn’t point the finger at Talb and condemned Megrahi. I was astonished at the outcome,” he said.
John Ashton, co-author of Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie, wrote on his blog that the Operation Bird report’s claim that Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Council and “fellow travellers, including Hezbollah” carried out the bombing was “likely true”.
But he doubted Talb was the bomber, because he had recently been arrested then released by Swedish police and so would have suspected he was being followed.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Megrahi’s relatives could ask for a posthumous appeal, “which Ministers would be entirely comfortable with”.