Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Libyan agent testifies against bomb suspects

September 28, 2000

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— In a day-long attack on the credibility of the key prosecution witness in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, defense attorneys Wednesday used CIA cables to argue that the man was a "liar" who invented information about the bombing in an attempt to keep himself on the CIA's payroll.

The attorneys zeroed in on why the man, a Libyan who formerly worked for the CIA and the Libyan government, waited 2 1/2 years before coming forward with crucial parts of his account and why his testimony differs from what CIA reports show he told the agency years ago.

Identified by the pseudonym Abdul Majid Giaka, the man testified Tuesday that two Libyans accused of planting the bomb kept explosives at the airport in Malta, where the bomb originated. He also said that one of them arrived there from Libya just days before the plane's Dec. 21, 1988 destruction carrying a suitcase exactly like the one in which the bomb went off.

Now living in the United States under the witness protection program, Giaka has been heralded as the witness most damaging to the defense. In his testimony, he has described suspicious activity by the two men but did not offered what carries the most weight in a courtroom, an eyewitness account of a crime actually taking place.

"I suspect (Giaka) was damaged" by the cross-examination, said John Grant, professor of law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., who is following the case closely. "He's a critical witness because there is no other direct witness who can point the finger at the accused. But whether anyone believes him is another question. In one sense, after 10 years in witness protection, he's bought and paid for."

The prosecution alleges that the defendants, working for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta, put an unaccompanied suitcase containing a bomb on a flight out of Malta. In London, it contends, the bag was transferred to the Pan Am flight, which blew up in the air over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

Giaka repeatedly denied that he lied and claimed that he could not remember every detail of his conversations with the CIA. Nor, he said, could he be responsible for the content of CIA cables, which he said he has never seen.

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