BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. When a Scottish court recently returned a guilty verdict against Libyan defendant Abdul Basset Aliyam Migrahi in the 13 year old Lockerbie case, one less than casual observer was Paul Foot. Foot, a veteran British newspaper journalist then writing for the alternative weekly Private Eye had been reporting on the case for 12 years and had excoriated the prosecutors for what he describes as gaping holes in their case. The conviction may have brought relief to families of the airline bombing's 270 victims, but to Foot, who subscribes to the original prosecution theory that the bombing was the work of Palestinian terrorists working in concert with Syria and Iran, it was a miscarriage of justice. I asked him what it was like to see 12 years worth of journalistic efforts come so dramatically to nothing?
MAN: I felt aggrieved in the - in that I was sure an injustice had been committed, but that's not the first time that I've been involved in a case where I feel a, a terrible injustice has been committed. You know? I, that, that's my feeling. It isn't one of oh, I've missed something myself. I mean I don't feel that at all. I've got no more stake in it in that I'm a journalist and it's not the same as, say, a relative of someone who's died. I'm not connected with it that way expect I've stated a point of view. I still hold that point of view. And the judges took a different point of view, and I think they were wrong.
BOB GARFIELD:Now you were suspicious of the official theories about this case from the very beginning - long before actually Libyan suspects were being discussed.
MAN: What really caused me to be suspicious was the switch in, in the hunt. The original hunt was for a Palestinian terrorist gang which had been known to blow up aircraft and which indeed had been making bombs disguised in Toshiba cassette recorders as indeed was the bomb that blew up the plane at Lockerbie. Now all the initial suspicion was about that gang, and a lot of evidence was collected against that gang. Then suddenly in 1990 - end of 1990 and beginning of 1991, hunt seems to come to a stop and President Bush actually said Syria have taken a bum rap on this. In other words we've been wrong to go for Syria. We're going to go for someone else. [....?....]-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BOB GARFIELD: And this corresponded with President Bush's coalition-building in the Gulf War in which Syria was--
BOB GARFIELD: -- part of the-- allied coalition. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: And that, well that I believe provides a motive for the, for the switch, because it was a crucial ally in the Gulf War.
BOB GARFIELD:You've been writing your stories on Lockerbie lately for the Private Eye which is a, I guess you'd describe it as alternative weekly newspaper - is--?
MAN: If you're very flattering you'd prescribe it--[sic] [LAUGHS] describe it like that yes. [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: And I hesitate to tall it marginal because it isn't marginal. It--
MAN: It is marginal in the sense that it has a circulation of about 160,000--
BOB GARFIELD: Yes.
MAN: -- it's not like getting it in one of the tabloids or something or even in, you know, the mainstream quality papers. I mean it-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BOB GARFIELD: What of the mainstream publications? Did they-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: Well I -- you can see a number of articles--not as many as I think you should see - for instance the Guardian correspondent obviously isn't happy the verdict.
BOB GARFIELD:So comes now the verdict - so the conviction of one of the Libyan suspects, and-- with it -closure. Do you think there is really closure on this case? Will people put it to rest now -particularly among the victims' families?
MAN: Well, no I absolutely understand people's desire for it to be closed, especially since I know some of these people quite closely now, but I - the, the answer has been come out of the court is so utterly unsatisfactory -- you know I don't believe that man was guilty! And certainly I don't believe they proved he was guilty! I've been involved in my life in a large number of miscarriages of justice. In almost all of them it took months - years in, in many cases for the holes to appear in the prosecution case. In this case the holes are so immediately clear it's absolutely obvious that the thing is inadequate! I mean it, it's not just me! I think there are quite a few journalists who are absolutely staggered by the verdict!
BOB GARFIELD:I'll ask you to make a prediction. If it's true that the intelligence services of the governments of the United States and Great Britain don't wish for the - the truth to be told - that there is fabricated evidence and that the Lockerbie trial intentionally pointed the blame in the wrong direction, do you think journalists will ever be able to get to the bottom of it?
MAN: [LAUGHS] Well I'm, I'm 63 years old; I'm getting on now. I'm inclined to be slightly pessimistic about these things, but I do think that there are lots of young journalists who have a story here of the most monumental proportions which if they've got any guts and common sense they could put together, and I, I very much hope that they do that, because in the end, when you're telling a lie and against the interests of so many people, there's a very good chance that you can be exposed.
BOB GARFIELD: Mr. Foot, thank you for joining us!
MAN: Okay, thanks.
BOB GARFIELD: Paul Foot, a columnist at the Daily Mirror for 14 years is a freelance journalist living in London.