Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Conspiracy Theorists And The Pan Am Flight 103 Air Crash Investigation

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By Angela Briggs

Whenever an event rocks the world, it doesn't take long for conspiracy theories about it to develop. Some people are questioning whether John F Kennedy was really shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, whether the Americans really landed on the moon and whether Al-Qaeda really was behind the events of September 11, 2001. One of the greatest tragedies of the Eighties is another source for conspiracy theorists and after more than 20 years, it seems that the Pan Am flight 103 air crash investigation will never really draw to a conclusion.

The greatest aviation disaster in British history took place on December 21, 1988. Soon after taking off from Heathrow Airport in London, an airplane of the Pan Am airline exploded in the air over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The initial investigation showed that the explosion was caused by a bomb on the plane.

Because the aircraft disintegrated, everyone on board was killed. The burning wreckage fell down to the ground and killed 11 Lockerbie residents as well. People from 19 different nationalities died in the disaster, including 189 US and 43 UK nationals.

After three years of countless interviews and studying every possible piece of forensic evidence, investigators concluded that their suspects were two Libyans. The Libyan government wouldn't release the men to the UK for trial until 1999. One man was declared guilty and received a life sentence. He appealed and kept maintaining his innocence until he died years later. The government of Libya never admitted guilt either but accepted responsibility and paid compensation to the families of those who died.

Among the many conspiracy theories surrounding the Lockerbie bombing is one that says the CIA was behind it. The theory is that the intelligence agency was running a drug-smuggling operation using planes from Pan Am. The reason for this is that in exchange for their help couriering drugs to the US, they would receive much-needed information on hostages in Syria. Some say that the plane was bombed to stop two agents, who were among the victims, from speaking out.

Maybe a little less far-fetched is the theory that the bomb was used to assassinate the newly appointed UN commissioner to Namibia, who died in the crash too. South Africa was busy negotiating the handing over of Namibia to the control of the UN at the time. Interestingly, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs and members of his delegation were supposed to be on Flight 103 but had changed their plans.

Especially since the man found responsible was released in 2009 for compassionate reasons, some family members of those who were killed and some prominent figures have been calling for a new investigation. They started petitions online to find support. Their wish is that an independent inquiry, under leadership of the UN, will uncover the truth about who really was responsible for the tragedy and whether justice had been served.

The case hasn't been reopened yet. This doesn't mean it's over, however. Some legal proceedings are still ongoing and therefore the wreckage is still held as evidence. In other words, another Pan Am flight 103 air crash investigation is not entirely impossible in future.

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