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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Waiting for the 'supergrass'
Camp Zeist
Secutiry has been tight at Camp Zeist
BBC Radio 5 Live's James Shaw reports from the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist

Is it just bad luck or something more?

It seems that every time the trial of the two Libyans charged with the Lockerbie bombing is about to overcome an important hurdle the legal process stumbles.

Journalists have been gathering here at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands since a week past Monday, eagerly awaiting the evidence of the man people are calling the Lockerbie supergrass.

Abdul Majid Giaka worked alongside the two accused at Luqa Airport on Malta.

Inside the court
Giaka awaits his day in court
He was the assistant manager for Libyan Arab Airlines. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was head of security. Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was station manager.

It is alleged that all three were at the same time members of the Libyan intelligence service.

But unknown to his colleagues, Giaka was also an "asset" of the Central Intelligence Agency.

And the prosecution hopes that what he told the CIA back in 1988 and 1989 will provide it with something its case has so far lacked - a cast-iron link between the two accused and the placing of a bomb on board a feeder flight, which connected via Frankfurt with Pan Am 103 from Heathrow.

It has emerged that Giaka defected to the Americans in 1988. It seems he simply walked into the US embassy on Malta and offered his services.

In August of that year, CIA operatives on the island were sending cable messages back home with details of their new recruit and discussing how much money he would be paid.

Smuggled out

This was more than three months before the Lockerbie bombing.

But it seems that if Giaka knew anything before the operation, he didn't tell his handlers until much later.

The court has also heard how he was smuggled out of Malta and taken to a US warship waiting offshore. From there he went to the United States, where officials spent seven or eight days interviewing him.

Since that time Giaka has been in the States under the protection of the US authorities.

He is said to be very sensitive about his security.

Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1998, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground
The two men deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial is taking place in a Scottish courtroom at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands
The case is being heard by three Scottish judges
One story doing the rounds concerns a meeting with lawyers before trial began. Giaka wore heavy make-up and a "Shirley Bassey" wig - and the interview had to be conducted in a moving vehicle.

There's no doubt that security has been especially tight around Camp Zeist.

Cars have been searched by sniffer dogs checking for explosives.

Armed police are everywhere.

Earlier this month an American government official warned against intimidation of Lockerbie witnesses.

The comment was no more specific than that, but could be taken as an oblique reference to the fact that Giaka still has family within the reach of the Libyan authorities.

Giaka's imminent appearance certainly promises to be interesting.

But last week, defence lawyer Bill Taylor QC put a spanner in the works.

He told the court that his team had only been given access to an edited version of the CIA account of its dealings with Giaka.

It had been censored for reasons of US national security by CIA officer William McNair. Meanwhile, the prosecution had seen a fuller text.

This, Mr Taylor said, was unjust. It raised the possibility that his client would not get a fair trial.

Vital issue

The argument was batted back and forth between defence and prosecution.

Scotland's chief prosecutor, the Lord Advocate, was in court to argue the case personally.

It was clearly a vital issue. In the end, he failed.

The presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, said the lord advocate must contact the CIA and persuade them to release their files to the defence.

Now the matter is beyond the control of anyone at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

Lord Sutherland
Lord Sutherland is the presiding judge
There was better news for the prosecution last Wednesday morning.

Advocate Depute Alastair Campbell told the court that a colleague had met CIA officers the previous evening, talks were continuing and it was possible that "fresh" documents could be available for the defence by Thursday.

But the use of the word "fresh" sounded ominous.

Might these still not be complete versions of the documents?

Might the defence demand more, which would put another obstacle in the way of Giaka's testimony?

As usual the progress of this trial is tortuous, obscure and unpredictable.

Meanwhile Giaka is being held somewhere in the vicinity by his American handlers.

He is waiting for his day in court, waiting to provide the key which could unlock the Lockerbie case, or if the defence team can undermine his credibility damage it beyond repair.

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