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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
'Supergrass' takes the stand
Artist's impression of the accused
An artist's impression of the two accused
After weeks of wrangling between the prosecution and defence, the man dubbed the Lockerbie "supergrass" has finally appeared in the witness box.

"Appeared" might not be the most accurate word, however, because Abdul Majid Giaka is behind a screen, his voice is distorted and CCTV pictures beamed around the world are obscured.

The precautions are all in the name of Giaka's safety after he was taken from hiding by 30 US marshals who accompanied him to the Scottish Court in The Netherlands.

His time in the witness box was delayed by arguments by defence lawyers for more information about him.

This has thrown up tantalising details of his work for America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the months before and after the bombing.

CIA graphic
Extracts of CIA cables have been read to the court
It is alleged that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah - the two Libyans charged with the crime - smuggled a bomb on board a feeder flight in Malta, which connected via Frankfurt with Pan Am flight 103 at Heathrow.

Giaka was an assistant manager for Libyan Arab Airlines at Luqa Airport on Malta.

At the same time he was working for the ESO, the Libyan intelligence agency. The prosecution alleges that the two defendants were also ESO agents.

Choice extracts from CIA cables back to the States have portrayed Giaka as a draft dodger, small-time smuggler and someone who was simply in it for the money.

'Serious doubt'

All that on top of being a double agent.

Arguments for the release of more information became an opportunity to reveal details about Giaka which cast serious doubt on his credibility before he has even had a chance to give evidence.

Among the cables referred to in court by defence lawyer Bill Taylor QC, was one dated 1 September, 1989, a year after Giaka first started working for the CIA.

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, 1988, 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
It revealed that from then on he was to be paid a retainer of $1000 a month and that he was demanding money for a fake operation. This had been carried out, he told his handlers, so that he could avoid military service back in Libya.

Giaka, who was code-named P1 by the CIA, was also to be told he must prove sustained access to information by January, 1990 - otherwise all payments would cease.

CIA officers were by this time disillusioned about the value of someone they had hoped would be an effective "penetration" agent within the Libyan secret service.

The cable records their view that he had never been a full member and now wanted nothing to do with the organisation.

Helping with the sham surgery had apparently allowed him to avoid working for the ESO rather than dodge military service. This had been his intention all along - and was the exact opposite of what the CIA wanted.

Motives explored

A cable sent nearly a year earlier explores P1's motives for working for the CIA.

He had told his handlers he was a long-time opponent of the Gadaffi regime.

But they suspected that his real motive was to maintain a comfortable lifestyle on Malta and avoid returning to Libya.

Giaka had asked for $30,000 to set up a car rental business and had apparently saved $30,000 of his own money for the project.

CIA officers thought he might have done this by organising small-scale smuggling through the airport where he worked.

As he testifies, more details of his background and knowledge of the two suspects will emerge.

Giaka is said to be a lynchpin of the Crown's case. The defence will try to undermine his credibility when its time for cross-examination comes.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | World
Judges reject CIA papers plea
25 Aug 00 | World
Lockerbie documents handed over
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