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Death fears as author of book on Lockerbie seeks asylum

A FORMER American secret service agent, who claims he has been hounded by the US Government since he wrote a book questioning the Libyan Lockerbie theory, is to seek political asylum in France.

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He is being supported by Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who believes the author's life would be in danger if he returned to the US.

Mr Lester Coleman, author of On the Trail of the Octopus, yesterday told The Herald from Paris that his French lawyer would be ready to make the formal application in a week.

''In terms of the Geneva Convention, the American Government is persecuting my family and myself. We have evidence of FBI documents which have been proven to contain fabricated statements regarding the investigation of me in America,'' he said.

''The FBI tried to have me deported based on evidence that is a proven fabrication. They have brought trumped-up charges of perjury against me in America: a threat to try to stop publication of the book.

''But the book has been published by Bloomsbury and by Penguin and is to be published in the US by Argonaut.''

Sweden has refused to grant asylum to Mr Coleman. The current move is calculated to cause maximum embarrassment to the Americans. Mr Coleman is hopeful the French will view his application seriously, particularly in light of recent American-French diplomatic difficulties over alleged spying.

Only a week ago, he says, the Americans granted asylum to Frenchman Ali Bourequat, who allegedly faced persecution in France over claims that French police had acted in partnership with drug dealers.

The central thrust of his book is that, in the late '80s, the United States Drugs Enforcement Agency had in its employ in Lebanon more than 30 informants over whom it had no direct control because it could not go directly to Lebanon.

They were running controlled deliveries of heroin from Beirut through Frankfurt to London and thence to New York and eventually Detroit, a classic DEA ''sting'' operation aimed at entrapping American drugs importers.

However, security was so lax that knowledge of the sting route was leaked and the Syrians, paid $10m dollars by the Iranians, smuggled a bomb on board PanAm Flight 103, carried aboard unwittingly at Frankfurt by the passenger Khalid Jafar. He died when the flight came down over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 270.

The theory is in direct conflict with the line being pursued by both US and British governments, that Libya alone was behind the bombing and that the bomb was loaded at Frankfurt from a Malta feeder flight. The extradition of two Libyan agents is being sought for trial either here or in the US.

Mr Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, said yesterday: ''Although he was not at a very high level, he was in a position to know what he wrote about. The book was co-authored by a man called Dan Goddard, who is a very serious man, for 10 years an assistant editor of the New York Times.

''In what Coleman has said to me there is much which I could not prove was false and much that was accurate to my knowledge. He seems to have the weight of the US on his back and has been much attacked by them because he is a potential threat to certain people. I think he has to be taken extremely seriously.''

Mr Dalyell said he believed the Americans had put pressure on the Swedes. ''I have no doubt that if Coleman went back to the United States he would end up under a train. France has a distinguished record in the matter of political asylum. I think this is a genuine application in that his life is undoubtedly at stake if he goes back to the US.''

In another twist to the Lockerbie saga, it emerged yesterday that the controversial documentary, The Maltese Double Cross, is to be screened on national television in Germany and Australia. The film, made by Allan Francovich, challenges the British and American view that the bombing was solely the work of two Libyan agents.

It has already been screened in the House of Commons and at Glasgow Film Theatre but was withdrawn from the schedules by Channel 4. Francovich's principal researcher, Mr John Ashton, said it was important that the film be shown as widely as possible.

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