A MILITARY instructor who was locked up under the Gaddafi regime for his alleged involvement in an airline disaster known as the "Libyan Lockerbie" has spoken out about it for the first time.

Majid Tayari was the instructor on board a Libyan MiG fighter jet reported to have been involved in a mid-air collision with Libyan Airlines flight 1103, killing 157 passengers, in December 1992. After 20 years of silence, he has now claimed he spent years behind bars for a crime he did not commit because the MiG did not collide with the passenger plane.

He said: "There is no air collision. We were too close to each other, yes. But there was no air collision."

Mr Tayari believes his jet was hit by wreckage from flight 1103. He added: "Right away we were hit from underneath with a very strong shock. I saw a huge fire and I decided to eject."

The air safety manager with Libyan Arab Airlines in 1992, Mahmud Tekalli, is also sure a mid-air collision was not the cause.

He believes flight 1103 was deliberately destroyed.

"The plane exploded in mid-air due to explosive devices, possibly put by Gaddafi agents," he said.

Relatives of the victims of the disaster also believe the MiG collision was fabricated by Gaddafi to cover up his plans to blow up the passenger flight so he could accuse the US Navy of a revenge attack for Lockerbie. They believe a bomb on board failed to detonate and the Libyan leader had the plane shot down and covered up the evidence.

However, Dr Jim Swire, a Justice for Megrahi cam-paigner whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie disaster, claimed there was no evidence indicating Libya was ever involved in the Scottish explosion.

He said: "I've no knowledge of what caused the Libyan airline crash, but what I do know is that it's now clear Megrahi had no link to the Lockerbie disaster and therefore there is no valid link between the country of Libya and the atrocity and it's about time the world realised this."

Dr Swire added: "This year is going to be the year when this case is finally seen for what it really is."