The Scottish prosecution service has interviewed a number of former officers from communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police in connection with ongoing investigations into the Lockerbie bombing, it has emerged.
German prosecutors in the city of Frankfurt an der Oder confirmed on Wednesday that they arranged interviews with five former Stasi officers for Scotland’s Crown Office prosecution service.
No details of the new investigation have been released, but there are longstanding allegations that the Stasi may have supplied the detonator used in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.
The Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi remains the only person ever convicted over the bombing, in which 270 people died.
But the Crown Office announced last December that it was pursuing new leads “in relation to the pursuit of other individuals involved in the conspiracy to commit the atrocity”.
“As this is a live criminal investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment,” a spokesman for the Crown Office said.
“Prosecutors and police, working with UK Government and US colleagues, will continue to pursue this investigation, with the sole aim of bringing those who acted along with al-Megrahi to justice.”
“The former Stasi officers were interviewed as witnesses, not as suspects,” a spokesman for the Frankfurt an der Oder prosecutor’s office said.
The Crown Office first asked to question the former Stasi officers in June last year, and has made a number of follow-up requests, the most recent a few days ago, the spokesman said.
As many as 20 former Stasi officers have been interviewed across Germany in connection with the case, according to Bild newspaper, but only prosecutors in Frankfurt an der Oder were prepared to comment in detail.
Prosecutors in the city of Potsdam confirmed that they were “providing assistance to the Crown Office”.
Details of the extensive links between the Stasi and terror groups and intelligence services hostile to the West only emerged after the end of the Cold War.
Carlos the Jackal, a Venezuelan terrorist, and Abu Nidal, the ruthless Palestinian radical, were both welcomed in East Berlin, while militants from around the world were flown into secret East German training camps.
It has long been known that the Stasi had access to the type of detonator used in the Lockerbie bomb.
But the Crown Office was at pains on Wednesday to stress that the aim of the current investigation is not to cast doubt on al-Megrahi’s guilt.
The Stasi also had links with Libyan intelligence, which it allowed to use East Berlin as a base for operations against the West, including the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub that killed two Americans in 1986.
The former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi accepted his country’s responsibility for the attack in 2003, though he claimed he did not order it.
Alison Di Rollo, the Scottish solicitor-general, pledged in December to pursue any new evidence in the case.
“Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of acting with others in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. Today, I can give you a commitment from Scotland that if new evidence about the involvement of others with al-Megrahi in the murder of the 270 victims becomes available we will reassess the case in close co-operation with our US colleagues,” she said.