LOCKERBIE TRIAL DELIVERS VERDICT

HeadLine: LOCKERBIE TRIAL DELIVERS VERDICT

The Mirror, 31/01/2001, p6
by GORDON McILWRAITH & SHAUN MILNE

THE verdict Scotland and the rest of the world has waited 12 years for
will finally be delivered today.
For the grieving families, the media and the men accused of bombing Pan
Am flight 103, today is the day.
Judges in the Lockerbie trial – the biggest mass murder in British
history – will decide on the fate of the two Libyans accused of the
atrocity which claimed 270 lives on December 21.
They were not expected to give their decision in the highly-complex
case until next week. But they have taken just 12 days to do so.
In a hearing yesterday which lasted less than 60 seconds, presiding
judge, Lord Sutherland, said: “We do not propose to issue a verdict
today.
“We are, however, able to inform you that we will be in a position to
do so tomorrow.”
For the relatives in court to hearing his words, there was a sickening
knotting of the stomach, and a sharp intake of breath as the magnitude
of what is about to happen suddenly, perhaps cruelly, set in.
Make no mistake, today will go down in history, whatever the outcome.
Before retiring to consider the verdict, Lord Sutherland had said it
was “highly unlikely” that a decision would be reached this week.
The surprise news triggered a frantic bid by relatives and the media to
get to the former US airbase in central Holland on time.
The speed of the verdict gives little clue to what the judges have
decided.
The trial started on May 3 last year, but it has lasted only 84 court
days due to numerous interruptions. A total of 235 witnesses have been
called.
The final bill for the marathon hearing is expected to be more than
£60million.
The Crown allege that high- ranking Libyan secret agent Abdelbasset Ali
Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, 44, planted the bomb
which brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie.
It is claimed they sent it in a suitcase from Luqa airport in Malta and
it then passed through Frankfurt and Heathrow airports before being put
on the tragic flight.
The prosecution admit the case against the two men is circumstantial –
jigsaw pieces of evidence.
The thrust of their case is that:

THE explosive device was encased in a Toshiba “Bombeat” stereo
cassette recorder and packed into a brown Samsonite suitcase.

THE timer used to detonate the bomb was made by Swiss firm MeBo, who
supplied them to Libya.

MEGRAHI was a senior officer in Libyan intelligence and had obtained
the same type of timers from MeBo.

IN 1986, Megrahi told a colleague who was working on placing an
unaccompanied bag on a plane: “Don’t rush things.”

MEGRAHI was head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines and Fhimah was
their station manager at Luqa Airport.

HE regularly visited the island and was friendly with Fhimah.

WEEKS before the bombing, Megrahi arrived in Malta from Tripoli with
a brown Samsonite suitcase.

HE “resembled a lot” the man who bought clothes from a shop in Malta
which were later recovered from the plane wreck FHIMAH, who had passes
giving
him access to public no-go areas at Luqa, stored explosives in his
office drawer.

AN entry in his diary six days before Lockerbie referred to Megrahi
arriving from Zurich and reminding himself to get Air Malta baggage
tags.

ON December 20 both Libyans arrived in Malta from Tripoli and Megrahi
was using a false passport.

THEY returned to Libya the following morning, just after an Air Malta
flight took off for Frankfurt. Megrahi’s false passport was never used
again.

The Crown argue that the inference to be drawn from all these strands
is that Megrahi and Fhimah are the bombers.
he defence teams, however, maintain that such a claim infers too much
from too little – they say it is not enough.
And they have attacked the credibility and reliability of the key
witnesses.
They have branded some greedy liars and others as being confused in
their recollections.
Crucially, they say there is no direct evidence about anyone seeing
both Libyans putting the bag on the plane at Malta.
Palestinian terrorist Abu Talb, serving a life sentence in Sweden for
bombing a US airline office, has also been blamed by them for the
explosion.
A handful of families were in court yesterday to hear Lord Sutherland
announce when the judges will hand down their verdict.
Some expressed surprise that the judges did not spend longer
deliberating, but they were all pleased that an end to the long trial
was in sight.
The Reverend John Mosey, speaking on behalf of the British victims of
the disaster, said: “I’m surprised the verdict is so soon but glad from
a personal point of view.
“We’ve waited for a long time, we waited over eight years for a trial
and have been out here at the trial for nearly a year.”
British relatives have said they will accept the decision of the court
and that they trust the three judges to deliver a just verdict.
Mr Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter Helga died in the tragedy, said:
“My feeling is that we have three men who, from all we have been able
to discover, are not politically motivated.
“They have shown themselves to be extremely shrewd and we believe they
are going to come to an honest decision based on the evidence they have
heard.”
He said today would be an emotional day, but added: “It will be a
relief to finally know.”
WHATEVER happens, the British relatives will push for a public inquiry
into the tragedy.
They want the failings of the intelligence services in allowing a
terrorist to place a bomb on board the plane to come under the
spotlight.
They also want to expose the failings of aviation authorities in
allowing a bomb to get through airport security and on to the plane.
Mr Mosey said: “We want to know why it was allowed to happen, when
there was so much intelligence.
“We want to know why there were so many empty seats on the plane just
before Christmas, and why some people were warned not to get on the
plane.”
Relatives of many of the Americans who died on the plane are convinced
the two Libyans are guilty.
They will be satisfied with nothing but a guilty verdict and are
already expressing their fears that the speed of the verdict could
indicate an acquittal.

**



Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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