|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
1 - 7 February 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Curtain falls on LockerbieIN A SURPRISE ruling the special Scottish court set up in The Netherlands to try two Libyans suspected of bombing a Pan Am airliner 12 years ago over Lockerbie, Scotland, found one of the defendants guilty and ordered the acquittal of the other.
Abdel-Basset Al-Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, while co-accused Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was found not guilty and set free. Al-Megrahi will not be eligible for parole before spending 20 years in a special prison cell already built in Glasgow.
Shortly after the ruling Libya said it would appeal and continued to deny involvement in the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people were killed. The British and American governments asked Libya to pay compensation to the victims.
Libya was hoping that the two defendants would be acquitted so that the UN Security Council would totally lift sanctions imposed on Tripoli in 1992. The sanctions -- an air and arms embargo -- were suspended last year after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to hand over the two suspects for trial in The Netherlands by a special Scottish court.
Reactions of the families of the victims varied. Some said they believed justice was served and that they wanted the case to be closed, while others insisted US and British authorities should continue pursuing other Libyan officials, saying Al-Megrahi, allegedly a former intelligence officer, was not acting on his own.
A spokesman for American families said the conviction of Al-Megrahi pointed directly to the Libyan leader.
The crime, it was alleged, was to "further the purposes" of the Libyan intelligence services. The attack was believed to be in revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986.
"With Al-Megrahi being found guilty, that is state-sponsored terrorism," the US relatives' spokesman Bert Ammerman said. "That leads to the doorstep of Gaddafi. He is a rogue leader and Libya is a rogue nation."
In a unanimous verdict, three Scottish judges found Al-Megrahi, 49, guilty of planting the bomb aboard a flight in Malta, which connected via Frankfurt with Pan Am's London-New York flight.
The judges were also unanimous in acquitting defendant Libyan Fahima of causing the explosion, which destroyed the Boeing 747 at cruising altitude over Lockerbie.
Al-Megrahi and Fahima sat side by side in the dock as they have done for the past 85 sessions. They were dressed in traditional white robes, Fahima in a dark fez and Al-Megrahi in a white one.
They did not look at each other. Al-Megrahi slumped deeper in his chair as presiding judge Lord Sutherland pronounced the word "guilty." Fahima wiped his face with his hand when his "not guilty" verdict came.
Abu Zeid Dorda, Libya's UN envoy, denied Libyan involvement in the bombing and told CNN: "Libya had nothing to do with this tragedy at all. Libya as a state had nothing to do with this case."
Dorda added Libya wanted normal relations with the outside world. "Let's forget about the past. Let's look forward to the future and let's have normal relations and cooperation in different fields," he added.
A senior US official welcomed the verdict, but stressed that the case was not closed. "The investigation continues to determine who else may have been involved in this act of terrorism and to bring that individual or those individuals to justice," acting Deputy Attorney-General Bob Mullen told reporters. "The case is not closed," he added.
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