Lockerbie appeal begins

25 January 2002

Lawyers representing the former Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi began their appeal on 23 January to overturn his conviction for the 1988 bombing of flight Pan Am 103. Meghrahi was found guilty last year of the murder of 259 passengers aboard the aircraft by a special court convened at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, where he has been detained pending the start of the appeal proceedings. His co-defendant Lamen Khalifah Fhimah, was acquitted and immediately returned to Libya (MEED 9:2:01).

The case for the appeal now rests on the testimony of a new witness supporting the claim that the bomb was placed on Pan Am 103 at Heathrow. According to Raymond Manly, a security guard at Heathrow airport at the time of the bombing, a secure door giving access to the loading area of Terminal 3 was tampered with on the night of 21 December 1988. The appeal, which is being heard by a panel of five judges headed by the Lord Justice General, Lord Cullen, is expected to last for about three weeks.

If the conviction is upheld, Megrahi will be transferred to a prison in Scotland where he will serve his life sentence. Attention will then shift to the issue of compensation for the families of the 270 victims of the bombing. The US government is demanding that compensation must be paid before full diplomatic relations can be restored. Washington has maintained its economic sanctions against Libya on the basis that Tripoli has failed to comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions. 'We have had positive meetings with the Libyans, but they have yet to fully comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and they know what needs to be done in that regard,' said a US government official in Washington on 23 January.

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