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Entries in Lockerbie Bomber (5)

Monday
May212012

Only Man Convicted in Lockerbie Bombing, Buried in Libya

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/GettyImages(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- The only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was buried Monday in Tripoli.  Just under a hundred family members and friends attended the funeral of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, who was buried at Zarwani cemetery, Tripoli's main burial grounds on the outskirts of the Libyan capital.

Many thought al Megrahi, 60, wouldn't last this long.  Terminally ill with cancer, he was released on "compassionate grounds" in Scotland 2 1/2 years ago.  Al Megrahi was the only person convicted in 2001 for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, in which 270 (189 American) people were killed over Lockerbie, Scotland.  He served his sentence in Scotland until his release.

Until he died Sunday, Al Megrahi -- an ex-intelligence official -- always claimed innocence and said he had nothing to do with the deadly terror attack.  British and American investigators had recently pushed to continue probing the case in Libya, but officials in that country insisted any new exploration would have to be carried out under Libyan control, according to The New York Times.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, however, set aside any calls for a new inquiry into al Megrahi's conviction in the wake of his death and reiterated his belief that al Megrahi was indeed guilty.

"This has been thoroughly gone through," Cameron said, according to the Edinburgh Evening News. "There was a proper process, a proper court proceeding.  We have to give people the chance to mourn those that were lost."

Cameron added, according to a New York Times report, that al Megrahi should never have been released by the Scottish government and repeated what he said during a U.S. visit two years ago -- that the Lockerbie bombing was "an appalling act of terror."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May202012

Al-Megrahi Dead: Was Justice Served in Lockerbie Bombing?

Manoocher Deghati/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI) -- Libyan intelligence officer Abdel-baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing died at home in Libya Sunday, according to his brother. He was 60.

Yet doubts have persisted about al-Megrahi's conviction, and it's never been established who ordered the Dec. 21, 1988, attack, in which a bomb exploded onboard Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York.

All 259 passengers and crew were killed, and 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie died when the aircraft's wings and fuel tanks plunged to the ground. There were 189 Americans on board.

In 2001, al-Megrahi was found guilty of carrying out the bombing and sentenced to life in jail by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands. He was released on compassionate grounds in August 2009, after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and returned to Libya.

The release was greeted with outrage, but there are others—including some family members of the victims of the terrorists' bomb—who question whether Megrahi should ever have been in jail at all.

"I do not believe Megrahi was guilty," Robert Black QC, professor emeritus of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh, told ABC News. "Certainly, on the evidence led at his trial he should never have been convicted."

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, also said he continues to believe that Megrahi had no involvement.

For the doubters, questions remain about the reliability of prosecution witnesses, the handling of forensic evidence, and even whether Libya was behind the attack.

At first Libya was not seen as a prime suspect, according to Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5. Initial suspicions fell on a pro-Palestinian group based in Syria. That changed after a breakthrough in the case that eventually led investigators to Megrahi.

A painstaking forensic examination of the debris from the Boeing 747, which was scattered across 800 square miles of Britain, found traces of explosive in a luggage container, and identified a suitcase that had contained the bomb.

Investigators then found fragments of clothing classed as "category one blast-damaged," meaning they were inside the suitcase that held the bomb.

The clothes were traced to a store in Malta, where the storekeeper recalled selling the clothing to a man resembling al Megrahi. It was found that the suitcase had been loaded onto PA103 from a connecting flight from Frankfurt, where records suggested that one item of luggage had been loaded on to the aircraft from a flight out of Malta. Evidence was later heard in court that Megrahi worked for Libya's intelligence service, and until January 2007 was head of its airline security section.

It was shown in court that Megrahi travelled to Malta in December 1988 using what's known as a "coded" passport, meaning a passport in a false name but issued by the Libyan passport authority.

Secret evidence, seen only by the trial judges, further implicated Libyan intelligence and a Libyan Airlines official in the operation, according to a former MI5 officer. Among other findings made public was a tiny fragment of electronic printed circuit board identified by MI5's main explosives and weapons expert as coming from a long-delay Swiss-made digital timer.

The manufacturers said they had supplied the same type of timing mechanism to Libya. However a review of the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found in 2007 that al-Megrahi may have been wrongfully convicted.

Among the grounds for doubt was new evidence indicating al Megrahi may not have been in Malta when the clothing was purchased. It was also revealed that four days before the ID parade at which the Maltese store worker picked out al-Megrahi, he had seen a photograph of the Libyan in a magazine article linking him to the bombing. Al-Megrahi insisted on his innocence right up to his death. Some of his supporters claim he may have been a convenient scapegoat.

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi was a longstanding supporter of terrorism around the world, but by the late 1990s wanted to end his country's pariah status.

After lengthy negotiations, Libya accepted responsibility for "the actions of its officials" over Lockerbie, agreed to pay more than $2 billion in compensation to victims' relatives, and surrendered Megrahi to the Scottish authorities for trial.

Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction, and shared intelligence with the United States on al Qaeda in the region. In turn, Western governments and companies were keen to exploit the country's important oil and commercial potential.

After Gaddafi's regime was overthrown, it was hoped that new information may come to light about what led to PA103's catastrophic damage at 31,000 feet above Scotland.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that the United States will continue to pursue justice on behalf of the victims.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep012011

Clinton ‘Encouraged’ by Libyan TNC, Presses Lockerbie Bomber Case

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Paris Thursday with leaders of the Libyan rebels’ Transitional National Council and said she came away feeling “encouraged” by what she heard.

“What we heard today was very promising,” she told reporters at a press conference at the end of the day.

The conference was the largest ever since the uprising in Libya began earlier this year and sought to confer legitimacy upon the rebel leadership. Clinton used the opportunity to call for the TNC to assume Libya’s seat in the United Nations.

“Today’s meeting validated the confidence that all the other nations around the table had placed in the TNC. And they were realistic about how much they have to do and how much they still face in the days ahead,” she said.

Clinton arrived in Paris hoping to learn about the TNC’s plans to build a democratic and stable future for the country.

“The Libyans were very responsive to the long list of ideas that were presented throughout the day.  And I was impressed by their openness,” Clinton said.

“And they still have a huge hill to climb here.  They don’t yet have their whole country secure.  But they are working with the international community to secure both chemical weapon stockpiles as well as conventional weapons.  They are taking action against extremism wherever they find it,” she said.

Clinton also pressed the TNC about the case of freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish jail because he was believed to be near death. Officials said Clinton stressed in her meetings with the leaders how important this case was for the United States.

Some members of Congress have written to Clinton, urging her to insist that Megrahi, who was convicted for his role in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, be transferred to the United States. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote to Clinton, urging that funds for the TNC be withheld until Megrahi is returned to prison. The State Department said the issue is important, but so is supporting and funding the Libyan rebels as they struggle to unite and stabilize the country.

For Clinton, the Megrahi case is close to her heart, as Clinton represented many of the victims’ families as a senator of New York.

“I share the anger,” Clinton said of the frustration on Capitol Hill. “I have said many times, the United States categorically disagrees with the decision that was made two years ago by the Scottish executive to release al-Megrahi and return him to Libya.  We have never wavered from our disagreement and condemnation of that decision. He should be behind bars.

“We’ve conveyed the importance that the United States places on this issue.  We want more information, and we want to have access to those who might have been somehow involved in the planning or execution of the bombing,” she said.

“They’ve assured us that they understand the sensitivities surrounding this case,” Clinton continued,  "and they will give the matter the consideration it richly deserves at the earliest opportunity.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Lockerbie Bomber Found in Libya; Won't Be Extradited to US

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- There seems to be little chance now that the only person tried and convicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland will be turned over to the U.S. for prosecution.

While the rebel-run Transitional National Council in Libya says it knows the whereabouts of so-called "Lockerbie bomber" Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a representative for the group made it clear Sunday that "We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West."

Al-Megrhai was tried in Scotland for the terrorist bombing that killed 270 people, most of them Americans returning home for the Christmas holidays.  Two years ago, al-Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds because his physician said he was dying of terminal cancer and only had a short time to live.

His release alone outraged the U.S. State Department and victims' families, but the most upsetting aspect of al-Megrahi's return to Libya was the hero's welcome he received from thousands upon arriving in Tripoli.

Two years later, al-Megrahi, who has always maintained his innocence, is still alive but said to be gravely ill.  CNN reports that he is in a coma and residing at his villa in Tripoli under the care of his family members, who say he is near death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug252011

Lockerbie Bomber Keeping a Low Profile

This file photo dated Feb. 18, 1992 shows Libyan Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi escorted by security officers in Tripoli in Libya. Megrahi, jailed in 2001 over the bombing which killed 270 people, was freed in 2009 on compassionate grounds due to his terminal cancer. Photo by MANOOCHER DEGHATI/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- It’s not just Gadhafi and family who have done a disappearing act. Convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi seems to have gone missing, too.

Despite being handed a life sentence, the Lockerbie bomber was freed in 2009 when officials expected Megrahi had only months to live amid doctors' reports he had terminal cancer. Now, his neighbors in Tripoli tell the Daily Telegraph that he hasn’t been seen since the rebel advance into the city.
 
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has told the BBC that “if I was a Scottish minister I would be looking at this again and reviewing it to see what I could do. If in Scotland they want the active support of the UK government in seeking information about him and supporting any representations they want to make about him, they will certainly get that very energetic support."

The current British government was not in power when Megrahi was freed, and opposed the move.
 
Technically, Megrahi is still a Scottish prisoner released on license, and has to stay in contact with Scotland’s East Renfrewshire Council, which has tried unsuccessfully to reach him all week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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