Lockerbie Trial Discussion Room - your opinion !
Lockerbie Bombing Trial
THE APPEAL VERDICT
Start: 14/03/2002 *** Updated: March 18, 2002
This page will keep you informed about the judgment in the Lockerbie bombing appeal: featuring news update AROUND THE HOUR, interviews, reactions, pictures and much more.
Latest additions at end of page.
Come and join the discussion: Did the world really got to know the truth at the trial in the Netherlands ?
Did Scottish justice do a good or bad job ? What is YOUR reaction to the verdict ?
Lockerbie bombing appeal dismissed !
14/03/02 at 1100 hours CET
The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has had his conviction upheld by an appeals court. Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was jailed for life for his part in the bombing which killed 259 people on board Pan AM flight 103 and 11 people on the ground in the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The judges said "none of the grounds of the appeal are well-founded."
"We all concur that none of the grounds of the appeal are well founded," said the presiding Judge, Lord Cullen. "This brings the procedures to an end," he said, concluding the brief verdict.
Al-Megrahi will now be transferred from Camp Zeist in the Netherlands to Scotland to serve his sentence -- the original trial judges recommended at least 20 years. Five appeal court judges delivered their ruling at 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) at Camp Zeist. He has no further right of appeal in the high courts, but he does have the option of an appeal to Britain's Privy Council.
However, the 49-year-old Libyan's lawyers said there were two avenues of appeal still open, the House of Lords, and the European court of human rights. They branded the ruling "political" and "illegal", insisting there was no proof to link him to the bomb which met any "international legal standards".
Al-Megrahi is expected to be airlifted to a base in the Netherlands on Thursday before being taken to a specially-built prison cell in Scotland, where he will enjoy a certain amount of comfort, including Libyan food. CNN's Chris Burns said: "This effectively closes the book on the case." He added it now opens the way for possibly billions of dollars of compensation to be paid to the families of those who died.
The full appeal verdict
or from the website of the Scottish Court at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/index1.htm
John Grant, a professor at Glasgow University who has been covering the case, said he was not surprised by the verdict. "Under the law of Scotland it is very difficult to get a conviction...so it is difficult to win an appeal." The decision could pave the way for a public inquiry into the tragedy. "I do not think he dreamt up the idea on his own in a Libyan cafe," Grant added.
Alistair Bonnington, BBC Scotland and Lockerbie trial briefing unit lawyer, said the result was "no surprise" to those who had observed proceedings. He said he hoped the facility at Camp Zeist, 32 miles from Amsterdam, could now be used as an international court to hear terrorism and other cases.
Al Megrahi's wife Aisha, dressed entirely in black, collapsed in sobs as the ruling was read out. She almost tripped and fell as she ran weeping from the courtroom. She rose from her seat wailing and several relatives jumped up to hold her.
Al-Megrahi glanced in her direction through the bullet-proof glass wall into the public gallery as she was led away. As Cullen dismissed the appeal, al Megrahi himself, dressed in white Arab robes and a red fez, swallowed hard, once looking dazed.
A shout of "Yes" went out from someone in the public gallery and there was the sound of one or two people applauding at the rear of the gallery. British and American relatives in the front rows of the public gallery shook each others hands.
Libya condemned the decision as a "political verdict" handed down under pressure from Washington and London.
Scotland's most senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, said: "I believe that these proceedings have demonstrated what the judicial process can achieve when the international community acts together. "I hope that this can be the enduring legacy of the Lockerbie trial. It is one that cannot and must not be forgotten".
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on Libya to honour its obligations in respect of Lockerbie and to co-operate fully with UN Security Council resolutions. The UK Government would study the judgement before deciding on whether or not it would hold an inquiry into the bombing.
Edwin Bollier, the controversal Crown witness from Zurich who testified at the trial in 2000, says: "The reason can definitly be found in the very week defense-strategy by the defense-team Duff-/Taylor!-While Mr. A.Megrahi had been strongly advised to reject continued representation through Duff & Taylor, he decided under heavy emotional pressure to continue with this team that already lost his orginal trial."
"A new team of straight forward, irreproachable, non-political, technically smart and unacompromising lawyers could not only have evened out the long string of legal errors, mistakes and omissions committed by the Duff-/Taylor-team, they would and could actually have introduced new evidence in such a manner that even a layman would have understood the then rock-solid reasons for the appeal. We then would not have experienced a several months-long "hibernation"-time by a losing legal-team to simply make us believe that "material was being collected" to guarantee a successful appeal;-while in fact all that was successful was the staggering amount of dollars and cents that this legal team earned day by day!"
"It may now well be that most of the real truth will still surface during the forthcoming civil trial where it will be determined, just how much in hundreds of millions, or even billions of US$ Libya will have to offer and pay in damages and compensation. The chance to so prove Mr. A. Megrahi to be innocent, while unveiling close to the total truth will only stand a chance with Libya appointing a totally new team of lawyers for this task!"
PAN AM 103 relatives
Earlier today relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie air disaster had arrived at court to hear the outcome of the appeal of the man convicted of the bombing. A steady stream of victims' families from the US and Britain arrived to the Scottish Court in the Netherlands for the verdict. Among them was Kathleen Flynn, from Montville, New Jersey, whose 21-year-old son, JP, died in the 1988 atrocity.
She said: "It's a day of high anxiety for us, but we're confident that the Scottish prosecutors have put forward a very clear and concise case. "I can't see anything that was put forward in the appeal that would make a lick of difference to the conviction." U.S. officials have promised that leads in the Lockerbie case will continue to be pursued, said Kathleen Flynn, an American whose 21-year-old son died in the crash. "If there is a trail of evidence that comes out...we will follow it," she told reporters.
"After 9/11 (the September 11 suicide airliner attacks in the U.S.) everyone in the world is cognizant of the importance of dealing directly and swiftly with terrorism," Flynn added.
Bereaved relatives from Britain repeated their call for a full public inquiry while several from the United States demanded action by their government as part of its war on terrorism. "It's not the end of the road by a long way," said Jean Berkley, a Briton whose son Alistair was on Pan Am Flight 103 when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988 and claimed 270 lives. The UK Families Association, which has long demanded a public, independent inquiry into Lockerbie, would meet this weekend to decide their next move, Berkley said.
Lockerbie campaigner Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, said as he left the court building: "We have seen the conclusion of the Scottish criminal process. "It is not the end of the road for the British families. "We're not a group who have ever been after vengeance but were after truth and justice. "Since September 11 we have been particularly concerned because Lockerbie was a total failure of security at Heathrow. "It remains our utmost endeavour to set up an inquiry, which we will be talking to the British Government about forthwith, to have an independent look at the British aviation industry."
Dr Swire asked for everyone to pause and think of the disaster that claimed so many lives, describing how the "eggshell-thin" fuselage of Pan Am Flight 103 broke up thousands of feet above the small Scottish community. "Two and a half minutes later, death rained down on the town below," he said. "This is not a time for celebration, it's a time to get our forces together and think what we can do.
"This result today is the result of the best available criminal process we could have hoped for in the face of our search for truth and justice." Jim Swire said outside the court following the ruling, that it "remains our utmost endeavour to set up an inquiry." Relatives of the deceased are due to meet with the British government later on Thursday.
"This is not a time for celebration, but to gather our forces and see what we can do to prevent this ever happening again," he told reporters. "This court has done a good job...but it has a very narrow focus. "It has not been able to say why such people do such things, and how Western governments and agencies had failed to protect us when they had so much evidence."
CNN TRANCSRIPT MArch 14, 2002
ROSEMARY WOLFE, STEPMOTHER OF BOMBING VICTIM: Good morning.
WHITFIELD: Well, you know, the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he that hopes this decision will finally give the loved ones the survivors of those who were killed in this plane crash a moment of closure, will give them some comfort. What is this decision giving you?
WOLFE: I don't think there is really ever closure. I'm happy that the verdict was upheld and I'm relieved. But the situation now is of extreme importance for Gadhafi to accept responsibility, and to -- not only for himself, but for the Libyan officials who were involved in this, and for us, we want to assure that he go before the U.N. and make that statement of responsibility, and also, make a statement proving that he has renounced terrorism.
WHITFIELD: Well before this decision, how worried were you that possibly Al-Megrahi's conviction might be overturned when the appellant process began?
WOLFE: Well, at the beginning, I wasn't too concerned, but as I went through the trial, I did have some concern. But ultimately, I knew that the evidence was strong, and I was hopeful that the judges would come up with a verdict that they did today.
WHITFIELD: You said this decision doesn't necessarily bring any comfort. But you know, in what way might the family members here in this states -- this plane taken off from Heathrow and was on its way -- it was New York bound. Of the families here in the states, how closely do you believe most family members watching this case, or is that much more painful to kind of relive this all over again by listening to the developments of this appellate process.
WHITFIELD: It is painful to relive it, but it's something that we have to do, because this was about bringing some measure of justice. We don't have full justice here. We only have 1 percent of the story. The important thing is that Al-Megrahi was identified as the member of the Libyan intelligence operation, and that ties him directly to Gadhafi. So that does bring some sense of comfort.
But as far as closure, you never have closure over losing a loved one, because your life has changed forever. And for many of us, we would like to get the rest of the truth as to who was involved and exactly what happened.
And, Rosemary, for you and perhaps other family members, too, just when you thought that perhaps you were kind of on the road to a recovery, so to speak, take me back to when 9-11 took place, how much did that end up kind of forcing all of you to relive once again what you had been going through?
WOLFE: It was one of the hardest days that I think I've gone through since December 21st. It was absolutely shattering, because so many of us had worked over the years to try to never have this happen again and to get airline security to the point where this couldn't happen. There was thing put in place that shouldn't have allowed it to happen, but it happened anyway. And I was really overwhelmed.
WHITFIELD: All right, Thanks very much, Rosemary Wolfe, for having to talk with us about this, and I appreciate your feedback on this.
Thanks very much joining us.
WOLFE: Thank you. (END TRANSCRIPT)
More reactions from relatives:
Eileen Monetti, who lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, lost her son Rick, 20. She told Reuters she did not believe she would ever have closure but was delighted by the decision. "We don't have perfect justice but we've gone a whole lot further than I ever thought we would in December 1988."
Lockerbie residents, who saw 11 of their neighbours die when the plane was blown out of the sky, also recognised that although the appeal ruling closed one door, the issue had not completely finished. Graham Herbert, head of the Lockerbie Academy college, said: "This is another chapter closed, although it's not the final one. "There may be a public inquiry and civil action but hopefully we are one step nearer to the end." No clocks stopped, no bells tolled as residents went about their day-to-day business in the small town.
Peter Lowenstein, an American who lost his son Alexander in the disaster, expressed relief and said many relatives had feared the conviction might be overturned. "It was very tense (before the judgement)," he said. "Now, there's a tremendous sense of relief...justice was done."
But some relatives said that though the end of legal proceedings gave them some satisfaction, the tragedy would continue to haunt them. "I don't think many of us will ever have closure. We lost our whole lives, we lost our children, our grandchildren," said Glenn Johnson, whose daughter died. "I have a feeling that we may never find out who ordered it."
Daniel Cohen from Cape May, USA, who lost his daughter Theoodora on Pan Am 103, commented: "I had expected the conviction to be upheld, but of course there are always moments of anxiety, so I was deeply relieved to hear the news. However, as I have told just about anyone who will listen the real story is taking place elsewhere--New York, Paris, Washington and probably Tripoli. What now? There are discussions as to compensation and what form of responsibility the Libyan government is willing to acknowledge. We will certainly hear a good deal more very soon--probably before the end of the month."
American Larry Fisher said the United States should take consider taking action against Libya. "The question remains for the U.S. government with our newly established policy of zero tolerance against terrorism, what this means for Libya," he said. "We need to reach back 13 years and apply it to this event."
Faces huge legal claim
Al Megrahi could become embroiled in a multi-million pound damages action in the United States. He is now facing being sued, along with the Libyan Government, as insurers for the now-defunct Pan Am airline seek to claw back some of the compensation paid to families of the 270 victims. Representatives of the US insurance firm went this week to Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands, where Megrahi is imprisoned, and tried to serve papers on him, giving official notification that it had acquired Pan Am's rights.
A source said: "They were not let in, but they left the papers and asked that they be passed on to him. It looks like they thought they would take the chance while Megrahi was still there, in case he wins his appeal and disappears back in Libya. Even if he does win his criminal appeal, he could still be held responsible for the bombing under less stringent civil law.
"He might not have the means to pay any award, but it would all add to the pressure on Libya."
"The whole of Libya will be upset by this verdict. This was clearly a political judgement and not a legal one. There was no clear evidence that this involved a Libyan citizen. I am here to observe the proceedings as a Libyan lawyer and president of our Bar Association and I will be reporting back. If there is another legal procedure we will use it. We will certainly be going to the Libyan human rights court because all Libyan people are upset by what has happened. The Americans made it clear this was a political issue all along." "I am here to observe the proceedings as a Libyan lawyer and president of our Bar Association and I will be reporting back.
Hafid Jhoja, The president of the Libyan Bar Association
"Arab rulers should no more accept any trial concerning an Arab citizen outside the Arab world. It is a political trial which aimed to convict the political Libyan system and a Libyan citizen."
Sabra Ammar, assistant secretary general of the Union of Arab Lawyers
"The Lockerbie bombing was probably the worst atrocity Scotland has witnessed. This unique trial has shown the Scottish justice system to be robust and effective in the eyes of the world -right from the actions of the police officers investigating the immediate aftermath of this terrible crime up to today's verdict.
Roseanna Cunningham, SNP's shadow Scottish justice minister
Al-Megrahi's brother, Mohamed Ali, said the bomber told his mother not to worry about him during his last phone call home before beginning his life sentence. Speaking to The Herald newspaper from his home in Tripoli, he added that his brother still maintained his innocence. Mr Ali said: "He is trusting in Allah. He accepted the decision like a brave man even though he knows he is innocent."
"Nobody from our country and society believes in Western justice. They showed they are below the Third World because they bow to pressure from superior countries."
The General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation /statement
Tripoli/14 al Rabie/Jana
The General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation has issued a statement on the upholding by the Scotish court of the verdict against the Libyan national Abd al Basset al Megrahi in connection with the Lockerbie case , it reads as follows:
The General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation has learnt of the ruling issued by the Scottish Court sitting in Camp Zeist , Netherland in which it convicted Abd al Basset Al Megrahi and as it is deeply surprised by the ruling it wishes to confirm that the ruling like the previous one was based on circumstantial evidence that has never been proved and dismissed by legal experts including Mr. Robert Black , the Scottish lawyer who orchestrated the Lockerbie trial and Hanz Kotchler ,who was appointed by the United Nations as a court observer .
The General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation has hoped following the acceptance of the appeal submitted by Al- Megrahi that the Scottish judges have rid themselves of political pressure employed by the United States and Britain and that they will study the case in a pure legal framework free from political influence ,but unfortunately like its predecessor the appeal ruling was based on conclusions that can not match an evidence and obviosely ignored the new evidence brought to the court by the defence including the break-into the luggage area in Heathrow airport which confirms once more the influence exercised by the US and Britain on the court in order to come out with a political verdict that's based on inconsistent considerations , disinformation and unverfied conclusions.
The General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation as it clarifies these facts reiterates its conviction of the innocence of the Libyan citizen Abd al Basset Al Megrahi and considers the ruling into the appeal case as a political verdict imposed by certain parties which undermined the credibility of the Scottish judiciary that was expected to remove the shame brough about as a result of the previouse ruling .
Aware that the new ruling has nothing to do with a fair trial and as a commiment to the right of the Graet Jamahiriya for compensation for the losses incured by the the unjust sanctions the General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation would seek whatever means that would enable it to achieve the following:
Firstly: The immediate release of Abd al Basset Al Megrahi who was convicted for political reasons and unless that happened he would be considered as a political hostage.
Secondly: The immediate liftting of the unjust sanctions against Libya which were imposed as a result of American and British political pressure and compensation of the Libyan people for the human and material losses caused by the sanctions.
Thirdly: To ensure that the Libyan people get a fair compensation for the 1986 American aggression and hand-over of the perpetrators of that aggression to be tried in Libya.
Finally the General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation highly values the support shown by most countries of the world ,international and regional organisations and all the honest and the free vis avis this case and expresses its gratitude for all efforts made by them and calls on them once more to to do whatever possible in oder for the truth to be known and justice to be established.
/Jamahiriya News Agency/
Scottish Court / Unfair Verdict - as given by Libyan News Agency JANA
Tripoli / Al Rabie 14/ Jana
The Scottish Court announced that it upholds that the Verdict issued against the Libyan National and Political Hostage Abdel Bassit Al Megrahi. His appeal was rejected during the Court Session today in Camp Zeist, Holland. In this way the Court dealt a severe insult and blow to the Scottish Judiciary which was expected to redress the situation and be fair to the Libyan National. All the Affadavits and Court Procedures confirmed the Innocence of this Libyan National. He was only a Political Hostage convicted unfairly due to Political pressures and he had no relation whatsoever with the Lockerbie Incident.
This unfair ruling issued against the Libyan National, who is being held Hostage, obliges us to all International Organisations concerned with Human Rights including the European Court for Human Rights, the Scottish Commission for reviewing criminal sentences and the House of Lords, to shoulder their responsibility and act towards redressing Justice which had been dealt a blow by this Court.
We re-affirm to the whole world that Abdel Basset Al Megrahi is the jesus of the Modern Age. We cry to the International Conscience to awaken and refute the falsehood of this ruling issued against him. This unfair ruling was based on very flimsy circumstantial evidence which all legal experts have confimred is totally false.
/Jamahiriyan News Agency/
Embassies under protection:
Security surrounding foreign embassies and UN offices in the Libyan capital Tripoli was heightened as the Libyan government slammed the Lockerbie appeal court ruling. The Libyan Foreign Ministry described the five-judge court's unanimous decision as a "political verdict" and vowed to continue efforts to free Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi.
Anti-riot police have surrounded the British and Dutch embassies in Tripoli, as well as the UN offices, amid fears of street protests over the Lockerbie court ruling. Libya reiterated "its unwavering belief of the innocence of the Libyan citizen Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi, and that the appeals verdict against him is a political verdict imposed by the will of certain parties," according to the Foreign Ministry statement.
UN observer condemn appeal recejection
A United Nations observer has described the dismissal of the Lockerbie bomber's appeal as "a spectacular miscarriage of justice".
Professor Hans Köchler was speaking after five Scottish judges rejected Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's attempt to overturn his conviction for murdering 270 people in the 1988 atrocity.
Professor Köchler, 53, who teaches philosophy at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, was one of five UN observers who followed the Lockerbie case. They were appointed as part of the deal between the UN and Libya which allowed the extradition of al-Megrahi and a co-accused, who was found not guilty at the trial last year, to face the charges. The observers are not bound to report back formally to the UN but Professor Köchler said that under the circumstances, he felt compelled to do so.
He told BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme: "I am sorry to admit that my impression is that justice was not done and that we are dealing here with a rather spectacular case of a miscarriage of justice. "I am at a loss to explain how this decision of the appeal court can have been passed unanimously in light of some of the questions asked and analysis presented by one or the other of the appeal court judges during the appeal. "I see a kind of gap between how the sessions of the appeal court went and the unanaimity of this decision... which did not give any credence at all to any of the grounds of appeal which were presented.
"I base my observation only on logic and reason. "Frankly speaking I am not convinced, I was not convinced when I read the opinion of the court after the trial last year and I was not convinced when I went through the text presented today.
"I am not convinced at all that the sequence of events that led to this explosion of the plane over Scotland was as described by the court. Everything that is presented is only circumstantial evidence." Asked if he spoke for the entire UN observation team, he said: "Based on the informal conversations we had today - you can imagine that we have spoken to each other after the verdict - I have the impression that this concern is shared by the large majority of the observers."
Clare Connelly, a member of the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit at Glasgow University, said Professor Köchler's comments displayed a "profound misunderstanding" of Scotland's adversarial legal system.
Professor Köchler spoke to al-Megrahi after the hearing and revealed: "He is rather composed but of course frustrated and he feels himself to be a victim of international politics. "He is in an angry mood but composed."
Reactions in Lockerbie:
Marjory McQueen, a Lockerbie local councillor who lived through the disaster and its aftermath, spoke for the majority of villagers when she said: "We hope we can now draw a line in the sand." She added: "We have never been involved with the global machinations. We have concentrated on doing the best we can for victims' families when they visit Lockerbie.
"Our thoughts today are with the relatives who have lived with this. If the conviction of one person gives them a sense of closure that's good enough for us."
In the High Street, people generally welcomed the verdict, and in Sherwood Crescent, where 11 local residents were killed, widow Mary Ward, 70, said: "I'm pleased it's over at last. I only hope they've got the right man. I thought he was going to get off and that the authorities were just delaying things." She added: "Of course, the man who has been jailed was not the only person involved. But I don't expect any of the others will ever be brought to justice."
Mrs Ward's home was destroyed when the jet's fuel filled wings gouged out a huge crater nearby. She recalled how on the night of the disaster she was preparing to take a present to her friend, Jean Murray, 84, a few doors away. She was killed and her body was never found."If I had been two minutes later I would have been killed," she said. "I consider myself a very lucky person."
George Stobbs was Lockerbie's police inspector when the aircraft blew up. He was on duty in the police station only a few hundred yards from Sherwood. Now retired, he said yesterday: "It's a good result. It vindicates all the good police work that went into solving this difficult case."
Sir John Orr, who recently retired as Strathclyde's chief constable, was senior investigating officer for the first year of the Lockerbie case when much of the ground work was completed. He said yesterday at his home in Dumfries: "It is the relatives I feel greatly for. I only hope they obtain solace and some quiet satisfaction after what they have endured for 13 years."
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