TIMES UNION, Albany, N.Y.
Friday, October 27, 1995
SOME FLIGHT 103 VICTIMS' FAMILIES TO BOYCOTT ARLINGTON CEREMONYAssociated Press
NEWARK, N.J. A few of the families whose relatives died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 plan to boycott the Nov. 3 dedication of a monument to the victims in a protest against the Clinton administration.
Paul Hudson, co-founder of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said he would attend the memorial but respected anyone whose conscience told them not to.
``Our government needs to do more to achieve justice,'' said Hudson, of Albany. ``There can't be any closure without that.''
President Clinton will join in unveiling the Scottish cairn inscribed with the names of the victims at Arlington National Cemetery. The Boeing 747 exploded Dec. 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 aboard and 11 people on the ground. The victims included 189 Americans.
A gift from the Scottish government, the monument is a 12-foot conical tower built from 270 sandstone blocks from a quarry that produced material for the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Hundreds of relatives of the dead plan to attend. But the boycott by a small number reflects divisions among the families who banded together early in 1989 to seek justice for their loved ones.
Nearly seven years later, many relatives are torn between the need to come to spiritual peace over the greatest disaster in their lives, and rage over the lack of justice represented in Libya's unwillingness to surrender two agents charged in the bombing.
Five members of the relatives' group, Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, resigned its board of directors in March after failing to convince others of the need for a more strident campaign to get the U.S. government to obtain the Libyans' surrender.
The five plan to boycott the ceremony and say scores in the group support them.
``The emotional aspect of this cairn is phenomenal and we appreciate it,'' said Bert Ammerman, one of the five, and the former president of the victims' group. ``But we will not be party to an emotional solution to a political problem.''
Ammerman, of River Vale, planned a news conference the morning of the dedication to press Clinton to impose a unilateral naval blockade on Libya.
The U.N. Security Council in 1992 imposed trade and travel bans on Libya for rejecting demands to extradite the two intelligence agents linked to the case.
But Libyan President Muammar Khadafy, has refused to budge. France, Italy and other U.S. allies refuse to back an embargo of Libyan oil.
The cairn was built with the help of $300,000 contributed by 900 Americans. Its placement required a special act of Congress because Arlington cemetery is normally reserved for members of the military.
Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security adviser, has assisted the project. But Ammerman said he felt the administration's agenda was to appease relatives while doing little to get the Libyan agents.
``I would welcome the cairn if justice had been served. But this is putting the cart before the horse,'' said Aphrodite Tsairis of Franklin Lakes, whose 20-year-old daughter Alexia died aboard Flight 103.
George Williams, the current president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said the boycott was ``sour grapes'' by individuals ousted from the leadership of the group. The dedication ceremony will bring a measure of peace to some of the relatives, but it doesn't mean the group will stop pressing for justice, said Williams, a retired real estate agent in Joppa, Md.
Williams' son, Army Lt. Giordie Williams, 24, was aboard Pan Am 103 returning for the holidays from his post in Germany.