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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

Lockerbie bombing: appeal against Abdelbaset Al Megrahi conviction rejected

Former Libyan intelligence officer protested his innocence until his death in 2012

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds before his death in 2012. AFP
Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds before his death in 2012. AFP

The family of Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Al Megrahi lost an appeal against his conviction for bringing down Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, the deadliest terrorist atrocity in British history.

Five judges on Friday rejected the appeal against the conviction of Megrahi, who went to his grave in 2012 protesting his innocence over the bombing that killed 270 people.

His family said they were heartbroken about the decision and said they planned to appeal to the UK’s highest court.

Megrahi was jailed for life in 2001 after being found guilty of the murder of 243 passengers,16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie who died in the attack on the aircraft flying from London to New York. Most of the dead were Americans.

He is the only man to have been convicted of the bombing on December 21, 1998.

His conviction followed years of sanctions, diplomatic deals and political wrangling between the US, UK and Libya that resulted in a special Scottish court being convened in the Netherlands.

Megrahi’s co-defendant was cleared but the former intelligence officer served seven years in a Scottish prison before his release in 2009 on compassionate grounds after a diagnosis of terminal cancer. He returned to Libya to a hero’s welcome and died there three years later.

In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi accepted his country's responsibility for the bombing and paid $2.7 billion compensation to the victims' families, but did not admit to personally ordering the attack.

However, Megrahi's family and some relatives of the Scottish victims always doubted his guilt.

Megrahi first appealed in 2002 but this was rejected by Scotland's High Court. A second appeal was abandoned in 2009 just before his return to Libya.

His son, Ali Al Megrahi, said his family were heartbroken by the decision of the Scottish courts, according to his lawyer Aamer Anwar.

“He maintained his father’s innocence and he is determined to fulfil his promise to clear his name and that of Libya.

“This chapter sadly is not closed for the families. It has been 32 long years for families fighting and struggling for justice, hoping for the truth to emerge.

“Quite clearly the only place that this can be resolved once and for all is in a courtroom.”

Prosecutors said Megrahi’s use of a false passport to Malta pointed to his guilt. The bomb is believed to have been loaded on to a plane on the Mediterranean island bound for Frankfurt, where it connected with flight 103.

But lawyers for the family challenged the claim and disputed the evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper, who claimed he sold clothing to Megrahi that was found wrapped around the bomb packed inside a suitcase.

The appeal followed a ruling by a Scottish justice review body last year that concluded there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

Its 419-page report found that new information still pointed to Libya and Megrahi being culprits but raised questions about the payment of witnesses and the identity of Megrahi as the man who bought the clothes in Malta.

The US charged a third person in connection with the bombing on the 32nd anniversary of the atrocity last month.

The US claimed that Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al Marimi made the bomb and travelled with Megrahi and a third man to Malta.

The third man, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, stood trial with Megrahi but was acquitted.

Updated: January 16, 2021 06:15 PM

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