Our battle isn’t over yet

HeadLine: OUR BATTLE ISN’T OVER YET

The Mirror, 15/03/2002, p6&7
by SHAUN MILNE & GRAHAM TIBBETTS

THE Lockerbie bomber began the rest of his life sentence in Scotland’s
toughest jail last night.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 49, the convicted mass murderer,
failed in his final, desperate bid to cheat justice yesterday at Camp
Zeist in Holland
A panel of five law lords, chaired by the Lord Justice General Lord
Cullen, rejected all the appeal grounds and the terrorist was
immediately flown to Scotland.
There were joyous shouts of “yes” from relatives of those who died when
PanAm flight 103 was blown out of the winter sky over Lockerbie in
December 1988.
Lord Cullen dismissed the appeal against last January’s conviction,
then said: “For the reasons given in the opinion, in which we all
concur, we have concluded that none of the grounds of appeal is well
founded.
“The appeal will accordingly be refused.”
Al Megrahi launched his bid earlier this year, with defence advocate
William Taylor QC arguing that the guilty verdict had been a
miscarriage of justice.
His challenge was based partly on fresh evidence from retired Heathrow
Airport security guard Ray Manly.
He said he saw evidence of a break-in at a baggage handling area linked
to the bombing the night before PanAm 103 took off.
But the prosecution argued the new evidence was “hypothetical” and the
door could have been forced by airport staff seeking a short-cut to the
baggage area.
British relatives called for a full public inquiry into the events
leading up to the bombing to highlight issues of airport security and
alleged intelligence failures.
Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for the UK Families Flight 103 group, said:
“Ever since September 11 it has become plain that civil aviation
security did not protect the citizens.”
Mr Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, added: “We’re not
a group who have ever been after vengeance but rather truth and
justice.
“The focus now must be to try and achieve something good by making yet
another terrorist atrocity, which might be many times worse than
Lockerbie, less likely to happen.”
Peter Lowenstein, from New Jersey, whose 21-year-old son Alexander died
in the disaster, said: “It’s my firm belief that justice was done.
There is great relief at this point.”
But, after the hearing, Sabra Ammar, assistant secretary general of the
Union of Arab Lawyers, said the proceedings had been a “political
trial” and like “theatre”.
Hafid Jhoja, president of the Libyan Bar Association, said: “The whole
of Libya will be upset by this verdict.
“This was clearly a political judgement and not a legal one.”
Al Megrahi’s unique trial last year was held before three judges
without a jury.
He and co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, were handed over for trial
in a neutral country by Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
Fhimah was cleared of any involvement in the bombing.
The court heard how the bomb detonated as the plane passed over the
Dumfries and Galloway town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on
board and 11 others on the ground.
Political leaders in the United States last night called on Libya to
pay compensation to families of the victims.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Libya has obligations to
fulfil under UN Security Council resolutions.
He said: “The court has spoken. It’s time for Libya to act.”
Al Megrahi was expected to be bundled into Glasgow’s notorious
Barlinnie Jail, where a special area dubbed “Gaddafi Cafe” has been
made for him at a cost of around £250,000.
He will be able to cook his own halal meals or order specially-prepared
food from the Bar-L kitchens.
Although the cell is covered by CCTV, at least three prison officers
will keep constant watch on him, physically checking him every 15
minutes to make sure he does not harm himself. But he may also come
under threat from other prisoners.
A Barlinnie insider said: “We are wondering if he will be a conformist
or difficult.
“He could decide to accept his fate and serve out his sentence making
the best of his lot, or he could question and cause problems at every
turn which would cost a fortune.
“Also, we don’t know how the prisoners are going to react.
“Sometimes these kind of high-profile prisoners have a lot of kudos
about them, but a lot of Scottish people died in Lockerbie so I don’t
think there will be much sympathy for him.
“Also, one or two will want to make a name for themselves by getting at
him.”

**

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Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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