Lockerbie Convict Prepares For Freedom Bid Wednesday
Lockerbie defendant Abdelbaset al Megrahi on Wednesday makes a final bid for freedom as he launches an appeal against his conviction.
After almost a year as the only inmate of Scotland’s sole overseas prison, at Camp Zeist, Holland, the 49-year-old Libyan will hope to overturn the decision of three Scottish judges, according to reports. The panel found him guilty of killing 270 people in the 1988 atrocity following a unique case heard without a jury and in a specially convened, purpose-built Scottish court at the former United States air base.
Al Megrahi was jailed for life, with a minimum recommendation that he serve 20 years, following 84 days of proceedings stretched across nine months. His co-defendant al Amin Khalifa Fhima was acquitted and returned to Libya, where he received a "hero's welcome.”
Megrahi returns to the courtroom for an appeal in front of five judges which will effectively seal his fate, Scottish legal authorities were quoted as saying Tuesday.
If the conviction is upheld, al Megrahi, who has been in prison at the base since giving himself up in April 1999, will be transferred to a Scottish prison where he will serve the rest of his sentence. In a unique move, permission has been given for television cameras to be allowed into the court during proceedings.
Although it is unlikely the appeal will be broadcast live on television, the BBC will show the hearing on a dedicated website. The decision was made by Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice General, Scotland’s most senior judge. The British foreign office said Tuesday that talks were ongoing to secure compensation for the victims of the bombing.
Al Megrahi's appeal is likely to hinge on the evidence of a London Heathrow airport security guard who claims he discovered a break-in at the airport on December 21, 1988, 17 hours before the doomed plane took off for New York.
Ray Manly said he reported the incident at the time and was interviewed by anti-terrorist officers, but his evidence was never brought before al Megrahi's trial.
According to the prosecution's version of events, which was accepted by the three judges, the suitcase carrying the bomb which blew up the plane was loaded onto a plane in Malta. From there it was transported via Frankfurt to Heathrow, where it was loaded on to PAM AM flight 103.
Al Megrahi's defense team has always insisted the bomb suitcase was more likely to have been placed on board the plane at Heathrow and will look to Manly's evidence to support their claim. (Albawaba.com)
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