Lockerbie Court Grapples With Key Witness's Silence
The Scottish court trying two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing on Wednesday grappled with the question of how to punish a witness already serving a life sentence under Swedish law.
Key witness Mohammad Abu Talib, a Palestinian who is serving a life sentence in Sweden for bomb attacks on Jewish organizations, refused to answer questions on why he spent time in the former Soviet Union during the 1970's.
Defense laywer Richard Keen asked the judges to force Talib to answer to his 18-month stay there, as the issue could shed light on Talb's past as a "professional terrorist", he said.
Under Scottish law, Talib holds the court in contempt if he persists in his silence. But it would be difficult to sanction Talib under the circumstances, let alone call for his extradition from Sweden to have him sentenced in Scotland.
Presiding judge Lord Sutherland briefly adjourned the court to decide that Talib had to answer all questions related to the Lockerbie bombing, but was allowed to remain silent on issues that could lead to an indictment for other crimes.
Interrogated on the events that led up to his conviction in 1990, Talib told the court that he had acted on his own initiative in planning two 1985 bomb attacks on a Jewish synagogue and an American airline company in Copenhagen
Asked to explain his motives, he said: "An individual can be psychologically shocked by the massacres committed on the Palestinian people."
Talib was an early suspect in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which blew up over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 259 persons on board and 11 on the ground.
But investigators abandoned that line of inquiry before the defendants, Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 48, and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, were indicted in 1991.
The prosecution called Talb to the stand last week to try to stop the defense shifting blame for the bombing from the defendants to him -- CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)