Lockerbie Trial Opens
Two Libyans went on trial Wednesday in a special Scottish court in the Netherlands for the December 1988 mid-air bombing of a US airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people.
Abdel-Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 48, and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, 44, are accused of murder and conspiracy in connection with the downing of the New York-bound Pan American jumbo jet.
Both deny the charges.
The two were extradited for trial a year ago by Libya in a deal with the British and US governments that followed several years of international sanctions.
Their trial -- before three Scottish judges at a former US air base specially renovated -- is expected to last a year at least, with hundreds of witnesses and thousands of documents being presented.
Civil Aviation Authority officials, police officers and local people are likely to be among the first witnesses giving evidence.
This will initially center on the flight path of the Boeing 747 and how it disappeared from radar screens on 21 December 1988, just 38 minutes after taking off from Heathrow bound for New York.
Other evidence is likely to include the story of the retrieval of the debris from the aircraft, which was scattered across 845 square miles.
It is alleged that the two accused were Libyan intelligence agents who hid a bomb in a radio-cassette recorder in a suitcase of clothes.
The prosecution will say the device was put on board a Frankfurt flight at Malta airport. In Germany, the baggage was transferred to a London flight and at Heathrow it was put on board the PanAm jet, they say.
Relatives of those who died have already arrived in the Netherlands for the start of the trial, which is being held amid tight security – (Several Sources).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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