Police Fire Tear Gas on Tripoli Demonstrators against Lockerbie Verdict
Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who tried to break into UN offices in Tripoli on Tuesday in a protest against last week's verdict in the Lockerbie bombing trial, reported AFP.
Several thousand protesters, chanting anti-US slogans, marched to the British embassy and then to the UN offices, which they tried to enter before being dispersed by police firing tear gas, said the agency.
Libyan television showed police hitting and arresting protesters, and an ambulance was seen leaving the area of the clashes, the agency added.
On Monday, Libyan leader Moammer Kadhafi condemned the verdict in the Lockerbie bombing trial as an "injustice", and insisted "Libya was innocent of Lockerbie," said press reports.
Kadhafi made the comments during his first detailed reaction to the verdict, in which Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was found guilty of the 1988 bombing which left 270 people dead.
The speech, which lasted nearly three hours, was broadcast on many Arab satellite channels.
In his speech, the Libyan leader said the United States and Britain had blamed his country for political reasons, and that the investigation before the trial had not been neutral.
Kadhafi's promises to provide new evidence which would clear Al Megrahi of the bombing did not materialize.
He made only one specific, new charge against the British police who investigated the bombing.
He said that the investigators had planted clothes in the wreckage of the plane that were later crucial in linking Al Megrahi to the crime, added the news service.
He also delivered a scathing attack on the United States and its policy on Libya.
Kadhafi, said the news service, highlighted questions raised by various legal experts about the verdict, in some cases quoting them. He went to great lengths to try to disparage the Lockerbie ruling, often quoting from the 80-page document.
In the statement, Kadhafi characterized the Lockerbie case as a chapter in the struggle between good and evil.
The Libyan leader was speaking in Tripoli in front of a building preserved to show damage caused by the US aerial bombardment of targets in Tripoli and Libya's second city, Benghazi.
He repeatedly pointed at the building behind him, and asked why the victims of the American bombing were not being compensated.
Kadhafi said that he considered that Megrahi, who is in custody in the Netherlands pending an expected appeal, was being "held hostage."
In Washington, State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, dismissed the speech, asking rhetorically: "Is it possible to define what he's talking about?"
Boucher insisted that the only way for Kadhafi to get UN sanctions against his country lifted was to fully comply with Security Council conditions, including that Libya admit responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and pay compensation, AFP said.
"It's really up to Libya to meet the requirements of the international community," he said. "Unfortunately, in the remarks we've seen from Mr. Kadhafi today, we don't see him doing either of those things."
The sanctions, toughened in subsequent years, were suspended after the two Libyans were sent to trial, but Britain and the United States demand that Libya pay compensation for the victims before the full embargo is lifted.
Kadhafi called for former South African president Nelson Mandela and Saudi Arabia, which served as intermediaries in 1999, to work again to reach a resolution to the sanctions, the agency added.
He also said that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command "has nothing to do with the Lockerbie affair," despite the claims of Megrahi's lawyer at the trial.
From its Damascus base, AFP said that the movement thanked Kadhafi for putting "things back in their rightful place." -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)