Resumption of Lockerbie Trial Delayed by Defense Pleas
The resumption of the trial of two Libyans accused of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing hit a new glitch Tuesday with behind-the-scenes defense pleas for more time to probe evidence allegedly linking the downing of the jet with a Palestinian group and the Balkans.
A court source told AFP that the defense team, in a closed session with prosecutors and judges, was demanding the extra time because of a lack of cooperation by the German federal police.
She said a decision on a new adjournment would not be announced before 1300 GMT.
"They're arguing that they may be able to soften up the German police if they were granted another week or two," said the source. "The alternative would be to go to letters of request, which could last at least three months."
Letters of request -- a formal request for specific police information -- would be transmitted by the ad hoc Scottish court here to the British government, to the German government, to a German court, which could then order the German police to cooperate.
"The delay is now being caused by a hearing in chambers regarding letters of request," a spokesman for the Scottish court told reporters around noon, two hours after the scheduled resumption.
If another delay were granted, it would be the fifth so far in this marathon trial before a Scottish court in session at a former US military base.
Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 48, and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, have been on trial since May on charges of blowing up the Pan Am Boeing 747 over Scotland on December 23, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard plus 11 on the ground.
A week ago, the three Scottish judges hearing the murder and conspiracy charges granted a fourth postponement after the defense moved for time to verify the mysterious new evidence in Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
Defense lawyer William Taylor said it concerned the making of the bomb and the way it was smuggled onto the London-New York flight, as well as a German investigation into the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).
He said the information establishes hitherto unknown links between an investigation by the German federal police (BKA) and the PFLP-GC.
"It purports to provide information as to the manufacture of the bomb and to give explanation as to how that bomb got on the plane," he said.
Previous witnesses have testified BKA was involved in the early stages of the investigation into the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
Scotland's top prosecutor Colin Boyd meanwhile announced that highly sensitive information had emerged from a foreign country "other than the United States" that could affect the outcome of the trial.
Taylor said his team's enquiries involved questioning witnesses in an unnamed European country, using a Serbo-Croat translator. Serbo-Croat was spoken in the former Yugoslavia.
The defense lawyers claimed before last week's adjournment that the new evidence could bolster their case and that the PFLP-GC were the real villains in the bombing.
The trial, fruit of a 1998 compromise brokered by former South African President Nelson Mandela with UN participation that persuaded Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to hand over the suspects, is unprecedented in legal history.
Under the deal, this patch of Dutch soil has been declared Scottish territory for the duration of the trial, which is being held under Scottish law and, for all intents and purposes, in Scotland -- CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)