Lockerbie Trial Resumes after 13-Day Break

Published May 24th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The trial of two Libyans accused of bombing a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, resumed Wednesday after a 13-day break and technical problems the day before. 

Presiding judge Lord Ranald Sutherland convened the court at (0755 GMT). 

The trial was adjourned on May 11 and had been due to resume Tuesday but technical problems with the court's high-tech stenography system prevented the court from sitting. 

The prosecution alleges that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 48, and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, planted a time bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up as the plane flew over the southwest Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. 

All 259 passengers and crew, mostly Americans, and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie were killed. 

Megrahi and Fhimah have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy to murder and breaking air safety regulations. 

Court officials said that around six witnesses are expected to formally identify debris -- pieces of metal, cloth and plastic -- from the plane. 

Later Wednesday, the trial will begin hearing evidence from British air accident investigators, which is expected to take several days. 

The prosecution will seek to demonstrate that explosives had been packed into a radio cassette player that was put inside a suitcase with clothing purchased in Malta. 

The suitcase was then allegedly put on a flight out of Malta, tagged for transfer on a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to London's Heathrow Airport. It was then loaded onto the Boeing 747 bound for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. 

The indictment alleges that Megrahi and Fhimah were intelligence agents who packed the explosives and oversaw the planting of the bomb. 

The trial began on May 3, but was adjourned eight days later after defense lawyers agreed with prosecutors to accept without contest more than 250 pieces of debris that otherwise would have taken weeks to be formally identifird in court. 

If found guilty, Megrahi and Fhimah face life imprisonment in Scotland. 

The extraordinary trial is taking place in a specially created Scottish court in a former US airbase in the Netherlands. Three Scottish judges are hearing the case, but there is no jury - (AFP)  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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