Friday, 14 September 2012

Libyan newspaper report on Lockerbie compensation trial

[What follows is the text of a report published on the website of the Libya Herald:]

Libyan prosecutor says payout to Lockerbie victims “a waste of public money”

The trial of Mohamed Zway, the former secretary of the General People’s Congress, and Abdul-Ati Al-Obeidi, the secretary of the People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, opened in Tripoli on Monday.

The two, who have been held in  jail since they were arrested 14 months ago, are accused of poor performance of their duties while in office and of maladministration, specifically wasting of public funds in respect of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The prosecution claims that it was wrong to organise a compensation deal of $2.7 billion to the victims’ families in return for getting Libya removed from the list of the states that sponsor terrorism.The judge said that the deal “was a waste of public money especially when there was no guarantee the charges in the Lockerbie case would be dropped if the compensation was made”.

The charges have surprised many observers as they imply that the two should have been more effective in serving the Qaddafi regime and that the Lockerbie deal should not have happened.

Both men denied the charges in court.

Their lawyer made several requests, the most important of which was a postponement of proceedings in order to give the defence time to examine all the documentary evidence. He also asked to see his clients in private and, pending a postponement, requested the court to release them on bail.

Bail was refused but the court permitted the lawyer to meet the defendents in private. It accepted the request to photocopy some of the evidence but none of the classified documents.

The trial was adjourned to 15 October 2012.

At a press conference on Sunday, former Justice Minister Mohamed Al-Alagy claimed that this trial and and those of other Qaddafi officials were “invalid” because the law was not being properly implemented.  He said that the prosecution was sidestepping due process whereby such cases must first go the Indictment Court to be processed.

[When I first met Mr Zway (or Zwai or al-Zwai) in 1994, he was himself Libya’s Minister of Justice.  He was one of the army officers who, with Muammar Gaddafi, mounted the 1969 coup against the king, Idris al-Senussi, and the only one still holding high office in the regime. Abdel Ati al-Obeidi was then Libyan ambassador to Morocco but subsequently held many other offices, including ambassador to Italy, Deputy Foreign Minister with responsibility for European relations, head of Gaddafi’s private office and Foreign Minister.  In all of these incarnations he remained as chairman of the Libyan Government committee on Lockerbie.]

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