Sunday, 5 April 2015

Our confidence in our innocence has no bounds

[What follows is the text of a CNN report from this date in 1999:]

Libya has handed over two suspects in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland to representatives of the United Nations.

The suspects are now en route to the Netherlands, where their trial will take place.

Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported that UN representative Hans Corell was at the handover ceremony in Libya.

"In a historical moment awaited by the world, the two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie case were handed over to be flown to the Netherlands for trial before a Scottish court," MENA said.

With the handover, a decade-long manhunt neared its conclusion Monday, as Scottish legal officers prepared to take custody of the two Libyans.

In the Netherlands, preparations continued Monday for the long-awaited trial.

The Dutch Justice Ministry said it would hold a news conference on Monday in connection with the handover of two Libyans.

"The news conference will be today," a spokeswoman said, but gave no information on the timing or location of the arrival of the suspects in the Netherlands after a handover to the United Nations at Tripoli airport.

Scottish prosecutors and journalists waited in Amsterdam while the two accused -- Abdel Basset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah -- began their journey to Europe.

A temporary detention unit at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands is ready for the suspects, Scottish officials said. The construction of bomb-proof cells below the base's former medical unit, which will serve as a courtroom, will take several months to complete.

Sheriff Graham Cox, the regional judge who will oversee pre-trial proceedings, was expected to arrive in the Netherlands on Monday. Scottish prosecutors Norman McFadyen and Jim Brisbane are already there.

Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid had said on Sunday that the handover would take place in "the next 24 or 48 hours."

When Tripoli transferred the men to the charge of the United Nations, that step paved the way for the lifting of punitive UN sanctions against Libya.

[Here is what Megrahi and Fhimah are reported to have said as they were transferred to UN custody in Tripoli:]

Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Lameen Fhima, have both made a statement on Libyan TV, saying that the two are innocent and going willingly to court. This is Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi's statement:

"We want to reaffirm to everyone that we are two simple Libyan nationals. We do not practise politics. We support families and have children. We love our children and we love our families. This is our normal life.  

"We were employees until we found ourselves involved in this accusation. Our confidence in our innocence has no bounds. We are confident of our lawyers' ability to defend us.

"Through the facts they [the lawyers] have in their possession we are going to prove our innocence to the world. 

"On the occasion of leaving [Libya] we want to tell everyone that, after getting the permission from the investigating judge and the public prosecutor, we are leaving freely and willingly without any pressure in order to appear before the Scottish court in the Netherlands.

"We want everyone to know that we have a great deal of self-confidence.  

"Time will prove that we are telling the truth and you are present here and are witnesses [of what I am saying]. We thank you once again for coming. We are also sorry that you had a difficult journey [by land]; next time you will come directly [by air] to Tripoli, and we are going to welcome you happily. God bless you."

The second suspect, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, gave a V-for-Victory sign as he said: "I have nothing to add to what my friend has said. 

"I hope to see you on our return very soon, God willing. 

"Thank you. I wish for victory, God willing."

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