Saturday, 18 April 2015

Zeist court on display

[What follows is the text of a report on the BBC News website from this date in 2000, just before the Lockerbie trial was due to begin:]

The cost of the Lockerbie trial exceeds £40m so far, according to the Scottish Executive.

The courtroom and prison complex built for the trial at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, has cost £12m and running costs are said to be more than £3m a month.

The figures emerged as the courtroom was put on display for the media.

BBC Scotland's home affairs correspondent, Reeval Alderson, was among those shown the facilities. He estimated that if the trial lasted for a year, the overall cost could reach £150m.

The lion and the unicorn of ancient British heraldry stare down into the well of the courtroom, equipped with computerised evidence screens and translation booths, and protected from the gallery by a wall of bulletproof glass.

Court registrar, Gordon Beaton, said: "This is almost all technology adapted from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague.

"We are using tried and tested methods to minimise the risk of anything going wrong.

"The whole proceedings will be translated from English into Arabic, and we can handle Swedish, Japanese, Kurdish or whatever other language we have to."

A video screen the size of a billiard table on one wall will show how the debris of the doomed jumbo jet was "scattered from Newcastle to the Firth of Clyde", Mr Beaton said.

Screens could be drawn over the bullet-proof glass wall to obscure the features of those who, with the court's assent, seek to conceal their faces, and voices can be altered electronically.

"They cannot be forced to testify, since this court is not in Scotland. We have to persuade them to come," he added.

Some 60 armed Scottish police from all branches of the service guard the site, where the accused enjoy better than normal prison conditions.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah are charged with murdering 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 came down on Lockerbie.

The men are being held at the Camp Zeist temporary detention centre.

The indictment states that the two men were members of the Libyan Intelligence Services and conspired, along with others, to destroy Pan Am flight 103 and murder those on board and 11 people in Lockerbie.

As yet, they have been convicted of no crime and they have been on remand for a year.

The Moslem prisoners, who have pleaded not guilty to the charges, each have a prayer mat, with a compass to find east.

They receive regular visits from relatives and representatives and can watch Arabic television by satellite.

The Crown Office has said it proposes to call more than 1,000 witnesses and that there would be almost 1,500 documents and 550 other articles of evidence.

The trial will be heard by three judges, sitting without a jury, under Scots law.

It will make legal history by being the first time a Scottish court has sat abroad and without a jury.

The defence will also call witnesses and cite productions during the trial, which will be shown on closed circuit television systems to relatives of the deceased who are not able or willing to travel to the Netherlands.

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