Saturday, 6 February 2016

Libyans target embassy in Lockerbie protest

[This is the headline over a report that appeared in The Guardian on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

More than 4,000 angry Libyans protested outside the British embassy and the UN building in Tripoli today, as they continued to press for the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber to be overturned.

The demonstrators clashed with police and carried coffins bearing the phrases "these are the victims of the American raid" and "American civilisation means killing children", referring to the 1986 US airstrikes on Libya that killed 37 people, including the adopted daughter of the country's leader Muammar Gadafy.

The Foreign Office confirmed that there was a demonstration outside the building in Tripoli, but a spokeswoman declined to comment on reports that Libyan riot police beat protesters and sprayed tear gas at the crowd who were trying to break into the building.

She said: "At no time was the embassy breached. Staff safety is our first priority and we made clear to the authorities the need to ensure the security of our diplomatic premises was maintained."

The Foreign Office now plans to revise its advice on travel to Libya, although no specific changes were revealed.

Today's protest was the latest demonstration of the public outrage that followed the conviction of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on Wednesday for the bombing Pan Am Flight 103.

The Libyan intelligence agent was jailed for life for murdering the 270 people who died when the New York-bound airliner exploded over the Scottish town in 1988.

His co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, was cleared of the atrocity and returned home to Libya to a hero's welcome from Colonel Gadafy.

Since then, Col Gadafy and Mr Fhimah have been insisting that Megrahi is innocent, while his countrymen have taken to the streets to protest against his conviction.

Last week, Col Gadafy promised that he would come forward with new evidence yesterday, which, he said, would leave the three judges who unanimously convicted Megrahi with three options - to resign, admit the truth or commit suicide.

But Col Gadafy's rambling speech in Tripoli yesterday produced no new evidence. Instead, he hit out at the judges, Britain and the United States, and he accused British police of planting evidence to secure the conviction.

In a speech lasting more than two hours, he described Megrahi, who was ordered to spend a minimum of 20 years in a Scottish prison, as "a kidnapped hostage", adding:"Keeping him is a terrorist act."

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