Friday, 14 October 2016

Preliminary stages of first Megrahi appeal

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

Relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing are travelling to the Netherlands for the first stage of the appeal, which will determine the fate of the man convicted of the atrocity.

A preliminary hearing will take place in Camp Zeist, near Utrecht on Monday for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

The 49-year-old Libyan was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

The hearing before five Scottish judges - Lords Cullen, Kirkwood, MacFadyen, Nimmo Smith and McEwan - will consider various procedural and administrative matters.

Among those making the trip to the Netherlands are two British men who lost daughters in the atrocity.

Rev John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Helga in the bombing said: "We feel it's important that someone from the families is there to see that justice is done.

"We just feel it is right that we are there."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 23, was killed, said: "We followed the whole of the trial so it makes sense to follow this stage as well."

Dr Swire also revealed how he and other members of the UK Families Flight 103 pressed Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for a full inquiry into the tragedy at a recent meeting.

He said: "We intimated that in our view it's extremely urgent to have an inquiry because Lockerbie was always an avoidable tragedy."

Monday's hearing at Camp Zeist is expected to last one day and set the date for the start of the appeal, which is likely to be next year.

Al Megrahi was jailed for life after being convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in January.

His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted by Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and Maclean at the end of the eight-month trial.

Al Megrahi's legal team, which includes American human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz and high-profile British QC Michael Mansfield, lodged an appeal against his conviction in February. [RB: Dershowitz and Mansfield acted as consultants: they could not, of course, appear as counsel in a Scottish court.]

Although the full grounds of the appeal have not been made public it is thought that the defence will challenge evidence which came from Tony Gauci.

During the original trial the Maltese shopkeeper identified Al Megrahi as a man who bought clothing from his store shortly before the bombing.

Remnants of the same clothing were found around Lockerbie after the bombing and there was evidence that the garments may have been packed around the bomb.

Al Megrahi's Libyan lawyer has said he is confident his client will be freed after the appeal.

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