Thursday, 15 December 2016

Libya’s highest state organ approves Lockerbie trial plan

[The following are two snippets from the Libya: News and Views website on this date in 1998:]

Libya's General People's Congress said Tuesday it was satisfied with a plan to try two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing in a neutral country. Libyan television, monitored in Tunis, said the congress had also called on the three parties involved in the case, Libya, Britain and the United States, to “remove any obstacle” preventing the trial going ahead as soon as possible.

A resolution of the Congress read live on Libyan television said: “(The Congress) expresses its satisfaction with the agreement between the Libyan, British and American parties for the trial in a third country of the two suspects in the Lockerbie incident. It constitutes the fundamental basis to settle this issue.

“It (the Congress) demands to these parties (Libya, the U.S. and Britain) to work to remove any obstacle that prevents the two suspects standing trial before justice as soon as possible.” [Reuters]

Britain gave a cautious welcome on Tuesday to reports that the Libyan People's Congress had expressed suppport for a plan to try two Libyans wanted for the Lockerbie bombing in a neutral country. But Foreign Office officials and relatives of those who died when the Pan Am jet crashed on to the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 warned that any handover of the two men could still be a long way off. “If it is true, it is good news. But at the moment it is only a Libyan media report. We have to be circumspect unless and until we have a formal response,” said a Foreign Office spokesman. [Reuters]

[RB: Here is what I wrote a few years ago about this stage in the path towards a Lockerbie trial:]

It was clear to me [after meetings in Libya in late September 1998] that the Libyan authorities at the highest level wanted [a trial] to happen and that the accused men wanted their families and themselves to be able to get on with their lives, something that could never happen, even within the boundaries of Libya, while the charges against them remained unresolved and UN sanctions remained in place.  One possible impediment was the hard-line attitude towards surrender for trial overseas that had been taken over the years by the Libyan People’s Congress (the highest legislative and policy-making body under Libya’s idiosyncratic constitution).  However, this potential hurdle was removed on 15 December 2008 when the People’s Congress, at a session held in Sirte, announced that it approved the trial proposal and adjured all three interested governments -- Libya, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to take all necessary steps to remove any remaining obstacles.

In fact, such was the distrust between the various concerned parties that removal of the obstacles was not easily achieved and it was another three months before Megrahi and Fhimah arrived in the Netherlands.

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