[The following are two snippets from this date in 1998 from the Libya News and Views website:]
A father whose daughter died in the bombing of a PanAm jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, was heading for Tripoli Saturday to discuss the trial of the two Libyan suspects. Jim Swire, spokesman for UK Families Flight 103, which represents families of the victims, was to hold talks with Libyan officials. Swire left London earlier Saturday with Robert Black, a law professor at Edinburgh University. "The trip is being made following an invitation, passed through the Libyan Interests Section of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, to travel to the North African state for discussions," said a spokesman for Swire. [AFP]
A Dutch airforce base has been chosen as the trial venue for two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing, it was announced Friday. Britain and the Netherlands have signed an agreement that the hearing, if it takes place, will be at Camp Zeist, part of the Soesterberg air base, near The Hague. [The Scotsman]
[RB: What follows is an account written by me some years ago about this visit:]
Between 20 and 22 September 1998, Dr Jim Swire and I were again in Tripoli and were able to provide to the Libyan government and the Libyan defence team a measure of reassurance regarding some of the points [in the UK Governments’s trial proposal] that concerned them. However, it was we who had to inform the Libyan government that the chosen location in the Netherlands for trial was Kamp van Zeist, a former NATO base to which the air force of the United States still had extant treaty rights of access. This information was faxed to me (in Dutch, which I can read -- with difficulty -- through my knowledge of Afrikaans) at my hotel in Tripoli by a Dutch journalist who had developed an interest in Lockerbie and who had heard it from an official at The Hague. Dr Swire and I discussed whether we should inform our Libyan government contacts of the intended venue and came to the conclusion that we should do so. One compelling reason for doing so was to preserve the trust that the Libyan government appeared to have developed in us. Another was our assumption – which may or may not have been justified -- that all our communications in Libya were monitored and that the Libyan authorities would have the information anyway as soon as they could arrange for a copy of the fax to be translated from Dutch into Arabic.
I anticipated that the news about the proposed location would cause the Libyans to renounce the "neutral venue" concept in high dudgeon and complain of the lack of good faith demonstrated by the British Government in selecting, or agreeing to, such a site. But they did not do so. When we raised the issue at our next meeting, the Libyan officials were remarkably relaxed about the matter. This, more than anything else, convinced me that the Libyan government and the Libyan defence lawyers genuinely wished a trial to take place and that the concerns they had expressed regarding details of the scheme now on offer were genuine concerns, not merely a colourable pretext for evading their earlier commitment to such a solution.
On 22 September Dr Swire and I had a further meeting with the Leader of the Revolution. On this occasion the meeting took place not in Tripoli but 400 kilometres to the east in a genuine (not reinforced concrete) Bedouin tent in a desert location inland from the town of Sirte. We drove most of the way in the usual government black Mercedes, transferring into a 4 x 4 only for the last few off-road miles. When at the tent nothing could be seen but sand and sky; but out of sight just beyond the nearest dunes was a lengthy convoy of communications vehicles, ambulances, canteen vehicles and troop carriers.
Surrounded by the sand dunes and by noisily ruminating camels, Colonel Gaddafi, Dr Swire and I discussed the details of the British scheme. He accepted my assurance that at least some of the concerns that Libyan government lawyers had raised were unwarranted and that it would be worthwhile to continue to seek clarifications and reassurances through the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding the remaining issues. (...)
I returned to the UK after this visit to Libya reasonably confident that a trial would take place. It was clear to me that the Libyan authorities at the highest level wanted it 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.