Monday 21 December 2020

US charges third suspect in 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland

[This is the headline over a report just published on the website of The Washington Post. It reads in part:]

The Justice Department on Monday announced it had charged a suspected participant in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people and is considered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US history.

Abu Agila Mas’ud was charged in a criminal complaint with helping make the bomb used in the attack, Attorney General William P Barr said at a news conference. Barr said the operation was ordered by the leadership of Libyan intelligence, and that then-Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi personally thanked Mas’ud for his work.

“At long last, this man, responsible for killing Americans and many others, will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Barr said.

The charges were unsealed on the anniversary of the attack, which brought down a flight from London bound for New York. (...)

Mas’ud has been on US and foreign law enforcement’s radar since at least 2015, when a three-part series on PBS’s “Frontline” named potential suspects. US prosecutors had decades earlier charged two others in the case: Libyan intelligence operative Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and his alleged accomplice Lamen Khalifa Fhimah. At the time, Barr was serving his first stint as attorney general under President George H W Bush.

Barr said a breakthrough came when law enforcement learned in 2016 that Mas’ud had been arrested after the fall of the Gaddafi regime and interviewed in 2012. Though Mas’ud remains in Libyan custody, authorities turned over that interview to law enforcement, who used it to build a case, Barr said.

Acting DC US Attorney Michael Sherwin said Mas’ud described his role and the role of his conspirators. He said travel records also showed Mas’ud traveling from Tripoli to Malta around the same time as his co-conspirators.

It’s unclear what the likelihood is of the United States taking Mas’ud into custody for trial. Barr said he was optimistic that Libyan authorities would turn him over. (...)

The case has long vexed federal law enforcement. Libya resisted extraditing the charged men to the United States for years, and in response, the United Nations and the United States imposed stiff economic sanctions and penalties on the country.

In 1999, Libya agreed to an unusual arrangement to turn the men over to be put on trial in the Netherlands before Scottish judges. Megrahi, who maintained his innocence, was convicted and sentenced to 27 years to life in prison, while his co-defendant Fhimah was acquitted.

In 2009, Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison on medical grounds after a prostate cancer diagnosis, and he returned home to a hero’s welcome in Libya. He died three years after his release.

[RB: The US Department of Justice press release can be read here; and the US Attorney General's speech here.

As far as Scotland is concerned, the Lord Advocate has issued a statement today which reads as follows:]

“For 32 years the families of the 270 people murdered in this atrocity have shown extraordinary and enduring dignity in the face of the loss they suffered on the terrible night of 21 December 1988. Today, our thoughts are with them once again.

“Scottish prosecutors and police have had a long-established and strong working relationship with US law enforcement agencies throughout this investigation.

“This relationship will continue to be important as the investigation progresses with the shared goal of bringing all those who committed this atrocity to justice.

“Scottish prosecutors will continue to work with US colleagues but we will not comment in detail on today’s announcement given that the Scottish criminal investigation is ongoing and there is an appeal before the court in relation to this crime.” 

[RB: A statement from Chief Constable Iain Livingstone reads as follows:]

“This announcement by the US Department of Justice is a significant development for the families of the victims, and my thoughts remain with them, particularly today, the 32nd anniversary of the bombing.

“Since 1988, policing in Scotland has been committed to carrying out the largest terrorist investigation ever undertaken in this country. Police Scotland will continue to work closely on this investigation, under the direction of the Crown Office, with our American law enforcement colleagues and other international partners.

“As judicial proceedings continue in Scotland, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

1 comment:

  1. Not according to the DST, French CIA as they convicted him to tie in Gaddafi admitting the evidence was weak