[What follows is excerpted from a press release issued yesterday by the US Department of Justice:]
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Mas’ud), 71, of Tunisia and Libya, made his initial appearance in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on federal charges, unsealed today, stemming from the Dec 21, 1988, civilian aircraft bombing that killed 270 people. The victims included 190 Americans, 43 citizens of the United Kingdom, including 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, and citizens from the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago.
On Dec 21, 2020, the Department of Justice made public a criminal complaint charging Mas’ud with destruction of aircraft resulting in death, and destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death. The United States subsequently requested the publication of an INTERPOL Red Notice – as is typical in cases involving foreign fugitives – requesting all INTERPOL member countries to locate and arrest the defendant for the purpose of his extradition or lawful return to the United States to face the charges. On Nov 29, 2022, a federal grand jury formally indicted Mas’ud on the same charges contained in the criminal complaint. That indictment was unsealed today.
From the time the tragic events occurred in 1988 through the present, the United States and Scotland have jointly pursued justice for all the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. The partnership will continue throughout the prosecution of Mas’ud.
“Nearly 34 years ago, 270 people, including 190 Americans, were tragically killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Since then, American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack. Those relentless efforts over the past three decades led to the indictment and arrest of a former Libyan intelligence operative for his alleged role in building the bomb used in the attack,” said Attorney General Merrick B Garland. “The defendant is currently in US custody and is facing charges in the United States. This is an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.”
“Today’s action is another crucial step in delivering justice for the victims of the senseless terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O Monaco. “Our thoughts are with the victims’ families, whose tireless work to honor the lives and legacies of their loved ones has inspired the Department of Justice and our Scottish partners throughout our investigation for the last 34 years. Let this be a reminder that the men and women of the Department of Justice will never forget the loss of innocent lives or waver in our commitment to holding terrorists accountable – no matter how long it takes.” (...)
Planning and Executing the Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
The December 2020 criminal complaint alleged that from approximately 1973 to 2011 Mas’ud worked for the External Security Organization (ESO), the Libyan intelligence service which conducted acts of terrorism against other nations, in various capacities including as a technical expert in building explosive devices. In the winter of 1988, Mas’ud was directed by a Libyan intelligence official to fly to Malta with a prepared suitcase. There he was met by Megrahi and Fhimah at the airport. Several days later, Megrahi and Fhimah instructed Mas’ud to set the timer on the device in the suitcase for the following morning, so that the explosion would occur exactly eleven hours later. Megrahi and Fhimah were both at the airport on the morning of Dec 21, 1988, and Mas’ud handed the suitcase to Fhimah after Fhimah gave him a signal to do so. Fhimah then placed the suitcase on the conveyor belt. Subsequently, Mas’ud boarded a Libyan flight to Tripoli scheduled to take off at 9:00 am.
According to the allegations in the complaint, three or four days after returning to Libya, Mas’ud and Megrahi met with a senior Libyan intelligence official, who thanked them for a successful operation. Approximately three months after that, Mas’ud and Fhimah met with then-Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi, and others, who thanked them for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans, and Qaddafi added that the operation was a total success.
If convicted, Mas’ud faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Washington Field Office is investigating the case along with prosecutors from the National Security Section of the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the US National Central Bureau provided valuable assistance in this matter. (...)
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
[RB: Here, for ease of reference, are the principal provisions of US Federal law that govern the charges brought against Abu Ajila Masud:]
(a) Whoever willfully—
(1) sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce;
(2) places or causes to be placed a destructive device or substance in, upon, or in proximity to, or otherwise makes or causes to be made unworkable or unusable or hazardous to work or use, any such aircraft, or any part or other materials used or intended to be used in connection with the operation of such aircraft, if such placing or causing to be placed or such making or causing to be made is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft; (...)
(8) attempts or conspires to do anything prohibited under paragraphs (1) through (7) of this subsection;
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.
Whoever is convicted of any crime prohibited by this chapter, which has resulted in the death of any person, shall be subject also to the death penalty or to imprisonment for life. [RB: The Department of Justice has announced that it will not be seeking the death penalty in the case of Mr Masud.]
(p)(2) Prohibition.—It shall be unlawful for any person—
(A) to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence; or
(B) to teach or demonstrate to any person the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, knowing that such person intends to use the teaching, demonstration, or information for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence.
(a) Any person who—
(1) violates any of subsections (a) through (i) or (l) through (o) of section 842 shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both; and
(2) violates subsection (p)(2) of section 842, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.