Saturday 25 February 2023

US court postpones hearing of Lockerbie suspect

[This is the headline over a report published yesterday on the Libya Review website. It reads as follows:]

The trial of the Libyan intelligence operative suspected of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, has been delayed to 28 February, his family told local media.

The family of Abu Ajila Masoud told Libya Al-Ahrar that a session was scheduled to be held on 23 February, but was postponed until next week.

The family said that the court did not clarify the reason for the postponement, noting that the attorney assigned by the American judiciary “will follow the course of the next session, until the defence team’s fees are secured.” They expressed their hope to secure the first fee payment before the next hearing.

Masoud has pleaded not guilty before the Federal Court in Washington. 270 people were killed in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US history, according to Washington Post.

“At this time your honour we would enter a plea of not guilty,” said Whitney Minter, a US federal public defender, according to the Washington Post.

Masoud, 71, entered his plea in federal court in Washington. This follows his extradition in December by one of Libya’s rival factional governments.

US authorities said they would seek Masoud’s continued detention pending trial at a bond hearing on 23 February, if his defence sought to argue for his conditional release. He possibly faces two counts, including the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death, punishable upon conviction by up to life in prison.

The US Justice Department has alleged that Masoud confessed his crimes to a Libyan law enforcement official, in September 2012.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the United States and Libyan authorities to clarify the legal basis for the “abusive arrest” and subsequent extradition of Masoud.

“It appears that no Libyan court ordered or reviewed Masoud’s transfer to the US, and he had no chance to appeal, raising serious due process concerns,” said Hanan Salah, associate Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

The Tripoli-based Prime Minister, Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba said his Government of National Unity (GNU) collaborated with the US on the extradition. However, judicial authorities have challenged the handover’s legality, and opened an investigation.

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