11th October 2007

Final appeal of the ‘Lockerbie bomber’

When Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Scotland in 1988, the debris rained down on Lockerbie. All 259 passengers and crew on the Boeing 747 aircraft were killed, along with 11 residents of Lockerbie.

An investigation was immediately launched by the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, in conjunction with the FBI, which issued arrest warrants in 1991 for Lybians Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah.

Inscription at Lockerbie
Inscription at Lockerbie

Scottish trial in the Netherlands

The men were eventually extradited in 1999, and the following year they stood trial in a Scottish Court, set up in the Netherlands, on a disused United States Air Force base in Utrecht. The trial was heard by three Scottish judges without a jury, as per the agreement with Libya that secured the eventual extradition.

The prosecution contended that the accused had hidden an improvised explosive device in a radio cassette player, which was packed into a suitcase and loaded onto the plane. They produced a series of witnesses and experts to back their case, in a trial that ran for 36 weeks and ended with a guilty verdict for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, and a not guilty verdict for Lamin Khalifah Fhimah.

Conviction and appeal

Fhimah was released, while al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 20 years. An appeal was immediately lodged on al-Megrahi’s behalf, which was heard in January 2002. In part, this rested on a claim that the bomb had been loaded onto the plane at Heathrow, not – as had been asserted in the original hearing – in Malta. The appeal failed, and al-Megrahi was jailed in Glasgow.

After some irregularities were identified, and doubts over the safety of the conviction were raised, a second appeal was granted in 2007, for which an initial hearing was held on 11 October. However, the legal process was long and drawn out, and al-Megrahi was still waiting for his day in court two years later when, in 2009, and with a terminal cancer diagnosis, al-Megrahi dropped his appeal. Nonetheless, he was released from prison on compassionate grounds and flown back to Libya. He died in 2012.



Other events that occured in October

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