WASHINGTON – U.S. prosecutors will indict a suspect who allegedly was the main manufacturer of incendiary bombs for the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and assembled the explosive device that detonated Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
The Ministry of Justice should initiate criminal proceedings against
Abu Aguila Mohammad Masoud,
currently in the possession of the Libyan authorities, to review his extradition in the next few days and request that charges be brought before the US Federal Court, according to senior Ministry officials.
The attack, which took place just before Christmas 1988, killed 270 people, including 190 Americans, many of whom had returned from Europe for the holidays. This lawsuit opens the prospect of the first U.S. lawsuit in connection with the incident. Among the deceased Americans were 35 students from Syracuse University in New York City. The 32nd. The anniversary of the attack is Monday.
The bombing prompted U.S. legislators to turn Libya into a state sponsor of terrorism, eventually forcing the Libyan government to pay more than $1 billion in damages to the families of the victims in 2003.
The case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington is largely based on confessions Mr. Masoud made to Libyan authorities in 2012 and handed over to Scottish authorities in 2017, as well as Mr. Masoud’s travel and immigration documents, U.S. officials said.
Mohammed Ali Abdallah, a senior U.S. government advisor recognised by Libya, said that the Libyan authorities had questioned Mr Masoud, who is serving a 10-year prison term for making bombs, about a series of crimes and that no decision had been taken on an extradition request.
A spokesman for the Scottish prosecution refused to comment.
Only one person…
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi
– was convicted by Scottish judges for his role in the attack, leaving many of the victims’ relatives feeling deprived of justice for these crimes. Megrahi was released from prison eight years after his conviction in 2001 and died in 2012.
His family appealed against the verdict, which was pronounced by a special jury without a jury. Some prominent Scottish lawyers and relatives of the victims questioned the evidence presented and the course of the trial, which was held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, in order to find a neutral location. The UK prosecutors argued that the case had been properly assessed and that the judges’ original verdict should be upheld, whereas US law enforcement officials have long supported a guilty verdict.
William Barr, then acting U.S. Attorney General at a 1991 press conference on Pan Am flight 103 in Washington, DC.
Barry Toomma/Presse Associée
This case is also of personal interest to the Attorney General.
who announced the charges against Megrahi and another Libyan official at the first major press conference in 1991. He is expected to present the new case at a press conference in the coming days, officials said in what will be one of his last official public actions before he resigns for the second time later this week.
When he announced the case in 1991 as acting attorney general in the Bush administration, Barr said we will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice. Efforts to prosecute these people have been blocked for years. The Scottish prosecutors brought a parallel case and it was not until 1999 – after years of dispute between the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya – that the Gaddafi regime brought Megrahi and
Lamin Khalifa Fhima.
Fhimah was acquitted and Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Evidence for Megrahi’s persecution included the remains of a suitcase that presumably contained a bomb. Investigators tracked the clothes to a shop in Malta, whose owner identified Megrahi as the person who bought them. Researchers also found the remains of a timer, which they linked to a Swiss company that had contacts in Libya.
Mr Masood has been charged with destroying an aircraft, resulting in death, and destroying a vehicle in interstate commerce, resulting in death. U.S. officials said he arrived in Malta shortly before the attack, built a bomb and filled a suitcase with clothes before being finally placed in Pan Am 103.
After receiving information from Scottish authorities about a confession from Masoud to a Libyan intelligence officer, U.S. or Masoud investigators or his interrogator tried to interview officials familiar with the case, said. In the spring, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation travelled to Tunisia to question a Libyan intelligence officer. Weeks later, officials from the Department of Justice’s Division of Homeland Security and the acting U.S. Attorney General in Washington, D.C., were in Washington,
The officers presented the evidence they had gathered to Mr Barr, who agreed to dismiss the case, the officers said.
It’s still a work in progress for me personally.
– Attorney General William Barr in 2019
Mr Barr has a long-standing interest in the case and has travelled to Scotland to meet the families of some of the victims.
For me personally, this is an unfinished business, he said at a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery last year. I was glad to see that when I came back to the post 28 years later, the department kept searching and exhausting all roads.
Kent Syverud, chancellor of the University of Syracuse, who will mark the annual anniversary of the attack on Monday, said the victims will never be forgotten. Like all the families, friends and loved ones of the victims, we look forward to the day when all those responsible will be brought to justice, no matter how long it takes, he said in a statement.
Aamer Anwar, an attorney from the Megrahi family, criticized the new American indictment.
What a coincidence, because we are waiting for the decision on the appeal against Megrahi’s miscarriage of justice in Scotland, he said. It’s hard not to be cynical about Americans’ motives.
In Libya, the charges against a former official of the Gaddafi regime are reminiscent of a time of terror and oppression under the previous government.
The North African country has changed since the first Lockerbie chase. Gaddafi was overthrown and killed during a popular uprising supported by NATO air strikes in 2011, and in the years following the democratic transition of the country turned into a civil war. Libya is currently divided between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and a rival government in the east.
The 1988 bombardment and crash left a deep wound in the ground of the village of Lockerbie, Scotland.
Martin Cleaver/Presse Associée
After years of refusing to recognise his role in the attack, the Gaddafi regime has agreed to pay USD 2,3 billion to the families of the victims of the 2003 attack, and the country’s Foreign Minister has stated that he assumes civil responsibility for the attack. The amount actually paid was lower.
Some Libyans still believe their country is falsely accused. But many consider every action of the old regime to be the work of an overthrown and discredited government.
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya after the Lockerbie attack and isolated the country internationally. The UN lifted the sanctions in 2003 after the government agreed to compensate the victims, thus alleviating Libya’s isolation.
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It’s one of the crimes of the Gaddafi era, he said…
Expert on Libya at the European Council on External Relations in London. There’s no Libyan property on these things. These things were done by Gaddafi, and Gaddafi was a little crazy, and as a result we suffered all over the world.
The Libyan authorities interrogated other former members of government detained in connection with the attack, according to Abdullah, who advises the Libyan government on US issues. Among them.
The former head of Gaddafi’s intelligence service, imprisoned in Tripoli and accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity.
The Lockerbie attack is not the only act of international terrorism of which the Gaddafi regime is accused. In 1986 Libyan agents blew up a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, including two American soldiers, and injuring more than 200. In 2001, a German court found a former Libyan diplomat and three of his accomplices guilty of the attack.
According to Mr Abdallah, the Libyan authorities have also questioned Mr Masoud in connection with the mass murder of prisoners in the Libyan prison in Abu Salim in 1996, which, according to human rights organisations, killed up to 1 200 people. The massacre was one of the worst atrocities of the Gaddafi era.
said that the Libyan authorities should consider any extradition request and added that Libyans could resist any attempt to hold the country responsible for the crimes of the former regime as a whole.
-Jared Malsin contributed to this article.
E-mail Sadie Gourmet at firstname.lastname@example.org and Aruna Vishwanath at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com.
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