Lockerbie: Part 2 – Timeline

Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up 31000 feet above the Scottish border town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. There were 259 people on board, including the crew, all of whom were killed together with 11 people on the ground.Two Libyans were indicted on 13 November 1991: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. The case was discussed by Lord Fraser, the Lord Advocate of Scotland at the time, at the IFTTA worldwide congress in Edinburgh that year.On 19 March 1999, Nelson Mandela flew to Tripoli to persuade Colonel Qaddafi to hand over the suspects to be tried by the High Court of Justiciary, a Scottish court, sitting in Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. The trial opened on 3 May 2000 and on 31 January 2001, al-Megrahi was found guilty of homicide and was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment. His co-accused was acquitted and returned home. The Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal, comprising 5 judges, rejected his appeal on 14 March 2002.Lawyers acting for the victims secured an agreement from the Libyan authorities to set up a compensation fund of $2.7bn on 14 August 2003.On 23 September 2003, al-Megrahi launched a further appeal with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). This is an independent body responsible for investigating possible miscarriages of justice. Meanwhile, a change in legislation, arising from the implications of the Human Rights Act, required that prisoners are entitled to know the actual tariff of their sentence rather than “a minimum of…”. In al-Megrahi’s case, this was then fixed at 27 years. The Lord Advocate appealed on grounds that this was too lenient. Al-Megrahi counter-claimed. However, these appeals were put on hold to await the outcome of the SCCRC’s findings.Meanwhile, the UK Government struck a deal with the Libyan Government on prisoner exchanges on 7 June 2008. It insisted that this would not cover al-Megrahi.On 28 June 2008, the SCCRC recommended that al-Megrahi be granted a new appeal against his conviction. The grounds of referral they gave for appeal was on the basis of:the reasonableness of the trial court’s verdict. In particular, there were serious questions in relation to evidence from a vital Maltese evidence that had not been heard at the original trial.additional evidence not made available to the defence.other evidence not made available to the defence. Again this mainly related to the Maltese witness.Al-Megrahi’s lawyers asked the Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal to examine claims that vital secret documents had been withheld from his defence team. A key document had been issued by a foreign government to the Scottish prosecutors before al-Megrahi’s trial but had not been made available to the defence. The UK Government, through its Advocate General, argued that disclosure of the document would harm the UK’s security interests and its international relations. The appeal court accepted that it should not be disclosed on 7 March 2008. His lawyers planned to further appeal on the matter.On 21 October 2008, his defence lawyers revealed that al-Megrahi had an advanced state of prostate cancer and on 30 October made an appeal for bail pending his appeal. This was rejected by the court on 14 November 2008.In his second appeal, his counsel claimed that the evidence against him was “wholly circumstantial”. The appeal was expected to last into 2010, partly prolonged by the limited amount of time each day that al-Megrahi could follow the proceedings due to his cancer.In May, the Libyan authorities requested that the Scottish Government release him pending the outcome of his appeal. however, under Scots Law, no release was possible in the case of a person convicted of a crime if judicial proceedings were still active. Thus, al-Megrahi was required to abandon his appeal before consideration for release on compassionate grounds.On 20 August 2009, al-Megrahi was released by the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, on compassionate grounds i.e. that of his impending death from prostate cancer.”Mr al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days,” he said. “But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days….Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available. For these reasons and these reasons alone, it is my decision that Mr Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die.”John

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