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The BBC's Frank Gardner in Tripoli
"Colonel Gaddafi was both animated and angry"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Robbins
"He has accused Britain and the United States of a terrorist act by holding Al Megrahi in prison"
 real 56k

Monday, 5 February, 2001, 20:04 GMT
Gaddafi: Libya is innocent
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Gaddafi: Scathing attack on US policy
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has condemned the verdict in the Lockerbie bombing trial as an "injustice", and insisted "Libya was innocent of Lockerbie".

Colonel Gaddafi made the comments during his first detailed reaction to the verdict, in which a Libyan man, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was found guilty of the 1988 bombing which left 270 people dead.


I expected a clear sentence, I did not expect this injustice

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
In a speech that lasted nearly three hours, the Libyan leader said the United States and Britain had blamed his country for political reasons and that the investigation before the trial had not been neutral.

Colonel Gaddafi's promises to provide new evidence which would clear Al Megrahi of the bombing did not materialise.

He made only one specific, new charge against the British police who investigated the bombing.

He said that the investigators had planted clothes in the wreckage of the plane that were later crucial in linking Al Megrahi to the crime.

He also delivered a scathing attack on the United States and its policy on Libya.

Legal doubts

Colonel Gaddafi highlighted questions raised by various legal experts about the verdict, in some cases quoting them. He went to great lengths to try to disparage the Lockerbie ruling, often quoting from the 80-page document.

Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah and Colonel Gaddafi
Gaddafi welcomes Fhimah (left) home
In the statement, delivered in the form of a long and rambling lecture, full of rhetorical flourishes, Colonel Gaddafi characterised the Lockerbie case as a chapter in the struggle between good and evil.

A BBC correspondent in Tripoli, Frank Gardner, says that while Colonel Gaddafi's speech was long on anti-Western rhetoric it is unlikely to unsettle the British or US Governments.

But it does appear to show that Libya is determined to fight the Lockerbie verdict.

Remembering 1986

The Libyan leader was speaking in Tripoli in front of a building preserved to show damage caused by the US aerial bombardment of targets in Tripoli and Libya's second city, Benghazi in 1986.

He repeatedly pointed at the building behind him, and asked why the victims of the American bombing were not being compensated.

Mr Gaddafi said that he considered that Al Megrahi, who is in custody in the Netherlands pending an expected appeal, was being held hostage.

A people's congress in Tripoli
Libyan women at the opening of a People's Congress in Tripoli
"Abdelbaset is innocent; no formal proof has been made against him. We thus consider him abducted and taken hostage to terrorise the Libyan people and to blackmail them even more," Colonel Gaddafi said.

He called on the UN secretary-general and the UN General Assembly to work for the release of this "hostage".

The three Scottish judges who heard the case found Al Megrahi's alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, not guilty.

Colonel Gaddafi said last week that the judges had three options - to acquit Al Megrahi, resign or commit suicide.

'Astounded'

During his statement, Colonel Gaddafi referred to the opinion of a Scottish legal expert, who said the verdict against Al Megrahi was obtained on "very, very weak" evidence.

Demonstration in Tripoli
Al Megrahi's portrait held up at a demonstration in Libya
Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, was quoted on Sunday as saying he was "absolutely astounded" that Al Megrahi had been found guilty.

Mr Black said he believed the prosecution had "a very, very weak circumstantial case" and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would "convict anyone, even a Libyan" on such evidence.

London and Washington are demanding that Libya accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and pay compensation to the families of the victims before sanctions can be lifted.

On behalf of the relatives of the Lockerbie victims, Washington wants Libya to pay $740m (500m) in compensation, or about $3m (2m) for each victim.

Colonel Gaddafi dismissed demands for compensation. He said that "all the victims of the United States, from Vietnam to Tripoli" would have to be paid damages first.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Gaddafi keeps West guessing
05 Feb 01 | Americas
Lockerbie: Long road to legal claim
02 Feb 01 | Middle East
Tripoli in the spotlight
05 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Gaddafi's revolution
01 Feb 01 | Media reports
A victory, says Libyan TV
01 Feb 01 | World
Libya refuses to accept blame
01 Feb 01 | Americas
President Bush's first foreign test
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