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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Date set for Lockerbie appeal
Camp Zeist
The appeal will be heard at Camp Zeist next year
The Lockerbie bomber's appeal against his conviction for mass murder is to begin in January next year.

At a preliminary hearing at the Scottish court in the Netherlands, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's counsel was given four weeks to lodge the outlines of its arguments.

The prosecution side will then have four weeks to respond and the Camp Zeist court will begin to hear the case on 23 January.

The move came as the sister of an air stewardess killed in the 1988 bombing failed in her attempt to have an independent review of the evidence gathered in the case.

Abdel Baset Ali Mohammed Al-Megrahi
Al Megrahi was convicted in January 2001

Marina de Larracoechea told the preliminary appeal hearing before five Scottish judges the review should be carried out by the court.

She said the human rights of the victims' families had been violated because the prosecutor in the case, Scotland's lord advocate, was a political appointee.

In rejecting her request, Lord Cullen, the presiding judge, said the role of the court was simply to hear the appeal of the man convicted of the bombing.

The hearing marked Al Megrahi's first court appearance since he was jailed for life in January, this year, for the attack which killed 270 people.

Forty-nine-year-old Al Megrahi's co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted by the same court.

Lord Cullen said it was likely another procedural hearing would be necessary before the appeal began, and any such hearing would be held on 7 January, 2002.

Marina de Larracoechea
Marina de Larracoechea does not believe all the evidence has been heard

Drawing Monday's three hour hearing to a close, he said: "A decision as to whether there will be a further procedural hearing will be taken as soon as possible, and certainly by December 17."

Miss de Larracoechea is a Spanish woman, who now lives in New York, and she said the court should hear evidence which was not brought before the original trial.

This, she said, would address the issues of who planned the atrocity and who was responsible for allowing the suitcase containing the bomb to be smuggled on board the doomed aircraft.

Her sister Maria, 39, was among the people killed when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Miss de Larracoechea told the court that the Crown's case needed further scrutiny because the full truth behind the bombing had not come out during the trial.

She told the five judges that "key and central aspects of the case were repeatedly shielded" during the fatal accident inquiry into the disaster for fear of prejudicing future criminal proceedings and in the understanding that these would be fully addressed at the trial.

Zeist policeman
Security at the court has been tightened

However, she said many issues remained unaddressed and could only be dealt with through an independent review of all evidence.

She said: "My view is that what is necessary is an independent review of everything that came out in the original criminal investigation - that's the first step and then depending on what's found it may be necessary to proceed further.

"I only seek the truth and justice of the case as soon as possible like most of the relatives."

Intelligence services

Similar calls for an independent review have been made by other relatives of victims.

Families recently renewed their calls for a full independent inquiry into the disaster during a meeting with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

In particular they want the failure of the intelligence services and airport and airline authorities to stop the bomb getting on board to be scrutinised.

Some other relatives of those killed, including Dr Jim Swire and the Rev John Mosey, who both lost daughters, have travelled to Holland for the hearing.

Al Megrahi was granted leave to appeal against his conviction earlier this year.

The preliminary hearing took place before Scottish judges - Lords Cullen, Kirkwood, MacFadyen, Nimmo-Smith and McEwan.

It is costing up to 2m a month to keep Al Megrahi in the Netherlands.

This was the first time he has been seen in public since his conviction and security at Camp Zeist has been considerably strengthened following the September terrorist atrocities in the United States.

Home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson reports
"It took just about half an hour for the judges to hear the appeal by Marina de Larracoechea"
The BBC's Jon Manel
speaks to a potential new witness with information not yet heard by the court

The full Lockerbie opinion on the Scottish Court Service websiteFull verdicts
Lockerbie opinion posted by Scots Court Service
Lockerbie megapuff graphic


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