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banner Friday, 21 April, 2000, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Libyans' first court appearance

The two Libyans made their first appearance in a Scottish court on 6 April, 1999.

In a very brief private hearing at Camp Zeist in Holland, Sheriff Principal Graham Cox Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, were remanded in custody.

They were not required to make any plea or declaration by the unique Scottish court convened specifically for this case.

The two suspects were accompanied by their lawyers and United Nations officials observed the proceedings.

Both men will continue to be held in separate cells in the UK's smallest prison, set up at the former Dutch air base in the run-up to their trial.

Officials had earlier read out to the men the warrants for their arrest in Arabic and English - listing the names of the 270 victims one by one. They are charged with murder, conspiracy to murder and breach of the aviation security act.

The charges factbox
Both men were fingerprinted, photographed and subjected to DNA sampling. This is standard procedure in any Scottish criminal case.

They will be formally committed for trial next week.

Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988 and a large piece of the fuselage fell onto the Scottish town.

The crash killed 259 people on board the plane and another 11 on the ground.

Mr al-Megrahi, 46, and Mr Fhimah, 42, became prime suspects, but the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, refused to hand them over and sanctions were imposed by the United Nations in 1992.

Those sanctions were suspended on Monday following the pair's arrival in the Netherlands. They will be fully lifted at the end of the trial if the pair are found guilty and Libya agrees to pay compensation to the victims.

The pair's court appearance on Tuesday marks the start of the formal legal process which will lead to a full trial, creating Scottish legal history.

  • It will be the first time a Scottish court has sat with three judges replacing a jury of 15.
  • It is also the first time such a murder case has been heard in a foreign country.
  • The case is also set to become the most complex and expensive in Scottish legal history.

Life in a Scottish jail

If convicted, Mr al-Megrahi and Mr Fhimah would be taken to the UK to serve life sentences in a Scottish high security jail.

The two Libyans flew into The Hague from Tripoli on Monday before being transferred to the Camp Zeist compound.

They arrived in darkness aboard separate helicopters which landed on a football pitch at the back of the former air base which has been declared UK territory for the duration of the trial.

The men protested their innocence before leaving Tripoli
Each of the accused, head covered, handcuffed and wearing body armour, was greeted by two Scottish police officers while armed colleagues looked on from the perimeter fence.

The Libyans were accompanied on their flight to the Netherlands by the chief legal counsel to the United Nations, Hans Corell.

He told a news conference that neither man had showed any signs of anxiety.

Mr Corell said: "Each of them had a brother on board and they had their two lawyers.

"There were conversations between them and also there were conversations between our security people and of course the purpose was to create an atmosphere of, shall we say, a friendly transfer."

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See also:

06 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Libya calls for 'fresh start'
06 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Lockerbie suspect declares innocence
06 Apr 99 | World
UN suspends Libya sanctions
16 Feb 99 | Lockerbie
Look back at Lockerbie
20 Mar 99 | Lockerbie
The trail to trial
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