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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK


Lockerbie lawyers granted extension

The hearing was held at Camp Zeist, where the accused are held

Scotland's High Court has granted more time for defence lawyers to prepare their case in the trial of the two Libyans accused of causing the Lockerbie bombing.

BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson reports
The decision means the trial is now scheduled to begin on or before 4 February, 2000.

Without the extension, and under the rules of Scottish criminal law, the trial would have had to begin by 1 August this year.

But because of the complexity of the case, the defence team asked for the 110-day rule to be extended.

The judge, Lord Sutherland, sitting in private at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands where the two accused are being held, granted the application at the 30-minute hearing.

[ image: Lord Hardie: Will make application]
Lord Hardie: Will make application
Scotland's senior law officer, the Lord Advocate Lord Hardie, was present, as were the defence counsel and the accused.

Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, will stand trial before a panel of Scottish judges, accused of blowing up a PanAm jumbo jet over the town of Lockerbie in December 1988, with the loss of 270 lives.

After a lengthy dispute, which led to the imposition of United Nations sanctions against Libya, the men were finally handed over for trial on 5 April under a plan for a trial in a "neutral" country under Scots law.

The application, made by Lord Hardie at the request of the defence, was for a six-month extension to the 110-day rule.

110-day rule

This law states that in serious cases such as murder - and where a person is held in custody - that a trial must begin within 110 days of the accused's first appearance in court.

It is designed to prevent people languishing in prison for long periods of time before being tried.

A statement from the Crown Office said it remained open to the defence to seek further time for the preparation of its case, should that be necessary.

American and British diplomats are expected to meet Libyan diplomats soon to discuss a permanent lifting of the sanctions, which were suspended on 5 April.

They include an air and arms embargo and a ban on some oil equipment.

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