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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"These people knew that today they would come face to face with the men accused of murdering their loved ones"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andy Tighe at Camp Zeist
"They're outlining who they are going to blame"
 real 28k

Dr Jim Swire
"It is a major step forward"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Lockerbie accused deny murder
Lockerbie accused
The two accused are standing trial at the special court
Two Libyans have pleaded not guilty to murdering the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, gave the declaration on Wednesday - the first day of a trial which is expected to run for more than a year.

Lawyers acting for the pair say they will produce evidence that will incriminate others for the world's worst ever airline bombing 11 years ago.

Scottish police
There was tight security at the court
Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York, exploded over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 on board and 11 on the ground.

The clerk to a specially-convened Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands read a list of Arabic names of people he said the defence would allege were the real Lockerbie bombers.

It included members of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General and members of another group called the PPSF.

The indictment against the accused - who sat impassively throughout - took 20 minutes to read, after which the clerk of the court announced that both men were pleading not guilty to all charges.

First witness

The first witness in the trial was then called - Heathrow-based air traffic controller Richard Dawson, 52, from Taplow, Bucks.

The packed public section of the courtroom watched through a bullet-proof screen as Mr Dawson, in a grey suit and white shirt, was questioned by Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, who is heading the prosecution team.

The two men are being tried at Camp Zeist near Utrecht, under special arrangements agreed with the Libyan Government.

Civil Aviation Authority officials, police officers and Lockerbie residents will be among the first witnesses giving evidence.

Police search the cockpit of PanAm flight 103 for clues
Debris was scattered for miles
This will initially centre on the flight path of the Boeing 747 and how it disappeared from radar screens on 21 December 1988, just 38 minutes after taking off from Heathrow.

Other evidence is likely to include the story of the retrieval of the debris from the aircraft, which was scattered across 845 square miles.

It is alleged that the two accused were Libyan intelligence agents who hid a bomb in a radio-cassette recorder in a suitcase of clothes.

The prosecution will say the device was put on board a Frankfurt flight at Malta airport. In Germany, the baggage was transferred to a London flight and at Heathrow it was put on board the Pan Am jet, they say.

Tight security

Relatives of those who died have already arrived in the Netherlands for the start of the trial, which is being held amid tight security.

Armed police are guarding the trial site, which has been specially constructed at a former US air base, and the accused will sit to one side of the court room behind bullet-proof glass listening to translations of the evidence through earphones.

In a unique move, the camp has been designated as Scottish territory for the duration of the trial, which will be presided over by three judges without a jury.

It follows a lengthy quest for justice by the families of those who died and years of international wrangling.

Holland was chosen as a neutral third country after years of deadlock which saw Libya hit by economic sanctions after refusing to surrender the suspects.

The trial was adjourned temporarily following problems with the court's audio system.

The accused were back in the chamber on Wednesday afternoon to hear further statements from air traffic control officials.

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See also:

02 May 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Relatives' Lockerbie trial doubts
03 May 00 | Media reports
The long road to trial
18 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Doors open on Lockerbie court
02 May 00 | Middle East
Libya: From pariah to participant
18 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
In pictures: Camp Zeist
18 Nov 99 | World
Lockerbie trial judges named
21 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Flight to disaster
03 May 00 | World
Waiting ends as trial begins
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