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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Lockerbie relative in trial plea
Court scene
The defence raised concerns over translation
A spokesman for British victims of the Lockerbie bombing has appealed for immediate action to get the trial of the Libyans accused of the atrocity back on track.

Dr Jim Swire said a row over translation which stalled the trial last week could reflect badly on the defence and prosecution teams and the United Nations.

The three judges hearing the case at the special Scottish court in the Netherlands ordered an urgent inquiry after the Libyans' lawyers said poor translation meant the men could not fully understand proceedings.

Dr Jim Swire
Dr Swire: Seeking two-pronged remedy
In an open letter sent to the BBC, Dr Swire asked why, after more than a month of proceedings at the UN-brokered trial, the issue of translation had only just been raised.

He said: "From the public side of the bullet-proof screen it looks discreditable to the defence, the prosecution and the United Nations."

Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of 270 people killed when a Pan Am jet blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, asked why UN observers listening to the Arabic translation of proceedings had not criticised proceedings.

'Sensitive system'

He continued: "The defence team surely have a duty to ensure that their clients are able to understand the proceedings before them.

"Why has it taken till now for the redoubtable Mr (Bill) Taylor and (Richard) Keen to raise the matter in court?"

Dr Swire said the judges, led by Lord Sutherland, had made it clear that the proceedings should be understood.

He said action must now be taken to ensure a prompt explanation of the evidence already heard and the introduction of a "sensitive system" which ensured their understanding while minimising delay.

Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
They deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial is expected to last a year
About 1,000 witnesses are expected to be called
The case is being heard by three Scottish judges
Dr Swire said he believed the court, which is due to sit again on Tuesday, should consider warning lights for the interpreters, which flashed when they began to fall behind.

And, while it had already been stated the problem did not result from a dialect problem, he suggested it "might make sense" to have Libyan interpreters.

It was also important for the accused to be able to see the interpreters' faces.

He said: "It may be that the isolation of the interpreters, where they are invisible to the accused, has added to the problems of comprehension.

"This trial must be fair, the entire future of two men's lives depends upon it, not to mention the good name of Scottish Criminal Justice.

"Justice must be seen to be done, not only in Anglo-Saxon countries but also throughout the Arab World."

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See also:

31 May 00 | World
Case 'not on container floor'
17 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Dr Jim Swire: My hopes
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