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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Judges issue 'slow down' plea
Camp Zeist court
The specially-built courtroom in the Netherlands
Judges at the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands have announced several measures in response to defence complaints about translation facilities.

Proceedings since the trial began on 3 May are to be translated into Arabic and copies given to the two Libyan men accused of the bombing in 1988.

The presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, also said lawyers and witnesses should remember to speak slowly and interpreters had been told to signal if they could not keep up.

A system is to be installed allowing translators to indicate with lights if they are falling behind.

Proceedings are also to be tape-recorded, with the tapes checked against the court transcript to ensure accuracy.

Last week, the judges ordered an urgent inquiry into the Arabic interpretation the two Libyan defendants were receiving after defence counsel said it was too poor for the accused to understand proceedings fully.

Lord Sutherland
Lord Sutherland: Announced judges' opinion
After considering the position over the weekend, Lord Sutherland told the court: "The translation for the benefit of the accused must be ... as far as possible consistent with the result of a verbatim translation.

"Should any matters arise of which the accused were for some reason unaware and on which they want to give instructions to counsel about further cross-examination, a motion for the recall of a particular witness or witnesses may be made."

Defence lawyer William Taylor thanked the three-judge panel and said he was "comforted" by the ruling.

Legal analysts had said last week's defence motion might lead to dismissal of the case or, if the defendants were found guilty, to an eventual appeal.

Glasgow University law professor, Fraser Davidson, said after hearing Lord Sutherland's view: "If the judges are saying they can return to material they feel uncomfortable with in terms of the translation, that stands a chance of obviating the possibility of an appeal."

Under Scottish law and the European Convention on Human Rights, the accused must be able to understand proceedings at the time so they can instruct their lawyers immediately.

The defendants listen through headphones to an Arabic translation of proceedings at the specially-built Scottish court at a disused US airbase.

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