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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Firm 'did business' with accused
Police guard
The trial is taking place amid tight security
The owner of the firm which made the timer allegedly used in the Lockerbie bomb says he did business with one of the men accused of the atrocity.

At the Scottish court in the Netherlands, Irwin Meister said he recognised Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahii from business dealings which took place in Libya and Zurich prior to the bombing.

He alleged that his Swiss-based company, MEBO, received an "urgent" order for timers from the Libyan army just a few weeks before the explosion of Pan Am 103 which saw the death of all on board.

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
At that time the firm had been doing regular business with the Libyans, supplying radio and communications equipment and a batch of 20 of its own design "MST-13" electronic timers in 1985.

But Mr Meister told the court that when the urgent order came, MEBO did not have the right materials to produce its own type in time.

Instead the company purchased Olympus timers for delivery to Libya by Mr Meister's business partner Edwin Bollier.

Mr Bollier returned from his trip - via Malta - on the eve of the Lockerbie bombing - still with the timers which the Libyans had returned as unsuitable.

But then in the first fortnight of January 1989, Mr Bollier looked again at the batch of Olympus timers which had been left on a shelf in the MEBO offices in Zurich since his return the night before the Lockerbie bombing.

Accused deny murder

Mr Meister explained: "Mr Bollier called me and said: 'Look what I've discovered'. He had in his hand one of the Olympus timers. He asked me to look at it. It was programmed for 7.30pm and the day of the week was a Wednesday."

The Lockerbie explosion in fact occurred shortly after 1900GMT on Wednesday 21 December, 1988.

Mr Al Megrahi, 48, and his co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, deny charges of murder, conspiracy and breaching an aviation security act.

Lockerbie
Night of the tragedy: Fire fighters assess the scene
The Lockerbie indictment accuses them of being members of the Libyan Intelligence Services working for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta.

They are alleged to have conspired together between January 1985 and 21 December 2 - the date of the bombing - to destroy the plane.

The court has already heard that a radio-cassette recorder packed with Semtex attached to an "MST-13" was placed in a suitcase on a Frankfurt-bound flight from Luqa Airport, Malta.

From Frankfurt it was placed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 to Heathrow, exploding on the plane's next leg, from Heathrow to New York, above Lockerbie.

Army contacts

Mr Meister, 62, had told Alan Turnbull QC, prosecuting, that MEBO first established commercial contacts with the Libyan army in about 1980.

He was asked how business was conducted with the Libyans: "It was not like the army purchasing offices in the west," he replied. "We moved from one contact to another."

Wreckage
Wreckage was spread over miles
He said business was carried out in Tripoli and Benghazi and his contacts were sometimes in army uniform and sometimes in civilian clothes.

Mr Meister named his contacts as a communications expert called Ezzadin Hinshiri and another man named Said Rashid - both identified in the Lockerbie indictment as a link between MEBO and the two accused men in obtaining electronic timers.

And he said that on several occasions, in Tripoli and once in Zurich, he met a man called Abdelbaset - and he is one of the men in dock.

Invoice row

Mr Meister pointed him out in court and said one of their meetings was when he and Mr Bollier were summoned by Mr Ezzadin to give a demonstration of some telefax equipment in an office in Tripoli.


Camp Zeist
A former army camp is being used for the trial
He said: "There was a dispute between Mr Bollier and Mr Ezzadin about an unpaid invoice and Mr Abdelbaset intervened and arranged for payment of the invoice."

Mr Meister said he got the impression that Mr Abdelbaset was "on the same level or higher than" Mr Ezzadin in the Libyan army hierarchy.

Mr Meister said he recalled hearing about the Lockerbie bombing from television reports and he had discussed the tragedy with Mr Bollier.

Then in 1990, Mr Meister told the court, Scottish police first visited MEBO headquarters in the Novapark Hotel in Zurich, requesting an interview about the production of "MST-13" timers and the Pan Am tragedy.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.

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See also:

15 Jun 00 | World
Lockerbie bomb 'in suitcase'
14 Jun 00 | World
Trial shown cassette 'bomb'
13 Jun 00 | World
Judges issue 'slow down' plea
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