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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Trial told of security weakness
Malta's Luqa Airport
The Crown says the bomb started its journey here
The Lockerbie trial has heard an airport supervisor admit it would have been possible for an unchecked bag to have been put on a flight from Malta which connected with Pan Am 103.

But Wilfred Borg, ground operations general manager at Malta's Luqa Airport, denied unidentified luggage records produced by the prosecution showed safety procedures were broken.

Prosecutors are trying to prove the two Libyans accused of bombing a New York-bound airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, planted the suitcase with the bomb on an Air Malta flight which later connected with the Pan Am flight.

Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1998, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground
The two men deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial, in Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, is expected to last a year
About 1,000 witnesses are expected to be called
The case is being heard by three Scottish judges
Mr Borg was questioned for hours by prosecutor Alan Turnbull about safety operations at the airport.

Describing the procedures as "flexible", Mr Turnbull presented the court with Air Malta records from 1988 and 1989 and singled out a number of flights which showed discrepancies between quantities of bags checked in and those counted by loading supervisors on the tarmac.

In particular, he pointed to a 21 December 1988 Air Malta flight to Cairo in which five bags left on the tarmac in a previous flight were cleared without any apparent record of their identification by passengers.

"Is the obvious inference not that baggage was on board without passengers?" he asked.

Mr Borg replied: "No."

Flight coupons

"There must have at least have been a possibility," Mr Turnbull insisted.

"I cannot discount the possibility," the witness answered.

Mr Turnbull said 55 bags were checked and recorded as loaded onto KM 180 to Frankfurt, but noted that although the flight coupons belonging to a group of three passengers showed 16 bags, the check-in list only registered 14 bags.

Mr Borg rejected the prosecutor's suggestion that a decline in the average number of inconsistencies after February 1989 suggested security lapses were cleaned up after German police came to Malta to question airport employees in connection with the Lockerbie bombing.

At the end of the day, Turnbull asked Mr Borg to verify a photo badge that gave defendant Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, the Libyan airline's station manager, security clearance throughout the airport.

This was after the prosecutor had asked whether a person familiar with security operations and access to loading areas could "deliberately have circumvented the checks you had in place?"

Mr Borg replied: "Anything is possible. Whether it was probable is a different story."

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | World
'Malta link' in Lockerbie chain
29 Jun 00 | World
Libyans' passports examined
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