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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Lockerbie diary evidence debate
Trial bench
The court heard the diary was taken by police officers
The Lockerbie trial has begun hearing arguments over whether the diary of one of the accused is admissible in court.

The diary of Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was removed by police officers from the office of a travel business he ran in Malta in April 1991.

The Scottish Court, sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, heard that Fhimah had set up the travel firm with Maltese businessman Vincent Vassallo.

Mr Vassallo was later asked to leave the court while the defence and prosecution teams argued over the admissibility of the diary.

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, 1988, 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 is taking place in a Scottish courtroom at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands
The case is being heard by three Scottish judges
Mr Vassallo told the court that he and Mr Fhimah opened a travel agency after becoming acquainted at Malta's Luqa Airport.

Mr Vassallo ran a cafeteria at the airport and Fhimah was station manager of Libyan Arab Airlines.

The prosecution alleges that Fhimah and Megrahi, who was the airline's head of security at the airport, were both members of the Libyan Intelligence Service.

It is alleged they used their positions to place a bomb in a suitcase aboard an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, which was then routed onto Pan Am flight 103.

Mr Vassallo told chief prosecutor Alastair Campbell that he went into partnership with Fhimah in February 1989, two months after the bombing.

He described the business as "travel, import-export" and said it was called Medtours.

He told the court that in April 1991 he received several visits from the police at the office.

On one occasion they looked in drawers and began picking things up.

Luqa Airport, Malta
Luqa Airport, Malta
He said: "They opened drawers, took out Fhimah's audio cassettes to listen to recordings in Arabic.

"I sometimes used Fhimah's desk and from his desk they took my diary, Fhimah's diary and business cards.

"They told me they were taking the diaries. I could not say either yes or no."

He told Mr Campbell that the police had not asked permission.

Richard Keen QC, for Fhimah, then asked for the witness to leave the court so that he could raise a point of law.

The trial judges agreed last week to convene a "trial within a trial" to decide if the contents of the diary could be discussed.

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