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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 19:38 GMT
Cheers and tears of US relatives
Memorial to Lockerbie victims
Victims' relatives have fought for justice for 12 years
By Jane Hughes in New York

For the past nine months, it has become something of a daily ritual for American relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing.


This verdict means a connection has now been made to state-sponsored terrorism

Bert Ammerman
Day after day, a handful of them have made their way to a special viewing room in the federal building in downtown Manhattan to watch on closed circuit television the trial of the two men accused of carrying out the bombing.

They arrived on Wednesday for the last time, to hear the verdict. The judge's decision, when it came, was a relief for some, a disappointment for others.

"There were cheers, but also tears," said Bert Ammerman, whose brother Tom died in the bombing.

Bert Ammerman
Bert Ammerman: Guilty verdict is a vindication
He has been at the forefront of a campaign by victims' families to pursue those responsible for the attack, and he regards the guilty verdict against Abdel Basset al-Megrahi as a vindication.

"My biggest concern was that they would both be found not guilty, and we would be talking today about conspiracy theories," Mr Ammerman told the BBC.

"Our work, our effort, our lobbying, all came to something today. This verdict means a connection has now been made to state-sponsored terrorism."

'You never get your kid back'

Mr Ammerman feels the verdict brings to an end a chapter in his life, but for other relatives of victims, it offers little in the way of help in the healing process.


People want us to be normal again after this verdict. But we'll never be normal, after what we've been through

Bob Monetti
"It's not revenge. You never get your kid back, that's the horrible thing," said Jack Flynn, from New Jersey, whose 21-year-old son John was killed.

Bob Monetti lost his 20-year-old son Rick, who was one of a number of Syracuse University students travelling back home to the US for Christmas.

He is president of the group called Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which represents about 160 of the American victims. He says it is almost insulting to talk about closure following the verdict.

Lockerbie plane wreckage
Some relatives want the masterminds behind the bombing pursued
"It feels good for a couple of minutes, but it doesn't change anything," he said. "People want us to be normal again after this verdict. But we'll never be normal, after what we've been through."

His organisation is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, and his security agency, seeking billions of dollars in punitive damages. Their focus will now turn to that case.

"The burden of proof in a civil trial is much lower," said Mr Monetti. "This trial has produced more than enough evidence to convict in a US civil court."

'Rogue nation'

Other relatives are now looking to the British and American Governments to pursue the masterminds of the Lockerbie bombing.

Bert Ammerman called on the new Bush administration to "immediately announce that Libya is a rogue nation, and that Gaddafi is a rogue leader and that we should push in the United Nations to maintain the sanctions and up the ante until Gaddafi is out of power."

But, pausing between television interviews, he betrayed a degree of weariness.

"I don't expect that from President Bush or Prime Minister Tony Blair," he admitted.

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 ON THIS STORY
Bert Ammerman
"Verdict means that they did not die in vain"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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31 Jan 01 | In Depth
31 Jan 01 | Americas
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