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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 16:01 GMT
US relatives press on with lawsuit
Gaddafi
Families of the victims want to send a message to Libya
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

The split verdict against two Libyans in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie will only serve to strengthen a civil suit filed by families of victims, according to a lawyer representing them.

Attorney Mark Zaid, who is representing some 40 families in bringing a civil suit against the Libyan Government, said: "That Al Megrahi was found guilty will certainly strengthen our case, but the fact Fhimah was acquitted does not hurt us."

The civil suit has been pending, awaiting the outcome of the criminal trial.

Now, the families intend to push forward with their suit, and with the criminal case over, Mr Zaid expects the US and UK Governments to share key evidence that could bolster their case.

Sending a message

In bringing the case, the families are seeking a means for full accountability in the case, Mr Zaid said.
Relatives of victims
Relatives want the Libyan Government to be held fully accountable

"The civil action, unlike the criminal case, specifically addresses the culpability of the government of Libya and its top leadership," he added.

And the families are seeking to send a message with the suit. They are seeking $20bn in damages from the Libyan Government.

"We also want to send a message to state sponsors of terrorism that if you murder an American, you will be called to pay both criminally and civilly," he said, adding: "A large amount is necessary to ensure the message is felt."

Chances of victory

Mr Zaid and the victims are confident of their chances for victory in the civil suit.

Bob Monetti lost his son in the bombing. Following the split verdict, he said: "I'll tell you this, in a US civil court, it'll be drop-dead easy to convict Libya, not just this one guy.''

The burden of proof is much lower in a civil suit as opposed to a criminal case.

In criminal cases in both the US and the UK, prosecutors must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt", but in civil cases, the plaintiffs must only prove the defendants were "more likely than not" liable.

And to help them prove their case, Mr Zaid believes they will have new evidence from the criminal investigation.

"We also fully anticipate that the US and UK Governments will share their evidence with us in order to facilitate the mutual objective of imputing responsibility directly upon Libya," he said.

Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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