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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 16:37 GMT
Lockerbie bomber lodges appeal
Flight 103 wreckage
Lawyers have six weeks to lodge the grounds for the appeal
The man jailed for life for murdering 270 people by blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie has lodged an appeal against his conviction.

Libyan secret agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was found guilty last Wednesday at a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.

Now his lawyers have lodged an appeal against his conviction with the Justiciary Office in Edinburgh.

He has six weeks to lodge the grounds for appeal which, if granted, would be heard before five judges at Camp Zeist, where the trial took place.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi
The appeal would be heard at Camp Zeist
Families of those who died in the tragedy said they had expected the 48-year-old to appeal.

However, the appeal is thought likely to hamper their efforts to secure an independent public inquiry into the bombing.

Foreign secretary Robin Cook told them any inquiry would only be held once the appeal process was complete.

John Mosey, whose lost his 19-year-old daughter Helga in the 1988 atrocity, said: "We are not surprised.

"If anything we are a little sad because it does mean that our independent inquiry will have to be delayed until the process is complete."

'Murderers usually appeal'

Mr Mosey expects any appeal, which could last three to four weeks, to be heard in September or October.

American Bruce Smith lost his English-born wife Ingrid, 31, in the bombing.

He said he expected Al Megrahi to appeal, adding: "Murderers usually do. Now it has to be considered and a judge will decide whether it has the merits to proceed."

Mr Smith said that if the appeal was eventually rejected by five Scottish judges it would add weight to the families' bid to hold the Libyan government accountable for the atrocity.

Rev John Mosey
Rev John Mosey is not surprised by the appeal
Pamela Dix, from Surrey, lost her 35-year-old brother Peter in the tragedy.

She said: "This appeal underlines the fact that there are many steps and chapters along the way.

"The message for those who thought that the trial brought closure for the families is that it has not.

"This is something which has happened and which will not be removed by the conclusion of the trial.

"It can't bring about a resolution yet and this underlines that fact."

Once the grounds of appeal are lodged the full documentation will be submitted to a single judge in chambers, who will grant or refuse leave to appeal.

Legal argument

Al Megrahi maintained his innocence throughout the duration of the trial.

His lawyers insisted he had nothing to do with the atrocity and said it was actually carried out by Palestinian terrorists.

But the three judges, who heard 84 days of evidence, convicted him of the biggest mass murder in British history.

Camp Zeist
Al Megrahi will stay at Zeist pending his appeal
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation he serve 20 years before he can be considered for parole.

His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fahima, was found not guilty and has returned to Libya.

Legal experts believe an appeal could centre evidence heard during the trial about clothing in the suitcase which contained the bomb.

Robert Black, professor of law at Edinburgh University, said he thought the appeal would be based on legal argument rather than fresh evidence.

An appeal cannot be a second trial. BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason explains the points on which an appeal could be launched:

  • The court made a wrong decision in ruling a piece of evidence admissable or not

  • The verdict was unreasonable

  • The defence lawyers did not do their jobs properly

  • There were fundamental irregularities in the legal procedure.

Al Megrahi's solicitor, Alistair Duff, refused to comment on the appeal move.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson discusses the appeal
"I think many people on both sides of the Atlantic fully expected an appeal to be made"
BBC's Barnaby Mason
"The appeal will not amount to a second trial"

Full verdicts
Lockerbie opinion posted by Scots Court Service
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

AUDIO VIDEO

Appeal concludes

Key stories

Features

The trial
See also:

05 Feb 01 | In Depth
02 Feb 01 | Middle East
05 Feb 01 | Americas
02 Feb 01 | Middle East
05 Feb 01 | Middle East
01 Feb 01 | In Depth
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