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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 20:12 GMT
Lockerbie bombing appeal ends
The five Lockerbie appeal judges
The judges have retired to consider their decision
The appeal against conviction of the Libyan man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing has ended.

The five judges, headed by the Lord Justice General, Lord Cullen, have now retired to consider their decision.

Lord Cullen said a ruling in the appeal would not be made "before the beginning of March".

On the last day of the appeal, lawyers for Abdelbasset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi told the judges that doubt had been cast on the verdict.

Abdelbasset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Al-Megrahi: Convicted in January 2001
Bill Taylor, QC, who is defending al-Megrahi, said new evidence presented to the appeal pointed to a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Taylor said the new evidence raised the possibility that the bomb which exploded on Pan Am flight 103, had been placed on the aircraft at Heathrow and not in Malta, as the trial judges had concluded.

He said it was regrettable that evidence made available at the appeal at Camp Zeist had not been disclosed at the trial.

"It is reasonable to conclude that the verdict, reached in ignorance of this evidence, must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice," he concluded.

He said there was "strong circumstantial evidence" that a security breach allowed access to a baggage handling area at Heathrow three hours before the plane took off for New York.

Weak and flawed

Prosecution lawyers also gave their closing submissions in the appeal on Thursday.

Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, urged the judges to reject the appeal.

He said the new evidence was weak and flawed, and did not affect the original case.

"The Crown case is not undermined," he said.

"This is merely another example of speculative and hypothetical explanations of which there were many canvassed at the trial."

Luqa Airport in Malta
Luqa Airport in Malta
Key aspects of the original trial were unaffected by the appeal, Mr Turnbull said.

He said that clothing which was wrapped around the bomb in the suitcase had been bought by a Libyan from a shop in Malta, and the bomb timer was supplied to a member of the Libyan security service.

Last January, al-Megrahi was convicted of the murders of 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

A key part of the prosecution case at Camp Zeist was that the bomb was loaded onto a feeder flight from Malta - but the defence has alleged that the device could have been placed on Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow Airport.

Relatives relieved

The prosecution said that this "infiltration hypothesis" at Heathrow was weak and flawed, but there was evidence, insisted Mr Turnbull, of an unaccompanied bag being placed on a flight from Malta, as well as evidence of a bomb in that bag.

Relatives of those people killed in the atrocity said they were happy the legal process was nearing a conclusion.

Robert Monetti, of the Victims of Pan Am 103 support group, said: "It's been 13 years, and it would be nice to get on with another part of our lives. I've loved the Netherlands, it's a wonderful country, the Scottish court has been great, but enough."

The five judges have retired to consider their decision, which is likely to take about three weeks.

The BBC's David Shukman
"The final day on a long quest for justice"
Home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson
"Prosecutors called a number of witnesses from Heathrow to say the break-in wasn't significant"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic


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