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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 13:55 GMT
Lockerbie bomber loses appeal
Bill Taylor, QC, in court with al-Megrahi
Bill Taylor, QC, defended al-Megrahi during the appeal
The Libyan man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing has lost his appeal against the conviction.

Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi will now be taken to a jail in Scotland to begin a sentence of at least 20 years.

Al-Megrahi showed no emotion as he heard the outcome from the five judges at a special Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

He was jailed for life in January 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988, leading to the deaths of 270 people.

Barlinnie Prison
Barlinnie Jail:
  • Al-Megrahi is to be transfered to Barlinnie Jail
  • He may be held alone in a special unit
  • His sentence is for life
    For more:

  • Libya condemned the decision as a "political verdict" handed down under pressure from Washington and London.

    But Scotland's most senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, said: "I believe that these proceedings have demonstrated what the judicial process can achieve when the international community acts together.

    "I hope that this can be the enduring legacy of the Lockerbie trial. It is one that cannot and must not be forgotten".

    The decision, which took less than three minutes to deliver, was read out by Scotland's most senior judge, Lord Justice General Lord Cullen.

    He said: "For the reasons given in the judgement, in which we all concur, we have concluded that none of the grounds of appeal is well founded.

    "The appeal will accordingly be refused."

    Wife's sorrow

    Al-Megrahi's wife burst into tears while relatives of those who died expressed their relief at the ruling.

    He lodged grounds for his appeal a week after the guilty verdict, which followed an 84-day trial under Scottish law at Camp Zeist in Holland.

    Al-Megrahi's defence team asked the appeal judges to declare his conviction a "miscarriage of justice".

    Lord Cullen
    Lord Cullen headed the panel of judges
    The 14-day appeal hearing made Scottish legal history by being broadcast live on television and the internet.

    Bill Taylor, QC, defending al-Megrahi, argued that new evidence presented to the appeal pointed to a miscarriage of justice.

    He said it raised the possibility that the bomb had been placed on board the aircraft at Heathrow and not in Malta, as the trial judges had concluded.

    However, Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, said the new evidence was weak and flawed, and did not affect the original case.

    'I am innocent'

    In an interview published shortly after his conviction, al-Megrahi denied he was responsible for the bombing.

    He told Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat: "God is my witness that I am innocent, I have never committed any crime and I have no connection to this issue.

    "I swear to God that I have never seen any suitcase, nor did I put any suitcase (on the plane)."

    Al-Megrahi: Showed no emotion
    The judges spent exactly a month considering the evidence before announcing their verdict on Thursday.

    UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on Libya to honour its obligations in respect of Lockerbie and to co-operate fully with UN Security Council resolutions.

    The UK Government would study the judgement before deciding on whether or not it would hold an inquiry into the bombing.

    'No surprise'

    Alistair Bonnington, BBC Scotland and Lockerbie trial briefing unit lawyer, said the result was "no surprise" to those who had observed proceedings.

    He said he hoped the facility at Camp Zeist, 32 miles from Amsterdam, could now be used as an international court to hear terrorism and other cases.

    Zeist courtroom
    The courtroom at Camp Zeist
    Until now, al-Megrahi has been kept in a cell at Camp Zeist but will now serve his sentence in isolation and amid maximum security at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

    Only one avenue of appeal remains open to him under the Scottish legal system.

    The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which sits in London, has a supervisory jurisdiction over constitutional matters within the UK.

    However, al-Megrahi can only ask the body to re-examine the case under the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The BBC's Robert Parsons
    "A Libyan intelligence agent will serve a life sentence in Scotland"
    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    "I hope this does give them some solace and comfort"
    Ambassador Ali Muhsen Hamid of the Arab League
    "We believe this case is politically motivated"

    Talking PointFORUM
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    Lockerbie megapuff graphic


    Appeal concludes

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