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The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"The Syrians say the documents cast serious doubts over the accusations"
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Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson
"A fortnight from today we would be looking for a verdict"
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banner Monday, 8 January, 2001, 19:32 GMT
Lockerbie defence cut short
Zeist court
The court has been sitting for eight months
The Lockerbie trial could be over within weeks after defence teams for the two accused Libyans said they would offer no further evidence.

The decision by advocates for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah came after the Syrian Government refused to hand over evidence which was considered vital to the defence case.

Mr Al Megrahi had been expected to give evidence as part of the defence's attempt to establish that Palestinian terror groups, and not Libyans, were responsible for the atrocity.

Presiding judge Lord Sutherland has now adjourned proceedings until Tuesday, when final submissions from prosecution and defence lawyers will begin.

Verdict 'within weeks'

Those submissions were expected to last two or three days and the three judges could deliver their verdict by the end of January.

The defence teams' decision came after the court heard that the Syrian Government had knocked back what was reported to have been a request for key evidence.

Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground
The two men deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial is taking place in a Scottish courtroom at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands
The case is being heard by a panel of Scottish judges
When proceedings resumed after a month's adjournment, Scotland's senior law officer, the lord advocate, said the Syrians had not passed on the requested information despite repeated requests.

The evidence was understood to have detailed new links between Lockerbie enquiries conducted by the German intelligence services (BKA) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC).

The Syrian-based organisation was originally high on the list of suspects for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and was one of two Palestinian groups defence counsel had indicated they would blame for causing the tragedy.

The Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, who has been heading the prosecution, told the judges that the response from Syria to the request for information made it clear that no document would be handed over - assuming that it still existed.

Mr Boyd said "I understand that the message that the Syrian authorities wish to convey to the court is that Syrian authorities consider they should not have been asked the question in the first place and would prefer not to have to send a formal response.

Colin Boyd
Colin Boyd: Series of meetings took place
"It seems unlikely that this court will get a formal response. Any response now would undoubtedly be negative.

"The Syrians are keen to emphasise that the Syrian government is not the PFLP-GC."

The lord advocate described the outcome as "disappointing" and said: "We conveyed information to the Syrian authorities about the possible location of the document, including that it might be in Syrian Government hands. That has not helped produce a response."

The QC for Mr Al Megrahi told the court he would be leading no further evidence.

The advocate for Mr Fhimah also said he would bring no witnesses forward.

Dr Jim Swire, who has monitored the trial for victims' families after his daughter Flora died aboard the bombed flight, said: "I'm totally amazed, this has come completely out of the blue."

He said he was disappointed key facts that could aid the bereaved relatives' quest for truth might now not come out.

"In the event that the verdict is not guilty, it will leave a serious tranche of questions unanswered," said Dr Swire.

The trial had been expected to last at least a year.

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See also:

08 Jan 01 | Lockerbie Trial
Analysis: Conclusion of Lockerbie evidence
31 Dec 00 | Scotland
Moderator to visit Lockerbie prison
21 Dec 00 | Scotland
Tribute on Lockerbie anniversary
05 Dec 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Lockerbie defence case begins
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