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Willie Johnston reports
"The relatives are united in a common bond"
 real 28k

banner Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Relatives' Lockerbie trial doubts
Relatives have been arriving at Camp Zeist
Relatives of some of the Lockerbie bombing victims have expressed fears that the trial of the two accused Libyans will fail to expose the full truth behind the tragedy.

As around 40 relatives arrived for Wednesday's first session of the trial at a specially constructed court in the Netherlands, they told reporters of their relief that the trial was eventually getting under way.

However, some of the American victims' families said they were sceptical about whether justice would be served even if the Libyan accused are convicted.

I don't believe that justice will ever take place to the extent the families want

Bert Ammerman

Daniel Cohen, whose daughter Theodora, 20, died when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, said: "I may live long enough to see these guys go to jail and see these guys get out, that's not justice, that isn't even a semblance of justice."

However, some of the relatives said there was a feeling something was now being done about the atrocity, 12 years after it happened.

Bert Ammerman, whose brother Tommy was among the 270 victims, said: "I believe that the process will take place, the integrity will take place but I don't believe that justice will ever take place to the extent the families want.

Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen with a picture of his daughter
"But I feel that we've done the best that we possibly could."

British relatives' spokesman Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora perished, said he hoped justice would be done following years of international wrangling.

He said: "I'm very relieved that the trial is finally going ahead.

"The main anticipation and stress was whether the men would actually be surrendered for trial in April 1999.

"Now we have the anticipation of finally seeing the trial go ahead.

"We have always said that many aspects of what happened will not be covered by the scope of the criminal trial but it will provide some answers and is a major step forward."

Dr Swire said that once the trial was complete, the way would be clear for other enquiries which have been unable to take place in the past for fear of prejudicing the criminal investigation.

Bert Ammerman
Bert Ammerman: "We've done our best"

Final preparations for the trial were being made amid high security as the relatives arrived.

All 259 passengers and crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie died when the Boeing 747 airliner disintegrated in mid-air and crashed on 21 December, 1988, just 38 minutes after leaving Heathrow Airport bound for New York.

Abdel Basset Ali al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, who have been described as Libyan intelligence agents, have denied murder, conspiracy to murder and endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Those victims' relatives unable to travel to Camp Zeist have been given the opportunity to watch television footage at special centres in Dumfries, London, Washington and New York.

The victims of the disaster came from 21 different countries and included 44 Britons and 188 Americans.

The two defendants were finally flown to the Netherlands in April last year after the Libyan authorities agreed to the trial taking place on neutral territory but under Scots law.

Jim Swire
Dr Jim Swire: Relieved trial is getting under way

The charges the men face have been listed as alternatives, meaning that they can only be convicted of one of them.

Both murder and the third charge, which makes it an offence unlawfully and intentionally to destroy an aircraft in service or damage it so badly it cannot fly or is unsafe in flight, carry life terms on conviction.

The sentence for conspiracy to murder is at the discretion of the court.

The trial, which is expected to last at least a year, is likely to be the longest and most expensive in legal history.

It will be the first time a Scottish criminal court has sat abroad and the first time that charges of such gravity have been heard without a jury.

A bid to delay the trial for eight weeks failed last week when one of the three judges who will preside over the proceedings rejected a prosecution application for more time to prepare.

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See also:

25 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
New plea to delay Lockerbie trial
18 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
In pictures: Camp Zeist
18 Nov 99 | World
Lockerbie trial judges named
24 Feb 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Lord Advocate's Lockerbie pledge
27 Apr 00 | Lockerbie Trial
Way cleared for Lockerbie trial
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