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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 08:48 GMT
Ask Lockerbie campaigner Jim Swire

As a Libyan intelligence officer begins a life sentence for the Lockerbie bombing, families of the dead are to step up their fight for justice.

Jim Swire, who represents the UK families of those who died, is to launch a campaign calling for a full public inquiry into the disaster.

Dr Swire lost his 23-year-old daughter Flora in the bombing.

What is his reaction to Wednesday's verdict? What next for the families of the dead? When will he be satisfied that justice has been done?

To watch the forum, select the link below


John Andrews, Nottingham: What's your feeling when you see Mr Fhimah's hero's reception on his return to Tripoli?

It's only natural that he would be greeted back home as a hero

Dr Jim Swire
Dr Jim Swire: That isn't a problem actually because we entered this trial with the presumption that the two were innocent, unless and until the court found them guilty. The court did not find Mr Fhimah guilty and therefore he is free to go and it's only natural that he would be greeted back home as a hero. His family were present in the court throughout the trial and they are naturally delighted that their husband, father or whatever is now released and can go back to a normal life.

Kevin Anderson, Glasgow:What do you make of Colonel Gaddafi's comments that he plans to reveal evidence that would prove Megrahi's innocence?

Dr Jim Swire: I think that Colonel Gaddafi agreed to allow his citizens to be tried under Scottish criminal law and that was what I went ask him, a couple of weeks after the indictments were first issued in 1991, so the degree to which he can argue about the verdict is limited. There is of course still the opportunity of an appeal, and no doubt if he gets in touch with the defence team, they will consider what he has to offer has some place in any appeal they might lodge. Are you surprised to hear him say he has new evidence after all these years? Well, if there is important evidence it would have been nice to have it available before this.

Ian Sanderson, UK: Our sixth form found the lecture you gave to them last year very interesting. In it, you stressed that you wanted to see justice done. Do you feel that this chapter in your life is now over and that justice has indeed been done?

I have a huge sense of relief that this trial has been completed and that it has achieved a conviction, which frankly I didn't think it would be able to

Dr Jim Swire
Dr Jim Swire: Yes, I think that the purpose of this court was to decide the guilt or the innocence of these two men and it has done that. That closes a major chapter for us in two ways. Firstly, it gives us the answers about these two, but secondly of course it removes the block there has been for so long over an inquiry into why our loved ones were ever killed in the first place, because we know, thanks to investigative journalists the contents of a number of warnings that were received in good time beforehand, on the basis of which absolutely no effective counter action was taken, and we were infuriated in the very early days by the fact that the Prime Minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher, wouldn't even meet us and that no inquiry into those aspects has ever been held, and now there is no excuse in the sense of there being an impending trial to stop it.

Does it mean closure for me personally? Well tonight my wife Jane is here giving me moral support and I did collapse yesterday, no doubt as a result of stress, and I have to think about the rest of my life and I don't think my daughter would want me to wreck the rest of my life, she would want me to be part of her family, and I feel I have to walk away when I feel I've done everything humanly possible. I'm not in that position yet but I feel a huge step towards that position has been made.

Your collapse in court must be an indication of the stress this whole process has put you under? That's right, and my son was with me in court, it was a terrible time for him, he actually thought I'd died, but it actually showed up the bonding within the group. It's nice to hear a little scrap of your obituary without actually having the inconvenience of dying before you hear it.

James Kenyon, UK: Would you like to see an inquiry to be conducted by the UK government or by the United Nations? Given the less than open record the UK has on these sorts of things, wouldn't the UN be better placed to conduct a more transparent and thorough investigation?

Dr Jim Swire: It is true that a UK-based inquiry couldn't answer all the questions we want answers because many of the actors in this extraordinary scenario are resident abroad and no UK inquiry could demand their presence. The problem I think would be is that a UN-sponsored enquiry might have a much longer time-scale and frankly we're getting a bit fed up with waiting for some of these answers, but on the other hand if a job is going to be done, it should be done well.

Mbinji-Tange Mufalo, Cape Town, South Africa: What right do the families of the victims have to requesting compensation from the Libyan state AND NOT the guilty individual? Since when did states assume responsibilities for their citizens' acts? Will the US families of the victims of the Nairobi embassy bombing seek compensation from Moi? And why have we not heard them shout?

Dr Jim Swire: Maybe we shouted louder than most. It's very nice to be talking to someone in South Africa because Nelson Mandela made a huge contribution to our campaign in terms of influence and we're very indebted to him. Turning to compensation, I'm not a legal expert and our group has never campaigned for compensation, we've always campaigned for truth and justice and we continue to do so. It would be very nice to have some compensation but whether the Libyan government can be forced to pay, I have no idea. We have to remember that only one man was found guilty and I don't think any credible observer would believe that he did it on his own. I think it's very important to keep up the pressure to see that investigations are mounted into who those other people might have been.

George, USA: Have you considered asking the International War Crimes Court in the Hague, the Netherlands, to look into the possibility of indicting Gaddafi for being behind this atrocity?

Dr Jim Swire: No I haven't. We have observed very closely what is going on at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and we have also looked closely at the Yugoslavian war crimes tribunal also in the Hague. I think it may be that the Lockerbie criminal trial may provide some of the steps necessary to achieve a permanent international criminal court, such a venue doesn't exist but people have been searching for a way to do it since the Nuremberg trials, maybe we've brought it a step closer and I would be proud to be associated with it.

Scott Buchanan, UK: It's been reported in the media that $10 billion is being sought in compensation for lockerbie. Do you think that is a fair figure in the light that the victims of the commercial flight 655 shot down in highly dubious circumstances killing 290 people by USS Vincennes only got $30 million?

Dr Jim Swire: I have always maintained the position that the death of a child, or an adult, of whatever nationality is an equally awful crime. Each one is an individual tragedy. I think that ideally the financial compensation should be similar. The person who e-mailed may not be aware, but every time you clime on a civilian airliner, it depends on which country you are travelling to how much compensation you would get if it crashed. I don't think that is right. I think that in a just world it should be the same compensation for each.

Gregor Murray, Scotland: The Legal process has been served, but it is inevitable that the battle will carry on for many more years and many more millions of pounds. Appeals will drag this case out for many many years yet, but still the question will remain, "If legality has been served, has justice?"

Dr Jim Swire: I wouldn't agree with the fact that appeals will drag on for years. Our advice is that the appeals process will be exhausted this year. When that's completed, then yes, I would say that justice has been served in terms of these two men. But not of course in the case of anybody else who may have been involved.

Keith Legg, London, UK: There seems to be a division in the relatives of the victims, with the majority of the UK relatives content that one of the accused has been convicted, whilst many US relatives appear to be unhappy that only one was convicted. Is this so? What are your own views on this?

Jim Swire: I think it depends how you approached this trial at the beginning. At the beginning the British group approached it on the basis that the two men were entitled to the presumption of innocence until the court proved them guilty. And therefore there was no problem for us. If you approached the trial on the presumption that they were both guilty, I think that is bordering on lust for revenge and I think lust for revenge is what underlines terrorist activities in the first place.

David Vaccaro, Oxford, UK: What opinion should one have on the American bombing of Libya? Is it, for example, a blatant example of state committed terrorism? Would you support action by Libyan victims of the American bombing?

Jim Swire: Yes. I believe that this was a totally illegal act, I have seen the damage that was caused in Libya. And it was quite clear that, despite his denials, President Reagan's intention was to kill colonel Gadaffi. President Reagan believed, rightly or wrongly, that colonel Gadaffi was trying to kill him. I think it was outrageous. I think that anything we can do to reduce this constant cycle of revenge would be something that we should feel proud of.

Clare, London, UK: What is your overall feeling about the verdict? Do you feel that justice has been done? Do you think that it is strange that once man is sentenced to 20 years whilst the other is free?

Jim Swire: Do I think that justice has been done? Yes, but of course subject to the appeal process: it is possible that the verdict might be overturned. It is strange that only one man has been sentenced to 20 years, in the sense that the original accusation was that they acted together. On the other hand, part way through the trial the charge that Fhimah was a member of Libyan intelligence was dropped because there was not any evidence that he was. So that put him in a different category from Megrahi, who clearly was a member of Libyan intelligence. So it isn't so difficult to understand how one could be convicted and the other acquitted.

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | World
Lockerbie families fight on
01 Feb 01 | World
Libya refuses to accept blame
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