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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 16:08 GMT
Blair: 'Justice done' on Lockerbie
Crash scene
The crash led to years of political wrangling
Prime Minister Tony Blair is "glad that justice has been done" in the Lockerbie case, his spokesman has said after the trial verdicts were announced.

Britain now expects Libya to pay at least $700m compensation and take responsibility for the actions of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.


The ball is now in Libya's court

Tony Blair's spokesman

The Libyan official was convicted of murdering all 259 people on the plane and a further 11 who died on the ground.

His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty after an historic 84-day trial held under Scottish law in the Netherlands.

Statement

In a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the government required Libya not only to pay the compensation but also to accept responsibility for the atrocity.

He said: "The Lockerbie bombing stands among the most brutal acts of mass murder.

"Nothing can repair the loss of those who were murdered that night or remove the grief of their relatives but today at last those relatives know that a fair trial in an open court has seen justice be done."

Mr Blair's spokesman said: "The prime minister is glad that justice has been done.

"The Lockerbie bombing was the most heinous terrorist act of recent years.

"Two hundred and seventy people were murdered and their families bereaved and the life of the community of Lockerbie was shattered."

Jack Straw
Jack Straw paid tribute to the trial process

The spokesman said the verdict confirmed the UK government's "long-standing suspicion" that Libya was behind the Lockerbie bombing.

"The Libyan government now has to respond to the verdict," he said.

Sanctions could not be fully lifted until Libya had complied with all United Nations resolutions - which included accepting responsibility and paying compensation.

"Libya cannot be expected to be accepted as part of the law-abiding community unless it meets all those obligations," the spokesman said.

He descibed the criminal investigation which led to the trial as "meticulous", adding that the government's priority had been to identify those who were responsible and seek justice.

No public inquiry

Despite calls from some campaigners and Labour MPs, the government is "not persuaded" that a public inquiry into the disaster would add anything to what was already known, the spokesman added.

Home Secretary Jack Straw said it was a "huge testament to the resilience and strength of the Scottish legal system that this process has appeared to have been conducted satisfactorily and with respect for the justice system".

Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Francis Maude said that the verdict would bring "a little comfort" to the victims' relatives.

He said: "Until the Libyans' reaction to the verdict is known, and until we know if an appeal will be brought, it is too early to consider the status of sanctions."

Verdict 'perverse'

Labour MP Russell Brown, whose Dumfries constituency includes Lockerbie, said: "I think there will be a degree of relief on the part of many people that a guilty verdict has been secured in all of this.

"There will be a degree of relief but there will be further issues beyond this now."

But George Galloway, the Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, described the verdicts as "perverse", saying the judges had been required to deliver the "Judgement of Solomon".

He said he thought the Iranian goverment was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and he called for a public inquiry.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm welcomed the court's decision

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was Scottish secretary in a Conservative government at the time of the disaster, welcomed the court's decision.

"It is very much to be welcomed that justice has been done," he said.

"The independence of the court and the findings of the trial cannot be in doubt.

"The result will bring some comfort to the relatives of those who died."

As Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm later became involved in the protracted diplomatic wrangling over the two Libyans accused of the bombing.

Labour's Tam Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, who has been involved with the Lockerbie case from the start, said: "It stretches the imagination that Megrahi alone devised a scheme which led to the biggest murder of Western civilians since 1945."

He also backed calls for a public inquiry.

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See also:

31 Jan 01 | World
Lockerbie: A public inquiry?
19 Jan 01 | World
A truly exceptional trial
24 Jan 01 | World
The men in robes
31 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Cook: Libya must accept responsibility
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