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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Bomber damages claim 'irrelevant'
Lockerbie crash
The bombing over Lockerbie killed 270 people in 1988
The lawyer representing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has described an insurance claim against his client as "an irrelevance".

The insurers for former US airline Pan Am have gone to court in an attempt to sue Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

But Eddie McKechnie said Megrahi, who was convicted of the atrocity in 2001, denied liability for damages.

Proceedings in the case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh have been adjourned until 17 November.

Pan Am lost 282m as a result of the atrocity on one of its aircraft which claimed the lives of 270 people.

To a certain extent, this is an irrelevance
Eddie McKechnie
Megrahi's lawyer
The airline has now gone out of operation but its insurers are trying to recover some of the money from Megrahi.

The Libyan secret agent is serving a 27-year sentence in Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison.

The insurers also argue that they should be allowed to sue for damages against his co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who was found not guilty.

The case could lead to a damages claim against the airline the men worked for - Libyan-Arab Airlines - and the Libyan Government.

'Focus on conviction'

Mr McKechnie said his client was not paying any attention to the insurers' claim for damages.

He said: "His position is that he is focusing entirely on his conviction.

"The plan, of course, is that the (Scottish Criminal Cases Review) Commission will eventually rule on whether he has a case to be referred to the Appeal Court.

"That's the main focus of everything we're doing and to a certain extent, this is an irrelevance."

Megrahi was convicted when he was acting as a member of the Libyan security services and that was never denied at any time in the trial
Alistair Bonnington
Lawyer
Alistair Bonnington, a lawyer who was on the Lockerbie trial briefing group at Glasgow University, said the insurers were looking for a decision against the Libyan Government.

He said the damages incurred by the insurers could be quantified as they had already paid out to families of the victims.

Mr Bonnington said that they could sue Megrahi because he was found guilty of the crime.

The action against Fhimah is possible because the standard of proof needed in a civil court is lower than it was when he was cleared by a criminal court, he said.

However, Mr Bonnington said that neither of the men would be likely to pay damages and a decision against the Libyan Government would be required in order for them to get any money.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is serving a 27-year sentence

Last year, Libya paid compensation to the families of those killed in the bombing.

The move came after years of negotiations and led to the lifting of United Nations sanctions on the country.

However, Libya has never admitted responsibility for the atrocity.

Mr Bonnington said: "Megrahi was convicted when he was acting as a member of the Libyan security services and that was never denied at any time in the trial.

"So it would seem to me that those who are pursuing, the insurers, have a good starting point.

"They have got a man convicted who was acting a Libyan Government agent at the relevant time."

Mr Bonnington said there could be a problem with enforcement if a judgement was issued.

He said there was a question over whether the Libyans had assets in Scotland that could be seized and whether the order could be enforced elsewhere.


SEE ALSO:
Bomber will not attend appeals
04 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Lockerbie bomber fights sentence
31 May 04  |  Scotland
Blair meets Lockerbie relatives
24 May 04  |  Scotland
Lockerbie bomber 'is innocent'
13 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Libya accepts Lockerbie blame
25 Feb 04  |  Africa


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