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BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson reports
"Major broadcasters are backing the BBC's case"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 17:45 GMT
BBC seeks Lockerbie TV approval

Lockerbie crash
The Lockerbie bombing happened in December 1988


The world's major television newsgathering organisations are asking a Scottish High Court judge for permission to televise the forthcoming Lockerbie trial.

The case is being led by BBC Scotland, which is seeking to broadcast the entire trial on the internet and show extracts on BBC news programmes.

The moves are supported by eight other broadcasters: Scottish Television, ITN, Sky, the major television news agencies and the American networks.

The corporation's legal representatives are appearing at the High Court in Edinburgh before Lord Macfadyen in a hearing expected to last two days.

'No precedent sought'

For the BBC, Roy Martin QC said the application was purely for the Lockerbie trial and the corporation was not seeking to set a precedent.

It was clear permission had already been given for TV pictures of the trial to be send on a coded line to London, Dumfries and the United States to allow relatives of those killed to witness proceedings, he said.

Court graphic The court cannot regulate pictures in the US
Mr Martin pointed out it would not be possible for the court to regulate the use of those pictures in the US.

Different time zones might mean the pictures would be edited and transmitted later for the convenience of American relatives.

This too would be outwith the control of the court. The Lord Advocate and the two men accused of the bombing are opposing the request.

'Unique case'

Before the hearing, BBC Scotland solicitor Alistair Bonnington said: "The Lockerbie trial is a unique case in that it will be held outside Scotland under Scots law and will not have a jury.

"Encrypted TV pictures are being allowed and the trial is of huge public interest.

"For justice to be done, it has to be seen to be done and we believe televising the trial is the best means of doing so."

Supreme Courts sign The case is being heard at the High Court
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 47, and Al Ami Khalifa Fhimah, 43, are accused of conspiracy, murder and a breach of the Aviation Security Act after Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York blew up in the skies over theScottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, killing 270 people.

The two Libyans denied the charges at a pre-trial hearing heard earlier this month in Edinburgh. Their trial is due to begin at a former US air force base in the Netherlands on 3 May.

Closed-circuit link

Lord Sutherland, one of the three judges who will conduct the Lockerbie trial, has already approved a closed-circuit relay of trial proceedings to sites in New York, Washington, London and Dumfries.

This followed a formal request by the US Office for Victims of Crime, acting as the voice of the Lockerbie relatives.

Lord Sutherland Lord Sutherland: Trial judge
But officials have emphasised that CCTV coverage will be for relatives only, and that the four viewing sites will be supervised according to guidelines approved by the court.

The BBC had sought to raise the issue of televising the trial at the pre-trial hearing in Edinburgh on 2 February.

But its lawyer was told he had no formal role at that hearing, which was concerned with other procedural issues.

The procedure under which the television case is being brought is an ancient one, allowing any Scot to bring a matter of public interest before the courts.

The matter has been adjourned until Wednesday morning.

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See also:
22 Feb 00 |  UK
Head to head: Cameras in court
14 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Court bid to televise Lockerbie trial
04 Feb 00 |  Scotland
TV broadcast for Lockerbie trial
02 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Lockerbie suspects plead not guilty
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Lockerbie legalities explained
18 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Lockerbie judges' biographies
22 Nov 99 |  World
Lockerbie defence given papers
29 Oct 99 |  World
Lockerbie charges in full

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