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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
The long road to trial
As the long-awaited trial of the two Libyans suspected of causing the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing opens in the Netherlands, BBC Monitoring looks at some of the shifts and turns in the Libyan position during the years it has taken to bring the case to trial:


Is the court a Scottish court or is it the US State Department?"

Libyan news agency

26 March 1992: Libyan Ambassador to Belgium Mohammad Sharif Adin al-Fayturi says: "Libya was neither directly nor indirectly responsible.

"If the world court upholds Britain's request, there will be a great danger of small states being asked to hand over their nationals or being punished by the great powers."

1 May 1992: Libyan lawyer Ibrahim Legwell, representing the two suspects, says: "The defendents have agreed to be tried in Britain or the United States if a fair trail is assured."

Gaddafi
Col Gaddafi: "We have courts in Libya"

12 November 1993: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says "We have no confidence in the West. We believe the suspected Libyans will not receive an objective hearing. Their human rights will be violated.

"We have courts of law in Libya. Whoever has any evidence may come and present it, and whoever is found guilty will be punished."


It is not possible for someone to hand over their sons to an enemy

Col Gaddafi
3 February 1994: Col Gaddafi says: "Libya is closing the Lockerbie file because it knows that what it is going through is the price it has to pay to maintain its independence."

16 February 1994: Col Gaddafi says only an Islamic court would be competent to try the men.

"We have told them that it is not possible for someone to hand over their sons to an enemy ... However, should there be an Islamic court with an Islamic jury, whether in Brtain, America, France, Egypt or Malta, the venue would not matter any longer," he said.

20 October 1994: Libya proposes handing over the two suspects to the Arab League.


The trial should be in an independent Scotland.

Libyan news agency
10 March 1997: Lawyer Ibrahim Legwell tells the Libyan news agency Jana, in a reference to reports of corruption in the British Tory party: "If these are the morals of its [UK] officials, it is hardly reassuring for the nationals of another country to be tried by a country ... where corruption flourishes at the highest levels?"

5 September 1997: Jana says a trial should be in "an independent Scotland".

29 October 1997: Col Gaddafi says he would welcome a trial in a "neutral country".

18 April 1998: Libya says it is ready to accept a trial under Scottish law at the International Court of Justice in the Hague after a meeting with relatives of the victims.

28 August 1998: A Libyan Foreign Ministry statement says: "The Jamahiriyah [Libya] announces its acceptance of the content of Security Council Resolution 1192/1998 of 27 August 1998 ... but does not consider itself bound by the rulings of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which is attached to the resolution."


the Netherlands will merely be a transit point

Col Gaddafi
7 September 1998: Col Gaddafi says: "We will not accept the [UN] resolution ... because it is an endorsement of piracy ... Libya objects to any drafts involving its nationals because it was not consulted ... it flouts the international will, it flouts human rights and international law."

11 September 1998: Col Gaddafi says: "The truth is that the Netherlands will merely be a transit point before the accused are sent to Britian"

1 October 1998: Gaddafi rejects the detention in the Netherlands of the two men on the grounds that they might be "abducted" by the USA and UK.

5 April 1999: Libya says it will hand over the two suspects after mediation by South African President Nelson Mandela and Saudi Prince Bandar in Tripoli.

"As a result of the efforts which have been made by a number of countries and foreign dignitaries, as well as the good offices of the much-respected Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of South Africa and the UN secretary-general, to find a peaceful solution to the so-called Lockerbie issue and guarantee a just and fair trial of the two suspects before a court in the Netherlands ... the General People's Committee for Justice and Public Security has allowed them to travel in accordance with the arrangements made by the UN General Secretariat," the Libyan Foreign Ministry said.

3 May 2000: On the morning the trial opened, the Libyan news agency Jana quoted an Egyptian newspaper as saying the USA had stepped up efforts to indict the two suspects - Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhima.

Jana said: "This information forces us and the world to ask: if this information is true, is the internationally-agreed court a Scottish court or is it the US State Department?"

"America's attempts to influence the progress of the case are a flagrant violation of justice and an explicit interference in the competence of the court," Jana added.

"American attempts to influence the progress of the case could lead to the passing of a sentence which is not the court's. Therefore any indictment of the Libyan citizens would be passed under American pressure."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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