For two hours, they recited the names of the Lockerbie dead

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IT TOOK almost two hours to read out the names of the 270 people who died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Yesterday, in a makeshift police station on a disused American air base in Holland, a Scottish policeman read the two suspected bombers each of those names and told the men that they were being charged with the victims' murders.

Interpreters translated the arrest warrants and thecharges into Arabic.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, dramatically turned over by Libya on Monday, are now incarcerated in the twin temporary cells that make up what has become Her Majesty's Prison Zeist. A plaque bearing the new name was erected on the premises yesterday. A flag will follow shortly.

A governor and deputy governor have been appointed. Prison staff, who outnumber their charges by 60 to one, spent most of yesterday watching British football on cable television and sports results on Ceefax. The "prison" is on the windswept 100-acre former air base now under Scottish jurisdiction for the purposes of what could become the biggest criminal trial in British history.

Yesterday, the men had their first day in court, where a Scottish judge, Graham Cox QC, the Sheriff of Strathclyde South, Dumfries and Galloway, remanded them in custody to await formal committal for trial within nine days. The pair are charged with murder, conspiracy to murder and breach of the Air Security Act 1982.

The hearing in Sheriff Cox's temporary chambers, complete with a polystyrene lion and unicorn royal crest on the wall took just five minutes. The only word the accused uttered was "yes" in Arabic to confirm their identities.

The pair, flanked by interpreters, police and UN observers made no declaration or plea - that will come only at the beginning of the trial.

Late on Monday, shortly after being flown by helicopter into Camp Zeist in handcuffs and bullet-proof vests, the two men were arrested by Chief Superintendent Tom McCulloch, the detective who led the Lockerbie investigation.

By yesterday afternoon they had been transferred from police custody into temporary prison cells inside a two-storey red-brick former army barracks. A permanent, bomb-proof prison on the site is still under construction, as is the permanent court where the case will be heard by three Scottish High Court judges.

Steel grids and razor wire cover the windows, giving the building an air of a heavily fortified hospital or student hall of residence.

Scottish officials were careful to stress that HM Prison Zeist has a prayer room and a compass mounted on the wall to tell the men which way to turn for Mecca. The Libyans' Muslim dietary requirements are being met with specially prepared hallal meals. The men's brothers, who accompanied them from Tripoli on Monday, also spent the first night at the site.

It is unlikely that they will stay for the duration - the trial could take up to two years. Under Scottish law, proceedings must begin within 110 days of next week's committal for trial, but this period can be extended if both the defence and the prosecution agree. Scottish Office officials admitted that the defence teams, consisting of one Scottish Advocate, one Scottish solicitor and one Libyan lawyer each, will have to work quickly to respond to the evidence amassed by the prosecution in the 10 years since the bombing.

As well as murder and conspiracy to murder, the men have been charged with violation of the Air Security Act, a crime that carries a life sentence.

Warrants for the men's arrests were first issued by a Dumfries and Galloway sheriff in 1991, three years after a three-year investigation into the bombing.

There was no access for the media. Yesterday morning, as the the charges were being read to the accused, the world's cameras trained their lenses through the 10ft fence around the prison perimeter.

The only people admitted to the site other than staff were caterers, milkmen and building contractors.

Incongruously, the air museum at the former base is being kept open throughout the trial. Yesterday it played host to hundreds of Dutch families taking advantage of the Easter holidays.

Most of them were oblivious to the presence of the accused men - and to the police, armed with sub-machine-guns, who were patrolling nearby.