Lockerbie relatives welcome World Court ruling on trial

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BRITISH relatives of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing yesterday welcomed a ruling which could lead the way to the trial of the two Libyans accused of the murders.

At a hearing in The Hague, the judges at the World Court, the United Nations' highest judicial authority, ruled that it had the right to settle the deadlock between the United States, Britain and Libya over where the trial should be held.

Libya says it will not release the two suspects for trial in Britain or the US claiming they will not get a fair trial. A total of 270 people died when a bomb exploded on Pam Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21 December 1988.

To the frustration of many relatives, Britain and the US have repeatedly insisted that the accused men, Abel Basset Mohammed Al-Megrahi and Al- Amin Khalifa Fhima, must be tried either in Scotland or the US.

Yesterday Jane Swire, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who lost her daughter Flora in the bombing, said she hoped it would be "the first step towards our goal of truth and justice."

Mrs Swire, whose husband Jim travelled to The Hague for the ruling, said: "If it will expedite a trial on a neutral country basis - which is what we want, I think it will be a good thing.

"I hope this will now mean there will be a trial in a neutral country, and I hope it will not take too long. The legal wheels seem to turn very slowly, and I hope they will turn a little more quickly. It is now nearly 10 years since that awful crime,".

Dr Swire, who is involved in the campaign for a trial on a neutral country and has worked as spokesman for the British families who lost relatives in the bombing, welcomed the court's decision. "I feel, probably unjustifiably, over the moon about it, very elated. To hear a learned court of this sort look at something so objectively and independently of the relative power of the two sides represented, it's really very refreshing," he said.