Lockerbie Trial: After 10 years and 105 days, Lockerbie families see their first signs of justice

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THE BATTLE for justice for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing took a dramatic step when two Libyans suspected of the murders arrived in the Netherlands to stand trial.

Ten years and 105 days after the atrocity, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah surrendered themselves as part of a deal to try them under Scottish law in a third country. Last night they were expected to be charged by a Scottish judge with the killings in December 1988 of 270 people on board Pan Am Flight 103 and on the ground.

UN sanctions on Libya, imposed seven years ago after Muammar Gaddafi's refusal to give the men up for arrest, are expected to be lifted soon afterwards. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, said sanctions on flights, oil equipment and military equipment would be suspended for 90 days. If Libya also renounced terrorism, they would be lifted for good.

Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary, said the Government would still expect Libya to compensate victims' families if the men were found guilty. The potential pay-out could be pounds 500m.

The men will be tried under terms of a UN-brokered deal aimed at finding a venue to allay Libyan objections to a trial in Britain or the US.

Eight years after warrants for the arrest of the suspects were issued, an Italian military jet carrying the pair touched down at Valkenburg diplomatic airport near The Hague. Scottish police officers were due to arrest and transfer them to Camp Zeist, a former US air base near Utrecht which has been converted into a prison and court.

On arrival, the men gave themselves up to Dutch police before the legal manoeuvre of being extradited to that part of the Netherlands which is now technically Scottish jurisdiction could begin. Neither Libyan contested the Scottish extradition request. When it gets under way the case will be heard by three Scottish high court judges and no jury.

Hans Corell, the UN legal envoy who escorted the men from Tripoli and handed them to the Dutch, singled out for special thanks Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the attack, and who led the British campaign for a trial.

Earlier, Libyan television showed the handover of the men to the UN legal team at Tripoli. Mr Megrahi said: "The days will prove that what we are saying is true." Mr Fhimahflashed a victory sign and told diplomats: "We hope to see you upon our return."

Tony Blair said the day's events had shown the ability of the international community to enforce "civilised laws". Mr Cook said the hearing would not be a "political show-trial". He hailed the South African President, Nelson Mandela, for his role in brokering the deal.

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