Relatives split over Lockerbie trial

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILIES of British victims of the Lockerbie disaster said yesterday that the two suspects would be given a fair trial - despite concerns in the US of deals being done with Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.

Jim Swire, spokesman for UK Families Flight 103 victim group, said it was pleasing that a major criminal investigation would now lead to a fair trial.

Scottish prosecutors yesterday assured American relatives of Pan Am 103 victims that no deals had been made and that two Libyans would be prosecuted vigorously on charges that they carried out the Lockerbie bombing.

"I've assured the family members that there have been no deals," said Lord Hardie, Scotland's senior law officer.

"There have been no deals and there will be no deals to hold back any available evidence in this case," he insisted.

Nearly 200 relatives attended a private meeting in the US to be kept updated on preparations being made for the trial next February against alleged Libyan agents accused of planting a suitcase bomb on the Pan Am jet liner. The terrorist attack, on 21 December 1988, killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

To persuade Libya to turn over the suspects - Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah - the British and US governments agreed to hold the trial at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, 30 miles south-east of Amsterdam.

Under a treaty, the camp will be considered Scottish territory for the duration of the trial, which will be conducted under Scottish law.

Dr Swire said: "We have always sought truth and justice. We believe that this trial will be a major advance in both."

But Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, New Jersey, who lost her 20- year-old daughter, Theodora, in the explosion, opposes the trial deal. She contends that it rewarded Col Gaddafi for turning over the suspects. "Those two men going on trial could never have acted independently," she said.

James Foley, a US State Department spokesman, told relatives that officials had worked diligently to put pressure on Col Gaddafi "to allow a fair trial outside Libya".