But yesterday the 100 bleak windswept acres of military camp, 10 kilometres from Utrecht in the centre of Holland were firmly if temporarily in British hands. Because of the unique requirement of staging a Scottish criminal trial outside Scotland, Soesterberg, a village near Camp Zeist yesterday witnessed the bizarre spectacle of the legal apparatus of Scotland - police, legal teams, sheriffs and the highest Scottish court, a total of 120 - set up shop.
Behind 10ft fences protected by barbed wire and Dutch police, a prison and a court house sit a few metres from the Dutch air force museum, the sole camp occupant since 1991.
Inside the fences Scottish policemen patrolled the premises telling journalists apologetically that their lips were sealed. The trial of the Lockerbie suspects from Libya is being planned in the strictest secrecy. Dozens of TV satellite vans have converged at the gates. Reporters huddled under pouring rain but detailed information was sparse.
A Dutch family drove up hoping to visit the museum, but were turned away. "I'm sorry, madam" a Scottish police officer said. "Try again on Monday."
The only vehicles allowed through were building suppliers and the vans from the Neptunus catering company. Even Ralph Boekhoven the mayor of Zeist was left outside in the rain under a large golf umbrella. "The only thing I can do is stay outside the gate," he said. "I have not been given a permit."
Inside, the sheriff of Strathclyde South and Lanarkshire, Graham Cox prepared to "examine" the two suspects when they arrive. Petitions for the arrest of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were issued nearly eight years ago. Finally the two men, believed to be members of the Libyan Intelligence Services, are being brought to justice.
The examination procedure unique to Scotland must be carried out within 48 hours of the formal arrests and charging. When the Tripoli flight arrives the men are expected to surrender themselves to the Dutch authorities who would then hand them over to the Scottish police once extradition formalities were completed.
Once the trial gets under way - and that could take three months or more - the pair will move from temporary cells to a bomb-proof prison beneath the hospital. Other areas have been made into kitchens and rooms for relatives of the Lockerbie victims.
Britain and the US have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to reconvert the camp.Reuse content