Lockerbie judge speaks out as trial suffers further delay

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The Independent Online

The judge at the trial of two Libyans accused of planting the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 expressed his concern yesterday that the trial was taking too long. The cost is estimated at £3m a month.

The judge at the trial of two Libyans accused of planting the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 expressed his concern yesterday that the trial was taking too long. The cost is estimated at £3m a month.

After agreeing to yet another adjournment in the five-month hearing in the Netherlands, Lord Sutherland said it was in everyone's interests to speed up proceedings.

The trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah - who deny planting the bomb that killed 270 people - began last May after years of negotiations. But the complex proceedings have become a logistical and judicial nightmare, with defence and prosecution staff under increasing organisational pressure. Accurately anticipating when witnesses will be needed has been tricky, particularly when arranging international travel and accommodation.

Recently the case became bogged down in legal argument over the admissibility in evidence of a diary belonging to one of the two defendants.

The wrangle between defence and prosecution turned into a formal "trial within a trial", further delaying the main proceedings. Then last week the prosecution was granted time to investigate what is said to be sensitive new information from "a foreign source which is not the United States".

Yesterday, when court officials, lawyers and judges returned to the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist to resume proceedings, after the week-long adjournment the prosecution requested another week. Defence lawyers agreed, but warned that they might seek further adjournments to make their own inquiries.

Lord Sutherland said: "The court is concerned about the rather slow progress of the trial... It is in everybody's interests that this trial should proceed as quickly as possible."