Lockerbie two to choose trial venue: Lawyers meet to advise defendants

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The Independent Online
THE TWO men accused of the Lockerbie bombing could announce whether they will surrender for trial in Britain or the US as early as next week, their Libyan lawyer said yesterday.

Dr Ibrahim Legwell said the pair would 'decide whether they should stay in Libya or travel overseas for a fair trial' after meeting their legal advisers this weekend. The men's legal team - comprising solicitors and barristers from Scotland, the US, England, Libya, Germany, Switzerland and Malta - meets for the first time in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, on Friday to finalise its advice.

The men were 'under strong pressure' to reach a decision before new United Nations sanctions were imposed, Dr Legwell said. Last week Britain, France and America introduced a UN Security Council resolution to tighten sanctions against Libya after a deadline to hand over the men passed. The new measures are not due to come into force for two weeks.

Statements last week from Libyan government officials 'urging' the men to surrender to Scottish authorities had 'increased the weight and responsibility on the shoulders of the men and their lawyers', Dr Legwell said.

Speaking from his Tripoli office, he denied suggestions that his comments were 'a delaying tactic' to stave off the new sanctions. 'We want to make progress,' he said. 'It's not a matter of delaying tactics but a matter of human rights. We are not against a trial but we have always said it must be fair. The lawyers will meet and we will finalise our arguments. The men could decide what they want to do as soon as Monday.'

Abdel Baset Ali Mahmed al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhima are accused of blowing up Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 270 people. Advising them to go abroad to stand trial would be difficult, their legal advisers say. But they say the two fear that if they do not 'prove their innocence' outside Libya their lives will be endangered.