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Kenny MacAskill: In releasing the Lockerbie bomber, we uphold Scottish values

It is quite clear to the medical experts that Al-Megrahi has a terminal illness, and indeed that there has recently been a significant deterioration in his health... It therefore falls to me to decide whether he should be released on compassionate grounds.

Libyan appeals Lockerbie bomb conviction

Libyan Abdel Basset al-Megrahi launched a second appeal today to try to reverse his conviction for the 1988 bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people.

US Lockerbie families upset by priest's visit

A former Lockerbie priest has provoked anger among relatives of victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing by accepting an invitation to speak at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy in the US today.

Why the truth may never be known about the bombing of PanAm 103

There IS only one indisputable truth about PanAm 103, which is that at 19.02 on 21 December 1988, a Boeing 747 exploded at 31,000ft and crashed on Lockerbie, killing 270 people. Since then, myriad allegations have reached critical mass, allowing a variety of conspiracy theories to be constructed. And they all sound plausible: the Libyans did it to avenge Ronald Reagan's attack on Tripoli in 1986; the Iranians to avenge the accidental shooting down of one of their airliners by the USS Vincennes in July 1988; Palestinian terrorists did it to elimin ate a CIA team preparing to rescue Western hostages in Beirut. PanAm 103 took off from Heathrow at 18.25. As it was approaching the Burnham beacon it took a radar heading of 350 degrees and climbed to 31,000ft. At 19.02 hrs and 50 seconds the bomb exploded in the hold. A complete wing structure attached to the centre section of the aircraft crashed on the southern edge of the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Large portions of the aircraft landed on farmland to the e ast of the town, and wreckage was scattered over 80 miles. The aircraft section that hit Lockerbie gouged a crater 155ft wide and 196ft long, and demolished 21 buildings in the worst-hit area, Sherwood Crescent. The mass of metal and fuel caused an inferno, killing 11 of the town's residents. Although in the immediate aftermath suspicion pointed towards Iran, when the official investigation led by Scottish detectives and the FBI, was completed in 1991, the accused were two small-time Libyans, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and al-Amin Khalifa Fhima h, said to be agents for Libyan intelligence. The investigators claimed the bomb comprised 10-14oz of Semtex in a Toshiba cassette recorder, itself in a brown Samsonite suitcase. At the time, both Libyans were working for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta. The prosecution will claim they smuggled a bomb in an unaccompanied case into the airport's luggage transfer system and the case travelled on a feeder flight to Frankfurt where it was transferred to the New York-via-Heathrow bound PanAm 103. The key evidence hinges on a fragment of circuit board found in baggage of the plane. It is believed to be part of a timing device sold by a Swiss company to Libya. Tags on clothes in the case proved they were Maltese, sold in only one shop there. The ow ner was shown photos of Arabs and is said to have picked out Mr Megrahi. In statements he said the man was older and taller than Mr Megrahi. More recent evidence confirming Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's hand in the affair comes from a mysterious Libyan defector. But, seven years on, the central planks of the prosecution case look shaky. The Maltese authorities and airline do not accept that unidentified luggage left Malta. The circuit boards were also sold elsewhere. Such are the uncertainties that those with a close interest in the case, including the Labour MP Tam Dalyell and Jim Swire, have doubts about the case against the Libyans. It is now suspected that Libya was scapegoated. Mr Dalyell suspects Iran, aided by Syria, might be the guilty party. The official accusation against Libya came shortly after the Gulf war. Here, says Mr Dalyell, is the clue: "The West wanted Syria and Ira n to be benevolent towards military action against Saddam Hussein." The US itself muddied the waters of the inquiry within hours of the bombing: mysterious officials were reported on the crash site, tampering with bodies and evidence. The Iranians had a specific motive and long-standing animosity towards the US. According to one theory, after the Vincennes shot down the Iranian Airbus, the interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, and hard-liners commissioned the Syrian-based Popular F ront for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command, led by Ahmed Jabril, to carry out the revenge attack. His bomb-maker, Marwan Khreesat, was sent to Germany and assembled five bombs. But in October he and 14 other suspects were arrested and a bomb was seized. Members of the unit, including Khreesat, were later freed by the Germans, which raised the question - was he a double agent? Five weeks later, US and British authorities were warned that a bomb was to be placed on a US transatlantic flight. It is said VIPs and US diplomats and CIA staff cancelled bookings on PanAm 103, enabling late bookers, such as Flora Swire, to get a seat.

Lockerbie trial move welcomed

THE FATHER of a Lockerbie victim has welcomed reports that a secret delegation from the Arab world travelled to Libya over the weekend to press for a trial of the two men accused of the outrage.
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