Lockerbie's long wait for justice

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The Independent Online

Itt has been a long time coming. But after only three days of hearings, the unusual session of a Scottish court in The Hague, investigating events over a decade old, has fully justified the wait. Even if the outcome of the trial of the two accused Libyans disappoints - as it well might - the Lockerbie trial has already performed a cathartic service to the residents of Lockerbie and members of the Dumfries and Galloway police who, on 21 December 1998, had their lives changed for good when an aeroplane fell out of the sky and on to a Scottish Borders town.

Itt has been a long time coming. But after only three days of hearings, the unusual session of a Scottish court in The Hague, investigating events over a decade old, has fully justified the wait. Even if the outcome of the trial of the two accused Libyans disappoints - as it well might - the Lockerbie trial has already performed a cathartic service to the residents of Lockerbie and members of the Dumfries and Galloway police who, on 21 December 1998, had their lives changed for good when an aeroplane fell out of the sky and on to a Scottish Borders town.

The criminal justice system is designed to convict the guilty and free the innocent. But in this instance it could also offer a platform to those involved to bear witness and unload the burden they have carried within.

The trial will be a painful experience for the victims' families. The delay has meant that some of those who claimed to have evidence of Syrian and Iranian involvement in the bombing - notably the businessman Tiny Rowland and the documentary journalist Allan Francovich - have died before revealing all. It therefore seems unlikely, whatever the verdict, that everyone will be satisfied that justice has been seen to be done. But as the harrowing events of this week have proved, this is a worthwhile and necessary exercise. The British and American governments, who for years resisted Libyan appeals for a Scottish court to sit in a neutral third country, are to be congratulated for finally seeing sense.

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